-Do you see all those mango and avocado trees along the road?, Simon Peter asks. -They are not planted. Ugandans are just lazy and throws the seeds and pits away.
That is how lush Uganda is.
You can throw an avocado pit out of your car window and next time you pass by there’s an avocado tree there. Well, maybe not exactly but you get what I mean. Continue scrolling to see the views a road trip in Uganda can offer.
The start of a Uganda road trip
It is only our first day of our two week road trip in Uganda and we were about to turn off from the Chinese tarmac road in the outskirts of Kampala.
Red soil, rows of small houses with various shops in front and beds in the back, women in colourful garments, fruit and vegetable stalls, children fetching water, plenty of matoke (cooking banana). Life was unfolding outside the car window, and I didn’t want to blink even for a short second.
Safari on the main road
It was raining in buckets. At least last night’s thunderstorm had passed, and we were back on the tarmac. The elementary photo session on the Equator was a quick one.
-Zebras! I think there were zebras back there!, I shouted.
We were on the main road between Kampala and Mbarara when I registered some striped animals in-between a group of cows.
Justus swiftly pulled over and backed the van. Indeed, they were zebras. Four of them grassing with the cows outside Lake Mburo National Park.
All shades of green
The further east, the hillier it became. Outside of the window we saw village after village pass by. There were all shades of green I could ever dream of, and a rainbow of other colours like small vibrating dots in between.
Uganda is a feast for your eyes!
Kids waving, women carrying large baskets on their heads, men in nice jackets returning from work. Majestic volcanoes peaking up in the distance and views down to Lake Bunyonyi.
Up, up, up. On a road most suitable for tractors.
All the animals of Africa
Lorries filled to the brim with matoke and sugarcanes. Boda bodas carrying everything you can think of. Artistically decorated buses. Bicycles from a different era.
So much to look at everywhere.
However spectacular, I lost count of all the elephants we spotted along the road through Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The main road through the park offers views like a game drive. Baboons drinking juice from a bottle someone had thrown away. Plenty of antelopes. Warthogs. Monkeys. Hippos. And more elephants.
Definitely not all the animals of Africa. Not even in Uganda, but more than enough to keep me happy while driving back and forth a few times.
Road trip issues may happen in Uganda
No one had told us that the backcountry road to the apparently picturesque Lake Kerere cottage was so different from the red soil roads we’d become adjusted to.
We were standing still in the middle of a road of wet, slippery volcanic clay and children peaked curiously at us from in-between the banana trees. Driver and guide, Justus, inspected the road ahead, when a man knocked on my window and started explaining the situation.
-We can help you if you pay us with soap.
I quickly calculated the amount of soap I’d brough along on this trip and hoped we wouldn’t need a lot of help.
Luckily Justus’ excellent driving skills got us out of there with my travel sized bottle of soap still in my bag.
Issues happens on a road trip in Uganda. And as we all know, issues become the best stories. At least we got a better insight into life on the countryside. A place where the sight of green and lush vegetation and row after row of fruit trees may mislead you to think that life there is pretty easy going. But where the soil stopped producing fruits a few years back, and soap is so expensive it is used as currency.
Note to self: bring extra soap next time.
Saviour or enemy?
You could see the temperature rising. The horizon was trembling above the tarmac. Small, circular, thatched huts with no windows popped up now and then. Traditional houses made to keep the heat out.
-They are drilling for oil, Justus suddenly said.
The car went quiet until I dared asking: -Who are they? Ugandan or Chinese? Off course it was the Chinese. The same who built nice roads throughout the country, to the cost of a lifetime of debts for a small Eastern African state.
How much will Uganda earn on this oil? And to what cost? I didn’t ask, but that was what occupied my mind when we drove past construction sites into the Pearl of Africa’s largest national park – Murchison Falls.
Daily life along the road
Neatly stabled fruits in forms of pyramids on wooden tables and shelfs. Alive poultry in cages. Women with babies tied to their backs smiling at us. Children watching pigs, goats, and cattle. Men chatting in front of stores. Adolescent boys fixing motorbikes. Churches and mosques.
Every so often we pass by small communities. Life there does not seem to change much from region to region.
-Is it a school holiday?, I ask.
Yes, Justus confirms, the longest holiday of the year finds place in April/May. I am relieved, knowing that the children we see along the road may normally go to school.
The closer to the city we get, the shabbier shacks, the heavier smell of exhaust, and the more traffic. Driving into Kampala is a slow and tiresome journey. There are still plenty to look at, but what a difference to cleanliness of the countryside.
-Keep the windows up, Justus ordered.
Despite its size, Kampala is still a rather safe city, but phone snitching is a thing. Even through car windows. I closed the window, leaned back and watched Kampala pass by metre by metre until we reached the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway. The queues dissapeared immediately when we entered the toll road and within minutes we drove up on one of Kampala’s green, lush hills.
Two weeks of road trip around Uganda ended in the pretty garden of Whitecrest Guesthouse in the quiet neighbourhood of Lubowa Hill. Our home for the two last night of this epic adventure.