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Published: December 5th 2018
APAC THE MOST MALARIAL TOWN ON THE PLANET. 2015 Hoima
“You eat some, they are nice.”
Rose the barmaid at The Setlight bar in the centre of Hoima town told me, of whatever some guy was hawking. He was walking around with a basket containing small parcels of wrapped up banana leafs and elaborately tied shut with a thin leafy grass-like twine. I bought one of the parcels for Rose and her friend for 2,000 Uganda shillings, only to find on opening the bundle of leaves that it contained white ants! What’s more the poor little buggers were still alive, just covered in a fine sprinkling of salt. Rose’s English was really quite limited which probably didn’t help me when I tried to explain the finer points of vegetarianism.
Rose’s friend was pretty keen for me to come to the night club with her; it was Wednesday night, Ladies night when women could enter free of charge. My dancing days were over and if I was totally honest I’d never had any dancing days to begin with, so she left to go clubbing and I bought another bottle of Nile for myself and I bought
Rose a bottle of Eagle Lager.
The light was fading now and the food vendors outside the bar were busy setting up their charcoal grills mainly selling roasted meat kebabs, chicken and chips. Amongst the customers that the stalls later attracted were two Europeans, the first I’d seen since leaving Kampala. We acknowledged each other and they joined me at my table. These young adults were doctors working at the local hospital and were both from Liverpool. They were great company and really seemed to be enjoying life in Hoima.
They left after a couple of beers and Rose returned to the seat next to me. “Do you love me?” she asked
“Eh yes, but eh, just like my sister.” I replied.
I left shortly after (alone) only stopping near the taxi park when tempted by a guy selling chips.
“Do you want an omelette to go with your chips? I’ll put everything in it” the bloke on the neighbouring stall asked me. And so he did; finely slicing cabbage and tomato to add to the omelette. My take-away chips were straight out of the oil and piping hot, so much so that I had
to carry them by the knot of the carrier bag they had been wrapped in. The egg wallah handed me my omelette in a separate cuvera and I feasted on this simple, unfeasibly delicious meal that cost me only 2,000 UGS back in my room where I watched football on TV. Thursday in Hoima
I had a night of strange dreams possibly fuelled by last night’s egg and chips and blearily went to shower but found no water. After finding someone who worked at the hotel I managed to secure a jerry can’s worth of water to shower. Once I was dressed I left the hotel, crossed the road to the taxi park and found the Butiaba bound minibus.
There were only two other passengers apart from myself in the minibus and in 40 minutes only one other passenger boarded the vehicle. This was not looking good, I sat back and thought about what a good night I’d had last night, maybe moving on was the wrong decision.
I didn’t really want the tout to think I was just flouncing off cause I had to wait, like a right stroppy muzungu
. So I stepped
out of the vehicle and pretended to make a phone call, then rushed back and grabbed my bag from the car telling the tout, “There had been a change.”
“Oh, a change of programme, no problem, see you again my friend.” He said.
Now, should I risk going back to the Nsamo with the dodgy water supply? A boda-boda
driver knew of no other guesthouses near at hand. “Sod it.” I went back to Nsamo Hotel.
“You have returned!” The amused receptionist said and insisted that the lower floors of the hotel had no problems with water.
Hungry I went to Amigos Food Point to eat katogo and drink a chai for breakfast. Two guys in the cafe were talking Ugandan politics. A bloke at another table joined in the conversation, he turned around and leant over the back of his chair and well aware and quite possibly purposefully so that I could hear, told us what happened in a previous municipal election in Hoima.
“There were some problems leading up to the election with what I don’t know, possibly to do with the number of ballot boxes or lack of.
A bar in Masindi
The thing on my head was a table decoration
So, at the last minute on the day before voting they postponed the election but they must have forgotten to inform the government owned newspaper the New Vision as the next day the “result” was printed in the paper declaring the ruling party’s candidate the winner.”
Everyone in the cafe laughed.
“That is what we are up against” He said. Masindi in the rain
I managed to bag the last seat in the shared taxi to Masindi from Hoima and the talk of the taxi was mainly to do with the election and how free and fare they may or may not be. It was clear that everyone in the taxi were supporters of the opposition. The guy in the front seat even said
“The only way to remove President Museveni from power is by the way he came to power, with the gun.”
The surface of the road was dry packed mud and rough, a real arse ache of a journey especially when there are 7 passengers in a saloon car. It got too noisy to talk in the car even more so when the Langi lad the second person in the front
passenger seat started singing and praying at the top of his voice.
Immediately after alighting at Masindi Taxi Park I enquired about onward transport to Apac (pronounced Apach), I was hoping to go via the ferry from Masindi Port on the Nile which is 67k from Masindi town.
Only getting some sketchy information I left to find a room and got a standard and thoroughly acceptable single self-contained room for 20k.
I had a couple of local brews at Umkomboti Point opposite my gaff but being Saturday I thought it wise to save myself for a big Saturday night, so with that in mind back at the guest house I borrowed an iron from the girl who worked at reception so I could iron my “action slacks”. It had been dry all day but come time to go out for a drink, the heaven’s opened with an almighty thunder storm. I managed to get as far as Naju’s for a half decent veg curry and rice and once the rain eased just slightly I dashed back to the guest house only for the rain to get worse again and set-in until around midnight.
Bizarrely when the
noise of the rain finally stopped hammering down on the tin roof I could hear somewhere not too far away a sound system being fired up and the cranked up volume of ragga that continued to be played till dawn.
A damp morning at Masindi Taxi Park and no direct transport to Lira so I climbed into the Kigumba bound mini-bus that took 40 minutes to fill. At Kigumba I had another 75 minutes waiting for the next car to fill until we left; when it did there were as many as 8 or 9 passengers inside the car but still it was not an unpleasant ride.
We arrived at Lira just in time for the heavens to open again! I only wanted to stay at a guest house around the corner but the rain was so bad I was amongst a crowd of people who sheltered under a veranda of a bank for over an hour before it was safe enough to brave the storm.
Eventually checked in at Town View Hotel I sat out the rest of the storm in the hotel bar. It had gone mid afternoon before I could get out of the
Hotel to eat my first meal of the day at which I had at ‘The Wash’.
The Wash is a car wash cum bar that also happens to serve the best Indian food in Lira; and I polished off the excellent vegetable biriyani once it arrived. Several beers accompanied and also followed the meal as I relaxed back into the cushions for an evening watching the TV set positioned high above the bar. I watched the typical mix of viewing at The Wash which tends to be English premier league football matches or kung fu films.
Leaving the bar and still feeling “peckish” I grabbed a rolex as I wobbled back to my gaff in the dark (as if making up for the food I should have had earlier in the day) and then I had yet one more bottle of beer at the hotel before sleeping.
Next day partly due to my hangover or possibly because I was half pissed from a mid morning bottle of Zulu a pokey local brew made from pineapple I bought some ridiculous sunglasses from the market that had eyes on the lenses. They went down a storm with all the
This is pretty much the centre of Apac town
girls that worked at the Town View Hotel, I think the entire staff had posed for at least one selfie whilst wearing them. Apac
The busy Lira taxi park was the obviously place to ask for transport to Pader but once there I was told that vehicles to Pader left from Oyam road, so from there I asked around.
“Not here yet.” I was told of the Pader transport.
I went for a long slow cuppa and then returned.
“Not here yet.” I was told again.
This could go on all day so instead I decided I would go to Apac after all.
On one of my first visits to Uganda I was travelling to West Nile Province across the top of Lake Albert, as the crowded boat passed a couple of Hippos near where the lake water left to continue down the Nile. I got chatting to a farmer from Masindi who raved about Apac and Paidha and since then I had wanted to visit these towns. Paidha I’d since visited and had enjoyed so now was a good excuse to tick Apac off the list. I’d since come across Apac on
the internet calling it ‘the most malarial town on the planet’. I had made sure I’d packed my mossie repellent.
The Apac stage was not far away so I walked the short distance and waited less than an hour for the taxi to fill and we were on our way down the unpaved road. At one time along the road there were 14 of us in the 7-seater with the oldest a women of around 70 years of age curled up in the hatch back boot.
At one stop a rather large lady struggled to extrude herself from the sardine–like packed car which amused me, and laughing herself she was told “Munu nyere.
” The white bloke is laughing.
After 2 hours which included a stop for a loo break (really just a piss in the bush) we reached Apac town taxi-park which was pretty much just a square patch of mud. Opposite was highway lodge which was full but helpfully they told me to check out Lamco B where I took the last room given to me by the beaming Sandra. The room was not much bigger than the bed but the room had an adjoining bathroom
and had a good mosquito net.
Uganda was in the run up to the presidential election and the rooms that had already been taken in the guest house were mainly occupied by NRM party apparatchiks staying there ahead of Museveni’s visit to Apac the following day. These guests appeared in the morning with huge stacks of packaged yellow NRM t-shirts with M7’s face staring out of the cellophane. It really is amazing the amount of people you can attract to a political rally in a poor community when there is a chance of getting a free T-shirt.
Packs of boda-bodas were swarming around town I guessed the drivers were keen to get their hands on a freebie and they were probably hoping to get a few bob to escort M7 into town; it was common practice in Uganda to give the boda
riders the price of a fair so they would follow the candidate beeping their horns.
A lot of the party members had left by the time I got up and the manageress offered me another room. Room 4 was much bigger and sported a desk and a chair!
I set off for
a walk with a coldish bottle of water in my small bag on my back and headed off west on the road that eventually reaches the Nile. I’d asked Sandra at my gaff which direction she thought would be best for a walk and this is the way she suggested instead of south past the hospital like I’d original planned.
I passed a school then another big school and reached the village of Atopi after an hour’s walking. The road was fairly boring, dead straight.
It was early morning but still several of Atopi’s residents were busy getting bladdered in the shade of a tree.
you first come and drink alcohol.” Came the shout from one of the young drinkers. I declined and continued for another 20 minutes or so but was bored with the pan flat scenery and dead straight road so I necked a load of water and turned around.
“Come and drink, Munu
.” They were still at it in Atopi.
And back at the school it looked like playtime as scores of kids were greeting me in English and Lwo. As I walked on the kids not only came to the
edge of the school playing field but started walking down the road shouting greetings and waving. The laughing kids were having a ball following me down the road I guess they don’t get a lot of visitors in this part of Uganda. 10:23 and the school bell sounded, an odd time but I saw a couple of teachers appear, I’m pretty sure they were just trying to stop the kids follow me pied piper-like back all the way to town. Three hours of walking after leaving my guest house I was back at my gaff.
“I’m about to dress your bed.” I let Sandra finish my bed dressing before I showered. Lira again
The seven-seater Lira bound Peugeot taxi took 40 minutes to fill before we left but only got a few kilometres down the road as a police car sirens wailing and lights flashing made it clear to us that we were obliged to leave the road. There were several more police cars, motorbike outriders, huge 4x4s and several big German cars adorned with flags on the wings and blacked out windows, one of which I guessed was the president. I started counting the vehicles as
they sped past but I lost count in the teens.
Once the motorcade had passed we could continue on our way but then just before the town/village of Aduku we came across two more vehicles following at a respectful distance; these were huge armoured tank-like vehicles mounted with water cannon.
Nearing Lira the car we were travelling stopped, steam was coming from under the bonnet. All the passengers got out to watch the driver fill the radiator with half a jerry can full of water. He then had to flag down another car to get a jump start. This being rural Uganda with the battery removed from the passing car the positive and negative points were connected not with jump leads but two wheel wrenches placed from one to the other.
Car started, we all jumped in and shortly later we pulled over at a dusty patch of ground near a junction that served as the Apac stage in Lira town. I got out and looked underneath the radiator to see if it was losing water, the driver who at the time was collecting fares looked up at me questioningly.
” I told him.
“Eh, you know our language?”
I didn’t tell him that staying in cheap hotels in the north of Uganda you tend to hear the local phrase for “no water” quite a lot.
Intending to go for a walk, I bought a bottle of water from New Lira Supermarket the water was still frozen solid which was OK with me as it remain cold I hoped for some time into my walk. I must have passed a dozen bars in a part of town I never knew existed, I then turned a corner and instead of bars I was passing several buildings with all the basic paraphernalia used for distilling alcohol. Outside one small building a fire burned beneath an oil drum with a scummy oily residue running off in a earth ditch, at the top of the oil drum a coiled pipe that collected the evaporated alcohol passed through a half barrel full of cold water and the spirit dripped off or more of a steady trickle through a filter and eventually out into a jerry can.
Passed the distillers and turning left past the “Tonny Blair Beauty Salon” I found myself on the Kitgum road. Something
The best Saag Paneer in Northern Uganda
else was brewing further on up the road I knew this because the air became thick with the syrupy smell of fermenting pineapple. They obviously like a drink the residents of Lira town.
It looked like the pineapple ‘wine’ is poured into oil drums and a lid is weighed down before being left to naturally ferment by the side of the road in the blazing sun.
After almost an hour and a half’s walk I drank a lot of my now melted water and headed back to town, once again passing Tonny Blair’s gaff where a bunch of lads wanted my opinion of ‘the son of Thatcher cum war criminal’.
Back near the distillers I asked what the brew was called and whether I could buy some.
’ was the name of the spirit and I would have happily bought more than a tot a small bottle’s worth would have been nice but sadly they only sold it by the jerry-can! I Soroti
The Gateway bus arrived on time as it had yesterday bang on 9. I’m pretty sure this bus originates in Gulu and heads all the way to Busia on the Kenya
That's the spirit
I watched the distilling process briefly and then I asked if I could buy some of the spirit but unfortunately the smallest amount they would sell was a jerry-canfull.
border but I was only going as far as Soroti. I bought my ticket for 10k from the conductor and boarded the bus I was immediately handed a new born baby as to keep hold of as the baby’s mother supervised the loading of all her luggage. The bus didn’t move for forty minutes as the bus was piled high with bags mattresses and chickens and all that time the baby in my arms was crying eyes out and only stopped once it’s Mama once again returned o her seat next to mine.
“Moroto, Moroto” the conductor was announcing that the Moroto bus (also operated by Gateway) was about to leave as we pulled up in Soroti. It was tempting to jump straight onto the Moroto bound bus for what I need would be a hell of schlep to Karamoja, but made a note that the bus must leave at mid day.
Kenwicord Guest House was almost opposite where the bus had come to a stop and I got a sound enough room for 20k. Dropped my bag locked my room and had a celebratory beer.
Feeling chuffed with myself and beer in hand I took a
look at the stall outside the bar selling second hand clothes and I was taken by a Levi shirt. I explained to the women selling the shirts I needed a short sleeve shirt and the Levi was long-sleeved but I thought 10k was a fair price.
“No problem. I can get them cut fir you to make it short sleeve” she said as she took out a tape measure, measured the length of sleeves on the shirt I was wearing called a young boy over gave him my shirt and a 1000 shilling note.
Half an hour later as I was relaxing in my room there was a knock at the door, my new shirt was returned with neatly shortened sleeves.
I like the Kenwicod bar but it does for whatever reason attract a fair few oddballs; later that day I seemed to be of some interest to an old dear who was begging and occasionally blowing a tin trumpet. She was sound enough and I grace her a 500 bob coin which she threw into her had bag and landed on what sounded a like a big pile of coins, smiling at her I felt the
weight of her bag that felt well full of coins!
Later in the Kenwicod bar things were getting rowdy. A tall, slim bloke with very black skin entered and asked for a room. He was quite clearly from South Sudan and a couple of the drunken patrons rather loudly suggested the South Sudanese bloke should pay more for a room
“He should pay 50k or 150k.” Pointing at the Sudanese guy he shouted “You kill our soldiers and rape our women, you niggers!” This only provoked the Sudanese to pick up an empty bottle and went to throw it at the most vociferous racist who stood his ground and didn’t even flinch.
The Sudanese guy could quite easily have found another guest house but despite more abuse being hurled at him he stayed and was given a room at Kenwicod. Tuesday
After a bad night’s sleep waking several times I gathered my dirty clothes together about 6 items and gave them to one of the women who cleaned the rooms who only wanted 2k for to clean the lot! Bargain.
I had an acceptable breakfast of mandazi and tea at Agape cafe
and then asked what would be on offer for lunch. I was given a list of various meat and fish dishes then the cafe owner got excited when she remembered something else.
“You know mud-fish, the flat one, and people like it fried.” She quickly unveiled an ugly looking thing that resembled a cat fish. It was bloody and still slithering. Come lunch time I ate beans and chapatti at Highway restaurant and then went to Oasis, my favourite bar in Soroti for an afternoon tipple of Chibuku. I was back at Oasis that night for a couple of Niles and on the way back to my hotel I checked departure times in the morning to Jinja and Kampala. Jinja
I had to shake myself to catch the 7 am YY bus that left the main street in for Jinja and Kampala. The bus was full of suit wearing men off to the capital. I found a seat the bus eventually left Soroti at 7:15.
Annoyingly at Mbale we stayed at the bus park for 40 minutes before leaving and after 4 ½ hours after leaving Soroti I was dropped by the roundabout at the eastern
The best bar in Jinja
end of town where Jinja passengers alight.
From there it is a short walk to the Nasanga bar which happens to be my favourite boozer in Jinja. Nasanga, I was told happened to be the name of the bar’s owner and quite conveniently the name in Luganda for a meeting place.
After a swift beer I checked out the guest house next to Nasanga but found it stuffy and cramped but got a nice airy self/contained room at Victoria view hotel for 25k. Dropping my bag in room 211 I returned to the hotel restaurant that I’d passed on the way to my room and the food had smelt good. The food was good I only had beans and rice but it was possibly the best beans I’ve had I n Uganda ever.
Back at Nasanga that evening a rather skinny drunken barmaid asked me in her broken English for a beer “Buy me Eagle and I give pennis.” she told me and when I didn’t buy her a beer she giggled and left for home. I had a few Eagle lagers myself and ate a greasy plate of omelette and chips that seemed to
be the only meal available in the bar.
She gave me a note the next evening it read: Hello I am called ‘Anita’ Ma numba is .......... May we pliz become friends? Yo contact pliz
The next few days were spent in what used to be called Triangle hotel swimming for a couple of hours each day and my evenings were spent at Nasanga bar getting drunk on cheap lager. One of those nights after drinking far too much and forgetting to eat before I started drinking, I staggered home with take away egg and chips and the lovely women who cooks the food who’d made and had packed my meal and knowing I like my food spicy had also included what was left of a bottle of chilli sauce. Bless her! I always had to order in my best Luganda as she had no English. When not eating chips I’d eat Indian food at Aaswad restaurant, usually plumping for the Gujerati thali.
In Jinja there were also elections for a new mayor to be held. The ruling NRM party must have had ridiculous amounts of money for electioneering as instead
of pounding the streets talking to people a helicopter was hovering over town littered Jinja with fliers. Anita ran out of Nasanga bar excitedly and gathered several leaflets and brought them back in the bar to read.
The opposition’s expenses stretched to driving around town in a small flat-bed truck and from the back shouting through a megaphone. Kampala
The driver was a nutter as the taxi I’d boarded went hurtling from the Jinja taxi park early on Monday morning and two hours later after bobbing and weaving through the ‘rush hour’ gridlocked traffic from Mukono onwards I was climbing out at the Old Taxi Park in Kampala.
It was good to be back in the capital what with a choice of food and a chance to go diving into Owino market. On previous visits to Owino I’ve emerged with leather jackets, hats, cycling jerseys and deafeningly loud Hawaiian shirts. On this occasion I only came away with an armful of spices to bring home to Blighty
For once I had an early night only going out to eat palak paneer at the excellent Dolphin restaurant and slept well after a beer free day! Kitoro
I think I was the only guest at the Shade guest house in Kitoro , Entebbe. I showered, changed and went to Lake Victoria Hotel and spent 3 hours doing a mixture of swimming and slobbing by the side of the pool. I visited friends down the road in Nakiwogo and had a drink opposite my digs that night in Mirembe bar where there were more cats and mosquitoes than customers.
Come morning I was feeling iffy. I had felt tired yesterday. I decided it might be best to go for a malaria test before I left the country that evening.
The test was quick and Doctor Abongomera was a right character who’d studied in the UK.
“Your test was positive for Falciparum malaria” he told me.
“Some people just have tablets but I think we will let you ‘enjoy’ one injection.
So there I was 2 weeks after leaving the most malarial town on the planet and despite shaking like a shitting dog, I didn’t feel that bad.
Relieved to have a jab and a strip of tablets in my back pocket, I left the clinic feeling quite chirpy, I ate
a meal of cowo
and a mix of foods and with the weather also brightening up I decided that chilling by the pool would be the best plan for the day considering my recent diagnosis.
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