People who have suffered a near death experience always talk about travelling through a white tunnel. I find it hard to believe they don’t mention a Ugandan road. To say they’re awful would be an understatement, but when combined with the standard of driving, they’re death traps. If there’s a queue of traffic, it’s not unusual to see vehicles drive along the pavement to undercut the line! Actually, come to think of it that’s not such a bad idea given that the the roads are so bumpy and full of potholes it’s like driving over a never-ending cattle grid.
The Ugandan version of a taxi is the boda-boda, a motorbike ridden by drivers in apparently varying degrees of inebriation. The name originates from the bikes that transported people across the no-man’s land between the Kenyan and Ugandan borders – according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia, ‘The bicycle owners would shout out boda-boda (border-to-border) to potential customers’.
Bodas are the most convenient way to get around, but if you’re risk-averse give them a wide berth. In fact, Volunteer Uganda, the organisation with whom we at Arsenal are working, has banned us from using them and with good reason. Helmets are practically non-existent and the driving can be wild to say the least. I heard that four people die in traffic accidents in Kampala each day – I have no idea if this is true, but I can certainly believe it, and I’m guessing that the majority are boda drivers and/or passengers.
Using two wheels is very common in Uganda. This starts in childhood, when it appears to be the norm to build your own wooden bike. You then graduate to a bike, then to a motorcycle which is used to carry as many of your belongings or relatives as possible.