Written By: Chris Coulon.
*A note to the reader: Danalynn has jumped ahead of me by several days. This post is our journey from Kampala to Southwest Uganda.
Our journey from Kampala began with a nice relaxing wait in front of the central post office, enjoying the sunshine and the early morning passer-bys. However, if you were to ask Danalynn it was an hour delay on a stuffy bus that was slowly filling with diesel exhaust; to which I might respond that she was just delirious on these “alleged” fumes.
In any case, we did at some point manage to get going, we couldn’t be too late; we had an appointment with the all o’clock traffic. By midday we were breathing exhaust free air for the first time in nearly a week and enjoying the scenery along the way. The journey traditionally takes roughly six hours by car; however, we decided on the cheaper/slower/safer option of the Posta bus. The bus gets you where you need to go and packs the added bonus of stopping in just about every town and village along the way to deliver mail (oh and the drivers on average are more sane). As a result, our trip ended up being somewhere around 9 hours, but who’s counting? In preparation for our long journey we systematically dehydrated ourselves because we were unsure whether or not the opportunity to relieve ourselves would present itself (it’s always good to plan ahead).
The view from our bus rounding a corner in the hills
The trip turned out to be great. We discovered the best way to see Uganda is by traveling via bus (assuming your diver is mentally sound). In nearly every town or village we stop, the bus was swarmed on either side by food vendors. The specialties are dependent upon the region, so as we travelled the foods changed. About two hours into our trip we decided it was time for breakfast. So, I stuck my head out the window and bought a kilo of fried cassava. A little later we decided it was time for four grilled plantains and a grilled beef shish-kebab. Nearing the end of the trip we splurged on a kind of dry heavy bread/cake for our afternoon snack. All in all we spent a grand total of 4000 Ugandan shillings ($1.35) for our day’s pampering.
Passing through one of the many villages along the way
For me the trip turned out to be a perfect balance of scenery, eating and reading. Anytime that I got bored of one, there were plenty of the others to fall back on. (One of the benefits of a wife with easily provoked motion sickness is that Danalynn never seems to want to use the kindle on these trips) Our journey took the upwards route, as we began to ascend to the highest part of the country and the Verunga volcano range (setting for Michael Crichton’s exciting jungle story “The Congo”). The highlands of Uganda are the banana producing capital of the country. We begin to pass extensive groves of bananas, plantains and East African Matoke trees. In one field we observed a line of nearly 30 people (mostly women in brightly colored dresses) swinging hoes in a uniform line, plowing the field.
At some point several hours into the trip, a worried looking mother rushed from her seat at the back of the bus to the front dragging a boy. It became very clear that the boy was about to relieve himself whether the bus stopped or not and the lady thought it imperative to give the driver the option of having it on his bus or off. The bus screeched to a halt on the side of the road and most of the bus, seizing their opportunity, rushed off in a mad dash. Men, women and children took little to no heed of usual social norms as they filled the adjacent field. Modesty is best left for places possessing consistently available toilets.
Some of the countryside
The last excitement came to us in the afternoon, roughly two-thirds of the way through our journey. As we made our way up a hill next to a town the bus sputtered and died. This was not a good sign. It is frequent that buses break down and only more frequent that you will receive no refund when it happens. The whole bus remained silent with an air of apprehension. The driver’s attempts to turn the engine over come to no avail. Several minutes went by before fifty people silently willed the bus engine to kick and we slowly limped up the hill to the town. Luckily after an hour and a half of waiting something was done under the hood and we were rolling along our way once again. We have to hand it to East Africans, from what we’ve seen in Kenya and Uganda, they have a knack for keeping old, run-down and oft abused vehicles alive, if only just barely.
Rays of sunshine over a Ugandan creek
Regardless of our enjoyment during our day’s trip it was a relief that evening when we finally disembarked, and what better way to stretch our legs than an evening stroll across town to explore our new surroundings.