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Embedded Photos: 1-4.Downtown Kampala
Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Table Top Mountain, South Africa
COUNTRY FACTS Pop: 28,195,754 Area: 236,040 km2 Gov't: Republic Religion: Catholic 33%, Protestant 33%, Indigenous Belief 18%, Muslim 16% View Map
Uganda Equator, September 2004  

Uganda Flag UGANDA


September 6. NAIROBI TO KAMPALA The security guy at our hotel got us a taxi to the bus station since Peter wasn't there.  It turned out great because it was one of the old gray British taxis that always lined up in front of the Hilton Hotel.  There was ample room in the back for our backpacks.  It was nearly 6:30 so Nairobi traffic wasn't in full swing yet and the ride to the Akamba "bus station" was quick.  There were droves of people crowded outside the ticket office and one of Akamba's rickety yellow buses was filling up for the 6:30 departure.  Rob left me in the cab and went in to iKampala, Ugandanquire about our bus, before we lugged our bags into the crowd with a lost look in our faces.  The man at the "Customer Service and Inquiry" desk told him that no three seater buses were going that morning but our bus was still considered "Royal Class".  Feeling disgruntled we unloaded our bags and stood inside the ticket area to wait for the bus to arrive.  Rob went directly to the ticket window and asked again about our bus.  The man there confirmed that we were on a three seater bus and it would arrive shortly.  I saw the sign Kampala Royal in the window as it approached the curb.  It was a similarly rickety yellow bus but inside there were just two seats on one side of the aisle and one seat on the other.  The DVD screens advertised were holes in the ceiling but a few speakers clung to the ceiling for dear life.    The bus had seen better days but it was okay.  The wider seats were great for fat people with no legs but the large armrests were comfortable.  Having just been "cleaned", the floors, windows and head rests were wet which meant we couldn't put our bags on the floor and, naturally, they didn't fit in the overhead storage area so, we held them on our laps.  

After the bus pulled out they were soon handing out bottles of water, soda, and biscuits as part of the royal service.  It was a full bus.  We were two rows from the back, which felt safe in light of Kenya's grim bus safety record.  Once we were out of the city the bus picked up speed.  The roads were well maintained so I just tried to sleep.  Rob nudged me about an hour in the trip to look out over the edge of the massive Rift Valley.  We were climbing uphill and reached over 8000 feet before barreling downhill towards Kampala.  The well maintained roads ended and the heavily potholed and weight rippled highway had us bouncing around.  The bus rattled Kampala, Ugandalike it would fall apart any minute but no even the poor road condition slowed down our driver. He kept passing and passing one vehicle after another.  I was glad that we were in the back and couldn't see very well.  The bus swerved towards the shoulder, then swerved towards the middle, then honked and swerved again to avoid a truck in oncoming traffic.  It repeated again and again.  The exhaust filtered in through the window that had to be kept open because there wasn't any air-conditioning.   The harsh and frequent use of brakes kept a constant waft of burning break pads in the air.  They were warped which added to the rumbling ride as the bus tried to slow down.  We just hoped that they held out for the twelve hour ride.   I could only laugh when I overheard the driver chastising a passenger for keeping their bags on their laps.  He said it was dangerous and demanded that all bags be kept in the overhead storage.  Please!  The only dangerous thing that any of us had done that day was to get on his bus!  Nobody was getting us to part with our bags.  It was slightly uncomfortable having them on our laps but, aside from the fact that they didn't fit anywhere, our legs provided some added cushion against the frequent jolts.   

The crowd on the bus was pleasant.  There was some comical jockeying for seats here and there but otherwise it was a good group.  At the lunch stop we briefly chatted with a nice older Danish man who lived in Nairobi.  He'd been there since 1972, working as an architect.  Lunch was just a twenty minute break in Kisumu where we grabbed some samosas (the best we'd eaten in all of East Africa!) and got back on the bus.  The border was about an hour and half farther.  It felt longer.  We made one final stop so the bus could pick up a new stock of sodas.  All of the little towns had a similar look about them, rows concrete facades painted with bright signs, many advertisements.  It looked like some people had given up the whole surface area of their homes or shops for the purpose of advertising laundry detergent, feminine napkins, Coca Cola, or just about anything else.  Across the street from where the bus stopped was a building facade that read, "Christco Church", and beneath it, "With God All Things are Possible".   

Both the exit from Kenya and entrance into Uganda were uneventful. A green jacket clad money changer boarded the bus and we needed Ugandan shillings so had to exchange a little at his poor rate.  The weather was noticeably warmer and humid.  It was a relief when the bus started moving again and air began to circulate through the bus.

Kampala, UgandaThe roads on the Ugandan side initially seemed better but soon deteriorated into similarly potholed tarmac.  A handful of people had gotten on and off the bus throughout the journey.  There always seemed to be a bit of negotiations when new people got on, probably because it was side business.  A young woman wearing a long green and white dress with puffy arms got on with a tiny baby.  She dealt coyly with the ticket guy before drawing a handkerchief out of her little son's leg pocket and unwrapping it to hand him some money.  The bus made a random stop at a large white colonial building on a hill and a young girl dressed in a flannel skirt, white button down shirt, and a baseball cap got off.  A fancy boarding school.  The heat had started to get to one of the young guys on the bus and he was prancing from seat to seat with his shirt off.  We passed through Jinja, where the Nile enters Lake Victoria.  The bus chugged across the dam in a row of cars.  The bus ride was starting to feel really long.  

The sun had set by the time we reached Kampala.  Traffic was incredible as we inched along the road to clear a congested traffic circle.  It seemed that we would spend another two hours just getting that last mile to the bus station.  The "bus station" was tucked in a back street with barely enough room for one bus to park and unload passengers.  The Danish man asked us where we were headed, offering up his hotel as a good option for foreigners.  He was an interesting and we would have loved to talk more with him but his hotel was a bit outside our budget.  Once he knew we had a place to go he hopped in a cab and was off.  We, on the other hand, had to haggle for a reasonable taxi.  The taxis lined up along the disturbingly dark alleyway outside the "bus station" were all asking about $5 for a ride that was only a few kilometers away.  The longer we waited the more they raised their prices.  Taxi drivers are mostly vermin anywhere in the world.  We picked up our bags and walked right past them all.  One tout came clambering arrogantly after us.  He dared us to find a cheaper taxi, telling us there weren't any others and we should just take a shared taxi for 200.  There was obviously no way to fit our bags into the overcrowded shared taxis.  This guy just wouldn't let up so Rob gave it to him.  A man standing nearby came to see what the problem was.  We explained that we just needed a reasonable taxi and wanted to be left alone.  He seemed like a genuinely nice man and told us we were safe in that part of town and he would be happy to give us ride to our hotel.  It was probably an honest gesture but we thanked him and declined.  The annoying tout came past once again on the back of a moped and yelled at us again.  

We crossed a major street to catch a cab in the right direction and waited.  The moped taxis surrounded us like flies.  The first one that approached us in the dark alley really startled me as he whizzed up behind us but they were mostly nice guys.  Even if we'd wanted to use them I couldn't see how they could handle our weight with the bags.  One offered to call a taxi friend of his but wanted 500 shillings for the service.  We kept walking until an empty taxi finally pulled over.  Actually, what Ugandans call taxis are shared minibuses.  What we call a taxi is a special hire in Uganda.  Rob negotiated a reasonable price with the special hire and we got in.  The distance to the hotel was not very far but with the traffic it was an eventful ride.  We encountered a traffic jam and had to drive around.  As he tried to cut through a dirt alley we were stopped by a minivan stuck in a pot hole three cars ahead. Kampala, Uganda Our driver got out and helped push them through.  Then the next minivan got stuck in the same pothole.  This happened three times until we finally scraped our way through the very same pothole.  The roads in Kampala reminded me of Amman in Jordan.  There were many long roads cutting across the city but few roads bisecting them.  It made a short ride feel like we were going through a maze. 

We finally pulled up at the guest house.  It was a hectic part of town, just on the edge of the center, across from a massive market.  The guest house was full.  It felt like a dive so that wasn't so disappointing.  They were nice enough to let me hang out with the bags while Rob checked a couple of other places.  I felt slightly uncomfortable as people came and went from the rooms around.  Three guys emerged from the room just next to me and gave me the up and down.  It wasn't in a threatening way but did make me feel awkward.  Then one said "Hello sister!".  I pretended to be preoccupied.  A single woman passed by and gave me a sympathetic look.  I nodded and smiled.  Rob returned after about fifteen minutes.  He had found a place just up the street but we had the last room which was right in front of the TV/Cafe lounge area.  I wasn't too impressed as we climbed the stairs and encountered a pair of arguing men and a couple of others with their shirts off.  We were the only foreigners staying there.  The "restaurant" didn't really have any food and Rob couldn't even find a place nearby that sold cold drinks so it was left over bus snacks for dinner.  All in all the hotel wasn't a bad place but we had hoped for something better and the TV and talking were very loud. They said it would quiet around 10:00 but it didn't.  Rob finally asked if they could turn off the TV and then it got better.  Music was thumping from somewhere in the building and random voices talking loudly kept passing through the hallway but we were tired and fell asleep.  We would just have to find another place the following day.  

ZANZIBAR Stone Town July 11 July 12-14 Nungwi July 15-18 Stone Town I: July 19-23 II: July 19-23 Paje July 23-27 Stone Town July 27-Aug 1

TANZANIA Dar Es Salaam Aug 1-3 Moshi I: Aug 3-31 II: Aug 3-31 III: Aug 3-31 Safari Circuit Aug 17 Aug 18 Aug 19 Aug 20 Aug 21 Mt. Kilimanjaro Aug 23 Aug 24 Aug 25 Aug 26 Aug 27 Aug 28

KENYA Nairobi Sept 1 Sept 2 Sept 3 Sept 4-5

UGANDA Kampala Sept 6 Sept 7-16 Kampala Short Stories

RWANDA Kigali Sept 16 Sept 17 Ruhengeri Sept 18 Sept 19 Gisenyi Sept 20 Kigali Sept 21 Sept 22

UGANDA Kampala Sept 23 Sept 24-26