Since my return one of the starkest contrasts I’ve noticed between life in the UK and life in Africa is the difference in transport systems! A trip I made recently by car from Newcastle to see friends in Leeds demonstrates the point.
I was guided, in my own car, from door-to-door by my sat-nav in exactly the 1 hour 45 minutes that it had predicted it would take. The tarmacked roads and hassle-free service stations (with pretty good toilet facilities) made the whole experience a pleasure when you consider that my journey from Ghana to Jinja in Uganda included:
- A ride in a bus operated by a company priding itself on “safety, comfort and reliability” but which nevertheless hurtled down wet, potholed roads with me sandwiched between fellow passengers not to mention their yams, chickens and babies! I was finally delivered to my destination an hour late.
- A six-hour flight seated next to a first-time flyer who spent the duration digging his elbow into my increasingly bruised ribs, coughing over me at regular intervals and, most unforgivably of all, tutting at me for enjoying a glass of wine with my meal!!
- Waiting 30 minutes for a Matatu (public mini bus) to fill up before we set off on the next leg of the journey during which passengers regularly had to climb over one another to swap seats as people were dropped off and picked up. This was made a little tricky for me due to clutching a backpack containing all my worldly possessions!
- On being dropped off at the bus station I was immediately targeted by dozens of touts and salespeople asking me where I wanted to go, if I’d like to buy water, plastic toys, fish pies and a whole host of other goods.
- Finally, there was a short but hair-raising pillion ride on a boda boda (motor cycle taxi) to my final destination – a backpackers that would be my base during my time in Jinja.
I will never speak ill of UK trains, buses, service station food or road works ever again, well, not until May Bank Holiday at least…