Uganda… or the “Pearl of African’s crown” (as the last line of the National Anthem declares) is known for its “gorillas in the mist”. It is a surprising place to visit and more and more young volunteers, families with teenagers, primate lovers and adrenaline-adventure seekers and are making their way to this country.
SOME THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT UGANDA:
- 25% of the land is water! Many lakes and rivers…..
- some of the sources of the Nile are found here: Albert Nile (from Lake Albert) and the Victoria Nile (Lake Victoria) which join with several other rivers to become the White Nile in the north of Uganda
- Long horned cattle
- green, fertile and tropical
- many forested national parks: the most interesting called the “Bwindi Impenetrable Park”
- animals and birds
- level of spoken English and education is high, compared to the rest of Africa
- there are kingdoms and kings as well as a president (who has been in office for more than 30 years)
Bananas! Cook the bananas, fry the bananas, slice them into chips, cook meat stews in a banana leaf… and then of course just eat the sweet bananas as normal fruit! Cooking bananas (Makote) is the staple dish for 60% of all Ugandans. You will often see trucks, motorbikes, donkey carts, heads loaded down with great bunches of these long green bananas. I am told one large bunch will last a family of 4 for about a week! Many foreigners have to get their minds out of the thinking that banana is a fruit/desert and not a mean meal. So re-calibrate your brain and try to eat at least one version of each of the different ways in which makote is cooked. It can be surprisingly tasty: just don’t think of it as a banana!!!
A second staple food is posho. Posho looks like a very stiff mashed potato, but is made from Maize meal. Most local people will ask for a plate of Makote and Posh with some beans or some “soup” (either chicken or goat) if they can afford it.
There is not a huge variety of food, and it is cooked very simply, and not very spicy (for those who like hot food) but once you have developed a taste for it, you miss it after a couple of days.
The Rolex is not a cheap watch! It is a fun fast-food found on many streets. It consists of an omelette (with or without chopped up tomatoes and onions) put on a flat chapati (similar to a fried Nan) and then rolled up (hence the name) and wrapped in a piece of paper. This makes for a filling yet simple (and cheap) breakfast or lunch or dinner!
You will find a variety of the usual transport types available in East Africa: local taxis (mini bus) larger local buses, a variety of private cars, bicycles and carts. However the cheapest and indeed the deadliest is the Boda-boda. These are the motorcycle taxis. They were apparently given that name as goods used to be smuggled from “border-to-border” on the back roads! Today however, you will find a whole group of them waiting for customers at any important crossroad or intersection. You negotiate with the driver, and then simply climb on to the back of the motorbike and he will (hopefully) get you safely and quickly to your destination.
One of the things that surprises many visitors is the long-horned (huge in some cases) cattle. These are called Ankole cattle. They come in a variety of colors, the males with a “lump” at the shoulder area, but cows and bulls both have the unbelievably long horns. Watching a large herd regally walk passed you bearing the burden of these immense horns is something to experience.
So…. why not consider traveling to this pearl? Meet the people, eat the food, see the wildlife, ride the rapids, watch the sunsets and hear the cry of the African fish eagle?