Eating a rolex and driving through mudpools

Eating a rolex and driving through mudpools

We arrive in Wobulenzi early and decide it is time for a second breakfast. It seems like it is market every day at Wobulenzi so we decide to buy some fruit from the market. Huge pineapples are laid on top of each other, jackfruit is cut by a small boy and a woman is already cooking some matooke, ugali and cassava. It is too early for a big meal like that but a chapatti with beans, a piece of pineapple and a mandazi sounds good to us. While I wait for a chapatti friend A. is buying a rolex. In Uganda everyone can buy a rolex. Here a rolex is part of the culture and of the cuisine. It is not a watch but a chapatti with eggs, cabbage and tomato. The name comes from the sentence ‘roll of eggs’ – rolex, easy as that.



While I’m eating my mandazi and friend A. her rolex we search for the matatue which brings us to a village named Katagwe. Soon we find out there is only one matatue going to the village and that one is only going at night. “Where you go muzungu?” a little boy asks me. “I have to go to Katagwe”. “I know there” he says, walks away and signs me to come. “Well I’m not planning on walking” I reply. He looks at me with big eyes. “Banange, jangu njabo”. I follow him and friend A. follows me while finishing her rolex. The little boy brings us to a matatue which can take us as far as possible in the direction of Katagwe. As a ‘thank you’ I buy the kid a couple of samosas and take a couple for me and friend A. as well. We have no idea when the matatue will leave and how long the journey will take. The driver is not around and the conductor is embroiled in a discussion with another conductor.

rolex shop


After sitting in the matatue for an hour while no one else entered it starts to rain. Well rain is an understatement. It starts to rain cats and dogs. The wind starts to blow, the people run for cover and not long after the lightning hits and the thunder roars. The rain beats pits in the ground, the sandy square turns into a mud pool. The market disappeared suddenly. People have taken shelter inside the shops, bodabodas have stopped working, matatues got stuck and teachers stopped teaching. The schools have a corrugated roof which makes it impossible for the children to hear what the teacher is saying. The village suddenly looks deserted, there is no action on the street, everything seems empty. Things are left immediately and no one is even thinking about going outside.

local market in Wobulenzi

The matatue

As fast as the storm came it ends, as fast as the market disappeared it reappears and as fast as the village was deserted it suddenly boasts of activity. Finally the driver appears. He holds a small bottle of waragi in his hands, another is placed in his pocket and is already half empty. Waragi, the domestic distilled beverage, the reason that gives Uganda, besides being the pearl of Africa, the name the alcoholism capital of Africa. The conductor jumps from dry spot to dry spot and hops on in the mini bus. We are only four clients and he looks concerned at us. “Five shilling” he immediately asks us. “Can you bring us as close to Katagwe as possible?” “Katagwe? What will you be doing there?” “Visiting my sister” I reply. In Uganda everyone has a brother and sister from another mother. It doesn’t matter which skin colour, hair colour you have, it doesn’t matter whether you are big, small, ugly, pretty, know how to dress according to the fashion or not. It doesn’t matter whether you have a degree or not, whether you have a good job or not, whether you have a family or not. It doesn’t mather if you speak the same language or not. If I like you, you are my brother or sister. For the kids of my sister I’m an aunty, aunty Milene. The conductor seems content, closes the door and shouts ‘tugende’ (we go).

Bodaboda ride through the mud

Into nowhere

The rain made the road a quite challenging mud path but at least it is not dusty so the windows are open. Actually it is a bit chilly so I keep my window shut. We drive through tick plantation, through forests, open grounds. We pass villages, schoolgrounds where the kids wave at us, farms where the women are digging, waterholes where boys fill up their jerry cans. The sun shines through the trees. Matooke trees cover the view. We go up hill, downhill, straight forward, turn here and there. We pass people walking with jackfruit, plants, bags on their head. The women carry their children on their back, wrapped in a colourful rag and food on their head. After one and a half hour we stop in a village. Three bodabodas stand in the shade of a tree, a pool table is covered only by a wooden roof. Women sit together washing clothes, gossiping, children play in the mud.

pool cafe

From matatue to bodaboda

One of the bodaboda drivers takes us to Katagwe. With the three of us we sit on the motorcycle. The ground is not very well maintained so we have to drive carefully. We drive deeper into no-mans-land. More houses we pass, more fields full with cassava, potatoes and matooke trees. People wave at us, smiling. Children run after us, screaming of happiness. They do not see muzungus every day, actually some have never seen a muzungu in their life. We drive through mud pools, through actual pools, through small rivers of rain water. Sometimes we slip, sometimes we almost fall, one time we have to jump off the bodaboda. Until we finally reach Katagwe. I have no idea where we have to go, phones do not work here, so I just tell the driver to go to the school. My sister is a teacher, a volunteer for Plan, part of Unicef. She is placed here to keep an eyeful watch on the children so they do not get beaten and that child abuse is decreased to zero.

Juma, my little brother

Arrival in Katagwe

Then there she is, my sister. “Jalalalalala” she screams, running towards me with open arms. Behind her runs Juma, slowly, smiling, screaming, crying. My tiny little brother. “Aunty Milene, aunty Milene”. After hugging my sister I run towards him and he jumps in my arms. I never want to let him go, ever!


I don’t travel without trying out local transportation. Do you have any memorable adventures when taking local transportation which you’d like to share? I’d love to hear about it!

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1 Comment on "The trip to northern Uganda"

  1. Uganda – through the lens – Route22
    27 August 2015 Reply

    […] read some of my adventures there. For example the one on the bike? or in the matatue? Maybe the one going up north? or into the middle of nowhere? Many adventures in so little time. Two years later I’m still […]

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