Leaving Kenya

Monday, November 7, 2011  at 6:58 AM
Written By: Chris Coulon.

We rose early in the morning on our last day with Tom (our couchsurfing host in Kisumu) in order to catch our bus for the Ugandan border.  We are greeted with freshly prepared ginger Chai tea and toast. 

Memorable Quotes from Tom:
“Oh that fruit… that fruit is not kind.” 
-Tom’s response to Danalynn asking if she could eat some fruit off his trees. 
“It is good to be in Rome… but sometimes you do not want to be Roman.”
            -Tom laughing at us for not drinking his tap water.

Kisumu Tea
Heating up water for morning tea

After saying goodbye to Tom and his family we make our way to the matatu stand and then to the gas station that serves as the bus stand for Acacia buses.  Our ride to the border is to take roughly three hours and cost us a grand total of $7.00.  The bus is uncommonly comfy and even the day, much cooler than the previous week has been.

As we approach, the Ugandan border makes itself apparent with a mass of semi-trucks lined up for more than a kilometer squelching out exhaust and vendors everywhere.  Once off the bus we weave our way between inquisitive boda boda drivers and would be guides to get lunch with our last $1.30 of Kenyan shillings, we dine on chipati, sakuma-wali and crackers. 

Ugandan Border
Ugandan border, Busia Kenya

Crossing the border, the first thing that we notice is all the bright colors.  It seems every job here has their specific uniform in a certain color: boda boda drivers are all in pink, food vendors in navy blue and currency exchangers are all in a bright purple.  Even the Ugandan currency is a conglomeration of bright pinks, greens and blues.  It also becomes more noticeable that there are significantly more police and armed guards on this side of the border.  We come to realize later that it seems nearly a quarter of all people here are hired as police, military or security guards.  There are enough guns to keep an arms connoisseur amused for hours.  In addition to the usual hodgepodge of Kaloshnikovs, there seems to be quite a few hand-me down shotguns and some of the more interesting World War II relics including Mausers and even a couple American made M1 garands.  The weapons for most serve almost exclusively as a deterrent, as many don’t have more than a few bullets if any at all, not to mention some of them are in no fit condition to do more than decorate the local security apparatus. 

After wandering through the border town of Busia for an hour we manage to locate a small bus/van that will take us the rest of the 5 hour journey to Kampala for $5 dollars each.  As we make our way out of town we have our first run in with the UPDF (Ugandan People’s Defense Forces) or their national army at a road block, followed by a couple more several miles down the road.  There seems to be little more purpose in these road blocks than to search our van and its passengers, fishing for bribes.  Luckily, today, the military seems more interested in our bus driver than us and we scrape through all road blocks bribe free. 

Source of the Nile
Seems like every country in this part of Africa boasts of having the source of the Nile; this is the one coming from Lake Victoria

Uganda, unlike most of Kenya, is a hilly country at a relatively high altitude for African standards and as such the scenery is much more lush and green.  Cacti are quickly replaced by banana trees and even the occasional pine tree, which seem almost out of place in the tropical climate.  The small villages we pass along to the road here seem even simpler than the many that we passed in Kenya.  Mud huts make up the majority of the buildings here in the Ugandan countryside.

After a couple hours of driving, we pull off to the side of the road and our van is immediately accosted by dozens of blue uniformed food vendors, each attempting to shove their food through the windows.  There are shish-kebabs of beef, chicken, pork and liver, bags of peanuts, grilled plantains and fried cassava.  It is all delicious, cheap and the best part is that we don’t even have to get up to be served.  After several minutes (it seems the only reason for our stop is to appease the vendors) the van pulls back onto the road and we are on our way again.

We are happy when we finally pull into Kampala, unlike our first bus of the day, this one was little more than a van packed with 15 people and our packs have been on our laps for the last 5 hours.  We step out of the van into the rush and mass of people that is central Kampala and make our way down the street in search of a cheap hotel for the night.

Kampala Street
Busy street in Kampala
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