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The free wine lady

The free wine lady

I had never dreamed of flying business class. There’s something about it that repels me. Maybe it’s in the designation: Business class is clearly made for those who sport pressed suits and shining shoes, who tote matching designer luggage sets, who actually have business abroad, and who may or may not be paying for it on their own. I’d seen business class before, but during my most recent stay towards the front of a commercial aircraft, I felt particularly out of place, having bummed around Africa for nine months previously with hardly more than a single change of clothes. Business class is not called Dirtbag class for good reason. Continue reading

The Home Stretch through Uganda

My first Ugandan lunch for nearly a month

Miles beyond Busia, over the border from Kenya and back into Uganda, they still say “Jambo!” in greeting. They still say “Asante Sana” in thanks, and they still count currency in Kiswahili. This makes it tough to shift gears back into the Lugandan language after having been in Kiswahili mode for so long.

But most things are Ugandan again. Plantains are steamed and mashed into matoke, the belly-filling staple food available at any roadside restaurant. The plantations where those fruits come from line the gently rising and falling roadways, and the white minivans with a blue checkered stripe zoom past my rattling bicycle at great speed, taking commuters to the next towns. Continue reading

Tuning for Victory

Loiterers at Kampala Cycling Club

Worry gripped me. I lay awake some semi-sleepless nights thinking about the long route I will follow in the coming weeks on my dodgy, heavily used bicycle and began to feel nervous. People were depending on me now! What if I failed? If my idea to ride around Africa’s largest lake had continued – as it started – as a foolish lark performed solely for my pleasure, then there would be no problem. I’m used to hurling myself into unknown situations. But now people are watching me. They will want results. Continue reading

Cycling Uganda: Finding a Bike

Meet Victory

On the busy, sloping streets of central Kampala, near the old taxi park where all forms of transportation come crashing together in a kaleidoscope of wheels and potholes, multiple level shopping centers offer hair extensions, electronics, or local food. In the basements of many, one can find dozens of bicycle shops, jammed with tires, selling the magnificent machines in all conditions, shapes, and sizes

I came around looking for a bicycle solution. Men in greasy jumpsuits waved their wrenches and beckoned me downstairs to see their selection. I complied, happy to be out of the sun, and to peruse through the many junker machines available. I needed one which could bear me around Lake Victoria. Continue reading

Ring Around Victoria

So I’ve got this idea in my head and I can’t make it go away. It just means I’ll have to follow through.

I am going to ride a bicycle around Lake Victoria. I have been thinking about it since I first saw the lake flying into Entebbe Airport. I miss bicycles, and all the dirt roads in this country are begging to be ridden by clunking steel bikes which are found all over the place. I’m gonna get me one of those super-solid stallions and schlepp it through three countries and around the world’s third largest lake. Continue reading

Easter at Sipi Falls

At the bottom of the big one with Judith and Tom

This past Easter weekend, my new friend Judith and I took a break from big city life to get some air in Uganda’s eastern mountain range along the border with Kenya. Sipi falls was on the menu, as it seemed easy to get to and a reasonable deal for two broke wanderers.

Sipi Falls is gorgeous. It is a place where the Sipi river flows out of Mt. Elgon national park and down into the town of Sipi and the surrounding villages. The high-aspect topography  (I was thinking “shelfy” but that’s not a word) surprises the gentle creek with a trio of sudden, near one hundred foot drops, making for splendid scenes and cool swimming holes among banana and coffee plantations. The glory of the falls has earned it a place on the back of Uganda’s 10,000 Shilling note. Continue reading

Transportation in Uganda

A BMW's radiator blows up. Just take a boda boda.

Uganda is not Germany or the United States where public transportation is meant to be prompt and efficient. Most of the common modes are run privately, on their own schedule, and with the aim of maximizing fares whenever possible. What follows is a brief guide on common methods of ground transportation in Uganda which are available to the traveler. Continue reading