Traveling Solo from Iten, Kenya to Lira, Uganda (500km): Some of the Things That Happened

So, I know this isn’t necessarily running, hiking, or camping geared, BUT, it did involve significant amounts of endurance in terms of patience, and I thought you might find my traveling experience/woes humorous and even educational in terms of traveling using public transportation between small towns in Africa. Basically, everything below is a record of what happened over a 2-day stretch, from Dec. 24 – Dec. 25, 2016, as I traveled back home to Lira, Uganda from Iten, Kenya with a quick stop to see and hike Sipi falls along the way. The hiking turned out to be the easy part; negotiating public transport… not so much

Here’s a little taste of what was included:

  • 2 days of travel
  • 18 hours on the road
  • 1 private ride with new friends form Iten
  • 7 different matatu rides (shared taxi vans, ranging from 14-24 people jammed into the “14 capacity” vans)
  • 1 protest, where all of the customers in the matatu decided that they were being charged too much (“Christmas rates”), and we all (along with our stuff) had to pile out of the matatu and sit on the sidewalk in a stand off between the customers and the matatu driver. Eventually the driver just drove off, leaving 10 of us sitting in the hot mid-day sun on the side of the road. Some battles you just can’t win I guess…
  • 2 boda boda (motorcycle taxi) rides, where I had to balance on the back of a motorcycle with my giant (Kenya-souvenir jam packed (aka coffee)) backpack on my back and my day pack on my front. A guaranteed core workout and adrenaline rush when there are bumpy sections
  • 1 backpack escape. On one of the matatus, where the trunk was tied down with rope because it was broken, my big pack fell out in the middle of the dirt highway. Luckily, there wasn’t too much traffic and the passengers at the back noticed right away. Luckily, they notified the driver to stop and get it (I was crammed in near the front and would not have known until we arrived at our destination). And luckily, the precious glass French press that I had bought in Kenya was not broken.
  • 15km of walking
  • 2 young guys painfully, rudely, and persistently trying to get my number. First, they asked constantly for my number for 10 minutes, which I politely, but clearly refused. Then, for the next 10 minutes they tried to get me to take their number, which I clearly, and less politely refused. After this wasn’t working, they collaborated and together decided to write down their phone numbers on a piece of paper and handed it to me. The whole ordeal was almost worth it to see the look on their faces when I immediately threw the paper out the window of the speeding matatu. I think they finally got the hint, as almost immediately after, they asked the matatu to stop and got off.
  • 0 bathroom stops
  • 1 illegal/accidental border crossing, where I walked across from Kenya to Uganda, following the flow of people, assuming we would be funneled through customs. At one point, an army-looking officer asked for my passport, looked at it, asked me to give him my water (what? – No), then okayed me to pass through. I had walked about 1km into the now Ugandan side of the town without a stamp in my passport, when I realized that I had somehow passed the border line without checking in at official customs. Long story short, I had to walk back and find the customs office, which involved a narrow alley and crossing the main highway on foot through a small break in a fence (but to be fair, the buildings were under construction). In the end, I got my Kenyan exit stamp, my Ugandan entry stamp, and was back on my way ~ 2 hours later than expected
  • 1 marriage proposal by the local comedian who took it upon himself to entertain the entire matatu at my expense while we waited for the seats to fill. He went so far as deciding which church we would wed at (the one across the street), and deciding how many children I should deliver for him (he was hoping for twins), which the locals all found hilarious
  • 4 hours to cover the final 114km section (no joke) of the journey, making the last leg of an already long journey an extreme test of patience (for those of you that know me, you will know that I hate inefficiency). The matatu was driving ~40km/hour on the downhill sections, ~20km/hour on the uphill sections and stopping to load and unload passengers more than it was driving.  Near the end, even the locals were complaining about how slow we were going. To make things worse, every time they complained to the driver, he seemed to drive even slower out of spite (“You think this is slow… I’ll show you slow!”)

And there you have it, when all was said and done, it had taken me about 18 hours to travel the 500km distance. I think there’s a saying that it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey or something like that. Let me see if I can find it. Ahh, here:


I think that about sums up my crazy journey. It was definitely an eventful trip and I’m glad I got to experience it and the places I traveled to, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to driving my own car 100km/hour down the highways to get to my travel destinations in Canada:)

Happy Travels People!

The first of three waterfalls at Sipi Falls, a quick side trip I made along the way.  The three waterfalls are stunning and make for a beautiful half-day hike.

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