I love flying because in theory, and most often in practice, it is the fastest way to get from one place to the next.  However, I’ve had plenty of crazy, bad, and unfortunate experiences while trying to get from Point A to Point B via airplane.

I have several friends here, both expatriots and nationals (please, never ‘natives’) who rarely, if ever, fly but use the local mode of transport – the matatu.

The matatu, minibus, daladala, taxi or Nissan, depending on where you are located, is a van that in Kenya is supposed to legally hold no more than 14 passengers.   Everyone is supposed to be wearing a seatbelt.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a seatbelt worn.

While Carole and Ruth traveled to present another training, I purchased a ticket and sat on a matatu waiting for it to fill so that we could depart from Soroti to Lira.

I purchased my ticket for USH10,000.  That’s 10,000 Ugandan shillings or about $5.50 USD.  Then I waited.  I waited while the crowd slowly came and more passengers bought their tickets and began to board.  I waited while I watched people pass by with live chickens in their hands.  I waited while I watched a vendor make rolex – an omlet rolled up in a chipati: it looked tasty.  I waited while I bought a local paper.  I waited while I watched them rearrange the luggage several times.  I waited just over an hour and a half until we finally departed for Lira.

At first I was OK.  I rode directly behind the driver, over the engine.  I had a window so I could control the air flow (and hopefully temperature) and thought I was good.  Sometimes, in Kenya, when you are taking a longer journey you get a matatu with fewer seats so that there is more room.  No such luck on this journey to Lira.  My legs began to cramp, my butt fell asleep, I thought I was going to scream. 

I did not: instead I learned how to adjust so that I could feel my legs again (although my way too heavy backpack was not helping matters) and at one point had almost the entire front row to myself . However, at the peak of our journey, there were 19 adults, 2 children sitting on laps and 2 chickens under my seat.  PLUS luggage shoved in the back and on the roof.

We stopped several times and dropped and picked passengers.  I tried to close the window as we passed another vehicle along the long, dirt road.  At the end of the day, though, the shower ran red with that northern Uganda dirt.

Fours hours after departing Soroti, we arrived in Lira.  I called Joy and she came to get me.  As I stood on the side of the hot road waiting for her I enjoyed the sights and sounds of the bus station. 

Upon Joy’s arrival, after hugs and brief discussion, she procured for us three bodaboda’s to take each of us and my suitcase home.  And off I went on another tranportation adventure.

I decided to take the bus back.  Same price, shorter travel time, longer wait prior to departure, more leg room, arrived just as dirty.  Not bad for $5.50.

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