Posts By Country




April 28th, 2010 | Africa

Into Uganda…

Farewell from the staff of the Klique Hotel, Eldoret...

I left Eldoret at 9.00am, after a long and interesting discussion with what seemed like all the male staff of the hotel. They followed me downstairs to the basement, and gathered around the Big Fella, asking questions ten to the dozen, and marveling at the answers I gave… They helped me tie everything in place, and then gathered for a group photo before waving me off and up the ramp into the alley behind the hotel… Shouts of “Safari Njema” followed me all the way up the alley and into the main road, where I turned west and headed out of town…

There are two large industries in this town that probably account for most of the employment in the area. Ken-Knit is a large textile factory, and Rai-Ply, a huge plywood and board factory is easily the equivalent in size to those I have seen back in South Africa…

A short while later, on a road just as badly potholed and corrugated as that which I had ridden into Eldoret on, I passed through the town of Webuye, where another large factory was located. This time it was a paper mill, and again, on a scale of the ones seen in South Africa… This is what Africa needs far more of…industries that utilize their local natural resources, rather than exporting them all to China and the West for processing… Wouldn’t it be great to see more “Made in Africa” signs, rather than the “Made in China” ones we see on almost everything we touch these days…??

Bulk Maize delivery just outside the town of Kipkaren... You will notice that they are not using Ohlin's shocks, despite carrying what must be 100 kgs of "luggage"...

Between Bongoma and Malaba on the Ugandan border, the road was even more potholed than before… I passed hundreds of trucks bound for Uganda and Rwanda, churning up what was left of the tar and widening the potholes into craters…  I dodged around the smaller ones, and in some places had to ride through the bigger ones, at speeds hardly ever exceeding 20 km/h… For at least 15 kilometres, I do not remember using anything but 1st, 2nd and 3rd gear… There was much muttering inside my helmet…

Can't quite make out what this Kenyan roadsign says... Guess I'll just follow the arrow that points straight ahead...

To cap things off, a woman carrying two 25 litre drums of water, wandered into the road in front of me, without even glancing in my direction…  I narrowly missed her, and would have clattered into her had I not swung out to my right… Despite the deeper roar of the engine as a result of having removed the catalytic convertor, the bike was still quiet enough to take people by surprise… I have to ride with this in mind all the time, especially when entering villages and small towns where there is not as much traffic… People in the bigger towns and cities seem much more aware of the dangers of crossing a road without looking in BOTH directions first…

A long line of trucks wait their turn to enter Uganda...

Trucks were lined up for kilometres at the Malaba border post, but despite the obvious congestion at this the busiest of Kenya’s Border posts, getting out of the country was a breeze… Within ten minutes I was riding across a little bridge over a swirling river, and entered a new world…

Uganda seems miles ahead of its eastern neighbor…  The entire border area is paved, and well signposted. The customs building is a huge modern edifice, and overlooks the entire area… I wanted to take a photo, but was prevented from doing so by a soldier carrying an automatic weapon…

“No photos please,” he politely informed me when I took my camera out of the tank bag… I was more surprised at the “please” than I was by not being allowed to take a picture… Although Swahili is understood by most in Uganda, the common local language is Luganda, which is a lot more complicated, with longer words for the simplest of things… English is however widely spoken, so communication in Uganda is never a problem…

While I had my passport stamped, a large crowd of people gathered around the bike, and while I unlocked my top box to get me bike documents out, a small boy pushed to the front of the crowd and asked if he could get me a bottle of water… I indicated that he could, and by the time I had returned from have the Carnet stamped, he was standing next to the bike with a large bottle of water for me… I paid him the 1000 shillings he asked for without even bothering to find out if I had been overcharged or not… Turns out I wasn’t… I gave him a few sweets from my pocket, which he tucked away in a dirty little rag that was attached to his pants by a piece of string…

“Are you coming back this way..?” he asked.

“Yes, late next week, I think…. Why do you ask?” I replied…

“I will wait here for you, and have another bottle of water ready for you…” was his solemn reply…

“I will look forward to that young man!” and shook his hand before getting ready to leave…

I really enjoy some of the innocent interaction between members of the general public and myself, and this little chat with the young boy was one of those moments when I was glad to be out here, where a lone White traveler is a bit of an attraction to most… What I do NOT enjoy, are those few individuals who make every attempt to take advantage of you, by offering their “services”, in order to “assist” you through border control formalities… For the most part, they are a hindrance, and if you indicate that you agree to be helped, this causes a host of other “fixers” to join in the melee, all offering their services and usually shouting to be heard…  I almost always spend a few minutes ignoring everybody around me, while I get my bearings, drink some water if I have any with me, and generally trying to give the impression that I have done all this before, and do not need any help…

The roads in Uganda are in far better shape than those in Kenya, with very few potholes, and where there have been problems with the surface; they have been properly repaired… Built by a German construction company, and not the “Yella-Fellas” who seem to have monopolized road building in other African states…and mostly made a hash of it in my opinion…

Ugandan road signs are a lot easier to understand...

Just inside Uganda, lies the town of Tororo, with its massive cement factory, dwarfing the one I passed on my entry into Nairobi last week… It easily rivals the large PPC factories in Pretoria and Jupiter, near Germiston in South Africa… All the roads are properly signposted, and even the entries and exits of even the smallest villages on the R109, the main highway that cuts through Uganda to Rwanda and Burundi, are properly marked… An amazing change from the roads in Kenya…  Large tracts of land are covered in Maize fields, and closer to the town of Jinja, sugar cane and tea plantations dominate the area… A sugar mill stands just outside the town, and the sweet smell of raw sugar and molasses pervades the air…

Jinja is the “fun-capital” of Uganda, with a host of back-packing lodges and hotels, catering for white-water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping, sailing on Lake Victoria, and guided hikes and climbs in the surrounding forests… It is also the site of the Owen Falls Hydro Electric Station, which supplies the majority of Uganda’s power…  But what Jinja is best known for, is that it is the source of the longest river in the world, the Nile… The White Nile begins its 6 695 km journey to the Mediterranean right here in the Owen Falls Dam, on which the power station is built… It is later joined by the Blue Nile, which originates in the highlands of Ethiopia…

Lunch stop at the Nile Cafeteria, outside Jinja...

Goat and Chicken stew, with rice, sweet potatoes, spinach and cassava... Mrs B. would be delighted to see her little boy eating his vegetables...

I had planned to stay in Jinja, but having arrived there just after 2.00pm, I decided to push on to Kampala thereby cutting 80 odd kilometres off my next run to Kigali in Rwanda… I rode over the Owen Falls Dam wall, and out to the town of Mbiko, where I stopped at the Nile Cafeteria to have some lunch… I planned to buy a few Samoosa’s or a chipati, but changed my mind when I saw there was a buffet on offer… For Ush 10 000.00, (about R35.00) I had a big plate of goat and chicken stew with four or five vegetables, and a soda… The drumsticks I chose from the pot were the longest I had ever seen!! I would have liked to see the size of the chicken they came from… The goat meat was tough and chewy, but that’s how it usually is… The sauce and veggies were great, and I left only a pile of bones on the plate when I was through…

Main road leading out of Jinja... A far cry from the roads of western Kenya...

Kampala lies 80 kilometres to the East of Jinja and a long section of this is on a double-laned highway!! The Big Fella had forgotten all about our run-in with the law the day before, and pinned his side mirrors back and took off on the smooth surface… We zoomed towards Kampala, looking out for the traffic police in their white Ice-Cream Salesman uniforms, but encountered none of these troublesome individuals…

All too soon, our exuberance came to an end, and we joined a long line of trucks heading for the capital… I sat back for a while, content to let the adrenaline of the last few kilometres wash out of my system, like a panting dog after a long run… Then I began overtaking the trucks, riding like the Matatu drivers that had begun overtaking me… It is far better to adopt the local tactics when riding in traffic, and if you show any weakness, you will be singled out for a bit of bullying by other drivers… I think they enjoy the cut and thrust of forcing your way into small spaces, and I fancy I received a few rounds of applause with my efforts to overtake in the face of oncoming traffic… Despite the madness and mayhem of it all, I have yet to see an accident… In the face of aggression, everybody gives way…eventually… Strong nerves required here!!!

Entering Kampala...

On the outskirts of Kampala, in the suburb of Kireka, and in sight of a giant football stadium, I had finally had enough… I rode through a massive junction that funnels traffic into and around the city, and saw a hotel complex on my left, and pulled into their parking lot to check on rates and internet access, the two priorities on my list of selection criteria! The Sports View Hotel was a heck of a lot fancier that I had expected… From the road it is a fairly non-descript building, without any signage to indicate that it is a hotel… It has a swimming pool, gymnasium, multiple dining rooms and staff that are eager to please…and internet access of course!!

Entrance to the Sports View Hotel...

The view from my hotel window... a lot different from the one in Eldoret...

A bus pulled up alongside me and a large group of Pastors and cleric piled out and gathered around the bike… Many photos were taken of various individuals posing next to the bike, while I answered the usual twenty F.A.Q.’s. With so much interest in the bike and despite the fact that it would be parked under a roof, I decided that it would be best to use the cover as well… Too many inquisitive fingers, for the Big Fella’s liking… He gets a bit testy when strangers start pushing and prodding his switches and buttons…

After prolonged negotiations we settled on a reasonable rate and I made ready to untie my gear… In recognition of my status (World Explorer!!), I was given one of the rooms on the top floor of the hotel, with great views across to the Mandela Sports Stadium east of the hotel… The downside of this was the six flights of stairs that it took to get to my room… If you want to know what it is like carrying a backpack, a tank-bag, a duffel bag and the kit bag containing my clothes up six flights of stairs, all in one go, you will have to ask Emmanuel, the porter…

I had my hands full with my helmet and jacket… Stairs are a killer, and should be outlawed wherever there are no porters to hand…

A Marabou Stork lands on the hotel roof... These birds are as common here as Crows are in Lilongwe...

He arrived at the door to room 390 in a bit of a state, sweat pouring off him, and staining his nice red jacket… He proudly showed me around the room, pointing out all the amenities, and then turned the air con on full blast, and stood under it for a moment to cool down… I pretended not to notice his discomfort, and opened the bottle of cold water in the fridge…  After taking a long slug, I handed the bottle to him, and he gratefully polished the remainder off in one long gulp…

“Thank you sir, it is very hot today, and there are too many steps in this hotel…!” he declared….

Quite so…!! Carrying my helmet and jacket had been an ordeal in itself…

I noticed that there were many Marabou Storks flying about, and even walking down the main road outside the hotel, quite unperturbed by the people around them…

“Are those Ugandan Chickens?” I asked Emmanuel… “I would like to order one for my dinner tonight…”.

“No sir!! Those cannot be eaten, and are not chickens at all,” he replied seriously… “We have proper types of chicken…!”

I think I am going to like Uganda…

The Big Fella is under cover and under wraps...

© GBWT 2010

3 comments to Into Uganda…

  • Charmz

    You forgot to mention the fact that they were using “bicycles” with that kind of load. We are happy to see that you are atleast getting some meat and vegetables into your system and not just biscuits, crackers and sweeties. Looking forward to Rwande!

  • Swazi Charl

    Delicious looking stew,beats 2 minute noodles – think I would starve on a trip like yours, Louis on the other hand thought it looked fantastic and has asked them at “Twinkle”, Piggs Peak’s best eating spot if they could put it on their menu. They are working on it! So maybe on your return you can relive the meal.

  • Hey Ronnie – so good reading about your trip through to Uganda. My daughter and I took that route on our recon month of Africa, determining where our family would come and settle.
    Justine and I did it by bus in March 2007, via Eldoret, spending the night in Bongoma and Matatu’ing it to Kampala.
    It was sad for us to hear about all the trouble & deaths in Eldoret during the post election crisis of 2008. We felt that we knew the place having stopped there only months before for lunch, during which time we even managed to befriend a retired Brig General.
    What a trip – being ripped off at Malaba customs, the beauty of Jinja, the Owen Falls Dam, an encounter with an abusive gun-toting soldier … aaah, what memories!
    BTW – you passed Zac’s school (Rift Valley Academy) on your way through to Nakuru – an hour out of NBI… we got back from there yesterday.
    Lovely “travelling” with you – blessings on your next leg.

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>