I’m seriously thrilled to share this guest post with you. Delanie was my roommate for two years & my neighbor for one: lucky me! She’s an amazing writer (always has been, too) & she’s doing some really interesting work & taking some thrilling rides while she spends a year in Uganda. (A whole year!) Anyways, with that, here’s Delanie. Enjoy the ride! – Simone
I’ve been living in Kampala for just over a month. Somehow between work & settling into my apartment, I hadn’t had the chance to visit all of the most famous sites Kampala has to offer. So, when my roommate suggested we go on “Walter’s Boda Boda Tour” I jumped at the opportunity. (Boda Bodas are motorcycles by the way).
Unfortunately our tour did not get off to a great start. The night before some of us had gone out to Kabalagala (think spring break year-round), leaving one of us without money or a cellphone, me without my helmet for the tour, & one of us utterly missing. (Turns out she had safely found her way to a swanky country club with a friend).
So, we started off the tour over an hour late (proper Uganda time), missing one person, & me borrowing a helmet from one of our tour guides.
Luckily, there’s no hangover a good boda boda ride can’t overcome. As I sped through Kampala, the fresh air & cool breeze slowly breathed some life back into me.
Eventually we stopped near the center of town to get a view of what our tour guides called “the organized chaos”. Perched at a nearby restaurant, we got a great view of Kampala’s equivalent of a national bus station. Here you could find a “matatu” (a kind of shared minivan taxi) to anywhere in the country, & for a bargain.
Several bottles of water later, we left the restaurant to begin a journey through “the organized chaos” towards Kampala’s fabled Owino market. Known for its “London-used” goods (used goods from developed countries—supposedly better quality than “China-new”) & propensity to leave visitors victims of pickpocketing, Owino market felt like both a dream & nightmare.
On the one hand, you could get anything you wanted in the world in this market, & at an unbeatable price. On the other hand, at some points I wondered if I would ever find my way out of this place, or if I’d ever see the sun again. Everywhere you stepped you were thronged by vendors or goods piled high to the sky, obscuring what sun was able to make its way through to this endless, living labyrinth.
Luckily our stand-up tour guides safely returned us to fresh air & sunshine. The next stop was the Gadhafi mosque, named for the man that built it. After being dressed in the appropriate long skirts & hijab and climbing several flights of stairs, we were rewarded with a fabulous 360° view of Kampala.
Inside the mosque itself were beautiful arched ceilings, stained glass windows, & Moroccan chandeliers.
After a quick photo-op by the Buganda King’s (man-made) lake with our fab boda-boda drivers, we ascended a hill to the King’s palace. Here we somberly visited the chambers used by Uganda’s former presidents Idi Amin and Obote to torture and kill opponents. It was a chilling experience to say the least.
To lighten our spirits we ended the tour in the shadow of the King’s palace, watching the sunset. It was an exhausting day, but one that left my thirst for seeing Kampala’s sites fully satisfied. I owe it to Walter’s Boda Boda tours for finally showing me the city that I’ll be calling home for the next year.
Delanie Ricketts graduated from UC Berkeley last May with a B.A. in Peace & Conflict Studies & a minor in Global Poverty in Practice. As a Global Health Corps 2013-2014 Fellow, she works at the Infectious Diseases Institute (IDI) in Kampala, Uganda, where she helps convert HIV prevention, treatment, & care trainings (among others) into online formats so that they are more accessible to remote health care workers. When not tracking down lions & gorillas or practicing yoga, she enjoys frequenting Kampala’s many cafes & bars.