Kampala

It’s a little hard for me to believe that a week ago I was still in Toronto, and was just getting ready to head out on a bus for the start of the trip to Africa.  In lots of ways everything here feels incredibly new, and there’s certainly all kinds of stuff yet to learn, but I’ve been very pleasantly surprised with how other things have seemed to fall into place.  There’s a particular rhythm to the days here that I really enjoy, and we’ve all been commenting on how nice so many of the Ugandans we come into contact with are.

Our trip to Kampala was a case in point.  We hopped on a matatu (taxi) in Kasana on Friday afternoon, and luckily didn’t have to wait too long for it to fill up and take off for Kampala.  It was great being able to travel with Kristen, since she’s made the trip many times and had all kinds of useful knowledge to impart (for instance, sit too close to the front of the matatu and you’ll get squished when they start squeezing more people on, too far to the back and you’ll risk sitting just in front of any number of unpleasant cargo (live chickens, coal, etc).

We arrived in Kampala and were able to get off before the matatu headed into the taxi park, which, after the downpour that occurred on our trip there, would have been a sea of mud and vehicles.  We eventually made our way to the hostel we were staying at, and met up with Ali and her boyfriend, Dye, for dinner at the open air restaurant just down the steps from where we were staying.  They had delicious food there, and we all stuffed ourselves on steak (for the meat-eaters) and vegetarian stew.  For 14,900 UGS (or just under $8 each), our meals includes soup, entrees with a ridiculous number of sides, (including fried pineapple, which was entirely delicious), and a banana-pudding like dish for dessert.  Definitely a place to keep in mind for future trips to the city.

Saturday Kristen, Vanessa and I stocked up at the grocery store next to our hostel, and headed out to where we were staying Saturday night.  We ended up taking a wrong turn and didn’t want to have to walk back to where we started, so we hopped on a couple boda bodas with all our backpacks and bags and got a lift instead.  It’s definitely a different experience riding a boda in a city, amongst all the people, cars, bikes and other boda bodas (not to mention the hills!) but we were safely deposited where we wanted to be, and walked the rest of the way to our next accommodations.  We ate lunch at Orchard, a restaurant that serves really tasty salads, soups and fresh juices, and then Vanessa and I headed over to a craft market near where we were staying.  We met up with Kristen and walked down to the mall at the end of our street, and watched Eat, Pray, Love at the cineplex there.  In the same complex there’s also a fitness centre and pool, and New York Kitchen, a diner-like place that serves bagels, pizza, and real ice cream (which can be hard to come by here).  All good things to keep in mind if ever we’re feeling homesick and just want to see a Hollywood movie and eat familiar foods.

After sleeping in and doing some more grocery shopping Sunday morning, we had lunch at a food court overlooking the local golf course, and then took a matatu to the New Taxi Park, where all the matatus leaving for other cities and towns congregate.  I would have loved to get a picture of the sight, but seeing as we were already carrying our backpacks on our fronts as a precaution against pickpocketing, it didn’t seem like the most opportune time to be pulling out a digital camera…  Needless to say, arriving there was another instance where I was tremendously thankful to be travelling with Kristen. Though there were signs around various matutus that in theory indicated where they were headed, the best thing to do apparently is just to start asking people where to go to get to Luweero.  We managed to find a ride without issue, and were out of the park quickly, but then ran into the Sunday traffic heading out of Kampala.  Once we made it through that, it was smooth sailing into Kasana, and we were home in time to make ourselves dinner with all the new groceries we purchased.

All in all, quite a nice, easy introduction to travelling in Uganda.  To get to most of the places I’ll be visiting over the course of my time here, I’ll end up taking a matatu to Kampala and heading out from there, so it was good to have the chance to see the taxi park during this trip.

I’ve posted some photos of the trip on my Flickr site.  You can see the Kampala set at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jtraynor/sets/72157625143937732/

I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more of Uganda!

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