April 21, 2014

Heading East – Mbale

More on my African trip last year. We had hired a car in Kampala for a few days through Road Trip Uganda. I found this company really good to deal with, as well as very reasonably priced. They responded to all of my queries really quickly and I had no problems at all with them. They also supplied camping equipment with the car. We actually didn’t end up using any of the camping equipment bar the cutlery and crockery, but I guess if it had have been peak season (I was there end of May) it may have been useful. Unfortunately it looked like somebody had been on safari before us and the car’s radiator was absolutely covered in grass seeds. Once we’d cleaned that up a bit, the air con started to work a little better!

The road to Mbale close to dusk

The road to Mbale close to dusk

Our plan was to head out past Jinja toward Mbale and Sipi in the east of Uganda, to tour around there for a few days, then head back. It was all about taking our time and stopping where ever and whenever for photos or interesting things. We got the day off to a good start by stopping at the Jinja road house for some lunch. I must admit I was fairly amazed to see that this place existed. I had all but given up hope of ever seeing a fast food type place in Uganda! However, not only could you choose from a menu, you could choose from the pre cooked buffet of fried food, as well as shop for a limited amount of groceries, petrol and of course ice cream and as an added bonus, they also had clean and free toilets! I was most impressed – not that I’m a big fan of fried or fast food normally 🙂

Lush vegetation

Lush vegetation

On the way to Mbale there’s a large swamp/marsh area where the Mpologoma River runs through. There’s not much room to pull up on the side of the road, but we did and spent quite a while taking in the sights of the swampy marsh. It’s a large flat area, with plenty of lush vegetation. It would be great to grab a canoe or tinnie and explore the area a bit more. Juliet took that many photos she flattened two batteries in the space of a few hours, something I hadn’t even managed to do!


Juliet shot a hunter

Upon reaching Mbale, we found a place called Vistors Inn. This must have been fairly new. It was clean, comfortable and just off the main road so it was fairly quiet. It was meant to have hot water, but Juliet and I are still waiting. Mike did find some in his room one night, so it does exist. There’s a few different sized rooms, 40,000UGX (about $16AUD when I was there) for a large room down to 20,000GX for a small room. Even the small room comes with a separate bathroom and a tv. If you can, grab a room with a balcony. An excellent find and highly recommended.

The view from the balcony

The view from the balcony

Although they had a restaurant downstairs, they were out of most things, so we took to the streets to find something to eat. The streets certainly came alive at night and were absolutely buzzing. There were people everywhere, shops and restaurants were open and there were stalls selling everything you could think of. We found a restaurant serving local (Ugandan) food. It looked busy, so using that theory, we thought it must be ok. Not this time. That was fairly ordinary even by African standards, so what could we do but head some where looking for ice cream to salvage something of the meal! While wandering around, we ran into some Americans who were over there doing some volunteer work (I forget who for). It was good to have a chat with them and good to know that they also faced many of the problems that other foreigners face while working in Uganda.

Visitors Inn - Highly recommended

Has anyone seen the Visitors In??

In what must be an absolute first, when we decided to head back both Mike and I had completely lost our sense of direction and had no idea where our place was – and worse still, what it was actually called. We were sure it was down “this” street, but each street came up blank. Juliet, a Ugandan, did her best to help out. She stopped some of the locals and asked for directions (and had also though to take a look at her key which had the hotel name on it), but she quickly learned that her dialect of Lugandan was a totally different dialect to what they spoke here. While I shouldn’t laugh, it was funny watching her and the locals struggle to communicate and she quickly learned what it’s like to be in a place where nobody speaks your language. We knew we weren’t far away, but in desperation we gave up and asked a couple of boda boda riders to take us there. We negotiated a price, knew we were still being ripped off and jumped on. Seriously, they drove us about 100m round the corner to our hotel! We had a good laugh with them about it and they enjoyed their easy cash.


Blog at