Kampala has several modes of transportation if you don’t have a car here, which we don’t. You’ve already been introduced to Richard the Driver in A Trip to the Source of the Nile; we used him quiet a bit when I first arrived. He is reliable and safe. However, Richard the Driver is kind of expensive for Uganda standards, mostly because of the high costs of petrol here. A trip to the grocery store, mall or our favorite resort pool – The Speke Resort (pictured below) – averaged around $20 a pop.
While I was still working, I mostly worked from home or walked to nearby cafes (Bean, Fuego, Prunes and Kawa were my favorites) to keep transportation costs down. If I left early enough, the two-mile walk was pleasant. If, like most days, I got a late start, the hot equator sun would leave me swimming in a puddle of my own sweat.
Not exactly the hot I was going for. “Just take a boda,” Jay would say. What exactly is a boda? Or it’s proper term, boda boda? It’s a motorcycle taxi. They are everywhere in Kampala and throughout most of East Africa. Traffic is so bad in the cities (on a road made for only two lanes of cars, you’ll often see five to seven all weaving their own way through traffic), the most efficient way to get from point A to point B is a boda.
Most boda rides cost anywhere from 80 cents to $3 to get anywhere in the city. If it’s so cheap, why was I hesitant? If you Google boda boda, you’ll quickly learn they are the cause of most traffic deaths in Uganda. You’ll hear tales of drivers driving drunk. Of taking their unexpectant mzungu (non Ugandan) clients to dark alleys and robbing them. Yeah, doesn’t sound like a good idea, right? But you’ll also see that most people in Uganda still choose to use them, including women who sit side saddle as to not appear unlady like, or women with their infant babies securely strapped to their backs, entire families on their way to church, businessmen, couriers carrying crates of chickens, bananas and the like.
Obviously, there are trusted boda drivers out there; and Jay found a few through recommendations that he used to get to and from work. Once I was laid off, and had more time to travel places on my own, I decided it was time to start strapping on my boda helmet and join the boda race. A few things on this: I almost always use Ukosha (below) or a handful of his trusted stage drivers. If he’s unavailable, which is rare, I never flag a boda from the street, I only use bodas from proper stages. And I always wear a helmet. I was timid at first, but now I find it exhilarating – weaving through night traffic on and off sidewalks, buzzing past taxis filled to the brim. The rich, red sand sticking to my skin as I breathe in the thick exhaust fumes from the trucks, bodas, taxis and cars all in an unchore0graphed dance through the streets of Kampala. Talk about feeling alive!
As you can see, Uganda has been good for my soul. It’s taught me to slow down. It’s taught me to roll with the punches. It’s taught me how important connecting with people is. Whether it’s the server at your favorite cafe or the woman selling pineapple by the side of the street. But we are saying goodbye to Uganda tomorrow and flying to… Johannesburg, South Africa! We will spend a day there and then hop a two-day train to Cape Town. I can’t wait to see what happens next. We’ll see you all in South Africa!