Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tackling Kampala

We filled up at one of the estimated 4000 filling stations on the road between Entebbe and Kampala.  The car is right hand drive and the Ugandans drive on the left.  That's the Ugandans who aren't driving bicycles, motor bike, scooters, taxis, minibuses, lorries and coaches that is.  Those guys drive wherever they want to, and its up to you in your stupid little/big (delete as appropriate) car to get out of their way.

So it is with a cheerful acceptance of our fate that we head into Kampala to try to a) do our necessary shopping, b) get on the right road out the other side and c) survive.

Initially it's fine, the traffic flows well and the road from Entebbe is smooth tarmac.  However on the outskirts of the city it starts to get a lot busier, and the lack of any road signs make it tough going.  You also have to watch for vehicles approaching from all angles, and learn how to force yourself into a small gaps when getting to a junction.

My printed off googlemap of the streets helped a little, but only in a vague "it must be that kind of direction" way.  But a kindly traffic policewoman told us where to go and by hook and by crook we reached the Nakumatt Oasis shopping mall.

This shop did seem to have pretty much everything we wanted, and we could easily have picked up camping gear if we had needed it.  But be warned it is not cheap.  We spent over $100us on supplies - I reckoned it was at least twice as expensive as at home.  The shop is obviously there for the expat community - pringles and skippy peanut butter and the likes.

The car park had an armed guard watching the vehicles, so it seems pretty safe. (edit 2014 - in the light of what happened to an almost identical mall in Nairobi I have revised my opinion on the safety aspect of one man with a rifle).

There is Western Union in the supermarket for changing money - in fact there are other banks in the mall too.  There was also a nice looking cafe, but we had just not long had breakfast.

We headed North from the mall, following major roads out the city to the Northern by pass.  Unfortunately when we reached our turning, it was closed for repairs with no apparent alternative.  We executed a tricky U-turn and headed back, again passing the junction - closed this way too.  So Karen bravely suggested we try a left left right manoeuvre through some of Kampala's more "traditional" neighbourhoods.  This worked remarkably well, and if you could ignore the slums, rubbish heaps, open sewers and filthy street kids would have been a pleasant detour on our route through the city.

Actually it wasn't too bad, and was probably the worst deprivation we saw in the whole time in Africa.  The only thing to worry us was that the air conditioning stopped working, never to work again.

The road North turned out to be pretty good - the tarmac was rough around the edges, but the pot holes were manageable.  The traffic soon disappears, and the road becomes more of a footpath than a highway.  Lots of bicycles, and people walking along the verge.  Every now and again we'd be reminded of the dangers as we passed a couple of really nasty accident scenes.  At one of them the locals were busy hacking a huge overturned lorry to pieces with axes and hand saws.  I imagine the same thing would happen if the lorry had crashed in Falkirk.

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