Drive Uganda 1: Countdown to 100,000 Miles

In the mid-90s my wife, children, and I lived in Jinja, Uganda and worked with a church planting team, what is now more identified in the United States as The Kibo Group. I often wrote about my adventures and misadventures in and around Jinja. Here I wrote about the fascinating sites and sounds along the roads in Uganda.

It was a big day.  I would be preaching in Buvulunguti, Uganda village where a church started recently.  And our ’92 Toyota pickup’s odometer would roll to 100,000 kilometers on the way to that village.

IMG_9874One-hundred-thousand is a vehicle’s rite of passage, and we males actually bond with the hunk of steel as the 99999 rolls over.  You scoff, ‘Kilometers!’  Mind you, there are more bone-rattling potholes and vehicle-crunching bumps in one African kilometer than in 100 miles on most U.S. roads.

The odometer reads 99938 as I begin, and I make a mental note to watch for the important event during the drive. Driving in Uganda is rarely boring or uneventful.  I zoom by a biker with a 20-pound Nile Perch from Lake Victoria laying across the back of his bicycle.  A goat, tied next to the road, strains for a blade of grass just out of its reach.

I brake for a few pennies worth of ripe bananas.  Ugandan fast food. 99945.  Speed zones don’t exist but I slow down when I see hundreds of school children in purple, blue, or yellow uniforms, according to their school. 99958.  A man is walking and balancing a bed frame upright on his bike.  Another man is lugging 50 large baskets to the nearest town.  I stop, count the baskets, buy 13 of them.

Hundreds of others carry on their bikes 200-pound sacks of corn, coffee, potatoes, beans, homemade charcoal.  I pass a man pedaling at a snail’s pace with one woman on front and one woman on the back of his bike. 99977.  Rice is plump and ready to harvest.  Would-be school boys chase crows from the rice with slingshots.  I try to avoid a chicken in the road…don’t ask. 99993.

Two young girls walk arm in arm.  On his bike, a man is carrying a dead body, wrapped in cloth.  A truck is parked in my lane with a flat tire.  I think about my flat tires:  the broken bike pedal that pierced my tire, the time when one spare tire was not enough, the interesting and creative way Ugandan mechanics break down a tire with crowbars, while I watch, cringe, and finally appreciate their work–well, most of the time.

I check the odometer for the roll over . . .  100007.  I missed it! I missed the moment! Or did I?

What are some of the interesting things you’ve seen on your journeys?

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