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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Find me on da Bus

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

If anyone ever wants to see the detrimental consequences of non-biodegradable waste and the horrendous effects of littering, this is the place to really drive it in deep. It’s everywhere... piles and piles of garbage, mainly in the form of old plastic bottles. Plastic bottles, plastic wrappers and plastic caps can be found littering so much of Uganda.

As much as I applaud certain East African countries for banning the plastic bag, I also think they should ban the plastic bottle with the plastic covering over the plastic lid. I know waste management is a major problem and a serious concern, but the sheer amount of litter spewed about is appalling.


The difficult pill to swallow is knowing that they are deliberately destroying their own years, their own paths, their own roads, their own towns, their own communities... and there is a blatant disregard for the trash that is already there. It's like they've just grown accustomed to it.


Sad.


Even in Arusha, each of us there volunteering have witnessed people just throwing bottles and wrappers out the windows as the car drove along.


It’s odd, but garbage cans are few and far between.


Our Nomad tour bus has been making its way through Uganda and unfortunately for our energy, levels of activity and increasing butt sizes, there are many long, exhausting days in the vehicle. Had I prior knowledge of the amount of time spent, just sitting idle on the bus, I might have reconsidered the tour.


Don't get me wrong... it has definitely had its moments of pure fabulousness... but it was also VERY expensive. When you take a close look at all the pieces of the puzzle; driving time, guides, food, activities, information... it all has to add up nicely into your perfect little package of purchase... or the irk of second guessing can unfortunately creep into play.

I did opt for the camping portion of the tour, which was less expensive than the accommodations, but after lengthy days of travel, more often than not, I was most certainly not in the mood to pitch a big, awkward, dirty tent.


Especially in the dark.


Let me tell ya, if anyone remembers my 2019 Africa camping rant... these tents suck.


BIG TIME.


They’re battered relics from WWII.

I am positive.


There are moments we are given opportunities to upgrade from our canvas castles, but the price fluxuates between 'Do-it' and 'Are you f'in kidding me?'


One can certainly get lucky with an inexpensive yurt-like, semi-permanent tent with a cozy double bed, fully functioning electricity... or... the hotel can demand $50+US for a single cot.

The guides? ... well, they're on par with the tents. Actually... given the choice, I'd probably opt for the tent.


Dings and Rims.


They started out strong, but that only lasted about 7 minutes... or less.

Less, probably... actually.


I may be speaking from a bit of a biased angle, but... once again... referencing my 2019 African trip... we had the BEST guides back then. David and Malinga were fabulous.


David was our driver. Malinga was our guide and cook.


Malinga was as enthusiastic about wildlife & guiding as he was about getting to know new people. He would often swap seats with someone on tour, to not only give them the opportunity to sit up front with David, but also for him to come into the back and get to know the gang a bit better. He frequently had interesting facts about the wildlife in the area, with his specialty being insects and birds. He knew almost everything about everywhere we went, ranging from a historical to geographical aspect. If there was something he wasn't sure about, he would scurry off to read up about it and get back to us with more information. He always had an enthralling story to tell, and he was always up for fun photos, a selfie or a great group photo.


He cared about us.

He cared about his job.


Dings?

Nothing. Empty.


There has been nothing informative on this tour, save for the occasional blurt over the loudspeaker of;

"To your left... you can see... sugarcane."

"To your right... a factory... where beer is made and exported."

"On your left... buffalo."

Rims and Dings

At one point, I seriously considered writing down his humdrum interpretive utterings, for comedic purposes, but the thought of actually scripting his indifference bored me to tears.


The funny thing about it is that Dings and Rims hardly had to spend any time with us at all. For the first three days, we were in the Masai Mara... and in addition to the separation of driving and the abnormal (**as well as the unexpected & extravagantly priced) amount of optional activities, they managed to rid themselves of us on quite a few occasions. When there were occasions to spend with us, they opted not to. In a total of 2 weeks, I only saw them mingle with the crew on ONE occasion. ONE TIME! ... in TWO weeks!


To be honest, I actually think Rims has the potential to be a fabulous guide. BUT... if he is not removed from the influence of Ding's leadership soon, it could be extremely detrimental to his career. The wow factor of being a guide has completely left Dings... if he ever had it to begin with. Everything and everyone (meaning all of us on the expensive tour) was an inconvenience to him. I think we disturbed him... and if he had to speak with us, it was in a demeaning, condescending, almost scolding tone...


Dings gets upset whenever we call the Nomad vehicle a 'bus'... so I refer to it as a bus all the time now.


I seriously don't think they even know our names?

No excuses.

No excuses at ALL when we are paying that amount of money.


In addition to the bad guides and the long hours... Nomad tacked on quite a few optional tours that if we wanted to do them, we had to pay a LOT more. Now... normally, I'm ok with paying a little bit extra for something local... but when it starts to morph into a daily occurance on an all-inclusive tour I paid almost $5000 to be on, alarm bells start going off.


$80US each trip to Rwanda.

$80US each trip to visit the Pigmies.

$50US each for a White Rhino walk.

$100US each Northern Safari ~ Queen Elizabeth Park Tour.

$120US each trip to see the tree-climbing lions.

*A few of our crew went and didn't actually see any!

$35US each for a Sunset Cruise on the Nile.

*ONLY cruise. No food or drinks.

$70US each to see the ShoeBill bird in the wild.

$35US each Kampala city walking tour.

$10US each Village tour.

$140US each Rafting trip.


I actually think I'm forgetting some.


Please remember this is in American currency... so if you calculate the lot, it's almost $1000 Canadian... in ADDITION to what I already paid. No way.. I'm too poor!!! At least TRY to make it reasonable for us underprivileged. I was very happy for those that could afford the additional activities, and had no problem dolling out more than they'd actually originally paid... but I still had three more months of travel to consider. The hard part was knowing that if you didn't opt for one of these activities, Nomad had absolutely nothing for you to do instead. So after a day of being confined to your seat on the Nomad bus, you found yourself confined to the accommodation.


No, I would not recommend Nomad again.

It's too bad, as I raved about them before Covid hit.


One on occasion, a bunch of the group had gone off on an activity, while the rest of us poor peasants stayed behind. Any regular guide, attentive to the needs and wants of their crew, would have sought something out in the way of a lovely, enjoyable day... but no. Dings decided it would be a good day to get gas, despite all the free days he had while we were chimp trekking and cruising the Nile. In addition to basically ignoring us all day, he took us to the petrol station for an hour and a half.


Zero effort.

There were some of the crew that were continuing on with Nomad after Nairobi, and I prayed for them that they would be blessed with better guides. More fun. More professional.


Ok... rant over...


But... seriously... they sucked.


At least I saved on tip.

 

Things I’ve noticed thus far...

**I already mentioned litter above, so I can hardly be expected to leave out the rest of my observations!


Humour

I have to admit that I don't really understand African humour. Maybe it's me. It's probably me. More times than not, after a joke, I am left sitting there, feeling very awkward... unsure as to what my next move might be. I can't even pinpoint a particular moment, but I could definitely perform a skit that might work to bring it all together. I find my sarcasm is lost as well, so it's probably a two way street of confusion.

The Boda Bodas... aka Motorcycles

These things are crazy! Where do I start? Ok... Hardly anyone wears a helmet. No one pays the slightest attention to road safety! Is there road safety? NOOO!

Sometimes there can be up to 10 people on ONE bike! The majority of accidents on the roads involve the boda boda, and it's not difficult to figure out why, as they zoom around the road dancing to the beat of their own drum. In 2022, in Tanzania ALONE, 16,000 people lost their lives to these dilapidated little dirt bikes.

I stay away... 1. for fear. 2. my insurance doesn't cover motorcycle accidents. 3. do I really want to squish myself up that close against a stranger? Hmmmm....


Road Safety

Felt like the lack of road safety was the perfect choice to follow the boda boda. Traffic signs, speed limits, road lanes, stop signs, intersection lights... what are those?? What they are is extremely difficult to find. They simply do not exist. Unless you are smack dab in the middle of a larger city, there is nothing in the way of traffic management. Yes, there is an abundance of police officers at roadblock and checkpoints, but I've heard they're all corrupt, so it's not like their priority is really road safety!


Wifi

Don't even get me started...


Toilets / Bathrooms / Washrooms

ALL inaccurate and arguable descriptions when referring to the holes in the ground that we often find ourselves crippled with.

Forceful aim has definitely improved ✔️

*if you're coming to Africa, never go anywhere without toilet paper!


Men

What a topic... we could go all day.

Ok... most of the men you meet are almost too eager to be your friend... almost too passionate in wanting to get to know you, if that makes any sense at all. Laying it on THICK is a good way to categorize, should categorization be necessary. They all want to get your number, and if, God forbid, you do actually give it to them, you have to be fully prepared to be eternally inundated with odd, almost creepy, messages at ALL hours of the day.

The photographer for the Mfereji School had my number so that he could send me some of the photographs from the day. I STILL recieve odd messages from him... at 11pm, 2am and 6am, just saying "Hi."

Super bizarre.

Indescribable, actually.

The creepy tour guide from Zanzibar still sends me messages. "How are you doing, beautiful?" "What are you doing today?"

I don't ever respond, but they don't ever stop.


What it all comes down to... is that everyone is out for a buck.


The boda boda drivers are looking to make money.

The people hitching rides on the boda boda's are looking to save money.

The corrupt police are looking to fill their pockets.

The men... they're always looking for an 'in'... wherever it might be. You could almost consider it "exploring every option" 0r "never letting an opportunity pass you by."


Like I've said before, the Mzungu (white people/us) are walking, talking dollar signs... regardless of how broke we actually are. Take them or leave them, the people are very friendly and the majority of them are just interested in us and want to say hello. No one is coming from a bad place... except maybe the corrupt police officers.


And the damn border patrol!!!


I was curious about Uganda... and their status in regards to 'world's hardest working.' I had heard that Malawi was the world's laziest country, though I do not have any proof of that, whatsoever. I couldn't help but wonder where Uganda fit into this category. There always seems to be a lot of people lazing around, doing absolutely nothing, but sitting in the shade on the side of the road.


Turns out, Ugandans average a work week of 46 hours... who'da thunk?

I would hazard a guess that not everyone completed that census...

Signs

The signs are the best!

I wish I'd made more than a mental note about some of them, because I've forgotten some of the classic doozies.

My favourites so far;

~ Virginity is Health

~ Happiness and More and MORE Bar & Lodge

~ God Heals Drugs Shop

~ Dr. Africa Penis Enlargement

~ Hang Over Clinic

~ The Glocery Store

~ Smart, Fresh Toilets


The Wild, Wild West

Driving down the streets, it's like being thrust back in time... or driving through a wild west movie set. There's the untamed dusty frontier, the open and quite barren landscape and the rugged lands. There's the main street of the small towns, the broken down buildings, the businesses, the saloons, the donkeys...


All that's really missing is a few horses and a good shoot out!

Our Nomad Group

Our Nomad crew was fantastic. Seriously... fabulous.

Everyone got along really well. Our individual weirdness meshed together well and I think our unique personalities managed to compliment each other. Regardless of age, experience, financial standing... as a group, we were one... and it worked!


... except for one person...


There's always ONE...


Let's call her Little Voices.


Little Voices... she's an interesting one. She's socially awkward and I think she invests too much time trying to be accepted, and too little time chilling the f&ck out.


I had been feeling pretty low considering my previous encounters with the Kenya/Uganda border… not to mention my towel thieving accusation among other numerous travelling disasters. The last thing I was in the mood for was the manic of Little Voices. There I was, innocently washing dishes with Rims, when suddenly, she crept up behind me.


“Are you going to Rwanda?” she asked.


I automatically went into my prepared little spiel about how I was planning on visiting Rwanda after the Nomad tour, so wasn't really willing to spend the money to do it twice.

It was a hefty amount.

“Are you going to visit the Pygmies?” was her next question.


There was also the option of doing the Pigmy tour, which I was extremely interested in… until I found out that they aren’t short people anymore.


I then inquired as to whether or not she was doing either tour. No, was her answer. She was planning on remaining at the lodge.


Cool.



I continued washing. I thought our conversation was over.

I thought wrong.


She continued... “I hope I won’t be an inconvenience to you. I heard you don’t want to be stuck with me?”


What???

Seriously... WHAT THE FCK? Where did THIS come from?


I looked straight at her and immediately replied, “I don’t know who would have told you that, but I don’t get stuck with anyone.”



I was curious to know where this bogus bit of gossip has originated, as it hadn't come out of my mouth. Apparently… she overheard it. Awww... those little voices hard at work in her head...

The most fascinating part about this entire yarn is that if it had come right down to it, she would definitely have been the LAST person in the world I'd want to be stuck with, should I have had to have been STUCK with anyone. But, delightfully enough, I actually didn't say a thing! Not one single thing.


She made it all up in her own head. "Overheard."


She then proceeded to lecture me on how much I had hurt her... and how she'd help put a tarp over my tent the other day when it was raining...


I didn't even respond. I didn't have the energy.

Take your bi-polar drama somewhere else…


Beat it...


I kept washing dishes.



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