Mbale is a town in Eastern Uganda not far from the Kenyan border. It is very much a provincial town and in that sense very much like Mwanza. There are differences though. Mbale has an amazing view of Mount Elgon and other peaks. In that sense it reminds me of the Alps and holidays in Austria.
Behind the town there is clearly visible a waterfall cascading fown the face of the mountain.
Unlike Mwanza the city streets are still mud, the roads are wide and to me like Jinja have an American mid-west feel. The supurbs are tree lined and pleasant. Unlike Mwanza the town is relatively flat with gentle slopes.
We are here for a couple of reasons -one reSon is to explore Mt Elgon and the region -to that end we are going to visit Sipi Falls tomorrow. The falls have a dramatic drop ‘Angel Falls-like” though not so big.
The other reason is to catch up with Olivia a member of our old church in the UK, working here on a sixth month placement. We hope to see some of the work she is doing here in Mbale.
Whilst exploring Mbale we discovered Endiros a coffee house / restaurant run by Christian Orgsnisation which promotes ethical produce and seeks to support a number of projects e.g. Supporting children with HIV /AIDS. Furthermore they serve great coffee and food – frankly the best I have tasted since leaving the UK – think Costa – with better food. They have free WiFi, charging points and board games available to play. A haven for ex-pats whether NGO or tourist. A great backing track of contemporary Christian worship and other songs. I so wish Mwanza had a place like this.
They also have a cool take on lampshades – can you guess what they are?
Virtually our entire Ugandan journey has been via Public Transport, the exceptions being a specific safari vehicle hired to take us to and from Murchison Falls. The rest of our journeys have been on public coaches. Even our organised trip to Junja made use of hired coaches. This takes me back to the Summer of 2013 when Inaccompanied a group of sixth formers on a three wrk world challenge trip around Vietnam and Cambodia. In lots of ways it’s the same , though there are differences.
Coaching it has generally meant getting up early, tickets can be bought in advance, there is no allocated seating, but arrive early enough and you’ll be fine. Often we have been one of a small number of ex-pats or just ourselves. We have been careful where possible to use recommended coach companies, where not possible a quick glance at the exterior tells you a lot, the interior also.
Main luggage is stowed in low lockers. Hand luggage aboad, though we have been warned to keep it with us rather than stow away overhead. Once seated it can be a little cramped but no worse than an EasyJet/ Ryan Air flight! If the coach stops it is descended upon by tens of traders selling foods of all sorts, chicken on a stick, mishkaki, grilled cassava or plantain, chapati, fruit, sodas etc etc
At some locations a person might board the bus and walk up and down selling their wares. The most unusual combo to date was mobile phone vouchers and hankies! A few times one salesman has boarded and preached a sermon to the bus, before launching into a sales pitch for some medicinal product.
Most buses we have been on have not made loo stops, but for those who do it’s a bush toilet.
So far we have travelled from Mwanza to Bukoba, Bukoba to Kampala, Kampala to Jinja and Kampala to Mbale. Many hours on coaches gone and many more to come.
Having said all of this our coach today actually arrived 4 hours early! Unheard of!