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Africa » Uganda » Northern Region
November 15th 2019
Published: November 21st 2019
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Love this bar inJinja
FLIGHT

The only good thing about 6am flights is that traffic on the M56 towards Manchester airport at around 3am is pretty much nonexistent. What with the lack of traffic and a taxi driver with a heavy foot I was there even before the gates had opened!

Once on board my flight I found out that Brussels Airlines are tight buggers these days, only offering passengers with a connecting flight a soft drink, those only going as far as Brussels get sod all! Used to having a drink as soon as I was on board I instead spent my own money on a glass of Hoogarden at Brussels airport. Ah lekker! No complaints on the onward flight mind; the food was good, and the wine was very good.

On arrival in Uganda getting a visa was a doddle, no hold-ups, hardly any queue; I was out and into a taxi for the short distance to Kitoro, Entebbe by 9:40. I dropped my bag in my room at Shade guest house and I crossed the road to Mirembe bar. It was quiet and it was only then halfway through my second beer I realised I was absolutely knackered. Too tired to watch the football on TV I left without finishing my beer; I dragged myself across the street to my room and had a fitful night’s sleep.

The next morning I was chatting to Christina who worked at the guest house; she was telling me that the stage and amplifiers being set up in the nearby park were for a “born again Christian” service, a service she said she would be going to.

“You are what, Christian or Muslim?” she asked. I told her I had no religion.

“Now what kind of tribe is that?” she said. Saying that and the humourless look she had on her face had me tucked up laughing.

It was hard to ignore the god-botherers all day as the preaching echoed around town. I was buying a rolex later and the rolex vendor laughed, translating what the preacher had said about there being ghosts in America.

I was told the music and preaching would go on until morning, and it did but hey; thank the lord for ear plugs. Hallelujah!

Kampala

I jumped on a shared taxi to the capital, it left straight away at 8am and from about halfway from Kajjansi onwards the taxi battled Saturday’s rush hour traffic until I alighted by Owino market in Kampala about 1 hour and 40 minutes later and I walked the short distance uphill to Old Kampala where I got a really big room at Habibu hotel in the shadow of the huge Gadafi mosque. The only problem was that the last occupant of the room had just left so I left my bag in the room and let the hotel cleaners do their thing as I killed time elsewhere.

I needed to eat, I needed to change money and I needed to work out the best way to get up north.

I ticked off the first one by having an excellent masala dhosa at an Indian vegetarian Restaurant not far from my hotel. Next on the list of things I needed were Ugandan shillings. I changed £200 at a decent rate, and whilst in Arua Park I checked out buses to Pader. Gaagaa coach didn’t have a bus to Pader but I was told by them that KK did, but the bus now leaves from Namayimba Bus Park and not the KK Traveller compound.

On walking into Namayimba Bus Park back in Old Kampala I got a right buzz-on. I can’t help but get excited in bus parks, just reading the destinations on the boards at the front of the buses get me on a frenzied travel high. One of the mechanics working on a bus saw me looking around and helpfully stopped the job he was doing and showed me where the KK booking office was, he even walked me halfway there, bless him. 30k to Pader and the bus leaves at 11am.

There are loads of buses leaving here all with inviting destinations a lot of the destinations interstate. I noticed a Sai Baba bus going all the way to Dar es Salaam, 160k for the trip that left at 3pm. 3pm seemed an odd time to leave or did he mean 3am or was he thinking of the Swahili clock where 3 would mean 9, now 9am would seem a reasonable time to leave. Anyway I decided to have a day to think about where I was going and as it happened I decide to go not to Pader but head in the direction of the similarly sounding Paidha
RolexRolexRolex

Testy Feeds!
instead.

The next morning I went for a walk although I was not exactly sure where I was going and fuelled only on a spicy chai and two gonja, but I soon found myself passing Lubira palace, well that is what it said on the sign outside. Shortly after that I came to a lake with an unreal green colour. I took a few snaps then moved on only stopping to watch a group of kids playing football for about twenty minutes, these kids were good! Further on I passed a builder’s merchant.

“Do you want to buy some timbers?” I was asked as I was passing!

I gave the truck-load of 4 be 2s a miss but did stop at a shop near-by to buy a big bottle of cold water.

I eventually emerged on the Entebbe road at Najjankumbi recognising where I was I wandered back towards town passing through Katwe where second hand bikes for sale line each side of the road, Nakivubo then once back in Old Kampala I collapsed into a chair at Sharon’s bar and downed a few bottles of Black Bell. I ate well then slobbed in my room for the rest of the evening, only surfacing to buy an ice cream from “Quality” supermarket across the road.

Nebbi

I was not happy when my alarm went at 5:30 but begrudgingly I threw my belongings into my bag, left my room said good bye to the mariungi chewing night-watchman at the hotel

“Oh kaka” he waved back

I flagged down a passing boda boda jumped on and was dropped at the Gaagaa bus compound. I reached the front of the queue and at 6:50am paid for my ticket to Nebbi and was asked to choose where to sit from the seat plan (still a dozen seats left), and then I climbed onboard the bus.

I actually slept for a good while and was surprised to wake up and see we were passing Karuma Falls over halfway through the journey. The bus came to a stop at Nebbi just after 2pm. I climbed down and ordered a beer at Travellers Inn and asked for a place to stay for around 20k.

“There is a place behind the mosque.” I was told

The Rock Royale (strange name, maybe it was something to do with the metric system) was a great little place. My room was quite small but it was immaculate with what looked like brand new sheets and mosquito net.

I walked around the small town to get my bearings coming across Satellite One bar and hotel. I ordered a beer and was happy to see not only was the beer ice cold but it came with a chilled glass and it arrived with a “complimentary” saucer of peanuts, so it came as no surprise when a quick look at the menu confirmed that prices a bit out of my league here.

Thursday

After a good sleep I ventured out of my gaff, swanned over to the market and bought anyonya and chai for breakfast. I needed to stretch my legs after spending too long on a bus yesterday, so after mooching around I headed out of town westwards. Along the way I received various greetings that ranged from “Hello America.” Not sure of that one’

“Hello Trump.” Really didn’t like that one.

“Arsene Wenger.” Which I thought was just plain weird.

Further out of town the greetings were all in the Aluru language, usually accompanied with “Ashido kani?” (Where are you going?)

After an hour of walking I turned around headed back to town. I then stopped for a beer at a roadside bar and resuming my walk turned towards the huge rocky outcrop that towers over the town.

I found a path through the scrub that wound its way to the top of the rock. It was a tough little climb to the top and a few rock hyraxes scurried out of the way of the path that was littered with the odd empty tot pack.

I was surprised to see how far way the town of Nebbi looked from up top. I took a few snaps and intended to return to town but I was buggered if I could find the way back down. After scampering around the rock and not finding the path I pushed my way through the bushes and slid some way down the rock leaving me scratched and covered thorns.

By now I was knackered; I’d finished my water a while back so and was now desperate for a drink. So in a near stagger I reached the appropriately named
“Corner Rest Bar” at the edge of town and slumped into a chair at an outside table and ordered a large bottle of cold water. The sight of a scratched and sweaty tourist covered in dust with bloody legs seemed to amuse a girl at the next table to me and I could see her chuckling away as I looked in her direction.

I was so glad of a beer that night at Travellers inn; and there I was relaxing, feeling slightly smug that I’d had a good walk cum climb that day. I was all scrubbed up with clean clothes on with a touch of antiseptic cream on the scabs on my legs slowly congealing in the Nebbi evening air when I was nearing the bottom of my second bottle of Black Bell (my usual beer of choice) when a car load of young adults turned up from the brewery. And my smugness continued when I learnt they were here at the boozer to promote Black Bell and because I was drinking their brew they gave me another two bottles completely gratis. I was therefore more than happy for my ugly mug to feature in the brewery’s staff’s
selfies . Shit, not a lot I wouldn't do for a free beer me.

More beers followed and later, tired, tipsy and with a 2k rolex in hand I went back to the rock Royale, briefly chatted to the staff on duty and then slept like a log!

Friday

The next day I was busy being a lazy sod and I probably started drinking far too early. It started mid morning at one end of the main street where a huge tree cast a convenient shadow over a scattering of big boulders where some benches had also been set up in-between them. Around these boulders is where a gaggle of local women have their business in selling the local homemade beer known here as Kwete. Beer brewing and selling in Africa always appears to me to be women’s work, the blokes mind you are only too happy to appear at the end of the process and do most of the drinking of the finished tipple.

I’d sat down on one end of a bench next to an old boy and I was soon surrounded by three different women hurrying towards me offering up calabashes with a
small amount of their beer in each. I obviously looked surprised as the old boy next to me said “You have to taste and see which one is 'kong'.”

I can’t say there was lot of difference between all three each one was as 'kong' as the other but I chose one and topped it up several times as well as buying a scoop for my new drinking partner, the old boy next to me.

Paidha

I’m not a big fan of hymn singing at the best of times, but I can definitely say that pre-dawn hymn singing that wakes me up at daft o’clock in the morning seriously pisses me off. I managed to briefly get back to sleep when the noise of heavy rain drowned out the racket from the nearby church. I felt well aware of the disruptive night’s sleep as I made my way dragging my case behind me to arrive at Nebbi taxi park.

I was happy though to be leaving in a vehicle 15 minutes later, only stopping when the car stopped for petrol and a kick of the tyres.

As I alighted I paid the 5k fare (bargain) and I asked a woman on the same transport as me (who I could see clearly knew the town) if she could tell me where I could find a decent guest house. I followed her directions down the road until I stood outside Grace of God guest house. This was a top value little place 20k for big self contained room and balcony and instead of a number on the door it read ‘Jericho’. From the balcony of my room I could see that because of it still being early that there was a stall still selling my favourite West Nile breakfast of anyonya just across the road. I dropped my bag locked my door and pigged put on a full 1k plate of anyonya and 500 bob chai. Ace!

Wednesday and Saturday in Paidha is market day and once again back up on my balcony I watched the steady stream of women heavily laden with baskets and crates full of tomatoes, spring onions, scary looking chillies and avocados (some avo's almost the size of rugby balls) were making their way to the market ground.

I later walked around the sizable market
and because a lot of the sellers were from over the border my English was of no use so had to resort to my rudimentary Swahili to buy some fruit.

Border

I left the guest house the next morning turning right at the front door hoping to get to see the border post. The road soon split right and left, I took the left fork which soon seemed a bad decision as the road began to narrow where I reached a stream that could be crossed by walking over a plank of wood. The path on the opposite side of the stream wound up the bank and then eventually flattened out, I walked a tad further and reached a small homestead where an old boy sat outside and called out a greeting. I asked him how far it was to the border and he pointed right behind me and said that "the water" was the border; so since crossing the stream ten minutes ago I’d been in DRC! I thought then it maybe wise to return to Uganda.

The other fork in the road I’d ignored earlier was the ‘main’ road to the official border post so once I'd doubled back I took that 'road'. Three uniformed men sat next to a bridge over the stream not much bigger than the plank of wood I’d crossed over before. This one had a locked gate where locals were walking back and to as well as the odd motorbike passing around the gate without being questioned; I doubted I’d be able to cross in the same manner. I had a brief chat with the men telling them I was just coming to look at the border. When I said I’d return to town the youngest army bloke beckoned me forward and invited me to the bridge and the real border some way away from the gate. The border guard then encourage me to come further into DRC. I was not quite happy with this and neither was his boss as just then his walky-talky squawked into life and the young soldier replied “O.K. Effendi” into it.

On the other side of town was the church whose bells woke me up most mornings in Paidha. I took a few photos of the church and almost immediately I heard calls from some of the girls who were playing netball near
the church. Always happy to please I walked towards them pointing my camera which made the girls whoop and then they chanted “Mundu, mundu.” They all struck a pose with the netball and all giggled then mobbed me to see the resulting photo, almost grabbing my camera from my hand. Funny.

I carried on my walk and got stopped a few times always by someone who was really drunk. Returning to town I passed a teenage boy wearing what I guessed was a second hand t-shirt, I'm not sure how good his English was as the t-shirt read “I like boys who wear girl’s panties.“

Once again back near Our lady of assumption church and searching for a drink I came across what was a bar that sold a local brew. I sat down on one of the benches and took a taste from the glass of what looked like Tizer but tasted a good deal stronger. I took a couple more from the Mama who as well as selling brewed the stuff was also a school teacher over the border in Congo!

Back in town and a tad tipsy I walked past the Kasamba Bus stand
where I had asked earlier about transport to Masindi. This time the guy was speaking through a megaphone to get customers and seeing me he jokingly asked me for a beer, I grabbed the megaphone and also jokingly shouted “Shilingi pe” (No money in the local Aluru language). It got a good few laughs from passersby.

Jinja

Back on the road the next day I travelled back to Kampala and pretty much straight away moved on to Jinja. The hotels I tried first were all closed it appeared for decorating! So I ended up in an airless sweaty little room at the 2005 Guest house for 25k.

The hotel room may have been poor but Jinja does have one of my favourite bars. The excellent Nasanga bar is by far the best bar in town; and there is definitely something special about entering a bar through swing doors that you would normally see in a saloon in a cowboy movie. I mean, how can you not resist pushing aside the doors and letting them swing on their creaking hinges and grind to a stop behind you as you sidle up the bar and order a cold Black Bell. Ahh, tastes good doesn’t it?

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