Unforgettable Uganda - Getting there.
I set off to visit this country with every bit of anticipation, worry, concern, just unknowing what it would be like, or what the difficulties would be navigating the day to day, transportation, eating, lodging, etc. How do you go from point a to point b?
My initial plan to leave the US on a cost effective way of hitting Europe first and then traveling to Uganda backfired, as the flight i was supposed to jump on revealed that it was carrying important, dangerous cargo and they would not be taking extra passengers, no sign of a next one soon; so I decided at that point to purchase a commercial flight directly to Entebbe, Uganda; via Doha in Qatar.
Entebbe is where the central region international airport is in Uganda, the city is adjacent to Kampala; which is the busiest and the capital of the country; this is where all commerce happens and the streets have a continuous bussing of vehicles, including millions of motorcycles and people.
The country is divided into four regions: central, eastern, western and northern. Our visit this time was going to include the central region where the district of Wakiso is; and the eastern region, where the district of Mayuge is; at both of these locations I was visiting leaders of nonprofit organizations that are supporting their own communities and making a difference on their own right. This was our understanding and the principal reason of my visit was to validate these organizations and make sure they are in fact real and giving entities.
Long layovers are always difficult to endure, no matter how used you are to this, they never come easy. There's the constant anxiety of knowing where your next gate is going to be? how far is it from where I am? How do I get there? Only to discover that these airports typically don't display their expected gates until few or a couple hours before boarding time; and often change within that period. It's not easy to take a quick nap, without worrying that you will oversleep and miss the flight altogether. Which never happens, but man, it feels that way.
Then there's the continued running of that hamster wheel in your head, anxiously plotting and drawing the picture of what we need to do when we, (my and myself), do when we arrive? Will I be tired? oh that's right! I need to book a hotel room! Traveling with last minute plans, which is my M.O., leaves that area of concern that you continuously have to stay on top of, things like booking rooms, train tickets, bus tickets, flights, etc. They are a fleeting whim.
Doha was cool, very modern and full of soccer, uhmm..., futbol. As the upcoming 2022 World Cup was ready to be launched next month.
The flight to Entebbe was really easy, but I was really surprised of the amount of tourists, expats, just people that didn't seem to be originally from Uganda were in that flight. As I caught myself thinking that, I paused to check myself, and say: "I don't look to be originally from the US." But I am an American. So I continued.
United Nations backpacks, I saw a Dell backpack and many people that looked like they were on a church mission to save the world, "God" bless them.
Entry into Uganda was relatively easy, and my newly minted smile everywhere attitude seems to be really helping, really. Unfortunately I had to surrender my drone at customs, as apparently the law doesn't allow for the use of drones in the country, a fact that I didn't understand considering all the beauty and vegetation that you can find there, but I got it, rules are rules. I was much more calm when they told me that I was going to be able retrieve it when I left, gave me a receipt and physically took me to the location they were going to store it.
She opened that storage closet door and all of a sudden it was drone fan nirvana... Holy moly there were so many drones in drone jail. So they weren't messing around; later I understood that if I wanted to bring a drone into country I would have to ask for permission from the defense department and they would allow me to jail break my baby bird to do what I wanted to do. There were so many opportunities that we could've used it.
Once out of the airport I turned on my Uber app and discovered the wonderful world of Uber in Uganda. you can call an Uber, but you can not select to pay on the app; instead, the app tells you what the approximate cost of the ride will be and then calls the car. When you get going the Uber app will keep tally of the up ticking cost in Uganda Shilling (UGX) and you have to pay the driver when you arrive in cash.
But most interesting, was the fact that you could also call a taxi in the app, and in the same app you could also call a boda boda!
What the heck is a boda boda you ask... well it is the #1 way of getting around in Uganda! The reason why the Uber app couldn't give you an exact amount is the fact that traffic is very unpredictable, and it could come to a complete stop at any minute the president or one of his very important cabinet members decide to take a ride around town. When that happens you can feel the amount of caution and maybe fear they have from getting attacked, is my guess; because, the entire area where the vehicle is transiting is closed down, stopped by armed guards and I have been told that if you don't obey, they will shoot you on the spot!
Back to BODA BODA, so getting around in motorcycles is the most efficient way of getting around and they will ride like crazy, cutting through traffic, against traffic, through side walks, with 1 person, 2 people, 3 people babies, pigs, large pieces of high diameter tubing, a table, glass windows (flat riding into the wind); you name it, they probably have gotten it into a boda boda.