It’s Day 1 of Explore West. A campaign by Uganda Tourism Board and Talent Africa Group.
The idea is simple. Get 200+ Ugandans on buses. Get some celebrities on board for buzz. Take them to a part of Uganda. Provide transportation with UTB buses, and free entry to the parks. Basically in kind support from the government if they can find a fuel partner. The travellers take care of their food and accomodation. The communities they stay in benefit economically and get exposure. The internet gets flooded with content of Uganda’s beauty. More Ugandans want to go and outside tourism also booms. Win win all around.
The FOMO is real. I last did one of these group bus trips sometime last year. To Okere City. The home of Okere Shea Butter, my fave. Day 1 program said set off from the Uganda Museum was 9 am. I’m there by 8.30. We set off around 10.30 am. I should have known.
While waiting, I see Golola Moses of Uganda. He looks like he hasn’t had his coffee – or whatever Golola takes to have his morning kick – yet. I’ll say hi later. I see Salvador. He’s carrying the dad-bod movement on his shoulders. I see some beauty queens. My heart melts and my mind writes poetry. I don’t see Sheila Gashumba. Not sure what value she adds to my life but I feel cheated.
Speeches are made. We jump on the buses and off we goo!! As it turns out, I have been assigned to the noise makers bus. Why does this always happen. I’m so humble. They have whistles. My poor ears. My theory is whistles should only be used when they are accompanied by other noise, preffarably louder. Like Amapiano music, or fans cheering in the stadium. Anyway, ffe abalina vibuu. Vibuu is to be enjoyed. I adjust mentally. I hadn’t finished some pending work so I spend the first part of the journey on my phone being anti-social. If only I’d stayed home till 10. I blame the Ugandan time.
First stop is the Equator. Our group floods the road and causes jam. We even have a lead police car by the way. The cops hold traffic while we cross the road to take Equator pictures. There’s a massive mobile speaker blasting vibuu into the air. Tiktoks are shot. Snaps are snapped. Grams. Tweets. Books. The world must know how much fun we are having on a Wednesday morning while the rest of them are at work. A drone flies by. Tunulila filimu.
Next stop is Lukaya. We swarm the roadside market and buy all their chicken, gonja, kaloli… The Bluetooth speaker is faithfully by our side. Some twerking and dubs go down. Golola addresses the Lukaya citizens. The drone flies by. I get kikoko and gonja, no kaloli please. I also support the urinal business. Trickle down economics. Pun is purely accidental.
Next up is the Igongo Cultural Center in Mbarara. One group goes to tour Lake Mburo National Park. Lucky them. Can’t believe I’ve never been. Kasta I am attending a destination wedding there soon. Owaye, even me this is my first National Park wedding. Middle class oyee.
We arrive at Igongo. I like this place. It is the perfect welcome into Mbarara City. As if first come and learn about us before entering the territory. That’s what she said. We go and learn. Such a dope historical resource. I missed the tour though. I was still on my phone finishing up some work. But I’ve done the museum tour before so I know what I’m talking about. Drop by if you are ever on that road. And the rest of the facility is just as lovely.
I look up from my phone and realise everyone has disappeared. Eh. I see them in the distance climbing the hill across the road to the Eclipse Monument. This is the part I was looking forward to. I engage mukiga mode and run up the hill. I take sweaty photos as I learn about the fascinating history of the April 17th 1520 AD eclipse on geo politics at the time. Ray G is also spotted in the vicinity.
We get to Mbarara and I take a boda to the camping grounds, Ntare Gardens. Yeah, I’m going full full adventure mode for this one I set up my tent but no other campers show up. A list of hotels for different price ranges had been shared earlier. I guess folks opted for soft life. Punks. More space for me I guess.
I head to the after party at Shooters. The place is packed but narry a soul is dancing. There’s football on the screen. The place is still warming up. I sense fatigue in the system. I grab a Rolex and head to my tent. Let me leave the dancefloor for the youngins. Party will be attempted tomorrow in Queen Elizabeth.