The Rwanda-Uganda Express

Blog 41 by Tan: The Rwanda-Uganda Express

We were still a bit unsure of our decision to travel through Rwanda and Uganda as we would have to do so at a pace we were simply not used to. Our progress though Africa until now has been exceedingly relaxed, affording lots of time for spontaneous opportunities and in depth explorations, not to mention general faffing about. Would we be satisfied with just 8 days in these two countries? Would we be able to see it as a better-than-nothing preview or feel like we short changed ourselves? In the end we decided to go for it and see how we liked it.

 

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A curious yet quiet crowd

 

Rwanda was instantly different from Tanzania. Where up until the border we had been riding though dry, sandy and flat landscape on a pretty average tar road, we were now cruising around a string of winding corners up perfect mountain roads with greenery as far as the eye could see. It was the first country in Africa where we had to ride on the right/wrong side of the road. Weird. But it is somehow more gratifying going through all the red tape of a border crossings and finding yourself in a distinctly different country.

Our first impression of Rwandans was that they seemed more reserved than people from most of the other African countries we’d been to. We still attracted an audience but people here would accumulate around the bikes from a greater distance and look on in silence. The odd person would give a shy wave or smile but for the most part it was very quiet. Just when we were thinking we were really in another part of Africa we stopped for lunch where we noticed the Rwandans share the same East African culinary delights of their neighbours. The humble and artery clogging chip omelettes are also a staple in this country. However the Rwandans had the rather exotic twist of serving theirs with mayonnaise. Fancy!

 

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Capital cities: high prices = CON, foreign restaurants = PRO. Here we are enjoying our first bit of Chinese food in ages

 

We made our way to the bustling capital of Kigali where we immediately started searching for some cheap accommodation. We checked out two moderate looking hotels, not dodgy but far from flash, and were shocked when both were over a hundred USD per night. We were clearly in another country. After getting nowhere we tracked down an Internet cafe and did some searching for a backpackers. We had a problem, you see. After almost 5 full weeks of cold bucket baths I had told myself (and Michael… many many times) that I would be taking a hot shower tonight – no matter what. So we headed to the Discover Rwanda backpackers and were informed that the cheapest private room they had was $AUD80. 80 bucks in a bloody backpackers in Africa!!!

Initiating meltdown… in three.. two.. one….

All the accumulated fatigue and frustration of the last 11 months in Africa came down on me like a tonne of bricks at that point. Africa has been wearing us out, taking our money and messing with our guts and I was sick of it. I bit my lips as the tears welled and I threw myself down on the couch in the communal area and proceeded to sulk while curse the African continent. Africa can be inexplicably expensive sometimes. When you can travel bare bones and go without bells, whistles, running water, toilet seats and can politely ignore the odd mouse running about your restaurant it is very cheap. And for the most part we can do this no problems. But the second you want a measure of comfort they charge you like a wounded bull. It makes no sense sometimes the obscene prices you are faced with. I was going to have to skip my long awaited hot shower and camp in the garden (not even a proper campground), and that for $22USD no less!

 

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At the petrol station. Again a crowd. Here we were comparing gear.

 

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One of the guys in the crowd had a shirt too good not to photograph. Mick asked this guy for a photo and at first he said no which ticked Mick off a bit, not necessarily because he said no but because in Rwanda everywhere we went people would crowd around and stare and take photos of us, including this guy who had just put his phone in his pocket after taking a photo of Mick. The hypocrisy was a bit much. Anyway, in the end he talked him into it.

 

Mick seemed to grasp the significance of this Chenobyl-esque meltdown going on in my fatigued little mind and offered to set up the tent and beds all on his own. This was a generous gesture yet may have just been a reason to get away from me in case of fallout. I would have been embarrassed about sitting in all my bike gear straining to hold back tears in public had any of the travellers seemed capable of looking up from their screens in the wifi zone.

Yet I was hatching a plan all along. After confirming that the camping showers were piss weak and barely lukewarm I resolved to go full criminal ninja spy and sneak into the backpackers and illicitly use their hot water. Which I did in the middle of the night (so as to be a considerate full criminal ninja spy) and it was glorious. I used all the hot water in the joint and felt no remorse. Afterwards I resolved to put on my big girl panties and get over my little episode, hopped into bed and had a great sleep. I was ready to face Africa again. Mick was supportive, though confused throughout. Good, that’s the way I like my men.

The next day we went to the Kigali Genocide museum which put my previous evening’s pathetic tantrum at not having a hot shower into perspective……vivid, brutal, horrifying perspective. For those of you fortunate enough to have missed the whole episode, in 1994, in the space of 100 days approximately 800,000 people were massacred while the world stood by and demonstrated that when it said ‘Never again’ after the holocaust of World War II, what they really meant was ‘Never again….unless you are the unfortunate member of a piss poor African nation possessing no significant mineral wealth or strategic importance.’

 

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I was glad I somehow missed the section with the skulls and bones that showed just how brutally violent the whole affair was. Mick saw it but still said the part of the museum he simply couldn’t handle was the photo room were thousands of photos of the victims are hanging. Photos of people at weddings, graduations, with babies in their arms, just living their lives, all them now dead from machetes and clubs in the hands of their countrymen.

 

The conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis can be traced back to colonialism. Unlike many of the world’s ethnic conflicts that stem from century/millennia old differences, this one was a recent, basically fabricated enmity. And what it lacked in terms of a legitimate ‘ethnic’ conflict it made up for in outrageous barbarity. You see, prior to colonial rule the primary identity of all Rwandans was associated with eighteen different clans. The term Hutu, Tutsi and Twa were merely socio-economic classes within those eighteen clans. These classes weren’t a rigid classification either as they were something that could change based on personal circumstances. Under colonial rule the classes were made racial and cemented into place at the introduction of the identity card in 1932 (seriously when has that ever ended well). In creating criteria for classifying the two groups, the colonial authorities identified anyone with ten or more cows in 1932 as Tutsi. Anyone with less than ten cows became a Hutu. And these classes were then passed down to one’s decedents making it permanent distinction.

Consider that for fate. The decision of your long dead great grandfather to sell one of his cows the very week some stuffy colonial came by and counted his herd, goes on to determine whether you are a perpetrator or a victim in the later genocide.

With the two main ‘ethnic’ groups established (however arbitrarily) and conveniently distinguishable through an all pervasive identity system the collision course was essentially set. The animosity was assisted by treating one group preferentially and fostering conflict between the two groups in the grand tradition of colonial powers cementing their dominance by keeping the population sufficiently divided. Don’t get me wrong the massacre wasn’t meticulously cooked up by the colonial powers they just put things in place that unintentionally blew it up. Once the division was established in Rwandan society human nature took over. Tutsi’s when informed they were superior acted accordingly and went on to dominate the country’s administration and economy. The Hutu’s majority went on to resent their inferior position. And we all know the rest.

The museum, which houses the remains of 275,000 victims, does a pretty good job at acknowledging the atrocities and… sort of stays… sort of impartial. However the notable exception relates to the shooting down of the former Rwandan president’s plane that pulled the trigger on the conflict. The museum tells you that the plane was shot down by extremist powers within the government looking to overthrow their own leader. Yeah, maybe. However these days it is widely believed that Paul Kagame (the current – and probably forever – president and leader of the Rwandan Patriotic Front) was responsible for downing the plane that set off the massacre that he went on to stop with his forces (in his own sweet time, I might add). He needed a power vacuum to take power. Unfortunately that came with a genocide. For those who watched the Long Way Down will recall that Ewan and Charlie were conflicted about going and meeting the Rwandan president because of talk we was the involved with a plane being shot down and later retaliatory Hutu massacres…. well that was the guy and yep… he probably did do it.

 

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After the genocide, the French were implicated on the wrong side of the conflict – I wander what was going through Sarkozy’s head when he visited the museam

 

The museum does a pretty good job of promoting reconciliation and saying ‘never again…really’ but the top floor is dedicated to past genocides though history that seems in conflict with that message. As rather cynical followers of history and politics we just didn’t buy it. I think a flare up in these hostilities is probably inevitable, but would love to be wrong. Unlike the Holocaust which saw a military carrying out industrial scale extermination of Jews and other disfavoured groups, the Rwandan genocide was being carried out at close, brutal quarters, with machetes and farming implements the most common tools of death. It was neighbour against neighbour, family member against family member, medical personnel against patient, priests against member of their own congregations. Where does that hate and violence go? What ethnic conflict that reaches such heights of violence and depravity just disappears after 100 days of bloodletting and some village reconciliation hearings that swapped testimony of perpetrators of genocide for shortened prison sentence and spot of road and house construction as community service?

The Canadian leader of the UN peace keeping mission in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire, wrote an interesting account of the genocide in his book ‘Shake Hands with the Devil’. He describes the near unimaginable levels of stinginess and utter incompetence of the United Nations and the pathetic efforts of the world powers at the time. France was arming and training the perpetrators of the genocide then helping them leave the country when they were being defeated. The number of troops that were used to evacuate foreign nationals and families of the Hutu extremist politicians was about 5000. Which coincidently is the number of troops that Romeo Dallaire said would have stopped the genocide in its tracks if given sufficient mandate. Belgium was pushing their own interests under the guise of peacekeeping. England was reaching new heights in inactivity and being spectacular cheapskates while the United States was hitting the thesaurus hard and contorting the English language so they could describe the goings on in Rwanda as ANYTHING but genocide to avoid having to do anything at all. The USA had initially banned officials from using the term ‘genocide’ immediately after the violence. All because it was a genocide they would have to get involved for perceptions sake. Massacre you can ignore, tribal violence too… genocide not so much. So best never call it a genocide then it won’t be a genocide. Eventually the term ‘acts of genocide’ was coined, as if that somehow lessened what was happening on the ground. They actually lobbied the UN hard to withdraw the limited peace keeping force all together and leaving the country to its fate.

Anyway Dallairre described a scene where he came upon a crashed ambulance with the driver and patient recently hacked to death. The perpetrators we still there dripping with blood, smoking cigarettes and having a rest. They were all of 13 years old. A 13 year old in 1994 is now 34. So… yeah… we didn’t buy the line that it was so horrible it will never happen again. You just need to look at what happened in the immediate aftermath of the genocide….. more genocide both in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where Kagame waged two separate wars.

 

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On the way to the border

 

Kigali itself is a rare sight in Africa. It is a capital city all but devoid of rubbish. Seriously it is utterly spotless. You’ll struggle to find a pothole. There are modern building and new roads provided by a long line of willing donors. Nothing says ‘sorry we just sat and watched while you guys macheted each other to death’ like a brand new 4 lane road. I can see where people might think Rwanda was on a better trajectory than that of its neighbours. Kagame (the inexplicable darling of international politics) is an autocratic leader that controls the country with an iron fist. It’s a place where people (especially journalists and member of the opposition) disappear if they are silly enough to speak out in the first place. Kagame I see just got parliament to change the constitution to allow him a third term in office. Don’t let the lack of cigarettes butts fool you, its not all peachy keen there. But I guess at least Kagame has a vision for the country and as long as the economy stays good it might be enough to starve off further troubles and outpace the ghosts of its past.

 

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Leaving Rwanda after 2 ½ days – ridiculous!

 

After just a couple of days in the country we were having to move on. It was ridiculous. I don’t feel we can say too much about the place at all. For us our tight timeline meant we experienced little but exorbitant prices, the genocide museum and some smooth tar roads. There was no doubt more to the place but not that we had time to see.

 

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We watched as these kids broke into the back of the truck that had been transporting flour. The kids got in and filled their pockets before being chased off by the truck driver. Only to do it again the moment his back was turned.

 

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The Virunga mountains in the background. Home to mountain gorillas we were hoping to visit

 

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Some fun riding right over the border. A great first impression of Uganda

 

Being a tiny country it was no time before we were at the border. Formalities out of Rwanda and into Uganda were pretty seamless. We were soon in Uganda riding with the stunning Virunga national park to our left. Once again the road and views were fantastic. Soon enough the sun was getting low so we tried to find somewhere to sleep. And we found nothing. No matter the size of the village in Tanzania there is always a guesthouse. Not so in Uganda we discovered. Light was starting to fade and we were still 30km of dirt road off reaching our destination of on the northern side of Bwindi National Park. Our options were limited to asking to camp in a farmers plot or pushing on to Bwindi with the last 20 or so minutes in the dark on mountain dirt track. We went for the latter as there was no risk of traffic (though admittedly risk of animal through the park) and we have headlights that rival the sun in terms of illumination.

 

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Views of Lake Bunyuyoni “Place of many little birds”

 

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On the way to Bwindi with the sun doing down

 

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No gorillas for us. But the fun riding was a better than decent consolation prize.

 

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Tea plantations lined the route

 

I know people say NEVER EVER ride at night and it is definitely a rule we try to keep to….. however sometimes you get caught out. We were riding on good dirt road that wound through the mountains and got steadily higher. While the sun was setting we got incredible views over the expansive mountain vegetation. It was proper jungle and a unique sight to us in all our travels through Africa. The moonlight then went on to illuminate the forest so we had incredible views by night. I know, I know you shouldn’t ride at night but sometimes there is nothing quite like it.

At the park gate we were met by a friendly guard who called a friend of his to meet us further down the trail to take us to his guesthouse. Figuring we’d struggle to find anywhere in the dark it seemed like a good idea to us. Sure enough we later found a fella waiting for us and we threw him on the back of Mick’s bike and followed his directions to the Guesthouse. It was a lot more of lodge really but they were happy to let us budget travellers camp on the grass.

 

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Typical scenery in Uganda

 

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It made for lovely riding

 

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Some kids with a home-made bike

 

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Cute kids

 

We were heading to Bwindi as we’d been told the riding was great by our mates Michnus and Elsibie (link) who had given us some gpx tracks to follow. But we were also hoping to do some mountain gorilla trekking. We were the only guests there as it was the low season so our hopes were high for getting a discounted gorilla trek.

During the low season the trekking permits go from the usual $600US down to $350US. If we could get the off season price were would do it, if not we would have to skip the gorillas this time. We had just done the expensive safari in Tanzania so dropping another $1200 wasn’t an option. Not if we also wanted to do the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia as well. But at the discounted price we could handle the cost… sort of. We got up early and went to the Gorilla trekking office with our fingers crossed. But we were out of luck. The discount permits stopped being sold just 5 days previous. It was a shame for sure. But after our trip is over we are going to try for mining jobs in Zambia or DRC so we think we’ll get another chance one day.

 

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Fun fun riding

 

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Stopping for a breather

 

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More tea plantations

 

The riding was excellent and the country side stunning from the thick forests and mountains to the east down to the low lands were we found ourselves riding through clouds of butterflies (was nicer for us than them) and past elephants on either side. Eventually we hit tar and were able to rack up some decent kilometres.

 

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Lunch of sweet milky chai, chapattis and goat stew

 

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The kid on the left was sniffing some kind of industrial solvent in a soft drink bottle. The young guy in the restaurant told us he had been doing it since he was 8. He has fried his brain badly now and is used as an example to the other kids of what happens to you if you sniff glue. But it still remains a common practice for young poor kids. And the people in this part of Uganda are certainly poor. Still that didn’t stop Mick telling him to “stop breathing that bloody shit!”

 

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Cruising the main road through the Queen Elizabeth National Park

 

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You can see elephants in the tall grass by the road

 

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A significant milestone. We were finally in the north of the equator

 

We were coming into a town and I was riding in front when all of a sudden I heard a strange sound over the intercom and soon after static indicating we were out of range. I turned around and saw Mick doing a walk around of his bike farther up the road. I thought for a moment he might have hit someone which has been a long held fear of ours while riding through the many densely populated countries of Africa. Thankfully he hadn’t. But he had just crashed and slid down the tar. He said he thought his front tyre was going flat so stood up to see the tyre, just in time for the front to go flat suddenly and have the tyre roll off the rim.  As soon as the bead broke the bike started pulling hard to the right.  After battling it for about 20m the bike went down hard. All this even with the rim locks we run on both front and rear.

 

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Mick changing the tyre drew half the town

 

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They found the tyre change far more entertaining than we did

 

Naturally by this point we had a considerable crowd. Mick dusted himself off and got to changing the front tyre. The source of the crash was soon revealed as the tube had simply split at the seam. It was one of our heavy duty tubes that cost a pretty penny so we were disappointed but felt grateful there was no oncoming traffic as he and the bike ended up in the opposite lane. We were also grateful we were only going about 50km/h as we were approaching a town. To think it could have happened any other place along our day’s ride where we were mostly doing 100km/h.

 

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Uganda has a breed of cattle with impressive horns. These guys horns were smaller than the norm in fact

 

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We stopped for lunch and one of the workers got me to hold their baby. The woman had very dark skin so everyone found it amusing how light skinned the baby was. They called her ‘mzungu baby’ and got a kick out of me holding her.

 

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Our crappy Africa sourced Chinese glue/patches let us down again. Don’t know if we pointed it out already but Mick made this great little retractable stand. It hooks into a notch on the bashplate and is a piece of 16mm pipe sliding inside a piece of 19mm pipe. Its stored with clamps into the luggage rack. Works like a charm.

 

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This time we had a bunch of school kids watching the tyre change. One of the girls in the background was a bit of a cow – she yelled at us “Mzungu! bring me my money!!” with considerable venom. Charming! It gave us a fun catch-cry though, we use that phrase now on occasion when the context is right.

 

This unexpected crash made our next stop on the journey all the more poignant. About 6 months before our arrival into Uganda an Australian husband and wife were killed there in a traffic accident while pursuing their dream of riding their motorbike around the world. Their names were Sean and Tanya. And while we had never met them we wanted very much to go to the scene of their accident and pay our respects. Their accident was reported in Australia and I was contacted by friends and colleagues who got such a fright to hear the news as the parallels between the couple and us were so strong. We were roughly the same age, Sean was an engineer like Mick, the wife shared my first name, they were from Queensland like us and we just one month ahead of us in their 3 year trip around the world on a route that almost mirrored ours. It was actually painful to us to hear of their deaths.

We heard their story while on the road and as we travelled we continued to come upon talk and sign of them. We met people who had heard of them and those that had met them and we had even come across their photos on the walls of bike shops. All throughout our trip we have come back to thinking of them and felt an affinity and deep sense of sadness for them having died the way they did. We knew the work involved in undertaking the dream trip as they had, the reassuring of excited yet nervous family members required and the fighting off of morbid thoughts and fears about what might befall you on a trip like ours. And of course the joy of the journey.

We found a news story that stated the town where they had their fatal accident and made our way there in the hope we could get the location of the accident from the local police and pay our respects to these people we never met yet had shed tears for. Even before we got there I was upset and flustered over not having been able to find any flowers to leave.

We came across a police stand as soon as we entered the town. I nervously approached a policeman to ask if he recalled the incident. I wasn’t sure what he would make of our request, in fact, I don’t know what those reading this might make of it. As soon as I mentioned the accident the policeman said ‘I do recall the accident, may I take you to the location?’ An off duty policeman overheard and came up to us to say he would like to escort us there personally. He jumped on his bike and took us the short distance to the accident site.

After some minutes of quiet contemplation he asked us if we would like to know what happened. We said yes and bit by bit he explained the accident. After each sentence he would look to us for permission to continue. He was incredibly sensitive and seemed very sad at the retelling. He spoke of the couple so respectfully ‘the madam’ and ‘sir’. And it was so sad. They did not a thing wrong yet it ended the way it did. An appallingly located weighbrige on a bend where trucks have little option but to spill into the road was the reason for the tragedy. They did nothing wrong. A 4WD car travelling in the opposite direction swerved into their lane to avoid a truck. And these guys were travelling in that lane. The car responsible was speeding and driving recklessly. The driver ran from the scene while his female passenger was arrested. The policeman said that they know who he is but that they are certain he immediately left the country. He emphatically said the case is still open and they will not give up on catching him.

We couldn’t help but feel sad and angry. It just seemed unacceptably cruel and unfair. They called their trip ‘One life is all you get’ out of an understanding of the need to live your dreams and not waste the precious time you have. And there they were not wasting it….It’s just not supposed to work out like this. They did nothing wrong! Sean was an amateur road racer in Australia making him a better rider than Mick and I will ever be. I guess their experience goes to show that as much as these trips are a dream they are still real life. And for us their passing is perhaps a much needed reality check. Keep these guys in your thoughts as we will. They were passionate bikers, bold, brave and living their dream.

We have discussed the matter of safety on these trips (A LOT) and have noticed that more a more new riders are getting out and seeing the world on their bikes. The ride reports of people getting their licence the days before their departure are becoming increasingly common. Don’t get me wrong, people jumping on bikes and getting amongst it is on the whole an excellent thing. And we are hoping that our ride report on Africa will encourage people to venture this way. But I implore people to take the time to get experience as a rider under your belt before taking on Africa. Yes accidents happen EVERYWHERE and a person could do the whole continent, get home and crash in their own street. I definitely get that. However I would argue Africa has a higher amount of risks and hazards than many places and it is simply not the place for a learner rider to be earning their stripes. There are so many hazards that your skills need to be so finally tuned, they must be instincts in fact. Getting at least a couple year’s experience before thinking of coming here would be my advice to anyone who cares. It’s not as safe and easy as Ewan and Charlie made out. But please if you think otherwise don’t attack. It’s just a personal opinion which is becoming a more intimidating thing to share on the internet these days.

 

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Mick demonstrating the philosophy that the world is his garage.

 

We ventured east towards Kampala where we had been warned the traffic was particularly bad. From east to west there is really only one way in and out of town. And while it was intense with vehicles coming at you from all angles it was also reasonably civilised. People seemed to have accepted the inevitability of a slow transit through town so there were few people being overly impatient or reckless. The snail’s pace at which we made our way through the city afforded plenty of time to take the place in. Kampala was positively bustling and quite exciting. It was hectic and a bit grotty but kind of cool. It took us about an hour and a half to get from one side of town to the other and that is with being able to lane split on the bikes. I can’t imagine the time it must take a car.

Mick is very vigilant about servicing the bikes which is done as close to 5000km as is practical. The factory service interval for the DRs is 6000km though we do it a 5k because the 2 occasions that we did the service at 6k the oil came out really filthy. At 5k we find the oil comes out with a little bit of colour left in it so that is what we go for. Also above 5k you can feel the difference as the gear changes get a little clunky. We give these bikes hell so we have to treat them nice from time to time. The bikes ticked over 5k while riding through Kampala so when Mick saw a place to get oil along the road he pulled up and did the service right there and then.

While Mick was mid service a fellow on a BMW 1200GS rode up to us for no other reason than to say hi. Gotta love bikers. After experiencing the traffic of Kampala we asked how he could handle such a big bike in it. He admitted that it was tough but he was well practised and just kept replacing his crash bars as needed. He was on his third set already. He told us that he was a member of the BMW club in Uganda and that they had an enthusiastic and growing number of members. It was their goal he said to get to 100 beamer riders in the club. Not bad at all for Uganda where import duties must be astronomical on BMWs if their neighbouring countries are anything to go by. He said he’d be able to get a big bunch of people together to go for a ride and we were bummed to have had to pass up on the opportunity. Usually we jump at all such offers but we had an appointment in Nairobi that, much as I would have liked to skip it, I could not.

 

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Impromptu visit from a biker who spied us from the road and came to say hi.

 

We moved onward to Jinja where we had a look at the start of the White Nile and found a place to sleep that seemed secure and wasn’t too highly priced. Tourist town prices apply as Jinja is a popular place for white water rafting. We weren’t interested in partaking in such activities as I fear my rotator cuff injury is going to rule out any paddling pursuits for years. Plus we are lazy. A fellow ADVRider Xpat has a fantastic blog on his ride through Africa and he wrote a rather hilarious account of his time paddling the White Nile in Jinja. I recommend it to anyone wanting more information on the White Nile other than our, ‘we drank beer and looked at it for a bit’ account.

 

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About all we did in Jinja. Look at the start of the White Nile and drink beer.

 

One evening in a rather non-descript little town along the highway we went out for dinner near a town market. I took a couple of photos of Mick and the market scene. Then some pretty drunk guy came up and hassled us about taking photos of people without permission and asking for money and telling us we are wrong and inviting us to his house all at once. We got fired up because it was yet one more person hassling for taking photos of no one. We don’t know what is was with Uganda but this had happened a bunch of times and we were over it. We’d take a picture of a tea plantation and then a guy would see and come up wanting payment…he wasn’t in the photo and only worked in the field but wanted money for the photo. He got a two word response from us. Another time we pulled up on the road and got a picture of the scene which had a guys cows in it…said guy comes up and wants money to the photo of his cows. He gets the same response. Now this guy comes and we finally have had enough. We tell him we haven’t taken any photos of people, it’s none of his business and that he is welcome to go and call the cops. He wouldn’t give up despite the tea shop owner telling him to get lost and us getting increasingly angry.

 

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One of the offensive photos taken without people’s permission

 

It made us realise another of the many drawbacks on travelling so fast. For us those memories of people demanding payment for photos of a hillside are our memories of Uganda. With so little time and experience in the country we have nothing else to dilute the unpleasantness down with. And despite knowing of all the good times in Uganda other people we know have had, in ten year’s time our memories of Uganda will still go back to these attempts at being fleeced that also make you feel unwelcome. This is not Uganda and we know in intellectually but that is what it was for us because we are moving so damn quickly, skimming the surface of the country, seeing the sights but knowing nothing but superficiality. It was like speed dating a whole country. And we walked away know nothing of consequence.

 

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The road approaching Mt Elgon

 

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Views along the route

 

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Mick cruising

 

But at least our limited time in Uganda ended on a high. Once again we chased the most remote border to cross into Kenya, which so happened to be the dirt road around the back of Mt Elgon which came highly recommended. So off towards Kenya we went and soon found the end of the tar and the start of the fun as we travelled higher and higher up the mountainside. The road was a bit washed out but not too badly to have to actually think much about what you were doing. The views and the riding just got better and better. From lush, green cultivated hillsides to the mountains and plains below. As we got closer to the Suam River border post we rode through plantation forests which led to us having to dodge a few trucks before having the road to ourselves again. Our Tracks4Africa track had advised of a landslide that had made the road impassable. While we found remnants of the landslide it had long been cleared as we suspected.

 

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Mick moto jousting

 

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Coming up to plantation forests

 

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Some little kiddies ran up to say hello

 

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The place was green, hey!

 

Arriving at Suam River we found the border post as cruisey as hoped. But too cruisey this time. The immigration officer who mans the post was off at a funeral so the guard had to get permission to stamp us out of the country. He eventually got it but then couldn’t find where the forms were kept so we had to sit and wait. No worries. We were pretty good at that by now. While waiting we reflected on our time in Uganda. While it was incredibly brief at just 5 days we did feel glad that we had come and at least got a taste of the country.

Although we enjoyed seeing Uganda in retrospect we now know that we should have just found some more off road routes in the north of Tanzania and done those before heading up to Nairobi instead. We only learnt about a fantastic ride from Arusha to Lake Natron that we could have done a hike up to the active volcano of Ol Doinyo Lengai and we would have really been in our element. You live you learn. And though we didn’t have enough time to learn a lot about the place we had enough to know it is a place worth exploring further in the future, when time is more on our side.

 

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A scenic route for sure

 

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Ending our time in Uganda on a high

2 Comments on “The Rwanda-Uganda Express

  1. Hi there guys,
    I finally caught up on reading all your blogs (quite a few evenings of binge reading!!) What a fantastic adventure so far! I am actually so happy that I started reading your blogs after I had already met you and got to know you better. It made reading the blogs much more fun as I sort of “knew” you and your personalities a bit. It made some of the moments very funny and made it easy to relate!

    I cannot wait for the next installments, and I will be a loyal follower from now on until the END!!!

    Hope to run into you again sometime in the future in some remote off the track village!!

    Cheers!
    Etienne

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