Uganda at long last!

Finally after 5 days of travel we reached Kampala in Uganda. The journey was one that would shatter the very foundations of one’s religious beliefs! It was without a doubt a fascinating and laborious journey, and one that will have me NEVER again complain about public transport back home :)!

Here was our route from Arusha(Tanzania to Kampala(Uganda):

  • Arusha to Dar es Salaam (10 hours by bus)
  • Dar es Salaam to Dodoma (7 hours by bus)
  • Dodoma to Mwanza (13 hours by bus)
  • Mwanza to Bukoba (13 hours by overnight ferry)
  • Bukoba to Kampala (7 hours by bus)

We left Arusha last Thursday morning after departing two hours late, and boarded what turned out to be a sauna of a bus. We were presently surprised when we saw that there was a toilet facility on the bus as we didn’t know whether we’d be stopping many times for breaks along the way. This journey was heaven compared to the rest of the trip to be honest, and if anything we got our hopes up wayyyy to early regarding travel in Africa! We arrived into Dar es Salaam around 9pm Thursday night sticky, smelly but in otherwise high spirits! We had to catch the train the following day which would take us directly to Mwanza, taking a total of 40 hours (not including breakdowns!)

Well so we thought anyways! So we went straight to the station to get our tickets for the following mornings departure, but was told by the shed master…I mean station master…that the 1st class and 2nd class cabins were all sold out and that the only alternative option was to go in 3rd class or wait until Wednesday for the next train! Now, 1st and 2nd class cabins meant that you’d have your own private space with 1st class having just 2 beds and 2nd class having 6 beds. So what exactly was 3rd class I asked?! It was just sitting on the floor along with hundreds of others for 40+ hours! NO THANK YOU! We opted to bite the bullet and make the journey in stages by bus.

We later found out that the central line train from Dar es Salaam to Mwanza isn’t exactly the best form of transport in Tanzania. We were told by one man who made a similar journey in a 1st class cabin that he had rats and a nest of cockroaches to contend with in his cabin for the whole journey!! He said that the rats eat a whole loaf of bread during the night on him(remember you had to bring your own food for the trip as it takes about two whole days if your lucky) and that he was more pissed off with that than anything else!!! He hit a rat with a shoe though on the second day and he didn’t see it for the rest of the journey….not soooooo bad then! 🙂
He also told us that the train regularly breaks down along the way and that he was stopped in the middle of nowhere from 6pm one evening till 11am the following morning! The entire journey took him 61 hours!!! arrrrahhgggg!!!
So that made us wonder what exactly would 3rd class comfort have been like if we were insane enough to have gone for it?


Anyways, we ended up getting a bus(or what resembled a bus) from Dar to Dodoma the following morning. The journey was 7 hours and the bus had no toilet facility. It made one stop for food and a few stops for the toilet along the way. When I say toilet stops, I mean that the bus pulls over to the side of the dirt track and men go one direction and women the other….you get my drift!!
We got into Dodoma Friday evening and booked our ticket to Mwanza for the following morning. Mwanza was still another 12/13 hours away the shed master informed us and the bus was departing at 1oam.

So Carlo and Florence arrive bright and early at the station at 9pm…..better to be early than late is my motto! How wrong that motto is in Africa! The bus arrives at the station at 12am…a whole 2 freckin hours late. I wouldn’t mind if the bus came from another destination or something but it was starting its journey from Dodoma!! No excuse or apology from anyone to us “patient” clients! So we found ourselves at the very back of another sauna bus. The following trip was a 13 hour bone breaking journey across the barren midlands of Tanzania, where there was no roads for about half of the trip….just dirt tracks. For the rest of the time the roads had 3 sets of speed ramps at every mile. And you would think that this would cause the driver to slow down abit….not at all! If anything he drove faster over them. So even if we desperately wanted some shut eye the chances of getting any were zero. We stopped once for food at a so called food station….which was closed. Luckily there was an opportunist type of guy who had ready cooked chips and chicken….stone cold and stuff into small bag plastic bags. We didn’t care as we were so hungry. We dosed it with salt to try and mask abit of the taste 🙂
We arrived in Mwanza a little after 1am that night…..very cranky as well as cremated. We stepped off the bus and was immediately grabbed by about seven different taxi men, all wanting our business. It got a little hostile at one stage as they started fighting among themselves over “who saw us first”. So we hoped into a taxi and told him to bring us to the lake view hotel, which we had booked in advance. The driver told us that he had to change a flat tyre first though! We red faces and steam escaping from our ears we patiently waited 15 minutes until he found the tools and changed the tyre.
When we arrive at the hotel, the whole place goes into darkness. Another power cut….which happens every second day without fail in Tanzania. So we had the option we were told for a room without a light for Tsh20000($10) or a room with a light for Tsh30000($15). We I asked how could they have lights when there was a power cut he promptly enlightened me that they had candles!! Candles that was gona cost us Tsh10000 for the privilege! No thanks….we had our torches and they did the job. The power did come back on half an hour later 🙂

The following day(Sunday) we went and booked our 1st class cabin ticket for the ferry, which would take us across lake Victoria to Bukoba. This journey would take 12 hours and it left at 8pm Sunday night. Interestingly, Lake Victoria is Africa’s biggest freshwater lake and the second biggest in the world. It has an area of over 70,000km square which is roughly the same size as Ireland…..huge bloody lake.
We boarded the Mv Victoria ferry and were presently surprised that the cabin was clean, and had a sink with running water and lights that worked. Great….we’d be able to sleep through the journey we thought! WRONG again we were. The pressure cooking heat was immense and it got to the point where we thought we were in a steam room. That combined with the roar of the ships engines which were directly beneath us made sure we were getting no sleep. Apart from that the ferry trip was great and it served nice dinners and had soda’s etc to buy….which was a nice surprise. But we had our own food as well just in case. We arrived into bukoba just as the sun was rising, and I got some amazing sunrise photo’s. It was the typical Africa sunrise, a huge round ball of sun climbing slowly up the horizon. The trip had taken 13 hours but it was fine. At least we were able to leave our cabin and get fresh air anytime we wanted.

So then we had the final leg of our journey…..Bukoba to Kampala(crossing the border from Tanzania into Uganda). We decided to get the bus that day(Monday) rather than wait until the next day. The bus left Bukoba on time at 11am and we had seats right at the front of the bus…..sharing the third seat beside us was two live roosters who had been tied at the ankles by some farmer and thrown on the bus….obviously going somewhere to be killed. It actually went the whole way to Kampala with us. The roosters were also wrapped in plastic bags and after a while the poor things were wet with perspiration. We were dripping wet so I can only imagine how the roosters must have felt….wasn’t nice to be honest. But no one batted an eyelid.
After 7 hours we finally arrived at Kampala bus station to the same situation as Mwanza….minus the flat tyre episode!

So here we are in Uganda after 5 long days of African travel. It was a surreal journey to be honest and while we are glad we did it…we ain’t looking forward to the return journey!! Our flight home is from Dar es Salaam on the east coast of Tanzania end of April!

However, we heard a little saying; that if you can manage and survive travel in Africa then you can master travel anywhere else in the world. I’m inclined to think that this would make perfect sense.

So I’ll post another update tomorrow or the day after with all the news from Kampala, along with details and photo’s(hoping Internet connection allows me) of our new project.