Last time I was in Africa, I was a typical tourist. I spent most of my time on safaribusses to see wild animals and the most famous sights the countries had to offer. This time, Im on my own. There are no tours, no guides and no prebooked accomodation or transport. This time I want to see more of the real Africa. The unpolished, rough and true part.
I have been here for about a week now, and have spent most of my time in Ugandas capital, Kampala. I have been working at the office during the day, and living the backpacker life in the evenings. I have spent most of my time with other backpackers, but on friday I was lucky enough to join a local to the market. It was supposed to be like a small tour for people at the hostel, but as nobody else showed up, I had Jessica all to myself. She took me through a massive market. The market was busy, colourful, and so much fun to see.
After, she asked if I wanted to go for a walk. I of course said yes. Suddenly I got to see what was behind the colourful market. A large, poor slum, covered in trash and dirt. People sitting outside their shed of a house, watching me and Jessica walk by. Beautiful children running around, playing and smiling. It was such a contrast. The conditions were hesrtbreaking, but somehow everyone kept smiling and waving to us. Jessica looked really classy. She had a bright blue dress, matching earrings, nice jewlery and clean, white shoes. Suddely she asked me if it was ok if we stopped by her house. We walked into one of the slum backyards. A dirty backyard with four children playing around, looking at me with large brown eyes. Never would I’ve imagened that someone like Jessica actually lived there. It was a bit of a shock, but I realised this was the normal way to live here. All the workers at the hostel probably lived in this area too. That was hard to take in.
Im going to stay in Uganda for two weeks. The reason I´m here is that Im volunteering for a Norwegian owned solar energy company called SUNami Solar. Its purpose is to provide solar power as a way to help people make their own living.
It´s a great concept, and it`s so exciting to see how solar power can be used to change someones world. Their main client base are people living in African villages with little or no access to electricity. They basically install solar panels on peoples roofs, and try to help them start or improve their own business. They provide lightbulbs, charging stations for phones and appliances to generate income, such as a water-pump for a farmer, cooler-box for a storeowner, a shaver to start a hairdressing business. Many also earn money from charging their neighbours mobiles. The typical client earns about 2-4 dollars per day, and pay back a small amount every day through mobile money. This way the initiative will become a self-sustaining business. If the client stop paying, the electricity from the panel is turned off until they pay.
This past week, I have been at the office in Kampala every day. I have spent most of my time learning about the project and preparing for this upcoming week. This week I am staying in a city called Mbale, and will be visiting clients in the nearby villages all week. Its been interessting at the office, but I am really looking forward to get out in the field and see how this project really works.
Getting to Mbale was a long trip, so I desided to break it up a bit. Early saturday morning, me and some friends from the hostel went to a small town called Jinga. A beautiful place known as the origin of the Nile river. We spent an amazing weekend there, kayaking and swimming on the Nile. In the evening we took a «sunset cruise» on the river and danced all night long with the locals and other tourists at the campsite. An absolutely amazing weekend!
After a great breakfast at the camp, I had to figure out how to get to Mbale. Uganda is not like home. There are no busstops or normal taxies or ubers once you get out of the capital.
So when you are litterally in the middle of nowhere, the only form of transportation is on the back of a random persons motorbike. Thats what Uganda is like.
Its beautiful, sandy, green and rough. It has the most insane nature, animal life and the sweetest people. However, its defiently a challenge to be here without a tour group to rely on.
So my only option was to get on the back of a motorbike. It took me to a place in town where minibusses stop. There are no schedules. Just complete chaos and a lot of people. They just go once they think the minibus is full enough. I went over to a guy and asked for Mbale. I was quickly moved into a minibus that was already super crowded. We had to wait for even more people get in, before it started driving. Im pretty sure we were more than 20 people in a 10 seater. I had a kid on top of me, and 4 other people squeezed into the same three seats. A baby was screaming (couldnt blame him) but the «driver assistant» kept on trying to get more people in. It was all just a funny experience. It felt like a clown-car. Obviously I was the only outsider there. People kept screaming MOSONGO everytime they saw me, (That apparently means a white person) and I felt like some kind of exotic brid for them to watch. Still, they were all super nice and welcoming.
After a 3 hour bumpy ride I finally reached the destination. Mbale. The second biggest city in Uganda. I didn’t get a good vibe at the first impression. There are no backpacker hostels, so I was going to stay at a guesthouse called Casa Del Turista. The minibus dropped everyone of, and I started walking towards the guesthouse, following my offline map. I walked and I walked. 32 degrees outside, trash everywhere I looked, dirtroads and people sitting on the streets. I felt like I was walking through the slum again. Definetly not a pretty city. Everyone looked at me as I walked by, some screaming MOSONGO or HEY BABY. I kept on walking until the map said I was there, but I couldn’t find any guesthouse. It all just looked like a trashy slum, and after walking around for a long time, I was desperate to get of the streets. I desided to go into the nearest cheap hotel. I rented a room just so I could get wifi access to check google maps. Then I quietly left the key and snook out on my way to the place I originally booked. I did not want to stay the night in that place.
Finally I found it, and all was good! I got a good night sleep( even though it was way to warm), and now I’m eating breakfast. I will get picked up on a motorbike by the sales rep from Sunami Solar soon. Its going to be an interesting week!
Stay tuned! And follow my instagram for daily picture updates @skaatans.