Someone said that if you can drive in Uganda then you can drive anywhere in the world. Our roads are the ultimate road test. With their constantly materializing potholes, a driver must have more than just bare driving school knowledge. They must have a sixth or even seventh sense to know that even if there was no pothole yesterday in this place, there is now so deal with it….
On the hierarchy of hell rides, just below the loaf-like death traps we call our taxis are the bikes. We have taxi motor bikes and we call them bodabodas. Now if you want to die without feeling guilty that the Big G is going to skin you once you get to the Pearly Gates for pulling the plug too soon, get a job as a bodaboda rider. That way, when the end comes (and it will come soon. But by the time it comes you’ll be dead anyway) you wont be responsible for what happens.
For some obscure reason, I let someone talk me into sitting on one of these things. It was evening and we had to be someplace early. A friend was getting married and his men friends were getting together to send him off in style. We had to give him advice, tell him what to expect and (since none of us is married) try to get him to tell us what it feels like to be on the verge of Going Down. I also wanted to see if there would be a stripper like for real as I have heard that it is becoming common in Ug for guys to hire strippers for such parties. But that is a whole new area which we can put off for another time. Really obscure, no?
We got bikes at Wandegeya. It was rush hour and that made it easier for Enos to convince me to get on because if we had sat in one of the taxis, we would have gotten to Kawempe after two hours. The jams in Kampala are another wonder of the city, something a tourist can come down to see, y’know. The guys said they’d take us for Sh.1000 and we said that’s fine. But it was not fine for me because already, I was thinking of all the guys I know of who have had bad experiences with bodabodas.
So I was there holding onto the metals on my seat and sending up prayers as my driver weaved in and out of traffic, dodging oncoming taxis whose drivers didn’t know the first thing about the Highway Code (do we even have one?).
My friend is an old hand at this thing, he told me. At rush hour in Kampala it is better for you to stay at office and blog, read other people’s blogs or just comment. You can also go benching in Box, only that that game is now so old, you might find yourself colliding with your son in a chick’s room.
Enos told me that he usually gets a bike and goes home in half the time, at twice the cost. But he doesn’t mind. That explains why he was talking to his driver about whatever as they flew towards Bwaise. I was astonished. The guy was sitting there like he was in a sofa back home. I bet he got to know the boda guy’s name and address.
I have never been one to warm up immediately to strangers. I have a problem even with ‘Spesho’ drivers because once we agree on how much he will extract from me, I fall silent with my thoughts. It’s not like I don’t think they are capable of intelligent conversation but work with me here.
Anyway, when I opened my eyes, I was miraculously there. I had not died. But even as I thought about that, another image entered my head. I thought of all the guys who are lying in the casualty ward at Mulago Hospital who met their fate on bodabodas. I think I shall continue dodging these hell rides for long. And since there was no stripper, next time I won’t even bother to answer when a guy calls and says, “Come for the bachelor’s party.”