Riding Motorbikes in Kampala (video)

A few days before my trip, I shot a video of my commute in London as a way of practicing with the camera. I remember that day thinking it would be fun to record another video when I was in Uganda, showing my routine of going from home to work.

Fast-forward three weeks, and here you have me in this new video, riding on the back of a Bajaj Boxer 150cc, zig-zagging the streets of Kampala, full of cars, people and motorbikes!

Boda-bodas, as these bikes are known, are omnipresent in the Ugandan landscape, and they are the standard mean of transport for almost everybody. Tugende, the microfinance company that I am helping, provides financing to the boda-boda drives (I’ll get to the details of that in my next post).

Now, let me give you some behind-the-scenes details:

  • I was pretty scared the first time I took one of these bodas. During the whole trip I was grabbing the seat as hard as I could and didn’t know whether it was a better idea to keep my eyes shut or not.
  • However, I didn’t commit that ultimate sin of a boda-boda newbie: embarrassing yourself and the driver by hugging him from the back. Every once in a while you see a passenger of a boda doing it (perhaps with panic in his face while keeping the eyes shut and ) and trust me, nobody is impressed.
  • After a while, you become more comfortable. You see people on the back of the bodas checking their smartphones and probably answering emails of the office. I think I’m almost getting to that level.
  • The day that I shot the video was surprisingly quiet! It is usually the case that mornings are a bit easier than afternoons. I thought of repeating the shot after work to get a more dramatic footage, but then reason prevailed and I decided not to tempt fortune.

If you are travelling to Uganda, I highly recommend you get the details of a driver that you like and trust for your regular travels. Mohammed is the driver in the video, and he is really good: he always wear his helmet, is calm and patient, and his bike is really comfortable.

If you are planning to use a boda remember to put safety first! Always wear a helmet and if possible, avoid riding bikes in the night.

Boda-bodas are far from being a convenient way of solving the traffic problem of Kampala and I would be surprised if they are still the default mode of transport, say, in 20 years. However, for the moment, they are here, and chances are you won’t be able to avoid them if you are visiting Uganda.

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