From the very first “fantasy” stages of our trip long before we set off for South America, to the moment our feet hit African soil and ever after, Uganda was always a “must visit” and the final destination on our roadtrip that we greatly looked forward to!

Uganda

Quick Summary

Time in Uganda: January 3 - February 3, 2011

Route: from Kenya to Jinja, then Kampala to organize ourselves for a few days, followed by a quick loop of the western half of Uganda (Murchison Falls National Park, several attractions around Fort Portal, and Lake Bunyonyi) before returning for an extended 10-day stay in Kampala to sell TianMa and wrap up Africa travels. 

Food: local fare not so good, although the staple starch matoke (mushed banana) is interesting, Ognen loved Fort Portal’s “banana juice”, and the pork is the best in East Africa; to get a decent meal, we had to seek out places for tourists or expats (and even so still had to pick carefully or risk paying 10 times what you would in a local place for the same old crap); thanks to couchsurfing we had good home cooking (including excellent brunches and using our potjie) and tried great Ethiopian food

People: Juan’s first visit 2 years earlier convinced her that Ugandans are the friendliest people on the planet, with remarkable warmth and curiosity especially given their dreadful recent history; so our expectations were likely too high, as we did not get that feeling this time around; yes, the smiles and greetings were still there and people wanted to chat with us, but we felt an uneasy tension in the air almost everywhere we went that is difficult to describe; there is a general negative restlessness and many Ugandans have low self-esteem and do not appreciate the positive aspects of their country (too much foreign aid?) and at the same time decry what they consider Uganda’s many faults (maybe because an election was so close at hand?); sadly, Ugandans of all classes, no matter how poor they themselves were or still are, seem to look down upon those who have less and only admire the richer (an inevitable result of development after decades of abject poverty and suffering?)

Roads: a confusing mixed bag - can be either superb or horrid (or both on the same road, depending on what stretch you are driving) for no particular reason either way; Uganda’s pretty topography makes for excellent roadside scenery in much of the country; we were there just prior to a national election so many roads were patched up into decent shape; but Ugandans are the most pointlessly aggressive and worst drivers (in terms of driving skills) we have ever seen; the fuel quality - especially diesel - is also abominably bad; Kampala’s nickname “Kam-pothole” is richly deserved and the urban planning and resulting traffic (especially around the taxi parks) unbelievably bad

Distance covered: [to come, all driving in TianMa]

Highlights: couchsurfing at “Alphabet Manor” in Kampala; buying royal Buganda drums; “yes Sevo!” - Mousseveni’s election rap; Lake Bunyonyi; Nile scenery around Jinja (and rafting the river); learning all about butterfly collecting and giving it a try; the forests and waters around Bigodi and Lake Nkuruba; zipping around in boda-bodas; fulfilling our dream of actually driving through South America and Africa

Low-lights: Mbarara; selling TianMa; Kampala’s potholes & jammed streets; aggressive drivers and poisonous fuel fumes; Mousseveni’s campaign posters; near head-on collision that broke our side mirror; stress over packing up and leaving Africa; seeing the extent and implications of Uganda’s income gap; missing Rwenzori

Impression: Left us with mixed feelings, largely based not just on Uganda as a country but the fact that we were feeling stressed and tired in Uganda as we wrapped up 18 months of travel and reflected on our entire trip to date (especially the African portion). Kampala is trendy and modern, with a beautiful natural setting and mostly free of the concentrated and expansive slums of many other developing country capitals. But it is also very expensive and can only truly be enjoyed by the Ugandan elite and expats (and many of those work for NGOs supposedly helping the nation). The income gap is huge - you pay less for a detailed, 2-hour car wash by a team of 10 people then you do for one crappy juice in a western cafe. Uganda is not good for wildlife tourism (unless you’re willing to pay exorbitant rates to “track” primates) but the landscapes are fantastic. One of the greatest climates in the world!