Latest from the blog

20.04.2011 - Mali – Home

Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..

Nairobi to Uganda and beyond

August 12th, 2010

After a month of niggling delays we are back on the move again



We spent all day at the DHL office in town trying to find a way to collect Tom’s package, which still hadn’t arrived. The package was expected to be held in customs, who had shut for the next two days due to the referendum.

 As we now have dates to meet friends in South Africa, we were very keen to get on the road and get moving so were determined to do everything in our power to leave on Tuesday. Eventually, after hours of hassling, we left on first name terms with the DHL manager with assurances we could collect the package first thing the following morning from the airport, as they had cleared it through Customs before it had even landed!


We prepared to leave Nairobi, after running around for the package. . We took one of the friendly teachers, Mr Arran, on the drive to the airport, as the parcel was listed in his name to avoid heavy bribes at Customs.

As we drove, he explained that the British are in fact very popular with most Kenyans, despite historic differences. This was a view supported by many of the Kenyans we have met, who feel they can better connect/understand British people, rather than other nationalities. Colonial times are not a sore topic either; many Kenyans we spoke to felt that the Empire set the country on the correct footing.

On arrival at the DHL airport office, we had a nervous wait whilst Arran worked his magic with the guards. After a quick chat, he emerged triumphant, package in hand. We even managed to get away without paying import duty or any bribes! Hurrah!

We had had a lovely time in Nairobi, eating far too much (mainly thanks to Georges cake baking) and the hospitality and friendliness of all the Kenyans we met was just something else. Throughout our stay, everyone went out of their way to make us feel at home at the school and the guys at City Panel Beaters left us in disbelief and very humbled, after fixing the car for free.

We said goodbye to George and, after a long debate about where to aim for, we decided to stay the night one the shore of Lake Baringo in the heart of the Rift Valley that evening, then get to the Rwandan border the next day.

 We drove to Lake Baringo and camped on the shore. Saw crocs and heard hippos snorting as night closed in, but no sightings. Mossies were everywhere, congregating in menacing malarial masses around the nightlights.

This was also our first experience of the big overland trucks, as there were several parked up in the campsite. Surprisingly (and disappointingly) all of the Overland guests we saw on the two trucks present were over 50! Tom was left questioning; where are the young, nubile, athletic, freelovin’ Aussie women damnit?!



                From Baringo, we were back on tarmac but the potholed road, as well as the large unmarked tarmac speed bumps, spoilt the first section of perfect road since Ethiopia. Thankfully we didn’t hit any bumps hard, but the brake pads are a bit smaller!

The route to the border with Uganda was certainly scenic. We climbed a lot, with the truck beginning to overheat due to the altitude. Thankfully with a flick of a switch the kenlowe fan kicked in and that put an end to the issues. Up at 2,300m (somewhere over 7000 ft), we crested the range of hills and headed back down towards Uganda..

As fuel is supposed to be cheaper in Kenya than Uganda, we filled the tank and jerry cans to use up our remaining shillings. We reached the border late, having stopped for a final beef stew and rice lunch, whilst catching up with the referendum result.

At the border, we were descended upon by touts, wanting to ‘help’ with paperwork and ‘chang-er money’. Lots of paperwork which Tom had to complete as usual, as the car is in his name. Thankfully we were through in under an hour, possibly our fastest time for border crossing, and pressed on immediately hoping to find somewhere to stay before dark. Unmarked speed bumps a continuing theme in Uganda. Hmm.

Reading up on the infamous recent history of this country, it was amazing to see how many smiles were all around. Uganda might have had more than its fair share of trials and tribulations, but the people here are anything but self pitying.



Having crossed the border late, we tried to find a place to camp rather than drive to Kampala in the dark. We managed to negotiate a cheap rate to camp at the back of a luxury hotel. Within a few minutes one of the members of staff came by to check we were ok.

We asked him where we could buy some veg for dinner and he insisted that he show us the market so that we could get reasonable prices. For the grand total of £3 we returned 40 minutes later bearing garlic, lettuce, carrots, rice, cucumber and onions.

We got on with cooking, grateful for having big fences all around and armed guards so we could relax a lot more than we would have been able to when wild camping.



After getting up and getting on the road late, we eventually arrived at the Backpackers Lodge in Kampala after zigzagging backstreets to avoid the miles and miles of tale backs.

Whilst sitting in traffic we reflected that, whilst Africans seem happy to drive within millimetres of each others bumpers and cut each other up horrendously, no-one uses the horn to demonstrate irritation. Even when someone is clearly irate, and gesticulating wildly, even pulling a ridiculous overtaking manoeuvre to make a point still there is no use of the horn.

After schooling some of the fellow guests at the pool table, we were convinced to head out to a local club with the staff and had our first proper look at Kampala, having only seen backstreets before – some parts of this city are very very modern!


We chilled out Saturday, a little tired from the night before and spent most of the day sending emails, taking full advantage of the luxury that is free Wifi!

Meanwhile Tom slept for 6 hours throughout the afternoon. That afternoon, our friendly hostel worker Freddy wandered over and cooked alongside us, amazing us with his curried vegetables and then placing multiple beers in front of each of us. Legend.


Up late and headed to Kampala museum. Like many other national museums we have visited it was a bit of a disappointment, clearly lots of artefacts but poor display arrangements. No overall themes, just random ‘bits’.

From there we went shopping, carrying it home on a ‘boda boda’ – a motorbike taxi which can carry anywhere up to four people. Before you ask, no these are just standard 100cc motorbikes. Very dangerous but the only realistic way of getting about in the city without sitting in traffic for literally hours on end.  Back to camp and cooked with Freddy once again; he summoned up a sumptuous red Thai curry.

That evening, we sat around with fellow travellers, having some beers and shooting the shit. A nice way to end a great few days in Kampala.


We got everything packed away within a couple of hours, with the usual routine of checking levels completed and got the car running nice and early as the batteries were right down to 6%, the lowest we have had them.

The engine audibly complained as it stared but thankfully after stationary running for half an hour it sounded happy again, as usual. We said out goodbyes to the chaps at Backpackers, especially Freddie and Evelyn, and got moving.

A few wrong turns on the way out of town took us though a fairly mental market, with boda-boda’s charging around in every direction and people waling through the traffic left, right and centre.

However, as has been noticeable in the rest of Uganda, no one paid us the slightest bit of attention. No one stopped to stare, no one asked us for money, no one tried to flog us miscellaneous tat or large-scale maps of Africa or random fruit. Brilliant!

We had been put in touch with Stuart from Uganda Volunteers for Peace by a friend of Carl’s brother, Jonathan Dando, who had said we might be able to pop in and visit Kiyumbakimu Children’s Village on our route South to Rwanda. This is a 3 year old orphanage which houses, feeds and educates 20 young children.

We had yet to see true village life in Uganda so we very keen to visit the children, but also because we wanted to see and support such interesting projects.

. It has always been an aim of ours to try and break up the trip from just being about ourselves and the journey, for example we loved our time at the Embrace orphanage in Gondar and working with Link Ethiopia so the opportunity to visit another extremely worthwhile cause was one we didn’t want to miss.

Stuart insisted that we must stay in one of the villages houses that night, not outside in the rooftent. After a huge bowl of local lunch (sweet potato, rice, bean stew and pork) we hit the road South, curving round Lake Victoria. Before we knew it had crossed the Equator for the 3rd time on the trip.

After several hours, we turned off the main tarmac road and found ourselves on a very smooth bright red dirt road, going deep into the countryside to the Children’s village.

The orphanage currently cares for 21 children, all of varying ages. They were trilled to see us and welcomed us with piping hot tea and a round-robin sing-a-long, which was brilliant. We were then treated to a traditional dinner of boiled matoke and sauce. Quite plain, but good.

We had, by chance, arrived same time as 3 new orphanage volunteers. Two of these newbies will stay for one year, living on site amongst the kids.

With two adult mothers, a few cows, chickens, on site teaching facilities, a lot of surrounding space and a bed each, the project is a shining example of how children who have been born into misfortune can still have a structured and fulfilling upbringing.

Instantly, we could see that these kids were desperately happy to have visitors, with no interest in seeing what they could get out of us; a real pleasure and an atmosphere which instantly made us feel at ease. It must also be said that Stuart is a lovely guy and John D is still clearly amazingly popular with all.

Having spoken to various volunteers along our journey over the last few months, we have found a recurring theme of some African projects becoming entirely dependant on foreign aid. In some cases, this even extended to requests for materials and supplies which, in all likelihood, were not essential.

However, as with Link Ethiopia, there was not a chance of this happening here. The onsite well, cows and chickens, farmland and local project support all help to make this a financially sustainable project. Clearly the adults involved are all in it for the love of the children, which was fantastic to see.

As we cruised through Uganda, with is raw red soil and lush emerald hillsides broiling with banana trees, teeming with tea plantations, we have decided that this is a brilliant example of an African country having come through hardship and yet prospering. The country seems so efficient and well run compared to some other countries we have been through.

Additionally, both here and in Kenya, there is at least some sense of road safety. People look before crossing the road, tie up animals which graze near roads and don’t walk along the tarmac unless absolutely necessary. Simple stuff, but its saving lives here and saving us from an early heart-attack related death!


We were up nice and early to empty the truck so we could refit a plastic hub cover which had blown off during the previous days drive. Despite an attempted early start at 7.30, we were beaten in the race out of bed by the kids, who had left for school at 6am!

We had tea with the new volunteers and foster mother and, after long goodbyes and heartfelt best wishes, we took some photos and headed back to the main road.

After an hour of breathing dust we rejoined the tarmac road and pressed on to the border, managing a comfortable 55 mph, but for the occasional huge potholes and yet more unmarked speed bumps.

We made it to the border by 4pm and got into the usual routine of Carl waiting with the car, ready to move on to the next section of immigration or customs as soon as given a wave, and Tom off running between offices completing the paperwork because he has the misfortune of having the car registered in his name.

For the second time in less than a week we were through in less than an hour and started clocking up our first miles in Rwanda, reading the guide book as we went and reminding ourselves why this country is famous for all of the wrong reasons.

Past events aside, it seems a very pretty, picturesque and pleasant country, very small and very hilly. The road from the border was reminiscent of the Alpine road we took to visit our friend Paul at Riders Retreat way back in Europe, four and a half months ago. Up and down we drove, accelerating and braking through constant twists and turns, along the 60 miles it took to reach Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

So, here we are in another country we never thought we would end up in, more than comfortable in the ‘camping section’ (car park) of a local hotel and eager to get out there and see the place.

First impressions are that this is now one of the more developed African countries out there, with high prices evident all around us. Whilst the events of the infamous 100 days of incomprehensible bloodletting in 1994 are no doubt still very raw for many, we feel it would be wrong to come here and ignore some of the museums and displays about the genocide.

Thus, for the next couple of days, we plan to visit a choice few sites, in order to gain more of an insight into this notorious nations near-past. We are both a little apprehensive as we know it will be chilling, but feel we should go. Until then, thanks for reading.

Issues with wordpress at this end so more photos are here.

  • Riders Retreat - mountain bike holidays in Morzine
  • Land Rover Experience
  • Watling Tyres
  • Draper Tools
  • Brit Part
  • hel
  • Koni
  • aalx designs
  • Bradt Travel Guids
  • Map Vivo
  • Antares - engineering with answers
  • EBC Brakes
  • Sentry Safes
  • Twisted Performance
  • X Eng
  • challenger 4x4
  • Goodwinch
  • K and N
  • Kenlowe
  • Waeco
  • Polybush
  • MM 4x4 Land Rover
  • Keith Gott
  • comma
  • Stigs stainless fastners
  • Tracmat
  • Alli Sport
  • BOSCH - invendted for life
  • Allparts - number 1 in car parts
  • Proppa
  • Goodyear 4x4
  • Aaron Radiator
  • Sign a rama
  • better Prepared
  • Devon 4x4
  • foley specialist vehicles
  • Labcraft LED lighting
  • Mammouth Premium
  • Plastor
  • Exmoor Trim
  • Terrafirma
  • sound reduction systems
  • aquarius
  • Master Lock
  • P and O Ferries
  • Dixon Bate
  • hibiscus
  • Ring Automotive
  • Roverland