People here are very laid back and the feeling is contagious! We managed to go three days without a cup of coffee didn’t seem to mind.
You hear the words "Hakuna Matata" everywhere. Literally.
Internet services down nationwide all day? Hakuna Matata...
Flights cancelled? Hakuna Matata...
Two hours in wall-to-wall rush hour traffic in Kampala? Hakuna Matata...
In the Mukono District, about an hour outside of Kampala, Uganda, we met Edward Mukiibi and Roger Serunjogi, coordinators of the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) project. Edward, 23, and Roger, 22 are improving nutrition, environmental awareness and food traditions by establishing school gardens at preschool, day and boarding schools. By teaching kids early about growing, preparing, and eating food they hope to cultivate the next generation of farmers and eaters who can preserve Uganda’s culinary traditions. “If a person doesn’t know how to cook or prepare food, they don’t know how to eat,” says Edward.
One DISC student, 19 year-old Mary Naku, says she’s gained leadership and farming skills from the program. “As youth we have learned to grow fruits and vegetables,” she says, “to support our lives.” Thanks to DISC, students see agriculture as a way to make money, help their communities, and preserve biodiversity.
At the HIV/AIDS Resource Center in Katuna (on the border between Uganda and Rwanda and one of many towns along what is known as the Northern Transport Corridor—a span of highway that stretches from Mombasa, Kenya through Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and all the way to Djibouti), we were introduced to the important work of the Solidarity Center and Uganda’s Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union (ATGWU). The Solidarity Center is a non-profit launched by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), to empower workers around the world by helping them form unions.
The Center and ATGWU are working with truckers, who have some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in Eastern Africa due to the frequent and lengthy delays at the border which often lead to boredom, drinking and unsafe sex, by providing care, support and information through one-on-one or community group outreach. The Center also provides free testing for truck drivers, already more than 5,000 of them to date.
We would be remiss if we didn’t mention that Uganda, like most of the countries in Africa, is full of contradictions. While we were there, the "Bahati Bill" was introduced in parliament, calling for life in prison—and in some case the death penalty—for people found “guilty” of homosexual activity. As gay marriage laws are passed around the world, including most recently in Mexico City, it's hard to believe that lawmakers would punish people for being gay or having HIV/AIDS.
But as we traveled we couldn’t help but immediately feel, and fall in love with, the pulse and energy of the bustling country.
Value rating: *****
We were very pleasantly surprised by KuOmboko Hostel in Lusaka, Zambia. We book a private room doubled bed for only 24$/night (shared bathroom). The hostel is well-equipped: laundry facilities, a fun and lively bar (that brings in more locals than guests), a 24 hour internet cafe, safe and secure rooms, a flexible restaurant (they will get very creative to aid vegetarians), and most importantly -- a terrific, friendly, and helpful staff. The place feels secure and is somewhat clean (although prepare for lots of little creepy crawlers and bugs in the shared area). For the money, this is a terrific bet and one that won't "bite" too hard on your pocketbook...
Plot 9926, Mankanta Close, P.O.Box 33284, Lusaka, Zambia
To be honest, we picked Base Backpackers largely because of the $20 per night price tag. We'd by lying if we told you it was a perfect situation: we had a private room in the basement that wreaked of mold, had to walk two flights of stairs and across a hallway to go to the bathroom, cold water showers, and internet so bad that old school AOL dial-up would have felt like luxury. With that said, the hostel was in the heart of the city - a safe, bustling area, across the street from Chinese and Indian food, and in walking distance to the Intercape bus station. The managers are extremely friendly, and the "guard" - a mutt resembling a bijon frise named Spudd - made for a warm, tail wagging welcome when we came home. Do we recommend Base when you visit Maputo? Well if you can afford a splurge on a hotel, then this might not be the place to do it. With that said, in terms of value for the dollar, Base was a fair deal.
Not sure what it says about a city when its number one tourist attraction is a beer museum. I'm also not sure what it says about Dani and me that we contributed to such a statistic (and had a blast!) The tour is advertised everywhere in Johannesburg - it's a one and a half hour guided tour organized by SAB brewing (partners with Miller-Coors in the USA) complete with a 3D adventure, an IMAX-style movie, real life machinery depicting the beer making process, and lots more. Oh, and did we mention the tasting?
Included as part of the tour: a taste of traditional South African home-brew, a pint of SAB's Castle, and two more pints from any SAB partner at the end (we had European beers Peroni and Pilsner Urquel), all included in the amazing 25 rand price tag (or three USD per person).
Doing a review of South African's Castle beer is a bit of a cop-out (and we hope to visit Zululand where we can choose a more traditional option). With that said, the elaborate SAB museum warrants some praise. The truth is we like the fact that Castle is a good South African union-made, union-bottled, union-delivered brew - that reminded me a lot of its US counterpart - Miller Light. And while Miller may not be the first beer that comes to mind when I list my favorites, it's affordable, it tastes consistently slightly better than average, and the company provides good jobs.
It would feel weird to make this a "must do" when visiting Jozi - for pete's sake spend a day at the Apartheid museum or touring Soweto - but if you're spending a little too much time on the ground, have a free Saturday afternoon, then we promise you it will be a good time. Plan well though, no walk-ins, as the tours book days in advance.
We stayed at Bob's Bunkhouse because they are the darling of the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree for hostels in Johannesburg, South Africa. The place was nice enough for a hostel (we even had our own bathroom) - but it's also in the middle of nowhere - and to get anywhere in Jozi expect to pay very hefty taxi fees. Bob and his wife are very nice, and they try hard to provide a safe and social environment - but the reek of cigarettes is everywhere, the place is filthy, and there are no local restaurants, either in walking distance or for delivery (except for very average pizza). With that said, Bob's has quick DSL, a coke machine that dispenses beer, and loads of hot water.
What makes a good hostel in Africa? If it were just the fact that it was clean and the prices fair, we would have been content with our stay at the Mufasa Lodge in Lilongwe, Malawi. Add on hot showers, friendly staff, Wifi internet, and a fun lounge bar in the back, and you have the best hostel we’ve seen so far.
After more than 30 hostels in 100 days on the road in Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda - the Mufasa Lodge stood in a league of its own. Starting at fifteen US dollars a night for a dorm bed, it’s the best value in the city.
Kamuzu Procession Road, PO Box 7 Lumbadzi, SS Rent a Car Building, Lilongwe, Malawi
Overall, the Aponye Hotel in Kampala, Uganda is a very good budget option in the heart of the bustling city center. It is in walking distance from restaurants, markets, ATMs, the bus station and more. Approximately $40/night, the room was very simple, clean, with air-conditioning and hot showers, and Wifi in the lobby.
Apollo House, Plot 17b William Street, Kampala
Though they originally wanted $90 USD a night, when we showed them that the Lonely Planet 2009 guidebook said they only charge $46, they matched the price. From the moment we walked in the door to the time we left, we felt like they were trying to hussle us. The cable TV they advertise is actually one channel and it wasn’t in English. They advertised Wifi, and it worked, but only sitting behind the reception desk. And every request – from an extra towel to a fan (also advertised) for the room - was a major burden to them. After three months on the road in East Africa, the Okapi gets the award for the worst value.
BP 1775 Kigali, Kigali, Rwanda
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