Thursday, May 14, 2015


What happened the night before

By 7pm that Saturday Evening I was not sure whether I would be travelling to Moroto the next day, that little known District in the North Eastern Corner of Uganda, call it the Horn of Uganda. I was not sure because first I needed quite a good sum of money to travel to Moroto, rent a house there, buy household items for my new home and remain with some lose change to survive for a week or two yet that money was not fourth coming, at least from the expected sources. And for some reason I had drained my account the month prior. Now add to that the fact that I hate borrowing and you will understand the quagmire I was in at that particular moment.

And then there was this unfinished business- a research I was helping a friend do for which I was going to be paid a good sum of money. I had only 12 hours within which to accomplish that business or forever be doomed because the plan was to travel 7am Sunday morning but the research had to be submitted. Sunday or Never.

So how did I survive?

I spent the entire night refining the research and at about 7am Sunday Morning, I had the research ready for submission. But I had neither slept nor prepared for the journey. Don’t ask me what I had been doing the previous week because that was one hell of a week. Anyway thanks to my little sister. I don’t know how I would have survived without her. In a couple of hours everything was in order. She had helped me adequately prepare for my journey in that little space of time. I was ready to jump on the bus and go.

The plan had changed, I was to leave at 12 Noon. But that meant I would arrive at Midnight since this was a 12 Hour Journey on the bus or so I was told. Besides the bus that leaves at midday or 1pm only gets you up to Soroti and you have to sketch your way to Moroto (over 171 kilometers away) through other transport means.

The Journey to Soroti

Anyway the journey to Soroti was awesome. I spent half the journey making good the previous night’s sleep debt. On the bus, I was neighbored by this girl from Soroti. Now, I think this girl’s story is worth mention because of its peculiarity. Girl from Soroti bought Gonja (Roasted Plantain) and Chicken in Namawojjolo like most of the travelers taking the Eastern Route from Uganda’s capital will do. She could not eat all the Gonja and the chicken she bought. Perhaps she was not that hungry. So what does she decide to do with the Gonja? She squeezes the left over Gonja and the chicken into her purse. I was baffled. Who keeps Gonja in a lady’s purse? Sincerely, who does that? Anyway, the Soroti girl did it. Later I saw her pick a 10 thousand shilling note from under the Gonja. I wonder who eventually ate this chicken and Gonja but I pity who ever turned out to be the end consumer of this Gonja.

The other person whose story I will tell is my friend from Camp Swahili. Now Camp Swahili which is likely to grow into a slum if the Moroto Municipality authority doesn’t intervene is the hub of Moroto. It either happens in Camp Swahili or nowhere else in Moroto. So I meet my friend from Camp Swahili on the bus to Soroti and I am excited that at least I have one person with whom to travel to Moroto. Fortunately, I tap a conversation she’s having with a driver booking herself a seat for the journey to Moroto. The moment she’s off the call, I request her to call them back and tell them we are two passengers that will need their services when we arrive in Soroti. Up to and until this time I was not sure whether I should sleep over in Soroti and travel to Moroto on Monday but I had to report for duty and I was not ready to furnish any excuse for not reporting on the day I pledged to report for duty which was Monday. I had even called a friend in Soroti and she advised I sleep over but I was not about to heed to her caution.

On the road to Moroto 

Thanks be to God that now, I have an opportunity to travel tonight. It does not matter at what I time will reach as long as I make it there tonight. Meanwhile I have been warned that finding accommodation requires a lot of hassle in Moroto but I keep imagining I will figure my way out.

The bad news is that the friend I contacted to try and find me a night’s accommodation earlier in the day has not gotten back to me and it’s 7pm when I arrive in Soroti. I decide not to call him because if he was really interested in helping, he surely should have called me back by now to tell me how things stand pertaining to my accommodation that night. But he hasn’t. “I will figure things out when I arrive,” I encourage myself. At about 7:20pm we set off from Moroto, 8 passengers in a Toyota Noah plus the conductor and the driver. The journey will be bumpy and slow. It is going to take us 5 Hours to cover 171 Kilometers. Such a journey should be a 2 hours’ drive ideally but this a journey in an overloaded passenger vehicle and on a terrible road.

Three quarters of that journey I am half asleep. You can’t fall fully asleep when you have to dance through a hundred kilometers of potholes in the name of travelling to Moroto. A call from a family member here, a family member there and a friend is the only reason why this torture of a journey has not yet strangled my wits. And that is how I somehow make it to Moroto, alive and kicking.

And now in Moroto

Luckily, our driver and his conductor are giving an after sales service of sorts to their customers. They are driving all their customers to their door step. For heaven’s sake it is past midnight and dark as hell here in Moroto because of the usual load shedding. I inform them of my predicament, I have not found accommodation, it’s my first time in Moroto. They are willing to give any kind of help that is within their means to give.  But before then we need to ensure that all the other 7 passengers are safely home. The six are taken home except my friend from Camp Swahili.

The fatigue of the journey has probably worn the driver and the conductor out. They can’t take girl from Camp Swahili to her doorstep. So they stop at the places where the buses park in town and ask her to find her way home. An argument ensues. Girl from Camp Swahili thinks it is unfair for them to have taken every other passenger to his/her home except her. But they think they have done their part bringing her to Moroto and feel they are not obligated to take her home.

But the girl still thinks it is unfair and insists

“Is this how you Sabins behave?”

“You promised to take me home and now you are changing, eh eh!”

Girl from Camp Swahili grumbles and threatens to stop Sabins from running transport businesses on the Soroti-Moroto Highway once she joins the District Sevice though the Driver and Conductor simply laugh off the threat and remind her that no individual can ever have the power to do that.

I won’t put in a word for my friend from Camp Swahili because I have to ensure that I remain in the good books of the Driver and Conductor. I just have to be nice to them. They have to keep my luggage while I sketch for accommodation in these wee hours of the morning.

But where did I spend the night 

Unfortunately when I finally get out of the car to look for accommodation, I cannot find any this morning.

The only lodge I can find that seems to have space for a guest tonight is in a mud walled structure with a Tadooba lighting at the counter. When I bend to ingia pole pole (enter slowly) I find men speaking Swahili, smoking and chewing mairungi. They tell me there is space here but I realize this is not the kind of place in which a son of man should spend the first night in Moroto.

So what do I do? Go back to my driver and conductor and ask for permission to sleep in their Noah. That is how I spend my first Moroto night in a Toyota Noah. 

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