First stop in the Entebbe airport was a moneychanger, where I bought a couple hundred dollars worth of local currency. Here you encounter another vestige of British culture, the Ugandan schilling, abbreviated UGX, the official monetary unit in Uganda.
The coins and bills are quite pretty, featuring local wildlife and cultural icons. I do like the 1000 schilling note featuring the Ugandan Kob.
As the value of one shilling is fairly low after historical periods of inflation, there are no partial denominations such as cents or pence, the common coins are 100, 200, and 500 schillings. The most common bills are 1000, 2000, 10000 and 50000 schillings.
This old Land Cruiser had it’s issues… You had to jiggle the gearshift to get the vehicle into reverse. If you rolled the driver’s window up all the way it would roll itself right back down again. The key would only work one side up in the lock despite it looking exactly the same on both sides. It rattled and clattered alarmingly on rough roads. And I loved it.
That old Toyota Land Cruiser was just the right vehicle for the job.
Through the mud and ruts, up the side of a mountain, through thunderstorms and washed out roads, across an entire country… This green beast got me there. With this vehicle I enjoyed experiences that will become memories treasured for a lifetime.
Travel allows one to see so much, experiences that allow an observant traveler to see a wider world. Different foods, different views of life, different ways of doing things. While much of this is subtle, the small experiences, some observations are dramatically different and memorable… At the school we were visiting an age old art was being practiced… Digging a well by hand deep into the earth to reach the water below.
A simple wooden frame sits over the well, a hand cranked winch wound with just enough 5/8″ jute rope to reach the bottom. No bearings at the ends, the winch shaft just heavily greased where it passes through the wooden frame. Simple tubes over the handles allow the cranks to be easily spun by hand as the loads of soil are lifted from the earth below.
The well is being dug by a crew of four to five young men. One fellow deep in the shaft, a couple winching the loads up and down, and at times another preparing the materials… Loading bricks into buckets, mixing mortar, or resting in the shade.
There are swarms of them, fleets of them… There are boda bodas all over the road.
Boda boda is the most common form of transportation in Uganda and indeed much of eastern Africa. Part taxi, part courier, part light freight service, a boda boda is motorcycle for hire.
Every town has a gangs of boda bodas loitering along the main roads awaiting fares. They are everywhere along the roads, often laden with two or three passengers, or piled high with pineapples, cassava, or concrete. I would say they rule the road, but numbers do not overcome mass. Heavy lorries rule the road, everyone gets out of a lorries’ way including the boda bodas.
The day started auspiciously enough…. An early morning thunderstorm swept over the city. With flash and crash it woke up all of Entebbe, rain pouring from the tin roofs, the rumble lasting until dawn. Awakened I stepped out onto the covered porch to enjoy the storm, recording some audio of the thunder and rain.
The day had a simple plan, after a minimal recovery from jet lag we would drive to Masaka and the school where we would be staying. A few hours of sleep and I was ready for the challenge of the day, and it would be a true challenge.
There would be four of us… My father, Christopher and Andrew, pastors from Zambia also attending the conference, and myself driving.