Sunday, 31 March 2013

Inevitable. My first boda accident in Uganda (yes, this is a first person piece, Mum. Please look away now).

This is a good look. The author of this blog on a boda, pre-accident, on a bike which had a Harper's Bazaar print on the seat, and was clearly made for her. Photo by Onyait Odeke.

It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. On Tuesday morning I had my first boda accident. I say first, because let's be honest, there could very well be more. Oh, and one important fact to note: I was on a boda. I wasn’t walking and hit by a boda, which was the case in Hoima last year. Nor was I accidentally pulling a friend down on top of me, much to the amusement of Ugandan onlookers, while trying to get on a stationary bike on the side of the road at Bugolobi, which preceded the western Ugandan incident. This was a bona fide booty-on-boda (BOB) accident. But I'm pleased to report I got off lucky. It could have been so much worse. 

Yes I know, it was all going so well and I’d been reassured by Nigel that a mzungu (foreigner) can survive five years in Uganda without a scrape. But on Monday morning as I was coming back from speaking to my friend Peter about another child sacrifice case, awful beyond belief, in Kisaasi (home to The Big Chicken aka The Satellite Hotel) I asked my random driver to stop on the side of the road to look at (what else) a ra ra dress (remember the ra ra skirt from the 80s?) with a GREEN bottom. Could things have been different if I hadn’t stopped to look at this frock, which I didn't end up buying? Possibly. Was this dress also something you shouldn't be seen dead in? Possibly. (Btw, I spotted the same dress in a roadside shop in Kabalagala yesterday. It's a generic number, so can't have that. Sigh).

This is not (not) a good look. A limb belonging to the author of this blog five days after her boda accident.

Anyway onto the story. My driver had left the makeshift boutique and was taking me back into town. I can't estimate how fast he was going, but he wasn't speeding. As we approached Kira Road, not far from the Uganda Museum a woman (Ugandan) ran out RIGHT IN FRONT of the boda. Now to be honest, I have run out in front of cars and bodas on the road. To be honest, life can pass you by as you try to cross the road in Kampala, if you sometimes don't. But do give yourself enough time to make it. This woman ran out RIGHT RIGHT IN FRONT of the bike, giving the rider no time to brake at all. In fact when I recalled the incident to a good friend later she remarked, “It must have been like watching a suicide”. It was indeed. There was nothing the driver could do. Before I knew it, all three of us were lying on the side of the road.

The ra ra dress I stopped to look at on the side of the road after leaving Kisaasi. While shopping didn't cause my accident, how different things might have been had I not stopped to peruse this. 

I looked up and all I could see were black faces staring down at me. Some details are blurry, but I seem to recall that we'd landed on the grass (thank God) and I was on top of the driver. My left leg was tangled up with the rider's, whose bike was totally smashed, and I had several cuts from the knee downwards and on my right wrist, plus a lot of gravel stuck on my knee. There was blood on the ground from the rider. He was bleeding from his chest and nose, a lot worse than me. Meanwhile I could see the pedestrian lying up ahead closer to the road than us and I was absolutely certain she was dead.

The Big Chicken. This really should be in Australia.

To be honest I had no idea what to do. I had never been in a road accident or witnessed a road accident. I knew I wasn’t dying, but I also knew I should get to hospital or The Surgery to get my injuries checked out, and take the other two with me, so I untangled my leg and got up.  I knew it was up to me to get myself to hospital. I hadn't seen ambulances in Uganda very often. I do remember seeing one coming back from The Goat Races with my parents last year - it ended up running out of petrol. But even if there were more ambulances around I didn’t have a number and how long would it take to get there in Kampala's chaotic traffic? And also where exactly were we? Who should I call to come and get us? One of my best friends Rob, who would probably be the best person to have around in an emergency as he's calm and practical and quite knowledgeable of Kampala’s hospitals (oh and has a car), had just left the country. Should I call another friend at work? One regular taxi driver, Carlos, had just had his car taken back by the owner, so he was no good. Ironically, wouldn’t the quickest way to get to hospital after a boda accident be a boda?
So I got up and walked onto the road and got my phone out of my bag. The crowd of people who’d gathered around me told me to sit down, but to be honest they seemed to be doing absolutely nothing apart from gawking at me, saying, “mzungu, mzungu”. Sorry, but even now this is a bit of a sore point, so to speak. Please, if you ever come across a traffic accident, do not mill and gawk at the victims.

Now standing on the road I was very dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out, even if just from the shock of being in a road accident and seeing so much blood (I am the sort of person who has to be sedated having a blood test or needle). I quickly phoned another regular taxi driver Jeff* and he said he’d come to get me asap (thank God he was released from jail last year otherwise I wouldn't have been phoning him, but that's another story).

A few people by now were telling me “sit down mzungu” and trying to force me onto the ground which was really pissing me off, especially when they didn’t seem to be doing anything to help, and I actually started yelling at them “I want to go to the hospital”. I searched for Jeff’s number in my phone and handed it to a man, asking him if he could please double check with my driver that he was on his way to the right location.

Two male traffic officers wearing white uniforms and black berets finally showed up. “This is a police case,” they said after walking over to me and handing me a bit of scrap paper which they asked me to write my name and phone number on. They asked me what happened and I told them that I’d been a passenger, that a woman had jumped out in front of the boda with no time for him to stop and that she’d been hit. It wasn't the driver's fault at all. They asked me where I lived. 

A few minutes before my taxi arrived the police walked me over to a ute, driven by security guards, and told me to get into it along with the driver, who was still bleeding quite heavily. I got the shock of my life when I saw the woman who’d been hit get up off the ground and into the vehicle. To be honest though, I felt more sorry for the driver, as I watched his bike being towed away on the back of a truck. He most likely has no form of income, after this. 

My boda helmet is now one my number one accessory. Photo courtesy of Walter's Boda's Kampala.

The police told me we were going to Mulago Hospital. I told them I had a driver coming to get me but they wouldn’t let me wait. I’d read before in the local press that the majority of boda victims end up in Mulago. In fact a story in one of the local papers which was published recently reported that boda accidents contributed 41 per cent of all trauma patients at the hospital. 

According to this recent NTV Uganda story, boda boda injuries take up 62.5
per cent of the budget allocation for the directorate of surgery at Kampala's Mulago Hospital.

When we walked into the reception at Mulago they said it would be a bit of a wait. As I'm an impatient mzungu (I’m aware of this) who is fortunate enough to be in a financial position to go to The Surgery and also have travel insurance (I’m aware I am lucky) I decided to get Jeff to take me there instead. Secretly though, I also wanted to finally meet the famous Dr Stockley, a British doctor who had a cameo in Last King of Scotland as a Times Journalist reporting on the disappearances of several of Amin’s opponents. I'd heard other expats speak of him, but hadn't met him yet thanks to (touch wood) my good health.

Dr Stockley told me that I would be fine, adding that it was a good thing that I’d been wearing a helmet. "You're going to be stiff tomorrow," he said. "But just remember if it ain't broken now it ain't broken tomorrow." I didn’t want to actually tell him that I hadn’t been wearing a helmet for a few months last year, after losing one. Ironically it was only after bumping into a friend Liam, right after he’d had a boda accident, at Garden City, on his way back home after buying a helmet, that I’d been warned to buy new headgear.

After the lovely nurses at The Surgery covered my leg in iodine and bandaged my wrist up (I was a bit shaken up and teary), I went to Mish Mash for lunch. “The first thing that comes to mind is a boda accident,” said one of the waiters as soon as he saw my leg. You don’t say, Sherlock.

The lovely Mirinda Girls at Garden City this week.

For the past couple of days (I stayed home the first day after my accident) I have felt like Iodine Woman walking around the mall, with lots of strangers saying “sorry, sorry” or "mzungu, what happened?" as soon as they see me. Uganda really is the loveliest place on earth. Probably only the Mirinda Girls who I met yesterday handing out free samples of the new apple flavoured drink have grabbed more attention. Maybe I should hand out free samples of iodine, since I’m currently a walking advertisement for it.

Did you ever know you could create such amazing effects with cotton wool? Photo by  Sorin. Read his blog post on his own boda crash at
With my original driver Prince William in better times.

On another note, I've discovered what creative things you can do with cotton wool on wounds, after coming across this post titled "My first boda boda crash" courtesy of Sorin, a Romanian traveller and blogger in Uganda. Check out his pics (or maybe not), which I discovered after researching for my own post, here. I must admit that when I was getting ready to go out last night, I did put on a body con dress in orange, thinking it would match my leg. Further research has revealed another post by another former mzungu in Uganda titled..."My first boda crash". The good news is that I haven't found a blog post titled "My second boda crash", but I don't think I'm going to do any more Googling.

This dress goes great with iodine legs.

Of the course the boda jokes have started. "I guess you guys 'boda' be more careful in future! *badoom crash* " Tweeted @Nigel_Ball (yes, the same one who survived five years in Uganda without a boda accident) earlier in the week. "This doesn't BODE very well for your future comedy career" I hit back. Mzungu blogger @CharlieBeau also got in on the act, asking "Q. what have drivers have given up for Lent? A. the ability to anticipate other road users!" Coincidentally, on the same day as my accident The Sydney Morning Herald ran this piece on where Aussie travellers are most likely to meet their end. Relieved that Uganda hasn't got any points, so far...

Thankyou to everyone who has Tweeted, emailed or phoned me, for all their kind words, especially Dr Wolfgang H Thome, who volunteered himself to give me some driving lessons in the event that I get a car (although doesn't seem to be aware of this). Am I getting a car? Not for the time being, most likely never as I fear being behind the wheel of a vehicle on the streets of Kampala more than being a passenger on a boda. Am I getting back on a boda? Yes, after I've had a week off. At the moment I'm using the very punctual Fred, a private hire, to get around and have also discovered matatus (they're a lot cheaper than bodas and nearly as quick). 

Today's hot chocolate said...Happy Easter.

To be honest this accident was probably the wake-up call I need to be more careful and (Mum, I really hope you're not reading this) to reduce my boda usage, particularly at 1.30am after a night out (Mum, I've only done this about two times). I will also now not travel anywhere, even if it's only down the road, without a helmet on and I have NO sympathy for any mzungu who doesn't wear one - it's now my number one accessory, I'm even thinking of spray painting mine - green - and is involved in an accident.

I am getting back on a boda, which I missed desperately when I visited Nairobi, where they don't have as many riders as Uganda, late last year. Even though I am really fed up with iodine pins, I don't believe that these bikes are as dangerous as the local press, local private hires and others make out. I still think that they're the best thing since sliced bread, and that Uganda would be a very different place without them. At the risk of sounding quite emotional about motorbikes, I simply cannot carry on in Uganda without bodas. In fact after Uganda, I think I will need to have some sort of boda in my life no matter where I am in the world.

A happy - and safe - Easter break all of you.




Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Burning Forests and The Ugandan Chaos Theory. Guest post by Wasswa Artha.

Brave. Wasswa bungee jumping at Jinja last year.

Bodaboda Baby is taking a, er, slight break from bodabodas (if you read some of my latest Tweets or when you read my next post you'll see why). I know this is a boda blog but trust me, it's needed. Wasswa Artha has kindly written this very honest guest post below on what it means to him to be Ugandan. Actually, he unknowingly volunteered himself after replying to a Tweet of mine about Nigel's guest post and informing me and his followers that for the past 15 years he hadn't had one boda (motorbike) or bicycle accident on Ugandan roads. Nigel, the challenge is on. Get back to Kampala now...

Wasswa does consultation work for a British firm called Rattle Media. Last year they worked on a project called A Dam Relief, for Ugandans and mzungus (foreigners) looking to promote the best of Uganda so that the tourism, trade, business, and education can continue to grow.

Wasswa describes himself as a "layabout, wino, coffee shop maverick, eccentric introvert and overachiever" whose bucketlist is "half empty". Oh, and as I've also discovered in the past week he likes rugby, too. He hasn't travelled overseas, but hopes to go to Bondi, Australia, next year to visit friends (good choice).

Bodaboda heaven. Wasswa on a boda in Kampala this week. Photo courtesy of Wasswa Artha.

Most of my high school friends left the country to pursue their dreams abroad, some left even before high school ended. Some spent over five, others three years or less, now they are returning home after they’re studies, after they have experienced life in all aspects. They return to Uganda, and what welcomes them? Well teargas and other things that make us wish we weren’t Ugandan. They complain a lot about how life is different wherever they have been, Britain and AmericaMalaysia. Some can't even stand the traffic, others go on and on about how the Uganda police are bullies. But I say to them, that’s plain wallowing.

Yes things are bad here some days but not all the time and well….where there is good there is some bad too and as a Ugandan you have to work to change what you don’t like about your own nation. Change won’t come in a day, you can’t have change if you don’t change yourself first. You see Uganda is like a broken marriage trying so hard to hold it together.  Everyone else thinks you are happy but the people in the marriage know exactly what’s going on. The saying “you don’t look where you fell but where you tripped” comes to mind here. Where we went wrong, that’s where we should look at.

We are all to blame for what Uganda is going through, its international image, economy struggles and we can change that if we try. We have a very beautiful country but we don’t take time to travel and see its hidden treasures, A typical Ugandan would rather take a vacation abroad, in the Maldives perhaps, rather than travel to Murchison Falls National Park or any other Ugandan destinations. Last year for the first time, I went bungee jumping, where I met this Indian guy who was raised in England. He asked me “which country are you from?” He was extremely surprised to know I was Ugandan.

 After I jumped, the guys supposed to get me out of the jump rope to the raft asked me the same thing. They were from Basoga working at Bujagali. Where am I getting with this? The fact that Ugandans hate bursting their bubble. We live in this little thing called “the Ugandan zone” and hate going out of it to explore what’s out there. In our own country, we stereotype that only foreigners should do this and that and give them all this praise and in process we stay in a colonial state of mind. Not even one per cent of Ugandans go out there to see wildlife or anything even if the prices are different for citizens. The only thing they do is hangout and say "I have a heavy hangover in the morning". And when you do something different like kayaking or white-water rafting, they say you’re now “white”. Believe me, I have been ridiculed so many times by some of my friends for doing such.

Wasswa Artha.

And then there's the case of the alien, the Ugandan born or raised in the Diaspora. These ones are highly neurotic, they will talk everything bad and sad about Uganda, One of my friends who left Uganda at 12 asked me the other day if that shopping mall I was at in a photo I posted online was really in Uganda. I mean for crying out loud come on! Some have never even been here, but will criticise everything depending from what they see on TV. Ugandans in the diaspora don’t comeback to share their success stories with the less fortunate Ugandans who haven’t seen the world yet.

They don’t feel the need to be identified as Ugandans when they are put on that pedestal in front of thousands of people and asked where they are from originally. The people who are in a good position to make a difference don’t feel the need too, it stinks. It doesn’t stop there, it goes on and on. When a Ugandan artist is nominated abroad, chances are ninety per cent he/she won’t win that award, WHY? Because we lack the common courtesy to vote .After that, we have the audacity to say that our own people are wack then we get back to watching Nigerian stars and singing like them in process killing our own industry. The tabloids keep kicking even if you’re down, killing any chance of a Ugandan being great at something.

Half of Ugandan people are illiterate. Surprisingly these are the people who support music in a major way. The “hip” ones never go to concerts. Once an artist posts about his concert, he'll get lots of Facebook likes and that’s where it ends! In Uganda, when an artist sings one song he becomes a “star”, does a few shows and that’s it. Automatically people expect him/her to be living large, have a big car and own a house on a hill somewhere, basically be a “celebrity” after he falls off coz of lack of support. That's when the tabloids remember to write the bad about the situation -  “BIG ARTIST NOW BROKE" -  and we will in turn buy that and make it trend on social networks because that’s the news of the day. In the process leaving our own people hanging out to dry and for the whole world to see. That’s not love and I'm pretty sure that’s not patriotism either.

Cos everything is calm in Africa, right? Photo courtesy of Wasswa Artha.

If you read books or watch a few films, then you are familiar with The Chaos Theory or The Butterfly Effect: “the supposed influence exerted on a dynamic system by a small change in initial conditions or a theory that complex natural systems obey rules but are so sensitive that small initial changes can cause unexpected final results, thus giving an impression of randomness”. The Butterfly Effect sits well with this Ugandan situation. We see a bad situation happening to our own or a good one and we don’t help that person raise it. In the process everything goes down the drain and then we wait for another person to do the same thing all over again, not knowing every little aspect affects us in a way.

"You’re Ugandan back from abroad. Welcome home". Some never return but keep on frustrating us writing about how Uganda is doing so well basically from hearsay and tabloids,  doing all this in the comfort of their living room somewhere abroad. But if you’re here, what have you done to make it better? Are you always going to complain? Won’t you write something good about your countrymen on social networks? Will you, a Ugandan girl go abroad to be a hooker? Just because Uganda is now a "shitty country" and we have potholes? Why do you make so much buzz about international artists and not make that same buzz for your own country? They also became big by being voted by their own people. You can say “totukooya” (translation: don't make us feel tired, you're killing my vibe) or whatever you need to but at the end of the day every decision made by someone else affects you in one way or another. So go out there, be something different, look for things people rarely do and put your emphasis there. Whatever you decide to do, just help Uganda grow because if it dies, the corpse is ours to carry, not anyone else’s.

Overlooking the Nile in Jinja.
 Not everyone is supposed to be a doctor or a lawyer or a fool who keeps wallowing yet does nothing not knowing they have more control than they can ever imagine. I have traded stories with acquaintances , some boda boda drivers who have built houses and put their kids through school by waking up everyday and riding. But if you look at them, you may think they don’t even make enough to get by. No matter what you do, everyone is part of the bigger picture. We shouldn’t be the monkeys laughing at the burning forest, not if that forest is where we were born and raised! 

Sunday, 24 March 2013

What's the time, Uganda? Airtime? Nice time??

Yes, these are the times. To be honest it's always these times in Uganda. But now it's also Breaking Boda News time. Don't look so excited, dear readers. Here's two minutes of boda news (maybe a bit longer, because let's face it sometimes things do drag on here in Africa).

* Bodas have become even more decorative in the past week, swapping the usual chainsaws, wheelbarrows, and everything but the kitchen sink for palms to mark the Sunday before Easter.

Here's one religious rider I spotted yesterday near the railway. Check it out. He appears to have his eyes closed, maybe he's saying an Easter Sunday prayer? That reminds me, I wonder what boda drivers have given up for Lent? Helmets? Okay, it's the best joke I can come up with. If you can do any better please let Bodaboda Baby know.

* Cheryl Cole's hair extensions turn up on the front of a boda (we knew there was a reason that Girls Aloud announced they were splitting up last week).

If a palm leaf doesn't do it for you, there's always this, umm, lovely piece of hair which was hanging off a bike I hailed to Garden City (where else?) earlier last week.

* I spy with my little dust-covered eyes a...BOB (Bicycle-on-Boda) at Bunga.

I still haven't seen a BOB (Boda-on-Boda), which regular readers of this blog know is a dream of mine (after I see one, I can then go under a boda, because what else will I be living for on this earth?) But I did spy a BOB (bicycle-on-boda) last Thursday night at Bunga, on my way home from town.

* Kampala's Boda Tours, created by Walter Wandera, below, are going from strength to strength. 

Walter, who Bodaboda Baby caught up with this week at the Bahai Place of Worship, Africa's only such temple and one of the highlights of his motorbike tours, told me he's now attracting at least three tourists a day. His tours were recently labelled "Kampala's best kept tourism secret" by Uganda's New Vision newspaper and Walter continues to be mobbed by the local and international press, as seen below. He describes the Bahai Temple, built in 1958 when Uganda was "thought to be the spiritual heart of Africa" as the "quietest place in Kampala", a lot more quieter than some of the country's roads, where you can even see a cow on a boda. (See pic below, taken by Walter).

Photo courtesy of Walter Wandera.

* Fire in Kampala? Canada's to the rescue!

It was good to see the Toronto Fire Services out on the streets of Kampala this week, ironically not far the World Heritage listed Kasubi tombs which burnt down in 2010while finishing up Walter's boda tour at a restaurant. A photo below for my Toronto-born Mum, and Emily from Geolodges Uganda, who hails from Canada too.

Please send me your boda news, people! Until next week stay safe on the roads and... NYC TYM (translation: nice time).

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Aussie sporting teams turning up on Kampala streets quicker than a fast bowler from Down Under.

Lawrence has it going on in his Oz cricket shirt.

Okay, you now what I'm trying to say here. In less than a week I've spotted gear from three different Australian sporting codes on the streets of the Ugandan capital - all from the back of a boda. The latest sighting, involving mechanic Lawrence Muwongo, above, took place off Gayaza Road at Kanyanya while I was coming back into town after visiting the lovely Kids Club Kampala headquarters. Lawrence, 23, told me he'd snapped up the Australian Cricket Board (ACB) shirt, which features the Victoria Bitter (VB) logo, for just 1,000 Ugandan shillings. Fair dinkum, that's only $0.37 AUD.

This discovery took place just four days after coming across a North Melbourne Kangaroos hat in Kamwocya. Patrick, 25, below, proudly informed me he'd purchased the blue cap at the local markets for 5k ($1.83 AUD). Ripper!

Patrick loves his new hat.

Just minutes earlier I'd caught Prince Mutebi (eat your heart out Prince William, both the boda driver and the UK version) showing off his Australian Wallabies jersey which set him back 10k, perhaps not much for an Aussie rugby fan, but quite a bit for a Ugandan. When asked if he followed the game, HRH, who moonlights as a butcher, replied, "I try, but not too much". When asked if he knew where Australia was, he said "Not really but I need this country too much".

HRH and Wallabies convert Prince Mutebi.

Prince and Patrick, who didn't know each other before, are now mates for life, after the author of this blog brought them together for a photo opportunity.

Uganda's most unlikely pair.

Regular readers of Bodaboda Baby will be familiar with other Australian sporting labels previously unearthed in Uganda and although I now have a soft spot for Lawrence, Prince Mutebi and Patrick, I think my favourite is still the Socceroos fan with the coloured feather duster.

With all of this gear around, the author of this blog is wondering should she even bother giving out her two leftover Australia Day hats and nail stickers?

One lucky African will get these Aussie nail stickers, thanks to Mum.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

"A miracle". The mzungu who survived FIVE years in Uganda without a boda accident. FIRST GUEST POST!

Hang on, isn't that a Boris bike? Pic courtesy of Nigel Ball.

I've been bugging former mzungu in Kampala and boda fan, the inimitable Nigel Ball, to write this blog's first guest post for a while and last week he finally came good. Nigel, 29, an ex teacher came to Uganda from London in 2008 and was instrumental in the establishment of two new secondary schools in the country. He later helped found Mara Foundation,non-profit social enterprise for emerging African entrepreneurs. Nigel has worked with 100 startups so far in his career. It's perhaps fair to say that during his time in Uganda he also may have dealt with as many, if not more, er, breakdowns, as a boda passenger. But as this Einstein told Bodabodababy, after half a decade in the "Pearl of Africa" he finally figured out the cause of most boda accidents:

"It is a miracle, or at least bloody lucky, that I survived almost five years in Kampala without either falling off, crashing into, or otherwise erroneously interfacing with a bodaboda. Perhaps this is because I was behind bars myself very early on in my tenure in Uganda (handlebars I mean, although I did come quite close to being imprisoned after trespassing on Wandegeya barracks one evening.) This first-hand experience of riding a motorcycle through Kampala taught me to see things from a boda's eye, so to speak. I also decided to give crashing a go, and did an unintentional but spectacular Evel Knievel at Kakira Sugar Factory back in 2008. (It’s a much more interesting story than this one is likely to be so you should read it first, here.)

Despite being terrifically convenient, I eventually had to admit to myself that bodabodas are, by any account, sodding dangerous. Not because the riders are dodgy - on the contrary, each one of the hundreds of bodaboda men that I interacted with over the years seemed to be a thoroughly good egg. They really do a wonderful job of whisking Kampala’s notoriously unpunctual residents across the city even in the stickiest of traffic jams. And though the negotiations can sometimes turn fierce, the riders tend to drop you off at your chosen destination without a grumble.

Nigel in Kampala. Pic from the Appfrica International website.

Pic courtesy of Nigel Ball (he voluntarily gave this to me).

This decency must have deeper roots, given any young teenager or old mwami can wake up on a fine Kampala morning, get on an Indian-made motorcycle, and start making money using the ancient formula of getting xyz from a to b. (Note that it is not quite so easy in neighbouring Rwanda, where the bodaboda men or ‘motos’ of the neat and tidy capital Kigali are registered, and wear green overalls and something called a ‘crash helmet’, a device inspired by Lawrence of Arabia which is reportedly able to protect the head in the event of an accident.)

Pic courtesy of Nigel Ball.

To me, the cause of many bodaboda crashes is fairly obvious, and it is this: most bodaboda riders actively choose to loosen their brakes. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist, or even a mechanical engineer, to know that this is probably bad. I found it out when I borrowed a bike off a boda man in Jinja one time to take a trip out of town and discovered I couldn’t stop. Now - I don’t want to turn my guest blog into a polemic, and nor am I trying to launch a campaign, but this does strike me as a little - well, foolhardy. To make matters worse, if you watch carefully, you will almost certainly never see a bodaboda man touch his front brake - preferring to employ only the back brake, which by the way doesn’t work either. Inconceivable though it may seem to be, there is a general preference for letting the truck / road / oblivious goat stop you in the event of emergency.

I am still hoping one day to hear of a bodaboda woman, not least because they might be less fatalistic on the issue of retardation. I suppose it seems a ludicrous idea amongst the communities from which bodaboda men usually originate, for whom a woman is cargo - or perhaps it is an issue of personal security for the women themselves. But it would appeal to my sense of possibility, were it ever to happen.

Back in Blighty. Wonder how the No.38 stacks up against a boda? Photo from

The funny thing is that the day before I was due to leave Kampala for ever, me and the bodaboda man who was dispatching me very nearly got T-boned at a terrific speed by a dopey motorist who decided for no conceivable reason to pull in front of us. It would have been quite ironic, in an Alanis Morissette kind of way, if I’d been hit."

Nigel's Twitter handle is @nigel_ball. He's now conducting a London versus Kampala #LonVKla which is worth following. On St Pat's Day he Tweeted "Just seen 7-day weather forecast for London. 3 more days of rain then 4 days of cold. 6-9". Yours truly did tell him that although she absolutely hearts Kampala, London does get a few extra points for Selfridges alone (and they're just for the beauty counter), only to get a massive telling off.