Feb 18
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I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love sightseeing, I make it a point to try and do as much as I can while on holiday. When I found out Kampala has got itself a brand spanking new tour bus, I had to check it out. The Kampala sightseeing bus is the FIRST of its kind in East &Central Africa! We out here pioneering people! It’s been operational for about 2 months offering a variety of tour packages in and around Kampala as well as outside the city. The one day packages include the City sightseeing tour, Tulambule city guided tour, The unforgettable Kampala experience, Source of the Nile tour, Equator Safari, Entebbe Wildlife and Buganda Village Tour.

Yesterday, with The Pearl of Africa Tourism Expo, the ticket prices, normally at 100,000ugx for East Africans were discounted to 25,000ugx, hell of a bargain. The tour in question was of the 7 original hills of Kampala that’s about 4 hours max. Departure times for the bus are 9:00am and 2:00pm, I opted for the latter. I was at Sheraton, the start off point by 1:40pm.The bus is very impressive.There it was gleaming in the sun, all double Decker like.

 Inside, it was very clean and in mint condition. The only eyesore is those weird made in China placards on the back of the seats which are a great opportunity for advertising I thought, I was informed at the end of the trip, they were going to be replaced the next day…yeah right!

Now I was pretty sure there was no way that bus was going to leave on time, but just in case I got shocked I got there early, got me a nice seat and waited, sure enough I was right. At 2:15,the driver turned on the engine, revved it a bit and …..Nothing!, it reminded me of primary school trips, the driver would start the engines, get us all excited, have us chanting “Driver kiki ekibaddewo?” only to depart a whole hour later! We loved it! That’s just how it went. We did set off at about 2:40pm,(not bad) and the adventure began. Our guide for the day was Twaha ,he was really good at his job, informative which I know is a given for a guide and  conversational in his dialogue which kept me engaged and interested, I liked that in some instances he used Luganda to narrate stories.

After a brief history on the Sheraton (formerly Apollo) hotel, we set off for the 7 hills: Nakasero, Mengo, Rubaga, Namirembe, Old(Oludi as I’ve heard some pronounce it) Kampala ; Makerere and Kololo hills. They all had fascinating histories that I’ll get into in the next post, for now; let’s focus on the Bus and its routes.

We set off going passed the Independence monument, a large concrete sculpture commemorating Uganda getting her independence, a new country born free from the bondages of colonialism. We took different roads going round the city, passed different hotels like Grand Imperial, The Serena, The national theatre, Parliament, onto Kampala road which it being a Sunday wasn’t jam packed. We saw the Muteesa monument the oldest of its kind, I’m sure I’ve gone up and down that road so many times, can’t say I’d ever paid it that much attention to be honest. Then it was off down Entebbe road, passed Shoprite, pausing at the lights, idle and always disorderly Boda boda men, cat called, insulted and made their usual useless comments, all in a day’s work for them anyway. We did get different reactions for people down below, some were amazed by the bus; waving, others were having none of it while others could not be bothered. People watching should be a sport or something. After clock tower we headed towards Katwe passing what used to be one of Amin’s torture chambers. Katwe is the home of Madina Nalwanga whose life story is the inspiration for the Disney movie ‘Queen of Katwe’. Haven’t watched it, don’t see myself doing so anytime soon.

We made it to the second hill, Mengo going passed Kabaka’s lake, the biggest manmade lake in Uganda, commissioned by Kabaka Mwanga who enjoyed fishing and water activities. It was dug by the 52 clans of the Buganda tribe,Mwanga,wanting to connect the lake with Victoria had them dig what was to be an 11km channel for said purpose ,unfortunately, with the horrific number of deaths associated with the project, the subjects rebelled, forcing him into exile and with that, the project was never completed. Then it was onto the Kabaka’s palace, then down Kabaka Anjagala road and the Ntawetwa monument.

On Rubaga hill, we stopped off at Rubaga cathedral which has an epic view of Kampala city. Namirembe hill then Old Kampala that houses the National Gadaffi mosque as well as Fort Lugard. We had a brief stop at Javas for a bathroom break and snacks.

Makerere hill saw us drive through Makerere University; in there we could see Mulago referral hospital as well as Bahai temple.

Heading to the final hill,Kololo,we drove through Wandegeya going by its market, a KCCA initiative meant to deal with the large numbers of street vendors in the city,Wandegeya looks so different without all the chaotic,rolex vendors,”T.V” chicken hawkers and 24 hours restaurants that were the place to call it a night after a ragger. If you never experienced that, well...sorry.

We drove passed Kitante, and then down John Babiha/Acacia Avenue, the tour ended with the Kololo airstrip and Independence grounds.

Through the trip Twaha gave us informed history on all the hills, a legend or two here and there and tit bits of how places got their names. We were also offered complimentary bottles of cold water. With the tour over, it was down Lugogo bypass, onto Jinja road, passed Electoral commission which back in Amin’s regime was referred to as “The Yard” as that is where all government employees parked their cars at the end of the working day. We made our way back to our starting point officially ending the tour.

I absolutely loved this tour; this is a great way for foreigners moving to the country and tourists alike to familiarize themselves with city. For us locals, it’s a fun way to spend some time. Having done this on a Sunday I think it’s the best time to do it, no traffic and the city is pretty empty.

Thank you Twaha and Promote Uganda Safaris for a wonderful trip. I’m really proud of that bus! Uganda’s going places, be part of the movement