Wednesday, 14 April 2010


Rain is to Kampala what a snow storm is to Washington, DC. Yesterday the heavens opened around the time most people head home. As you can imagine, traffic was horrible. For those like me who don’t drive (yet, I’d like to imagine. Kidding, I have a chauffeur-not! Well, matatu, taxi and boda bodas drivers). I figured if I called my regular cab guy to come pick me and drop me off at home it might take as much time as it would have taken to walk to City Square and board a matatu to my hood.

Trouble with matatus here is that they are not numbered. You know only know it’s going your route if the conductor is shouting the name of the place that’s in the general direction where you are going, or and pointing right, left or straight ahead. In most cases, shouting and pointing. Pretty confusing if you are new. For instance, if you are standing on Kampala Road, a conductor pointing straight ahead may be going to Bweyogere/Mukono/Seeta or Bweyogerere/Kireka/Banda. Left indicates Nakawa/Ntinda while right indicates Luzira/Bugolobi. At the matatu stage in my hood, they straight ahead is for to the new Park/Kampala Road/Fido Dido. You have to be keen with this one because they can take different roads there, but rest assured, you’ll at least get back on Kampala Road at the Esso Corner – does Esso still exist? The ones going to the Old Taxi Park point left and shout as much.
So jana after work, I went to City Square. The place was over-crowded, with very few matatus, all full. Most were going to what I then christened my rival hood. I walked up Kampala Road towards King Fahd Plaza and took shelter near Shell. And that’s where I was till my matatu caEventually, my matatu came, and charged us 1UGX 1,500 instead of the usual 1,000, which I understand because I think they make fewer rounds when it’s wet. I got home slightly after 9pm.

Watching and listening to what direction the matatus take has got me thinking; it wouldn’t take long to designate route numbers to all the Kampala neighbourhoods and get matatus to adopt.

On the other hand, Ugandans are way ahead of Kenyans in terms of street numbering. Most plots in Kampala are numbered. When you need a physical location, you write the Plot Number and the Road. E.g. PKW Ltd, Plot 2 PKW Road, That Hill, Kampala. Not so in Nairobi. It’s more like, That Road, opposite that Petrol Station, next to that Church, at the intersection between these two Roads, behind that Building, formally known as that other Building etc etc. Pretty confusing.
Today I had a bit of trouble locating an office because the plot numbers were pretty straight forward till the one I couldn’t find the one I was looking. There was 215-----211 then 165. The business I was looking for is not easily recognizable. But it didn’t take long to get to them-I called the guy and he told me to go up the road from the Police Station that is at an intersection.

Kampala can teach Nairobi a thing.