Thursday, 31 May 2012

Boda-Boda (moped taxis)

I've had many interesting days since I’ve been here, but today was probably the most interesting of all. I had my first experience riding a Boda-Boda. You may be wondering what is  a Boda-Boda and what is so interesting about it.

Boda-Boda, motorcycle-taxi, are one of the most popular ways of getting around in Uganda. So-called because they originated as bicycles with large panniers, used for smuggling goods across borders by rural footpaths. Now, replaced by mopeds and motorcycles, they are a convenient form of suburban transport and also a great short side trips where public transport is not available. As I was reading the pages on public transport on the Bradt guidebook, there was a section that mentioned that, “if a traveler is going to rely on public transport, it is inevitable that they will use a boda-boda at some point”, but before hopping aboard the traveler should be aware of its dangers. One of the dangers mentioned was the lack of formal training of its riders. According to Bradt, most motor-vehicle accidents in Uganda are caused by boda-boda riders’ reckless driving. What is scary about this is that I’ve heard the same thing from several local people. I have been told multiple times by aunty (the receptionist at Athina Club House which is the Hotel I am staying at) that if there’s anything I should avoid in Kampala, it would be riding a boda-boda; at least until I become familiar with the city. She said there are two reasons for that. 1. Because the riders are reckless, and 2. Because some riders kidnap people, especially foreigners.
Plus, I’ve actually seen how reckless the riders can be. They ride as if they were the only ones on the road. They do not respect street signs and do not care about pedestrians crossing the roads.
Today, though scared, I decided to use a boda-boda to visit a few tourist sites suggested by the guidebook, one of which was the Café Pap. I heard they had the best baked goods and the fastest internet. So I woke up this morning, took a shower, got dressed, and headed straight to the street around the corner to catch a boda-boda for the very first time.
Moi on a motocycle boda-boda
The ride was everything described by the guidebook and the Ugandans I've met. It was fast, bumpy, and nerve-racking. On a road with speed limit of 15 kph (kilometers per hour), my driver was going twice as fast. Whenever vehicles would stop because of backed up traffic, he would get between cars, and even on the sidewalk. There’s no such thing as lanes on the roads in this city. A road that we’d consider a two lane-road in the U.S is usually filled (horizontally) with 3 or 4 cars. So image motorcycles fighting to get through between the cars. At one point I thought we were going to either collide into a car in front of us or get hit by one, so I asked my driver to slow down....he actually did (after laughing at me for being scared).

Another thing I was warned about was getting overcharged by the riders. Taxis or any private transports here don’t have meters, so the amount you pay for a trip depends on the distance and it varies from driver to driver. Before leaving the hotel, I told the receptionist where I was going and asked her how much I should expect to pay. She said I shouldn’t pay no more than 2,500 Ugandan Shillings (UGX) which is equivalent to $1.10. She suggested that I negotiate the price with the rider before hopping on their boda-boda....this I forgot to do. So when I arrived at the café, the rider demanded 6,000 UGX, probably because he figured out that I was new to the city. After a two minute bargain, I ended up paying 3,000 UGX.
I have to say, though the ride turned out the be everything I was told it would be, it was FUN. I’ve never really been on a motorcycle before, so I felt like I was on a rollercoaster ride. The breeze I felt while on the boda-boda was remarkable. The sun didn’t come out today, so I didn’t have to worry about the sunlight burning my skin. The only thing I had to worry about was getting hit by a car or falling off the motorcycle. The good news is that I made it safely to my destination. I even took another boda-boda back to the hotel….I figured, if I am going to be here for 12 weeks, I’d better get used to it since it is the most common mode of transportation.

I thought we were going to hit some-thing/body or get hit

I took this picture and the one above from the boda-boda I was on.

No comments:

Post a Comment