Notes On Uganda

It's early in the morning and the familiar call to prayer of Turkey has been replaced by a different, yes familiar, call. The call of the rooster.

In a few hours students from the school next door will begin singing a beautiful chorus. The Ugandans like to sing. We will walk past many a church with the congregation joined in voice. The have such beautiful voices.

I'm only two kilometres from the CBD of Kampala and the roads are a rich dirt red. This is meant to be a wealth area but it's not the ‘Beverly Hills’ of Kampala. We'll see that suburb in a few days. There the roads are paved and we're not allowed to stay long. Apparently the police shoo vagrants like us from the 'public' roads.

The guard at our hostel/compound tells us that we shouldn't take the matatus (minivans) because of petty thieves. We ignore the over-protective man and we climb into a crowded minivan to find half the passengers using newer phones than me. It's packed and yet comfortable. As the matatus run every minute or so, there is no need to cram extra people in. When we get into the countryside where the matatus run less frequently the need to cram will increase. Our record for Uganda in a single van will end at 25 people (including 4 minors) but it won't enough to beat Tanzania's score of 29 (2 minors).

Everyone is dressed impeccably too. Africans in general put great stead in looking good. Great fashion sense, amazing hair. So much amazing hair.

Don't be fooled though, everyone here is substantially poorer than us. The landless flock to Kampala looking for work. The city seethes with people trying to survive. The crowds rival those of a National park in China. The population of Kampala is now 1.5 million up from 300,000 forty years ago.

Apparently, in the far north of Uganda, a local can go and claim open land for farming. $1200 gets you a simple brick house. It doesn't seem like much but it's 2.8 million Ugandan Shillings. Some bus trips cost 500 shillings. The rest of the country has all been claimed and gets subdivided amongst the sons. Each generation receiving a smaller plot. It's subsistence farming but on the surface it appears an easier life when compared to Tanzania. Here the land is red and green: fertile soil with regular rain. In Tanzania the land is yellow and brown: dry, hard and dusty.

Both places have leopards and while we were in Uganda some locals were mauled by a leopard they were trying to chase away from its land. The humans wanted the land for farming. Uganda's population has risen from 5 million in 1950 to 33 million today. This doesn't leave much room for the wildlife.

Kampala old taxi park

The best place to experience the living crowd that is Kampala is walking through the old bus park. Hundreds of buses, thousands of people. The buildings lining the nearby streets have exploded with produce and products. Outside the shops roam vendors and others selling snacks to the swelling crowd. An woman with some fruit claims an spot on the sidewalk.

We want the bus to Rubaga.

Over there the man points and we walk over, climb in, wait ten minutes for it to fill up and your on the way. It may seem disorganised or chaotic but it's not. All the buses are in rows waiting to reach the front, get passengers and then go. Bus travel in Africa seemed overwhelming before we arrived but it's a rinse and repeat process. Ask for the bus, negotiate a price, climb in, wait (this step is optional) and you're on your way.

when: Sunday, November 02, 2014