Uganda - My Reflections And Discovering A "Rolex"

Posted in Travel / The Honey Badger Diaries

Uganda - My Reflections And Discovering A "Rolex"

The Pearl of Africa – a term coined by Winston Churchill in 1908 due to the profusion of birds, insects, and reptiles found in this garden of Eden. Locals fondly call Uganda the Banana Republic honouring the hundreds of millions of humble banana trees. Pure gold, wrapped in a canary yellow sheath.

My knowledge of Uganda was limited to Idi Amin and his brutal shenanigans in the '70's. When I think back to him the first thing that springs to mind are his military medals, sunglasses and gold braiding. He certainly had a penchant for gold. 


Shortly after crossing the border we reached the first village in the Central North Ward, the landscape hadn't changed much. It was wet, humid, and overcast, but music filled the air. No sooner had we parked than a trio of minstrals welcomed us with local tunes. We were starting off our journey of discovery on the right note.

Butch went off to the market to stock up on fresh vegetables and fruit while I got us registered for Ugandan SIM cards—a tiresome, bureaucratic procedure. I must report that Data is very affordable but intermittent.

Before we visited Uganda, my only knowledge of the country was a smattering learned at school during boring Geography lessons when I was far more interested in perusing Lady Chatterley’s Lover, a book I found on my desk: I knew not a jot about Forested Swamps, Gorillas nor the Rainforests of the Central Plateau.



A Brief History In 550 Words.

Uganda is located in east-central Africa. It is landlocked, and its borders were drawn arbitrarily in the late 19th century by colonial powers. There are two societies: The First Nations people of the South and the Nilotic and Sudanic tribes of the north.

Uganda’s early history focuses mainly on migrating small groups of cultivators and herders over centuries. Cultures and languages changed continually. Clans formed north of the Nile River, differing from the kingdoms in the Southwest.

Swahili-speaking traders from the East Coast reached the country in the 1840s to trade in ivory and pursue slavery. The first European explorer, the Briton John Hanning Speke, crossed into the Kabaka’s territory in 1862. Henry Morton Stanley reached Buganda in 1875.

Bloody wars, treaties, Anglo-German agreements, British Imperial administrations, politico-religious factions, civil wars, revolts against British over-lordship and infant kings headlined the history until a mutiny in 1897 of the Sudanese troops used by the colonial government led Britain to take a more active interest in the Uganda Protectorate.

The British administration was extending north and east of the Nile. Centralised authorities were unknown in these areas, and no agreements were reached. British officers, assisted by agents of Buganda, administered the country. By 1914, Uganda’s boundaries were fixed, and British control had reached most areas.

However, Sir James Hayes Sadler realised that the country was unlikely to attract European settlers, and his successor, Bell, wished to develop Uganda as an African state. This proposal was opposed by Carter, the head of the Land Commission, who failed to attract settlers, and a “peasant economy” was established, encouraging African farmers to cultivate cotton as a cash crop. After WW1, Ugandan farmers were encouraged to grow coffee in addition to cotton but forbade the alienation of land in freeholds that were dealt to European planters. Europe and Asia were now mainly focused on the commercial and processing side of the very lucrative agricultural industry.

Railways were built from Jinja on Lake Victoria to Namasagali and later from Mombasa, which extended to Soroti and finally to Kampala, the industrial capital of Uganda.

Fast-forward to 1961, when discussions took place in London. They agreed that full internal self-government would be established in March 1962. Benedicto Kiwanuka became the first prime minister but was displaced by Milton Obote in the first general elections in April 1962.

Uganda became independent on October 9, 1962, but the country was politically divided along geographic and ethnic lines.

In 1966, faced with dissatisfaction from his supporters and hostilities, Obote arrested five ministers and suspended the constitution. The Ganda leaders ordered him to remove his government from the Kingdom. Obote responded by sending troops under the leadership of Idi Amin to arrest the Kabaka.

Obote imposed a new Republican constitution appointing himself as executive president, abolishing all the kingdoms, and dividing Buganda into administrative districts.

Suspicion and internal friction intensified, assassination attempts against Obote and increasingly oppressive methods employed by the government to silence its critics followed.

In January 1971, Amin took advantage of Oboti’s absence from the country through a coup. Adapted and abridged from

“But enough of all that; this is supposed to be fun, and we don’t need that much information.” Butch said, “Let’s find a campsite and chill for a day or two.”

“Buganda is a First Nations kingdom within Uganda. The Kingdom of the Baganda people is the largest of the traditional kingdoms in present-day East Africa, consisting of Uganda’s Central region, including the Ugandan capital Kampala.” Wiki.


Our first night in Uganda would be under the watchful gaze of one of the three majestic Virunga volcanoes we’d seen from Rwanda on Lake Mutanda.

Lake Mutanda is a small freshwater lake in the Southwest of Uganda close to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The Lake drains into the Rutshuru River, flowing northwards to Lake Edward.

We found Lake Mutanda Eco Resort, a community-owned eco-lodge on the southern shores of Lake Mutanda, on the outskirts of Kisoro.

The lodge offers various volunteer opportunities and is the perfect location to embark on Mountain Gorilla trekking in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

The Manager quickly pointed out that we could partake in several activities, such as swimming, canoeing, sunset cruises, a snake safari, otter viewing, and village visits.

We declined, preferring to do our explorations – this time, we’d hike around the water’s edge to get a feel of the landscape.

With his walking stick and walking shoes on, Butch and I set off.

Once I’d climbed the rickety rope staircase to the zip line (back in the day we called it a foefie slide), my bravado left me. I resorted to clinging to the tree and pretended to take a giant leap along the slatted skywalk.

I prefer having my feet on solid ground, and we set off to explore. Small farms dotted the landscape where farmers were busy tilling the soil, reaping their harvest, or planting seedlings and saplings. Maize, three meters tall, hid two ladies weeding with primitive hoes forged in hand-beaten iron and wood. Their surprised faces at seeing two Mzungus was comical.


Charcoal is used instead of wood for most cooking fires, which has been our experience. Butch was very impressed with the small ceramic brazier we were given for our evening braai. The design and use of clay in producing this East African “stove” is perfect. Due to the cylindrical design, we could not purchase one. We have no space and find anything cylindrical doesn’t fit into a square hole.

Sunsets spent on the jetty enjoying the reflections rippling on the mercurial water made my fingers itch for some photography. The two lads fishing were the perfect pose, and their tiny catch caught the last golden rays for a landscape.

After three delightful nights at the Eco Lodge, we were ready to explore the Pearl of Africa.


When a friend learned we were in Uganda, he sent a message asking whether Butch had had a Rolex for breakfast. “No, never heard of a Rolex for breakfast. The only Rolex I know of is my brother-in-law Pollol’s fake gold watch.” He responded, “What is a Rolex?” he asked. “You’ll see.” His friend replied.

We gathered two things from that conversation: 1. It was a breakfast dish, and 2. It must be street food.

At ten o’clock, our tummies start rumbling, and that’s when we often start looking for Samoosas, deep-fried doughnuts, or fruit (in Uganda, bananas or mangoes) sold everywhere along the road.

I’m always drawn to women’s shops or stall keepers and like supporting them when shopping. In the next village, we stopped when I saw golden bananas, mangoes, and watermelons on a vegetable stand. That would be perfect for our breakfast.

With my shopping swinging from my arm, I skipped over puddles and noticed two bright beach umbrellas and a flamboyant young man setting up his kitchen.

“Do you sell Rolex?” I asked after a lengthy customary greeting. “Yes, I sell Roll Eggs!” he said. I needed to know more and enquired, “What is a Roll of Eggs?”

“Come, I’ll show you,” he said, breaking two eggs into a 500ml plastic jug. He fried chopped onion and garlic in a pan and asked if I’d have chili. “Yes,” I said. That, he said, was the basic Roll Eggs, but I could have chopped tomato and green pepper, too. Add everything you’ve got! Let’s go big,” I replied.

With his ingredients prepped and ready, he invited me into his kitchen behind the counter, where his small brazier was burning.

The well-used, hot, black cast iron skillet was oiled. Next, the chef made an omelette with the beaten egg, added the chopped vegetables, and seasoned it with a sprinkling of salt. Once the omelette was cooked, he removed it to the side and warmed two chapattis. The omelette was gently laid over one chapatti, and a second chapatti was layered on top of that. Finally, the Chapatti omelette was rolled, wrapped in paper, and handed over to me.

“and that, Ma’am,” he said, beaming, is a “Roll Eggs.” I paid the 1000 Ugandan Shillings with a smile. Butch loved his Rolex and would, on many occasions, order one. This inaugural one was the winner by far. I've included a short video link below demonstating the Roll Eggs.

We have become accustomed to freshly prepared dishes, partly because refrigeration is a luxury. A wait of 30 minutes to one hour is the norm, and we have no problem with that. (I suspect the wait is often due to ingredient shopping when placing the order, too.)

I always smile when I see a troupe of youngsters crowding around the Honey Badger. Boys are always fascinated by our bicycles and ask a million questions about the brakes, gears, batteries, and speed. They hammer the tyres to feel the pressure and enquire about the covers on the handlebars. Here, it was easy to respond but soon they lost interest and scattered as soon as  fat raindrops began falling. Anyway electronics on a bike is always met with scepticism and disbelief. A bike, they'd say with eyes rolling, that has a computer? That comes at a stretch.

Girls like to see the inside of the truck, our home, and are equally as impressed by the gas stove and the bed, but the flushing toilet takes the cake. The fridge must be explained, and cold drinks set everyone off in giggles. They troop out, falling over their feet and twittering like little birds, leaning into each other while whispering behind their hands.


With full tummies, we set off on the next leg of our journey.

Uganda’s climate is mainly tropical, with two rainy seasons per year—March to May and September to December.

We were heading into the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, the most impenetrable forest on earth, located in southwestern Uganda in the Kanungu District. The forest is a large primaeval forest on the edge of the Albertine Rift, the eastern branch of the East African Rift, at elevations ranging from 1160 to 2607 meters.

“Bwindi National Park covers 32,000 ha and is known for its exceptional biodiversity. More than 160 species of trees, over 100 species of ferns, and many bird and butterfly species can be found there.

With its biological richness, the forest is surrounded by an agricultural landscape supporting one of tropical Africa’s highest rural population densities. Community benefits arising from the mountain gorilla and other ecotourism may be the only hope for the future conservation of this unique site.” Unesco.


Our first sighting was a handsome black and white Colubus Monkey. 

Black and white colobus monkeys are threatened by loss of forest habitat across equatorial Africa. They also are hunted for their meat and fur. Colubus monkeys have a glossy black coat and a white-framed face. Males can weigh 30 pounds, but females are substantially smaller. Colobus monkeys have unique stomachs; their complex gut system is similar to that of cattle which allows them to digest large quantities of leafy plant material. They are extremely shy and agile swinging silently from tree to branch in seconds. 


The Impenetrable Forest is a World Heritage Site managed by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority and protected by various national laws.

Once again, we were awestruck by the views, the sweeping vistas, the ancient trees, the winding roads leading ever upwards. 

And there on a turn the curio shop perched on a ledge on the edge of a cliff face. The wooden structure supported by three wooden pillars stuck into the earth a few meters down a sheer drop. The only lady there had a ready smile and an invitation to “just look.” Unfortunately, our time was running out. We’d spent so much time enjoying and photographing the views that our time had run out. We needed to find a campsite before the light faded too much.

Our destination was the Bwindi Forest Farm. On this trip, we've encountered our guardian angel on several occasions and on this day we weren't let down.

We made a quick to turn at the official Bwindi Forest office to get the lay of the land and then set off to find  our campsite.

The muddy road after the rains looked okay, but Butch thought it would be wise to check first. Just then, we heard the strained roar of an engine a few hundred meters away as a small truck loaded with wood strained to make it up a steep incline. That was our first warning. Without further inspection, we turned back to the Honey Badger.

Not only was the thick mud cloying, it was churned up by the struggling wheels of the heavy truck. “That looks like chocolate mousse being whipped up by your Kenwood,” Butch said. I agreed.

We’d just returned to our seats and were busy fastening our seat belts when a Land Cruiser Game viewer stopped alongside us. The guide passed us, had second thoughts, reversed, rolled down his window and pointed toward the messy incline and asked where we were heading. His expression became grave as he replied, “Don’t do it. With this heavy truck, you’ll get stuck in that clay, and never get out of there.”

“Never? Or not until the road dries?” I asked. “Never.” He said, “You’ll walk out of there, and this truck will stay there. Forever.” He said,, pointing a finger at the Honey Badger. He looked glum.

A short while later, the stuck truck got itself out of the mess and came whining up the road, gears grinding and wheels spinning and skidding, passing us by sheer millimetres.

We took heed of his words and, with his suggestion, took ourselves off to a different campsite a few kilometres away. Agandi Uganda Lodge and Campsite was our destination.

Owning a pair of golloshes and a raincoat with a hoody made sense. My paper thin plastic photography cape was not robust enough to weather the storm and gave up the ghost after one day. 


Moses, the camp manager, told us Agandi means “hallo” in their local language. Our campsite was on a level stretch in the parking area where we had access to an electrical point and a bathroom in one of the bandas.

This new upmarket lodge was the perfect setting after a grueling day. Butch and I, cocooned in warm blankets, were invited to relax and take in the views seated on the balcony of the restaurant/reception area. Tea was served while Moses told us everything we needed to know about the lodge.

The lodge's kitchen garden was an envy but, we told Moses we would have heated frozen tomato soup in the truck and then have an early night.

The next day, we took to the road to explore the nearby village, which reminded me of Vietnam with its narrow buildings, the Bundi blue-painted homes and the winding narrow streets, curio shops and mountain people going about their business as they’ve done for centuries.


Upon our return later that afternoon, Moses was ready with a surprise. He could organise a Gorilla Trek at a reasonable price, one that would suit our pockets and parked next to us, were Layla, Rene and Yvonne. Happy days were here again.

P.S. The exact number of people killed during Amin's reign of terror is unknown. The International Commission of Jurists estimated the death toll at no fewer than 80,000 and more likely around 300,000. An estimate compiled by exile organisations with the help of Amnesty International puts the number killed at 500,000. (Wiki)