UGANDA – THE PEARL OF AFRICA

5TH – 12THJULY 2018

(day 4 to day 11) 

800 kms of Uganda

 

Uganda was the first country we entered after leaving Kenya. We spent 8 days in Uganda.  This is from entering the border at Busia to exiting Uganda at Katuna border.  Just writing these two sentences we are asking ourselves “why did we rush through?”

We however had eight awesome days in Uganda. First, we have family in Uganda and it was really important that we spend some quality time together as we will be away for 3.5 years.

BORDER CROSSING:

We crossed in to Uganda through Busia border. This our first border crossing and true to your thoughts we were excited. The feeling was more like – “yeah, the adventure is really happening!!!”.We had our passports and carnet in hand ready to get into Uganda.  We found a parking spot at the border and everyone outside there walked to us. Can you imagine the feeling when we heard several people discuss who we are??? Kind of a brief celebrity moment right there.  Majority had watched the departure coverage by KBC a few days before and they were excitedly telling everyone who didn’t know about our adventure. Greeted guys, answered a few questions and then we headed to the immigration.

The Busia border is newly built.  We have no idea how it looked before the new beautiful buildings. Both Kenya and Uganda immigration offices are in the same building, something that makes the process pretty easy and fast. So, we headed to the Kenya immigration counter first for exit out of Kenya.  The process is, you first get cleared and get the stamps on the passports before going to the customs to clear the bikes or any vehicle.  After we got the “EXIT” stamp on our passports, we headed to customs to clear the bikes. The process is straight forward with a carnet and pretty fast. At this point, we are in no man’s land till we get the ENTRY stamps in Uganda which is the same process, first get the passports stamped and then clear bikes at the customs.  The custom officer however asked to physically verify the bikes and so we walked with her to the bikes and she looked at a few things like registration and condition of the bikes before giving us a pass in to Uganda.

In total the whole process took us about 30 minutes.  We were lucky there were no people waiting and therefore we did not have any waiting time.  It may not always be the case especially if you find buses crossing in to Uganda or Kenya. We arrived there around 2:00 pm and this could be a good time as most buses cross early morning or later afternoon. Important to note is check the busy hours at the border and cross at the less busy time. Also align this with how much time you need to get to your destination.

Border crossing

THE SURPRISE MOMENT

At the border, we decided to change all the Kenyan money we had in to Uganda shillings.  Between us we had Kshs 3,565/-.  We walk to the forex and ask the exchange rate and it was 1ks to 36.5 Ushs. Once we changed our money, we instantly became rich. Surprise number 1. We now had Ushs 130,122.5. Our heads registered the riches but did not move from our Kenyan currency. In our heads, it was now Kshs 130,122.5.  From the border we stopped at the petrol station and of cause, we thought we had so much money only for the pump to read Ugsh 85,000/-

What a nice welcome to Uganda. 😉

JINJA

First stop in Uganda was Jinja. Why Jinja? Well there are several reasons including it is on the way to Kampala 😉 but for us it was important we stop in this town for the following reasons: –

  1. It is the source of River Nile – River Nile is the only river in the world that flows north.
  2. Experience the historical town.
  3. Plenty of water sports available too.

We had a recommendation for a place to stay by our biker friends in Kisumu and we just rode to Signature Apartment hotel.  This place is really beautiful in all means.  Service, food, rooms, garden, location all in one word – GREAT!  We felt right at home and we were concerned we may not want to leave.  Check out why in the images below.

Signature Apartment Hotel in Jinja – Uganda.

Mr. Grace Kigenyi – the owner of this place is also a biker, and this was just another plus. We were with family.

The following day, we rode to the source of River Nile. It’s only 1.3 km’s from Signature Apartment Hotel, which is another plus for staying there. There are charges for accessing the source of River Nile.

–       Ugandans and East African community pay the same fee of Ushs – 10,000 (Kshs 274/=)

–       Vehicles going in are charged too.  We paid Ushs 1,000 for the bike (Kshs 30/- or less by a shilling or two).

There are licensed tour guides in uniform, so it is very easy to identify them. They are very organized and so you don’t have so many of them running to you each one asking if you could take them. We loved that so much. We got our guide and walked in.  There is a restaurant right by the waters.  Our guide took us through the options, the prices, what we would be able to do and see.  He was very professional.  He asked if we wanted to place an order for food so that when we finish the boat ride we can have our lunch.  The organization is amazing.

The options include:

  • Half an hour ride,
  • One-hour ride
  • Speed boat
  • Regular boat.

He explained that speed boat though the more expensive option would not allow for good bird watching, seeing the monkeys and all because it’s too fast and not able to access the edges of the river well. We settled for the option that would give us the best in terms of how much we can see and that was the regular boat.

The speed boat

THE BOAT RIDE:

The boat ride was slightly over half an hour even though we paid for half an hour.  There is so much history on the lake/river. There are some small islands on the river that are man-made.  They have been washed off in to very small islands and others totally gone. The smallest is right where the mark for the source of River Nile is. Its submerged but has a small curio shop built on it.  There were some toilets that are no longer accessible because the waters have raised so much, and they are just on river not submerged but inaccessible. There are plenty of birds, monkeys and lizards.  They are right at the edges and the reason a speed boat does not make a good option if you will like to see them.

The history of how the “source of River Nile” was identified is just another amazing reason you should make that trip. We aren’t telling you, smell the flavor and go fetch the food yourself. 😉

The source of River Nile
The smallest Island that holds the curio shop
Some cute souveniers at the curio shop
It speaks for itself
We spotted a lizard
The floating toilets
The camera shy monkey
Some of the birds we saw

NEXT STOP, KAMPALA

After two days in Jinja, we left for Kampala.  We regret not doing the water sports in Jinja.  This was a terrible mistake – but please don’t judge us.  We have many more opportunities ahead. Our consolation.

The ride out of Jinja was really nice till we got to Mukono. Jinja to Kampala is only 82 kilometers.  The first 60 kilometers were super good, then we got into traffic. We forgot to remove our thermal liners from the jackets and the weather was hot.  We also ran out of water.  This was traffic, heat, no water!! The next 26 kilometers were a real test, but we made it to Kampala.

Stuck in traffic at Mikono

We were received by our sister, bought lunch and we took off to go home, park bikes and rest. And this is where the traffic test changed to worse.  Kampala has really heavy traffic.  It beats Nairobi and New York. We made it home in one piece to a beautiful reception by Christian and Clarisa.  We also swore we are not taking the bikes out again till the departure day. We kept our word and opted for driving. Thanks to Collins and Pri for allowing us to use your car.  Geeez just realized we never topped up the fuel – shame on us – how ungrateful!!! We are really sorry Collins and Pri.

Thanks Pri for the warm welcome to Kampala

KAMPALA BIKERS ASSOCIATION.

Before we left Kenya, we contacted Morrisons of Morrison’s Leather (the best biker’s gear shop in Uganda). We know a few people from Kenya who have bought gear from him and he doesn’t disappoint. He is able to ship anywhere in East Africa too.

Morrison organized a meet up with the Kampala Bikers and we had brunch together on an easy Sunday morning. Kampala Bikers are very organized, a close-knit family and just one happy lot. It was really lovely sharing experiences.  There was also a surprise for us – we got to meet Grace Kigenyi of Signature Apartment hotel and Angie, the only lady who rides in Uganda with her beautiful baby – Suzuki GSX R-1000.   After the brunch, we rode together to Morrison’s shop.  This shop is one you go to when all your bills have been paid otherwise you leave all your rent and more there.  The quality of the gear he sells is worth it and not very easily available at the price he sells it.  So, Dos became a victim — no, he became the lucky one to find a jacket that fitted perfectly well and was way better than what we had bought for the adventure.  Don’t ask for the other jacket, it has already been donated ha ha ha. For the next 4 days we just soaked in to family love and enjoying every minute of it.

The Uganda Bikers Association – Sunday Brunch
Angie and Wamuyu
Morrison Leather shop

MEETING WITH KENYAN HIGH COMMISSIONER IN UGANDA

After a day well spent with the Kampala bikers, we made a courtesy call to the Kenyan High Commission in Uganda. Embassies are meant for the people and if you have ever thought that it is hard to get in to your embassy, scrap that now.  It’s pretty easy. Just walk in.

We arrived and were received very well right from the gate. The Ambassador was not in at the time and so we met the Consular Mr Macharia and the rest of the staff. We had a really good time with the staff who are very friendly.  As we were just about to leave, the High Commissioner, Amb. Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Geoffrey L. Okanga drove in.  To our surprise, he is also a very friendly and jovial person.  The mood at the embassy is one very happy family. He invited us for, yet another cup of coffee and we could not resist.  The cup of coffee ended up being close to two hours of a very impactful and informative session with the Ambassador.

Arrival at the Embassy
A moment with the Ambassador
The Team at the Embassy. Such a happy family.

LEAVING KAMPALA HEADING TO RWANDA

After a great time with family and friends, it was time to go. We left Kampala with another “we don’t wonna leave”feeling. It felt the same way it did when we were leaving Nairobi. Family is hard to leave.

Family
Family

We had 405 kilometers to cover in a day to Kabale. Kabale is the last town before Katuna border. Exiting Kampala was easy as we were not going to pass through the city and so no traffic.  We were staying in Kajansi area which is out of the city.  There is a new bypass that goes direct to Busega.  We missed the sign that motorcycles are not allowed on the bypass and found ourselves on the wrong side of traffic police at the toll station. There were also a few other riders who had been stopped.  We begged them to allow us and gladly they accepted. So, the whole lot of us like 15 bikes were let in.  We all zoomed and looked like someone blew the start whistle and there is a ribbon waiting at the other end.

The rest of the ride was uneventful.  We arrived at the Equator and had to stop and take pictures. For the first time we were so far from each other yet so close. One in Northern Hemisphere while the other in the Southern Hemisphere. We still could hug though ;).

From Northern Hemisphere and Southern Hemisphere

We also met and made friends with a lovely couple who lives in UK. Traveling is the best way to make friends.

We arrived at Kabale in good time to get a place to stay and relax for a night. Wamuyu had caught a terrible cold and we needed to keep warm and have a good rest.  Kabale is also colder than anywhere else we had been in Uganda.  The area from Mbarara to Katuna border is hilly, green and very scenic.  The road is very good tarmac all the way from Kampala but the twisties and bends from Mbarara all the way to the border are just what a biker wants on the road. Now you know. ;). Gear up!

Somewhere in the beautiful Mbarara and Kabale area.
Looking in the beauty of South Uganda
Where we stayed in Kabale.

It’s good to note that if you are going to Rwanda by road – overlanding like us. Kabale is the last town before the border and the best place to sleep if you don’t have enough time to cross the border and get to Kigali.  Its only 18 kilometers to Katuna border and you find some really good B&B.

The following day we woke up and left for the border. It was time to say good bye to Uganda and Hello Rwanda.

Keep it here for the Amazing Rwanda!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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