I have always had the impression that a motel is a roadside establishment where motorists drive any time and eat a meal at a fee. That impression was erased from my mind when we arrived at Soko Motel in Soroto at 2.00pm on a Wednesday.
The International fund for agricultural development (IFAD) Assistant Vice-President, Dr. Klemens van de sand, and the Minster of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Dr Kisamba Mugerwa, had since Tuesday morning been inspecting projects supported by IFAD. So I got an excuse to marathon over 1000km with them around Uganda in 57 hours.
It turned out to be a journey of self-discovery for me as we went through Mabira Forest to the source of the Nile in Jinja, then to Mbale via the Tirinyi swamps, and to Kumi, Apac, Masindi, and Hoima and finally back to Kampala through Kiboga.
Soko motel only had enough food for Kisamba, Dr.sand and two Soroti officials. We asked the chef to prepare us some food but our pleas fell on deaf ears.
In Soroti it is the children who chase the chicken for the chefs in eating joints. It is interesting to see how the children do their thing. They chase the chicken round and round in cycles, till they catch the birds. But for their labour, the children are only given chicken’s legs, intestines, and the head to eat.
By 2.00pm that Wednesday Soroti children were still having lessons, so they were still having lessons so they were not available to scramble for the chicken, and therefore no meal could be prepared for the other common guests.
Soko was just a small irritation in an otherwise successful adventure. Serere Research Station in Soroti was a great marvel, whose operations I previously had very little idea of. We visited the Ugandans women’s efforts to save orphans (UWESO projects in Kumi and were impressed by the village bank they have created.
We rushed to see sunflower farmers in Ongino, near Kumi town and we were impressed by the zeal with which they have adapted to the new cash crop.
I got a lifetime experience when we crossed from Apac to Masindi Port by ferry. I watched the skillfull ferry minders as they maneuvered their way through the fast waters of the Nile soon after the ferry left Kyoga
However, the dust on the Lwamata-kiboga-hoima road sometimes got out of hand but we conforted by the thought that soon we shall have a modern highway in place.
The source of the Nile was the most wonderful sight of nature I had ever seen-one of the wonders that made former British prime minister Winston church hill conclude that Uganda is indeed the pearl of Africa. The structures in the area, which included modern toilets, added to the areas natural beauty.
After the source of the Nile on Tuesday morning, we drove towards kumi. We booked accommodation in Mbale before proceeding to kumi in the belief that there would be no suitable places in kumi.
But we found green top hotel in kumi as comfortable and cheap. The drive back to mbale for that night was clearly a waste of some taxpayers’ (read donors) money.
The trick, however did not work in hoima, where after the dignitaries were comfortably settled in their pre-booked crown hotel rooms, the rest of us in their pre-booked crown hotel rooms, the rest of us in the drivers security operatives and journalists categories tried to look elsewhere for bedding.
Hoima simply could not offer 10 beds in any one establishment and we had to look all over the town, making re-tracing each other in the morning a nightmare.
Getting into Hoima from Masindi had other hazards too. Why would Sands car break down in the middle of the, where there is no mobile telephone network, at dusk, when it was the last the last vehicle in the entourage as others in front were bound not to notice?
Surely MTN should have extended its network to the swamp, where there is no telephone network to the swamp. Surely, there was need for a network here. This showed how badly needed phone services were. This reminded me of the little town of Dokolo, between Soroti and Apac, where We passed a shop selling telephone cards although there was no telephone network in the area.
Maybe the locals know a particular anthill you have to climb in order for MTN marketing man Eric van veen to hear you. There must be a similar trick with the Hoima swamp. Luckily, the vehicle restarted and we continued our way.
It was interesting to learn that in Hoima people go to bed early and sleep soundly for long hours courtesy of the existing peace .for when I run out of photographic films on Thursday morning, I could not buy any till 10.00am when somebody opened his studio to begin work.
But for all, the homa girls were truly an imposing sight.
Even in the evening on Wednesday, when we arrived in the area, the Banyoro ladies were still looking beautiful. They were hospitable too.
They looked drivers, security operatives, and journalists very well at night, and by dawn, while their male counterparts were still snoring; the girls were already up and about, making breakfast, which comprised of bananas and byenda (offals) for their guests.
DR.Sand decided to forego breakfast and started preparation for the day.
Hoima competes favorably with my hometown in Mbale, where every refueling station we stopped at had lots of bottled soft drinks displayed in fridges but we could not find any mineral water among them.
This is my country!