Blog 13 Uganda You Beaut
From the moment we entered Uganda (although at separate times) we were both immediately delighted by how friendly the people of Uganda are. Warm smiles and a desire to help was great to witness in the ‘Pearl of Africa’. Uganda did also provide the first opportunity for the beast to get its first battle scar as huge lines of trucks on the roads allowed for a slight embrace between the Tuk Tuk and the back end of a lorry. it was a battle scar well deserved that was quite surprising considering some of the hectic and tight places we have found ourselves in, however that just adds to the character of the Tuk Tuk.
Whilst waiting for Cal, Willie found himself in Jinja Town which is located right on the banks of Lake Victoria hustling for a place to stay. This was an interesting experience that led him to some funny places to say the least. Eventually coming right, he ended up at Nile River Explorers (NRE) down river from the Jinja Dam. NRE is situated right on the river and offers heaps of adventure activities from kayaking, white water rafting, canoe tours, mountain biking and the list just goes on. Cal turned up shortly after and the trio was back together again!
We enjoyed several days in Jinja rope swinging, zip lining, checking out some of the rapids the kayakers were surfing and relaxing by the river before it was time to go check out Kampala and visit our good friend Tara. It was a pleasant drive from Jinja right until the point we began to enter the outskirts of Kampala when all hell broke loose. Just when we thought we had been through hectic bustling cities with havoc and chaos surrounding us, let us tell you we had seen nothing yet. Kilometres of traffic lining the roads made for a pretty stressful and long haul. It was comparatively easier in the Tuk Tuk which could pop onto oncoming and hoon past many vehicles, pushing in and moving out the way when necessary. However, this quickly came to an end when we entered the grid locked streets in Kampala where even our mighty traffic evader was no match for the forces of Kampala’s narrow streets and unimaginable number of cars. It took us a good two hours to get to our friend’s house from when we first entered Kampala. At first, we thought it just could have been our poor planning of arriving there during peak rush hour, however every day further we realised that the poor city road planning and congestion was just part of the scenery.
After a good few days catching up with our friend and our patience running thin with Kampala, we headed back to Jinja to see if we couldn’t do some work at NRE. Our budget was running low and we needed to find an income while we waited to acquire further sponsorship to get us back to Cape Town. They had no problem with us helping out where we could and asked if we wouldn’t mind fixing up an old FJ40 Toyota Landcruiser called ‘Bumblebee’ and drive it down to South Africa for them as they saw us as crazy enough to do such a thing. This was extremely appealing to say the least and we got to work figuring out what needed to be done. It was an exciting process getting this old girl running of which there was a fair bit to do. Firstly, she didn’t start, her roof was in tatters, the seats were mouldy and full of hairy caterpillar trails and most of the tyres were flat and buggered. The day we got her started was hugely exhilarating and we jumped about like little school kids. After replacing one glow plug she seemed to start quite easily until one fateful morning her starter motor failed and that too had to be replaced. From here she was in good running order and ready to hit the road.
We also visited the ‘Hairy Lemon Island,’ a beautiful lodge on an island in the White Nile. The main island had walkways to connect to the two other islands which was nothing short of beautiful. Unfortunately, a dam was commissioned a number of years ago and as a result the Hairy Lemon will be flooded mid-year marking the end of a great place as well as a number of rapids on the White Nile. Not only are they directly affected, but all the surrounding farm lands and villages who grow crops close to the water’s edge will suffer a loss. These are huge collateral effects when building a dam for hydroelectricity and we wander if these people will be compensated for their loss.
One other thing we loved about Uganda was the Boda Boda (motorbike) drivers that buzzed around the streets of Jinja. Catching a ride on one of these is the cheapest way to get around the towns in Uganda and is quite a thrill despite its relative danger. One morning heading into town after huge rains was very interesting sliding everywhere and almost falling off a few times. We had to stick our barefeet to the mud to act as training wheels while we slid all over the place, nevertheless it was a lot of fun. Another thing that really made us laugh was the loads that these Boda Boda’s carry on their basic 125cc bikes. We had seen everything from people, to large couches, huge quantities of timber and even a Boda Boda carry another Boda Boda just on the back of his seat! It is a common site to see up to 4 people including the driver on one of these bikes and quite impressive to see how people don’t even feel the need to hold on in these situations. Several times we were heavily loaded onto a bike and certainly felt the need to hang on.
With the beast and Bumblebee ready to go we packed up our stuff, said our goodbyes and hit the road. We would like to thank John, Billy and Jacques from NRE for having us at this awesome place and providing an opportunity to drive this sweet car. We were accompanied by two people from the backpackers who needed a lift to Kampala. Having Duncan and Alison joining us to Kampala was a good treat and kept us company on the 80km, two and half hour drive. Surprisingly getting into Kampala was a hell of a lot easier with traffic considerably lighter, possibly due to us travelling on a Sunday and arriving mid-afternoon.
After two nights at our friends we hit the road making our way towards Mutukula Border post to enter Tanzania and once again Kampala traffic was up to its usual nonsense. Going around one particular circle, we witnessed four separate traffic accidents simultaneously which reiterated to us why we had to get out of this city as soon as possible! Once again it took us over two hours to escape Kampala’s grasp and when we hit the open road it was a feeling of relief and excitement. We only made it 100km or so out to a town called Masaka before we had to stop but found a backpackers that gave us a dorm to stay in. This was an interesting place to say the least. Rather run down and surrounded by a village we heard the classic chicken and goat sounds ringing through the night as well as what can only be described as a dying demon horse screeching just over the wall. Still, they gave us free accommodation and beggars can’t be choosers, we were still grateful for their help.
The next day saw us driving 80km to Mutuluka border which was a steady and beautiful drive on good roads. We had been impressed by the quality of roads in Uganda with exception to the village and dirt roads which were plagued by potholes, but one can’t expect much more in Africa. Crossing the border was easy and we had now completed our eighth leg of the expedition ready for the western side of Tanzania with a plan to catch a glimpse of Lake Tanganyika.
We would like to extend our gratitude to a few of our sponsors that have re-invested in the expedition to get us home. Shospec, a South African based frame and steel fitting specialist was the first to respond to our request and again we are extremely grateful. Nashua followed suit soon after and so did Co-Arc International Architects with a very helpful contribution. We would like to thank you for you continued support from Cape Town to the equator and back, it has been an honour and a pleasure carrying your companies logos on our Tuk Tuk.