If you wander around the labyrinth that is Arua market you may well come across the area set aside for bicycles and various bike parts. So it was here that I was asking around if any one of the stall holders would rent me a bike for a day.
It took a bit of haggling and convincing I wasn’t going to cycle off into the sunset but I eventually did hire a bike from a bloke in the market for 8,000 UGX. He did require me to give him the phone number of where I was staying but I did secure the bike for the day. It was actually Labour day a holiday in these parts but still plenty of stalls were open in the market.
I had a rough idea of where I was going to cycle to so first I cycled in the direction of Ediofe a surprisingly busy “suburb” of Arua ,had a look at the cathedral, got hassled by a nutter trying to bum a coin from me then cycled a road that took me towards the Congo border.
At a fork in the road at a small trading centre that I think was Ajono I asked the way to the border.
“I want to see what Congo looks like” I told the teenage girl who was also on a bike who had asked me why I was so keen to see the Congo.
“But it looks like Uganda” She told me.
A further kilometre down the road the friendly teenage girl was pointing to the scrubby field on one side of the maram road.
“That is Congo” she told me.
So the Heart of Darkness does look pretty much like Uganda. I really wasn’t expecting a bunch of sapeurs congolais dancing the ndombolo in the first few metres over the border but I couldn’t help feeling a tad disappointed.
I had the obligatory photo of me standing in the DRC but sadly there was nothing in the background with Lingala or French written on it to distinguish it from any other piece of land in East Africa, there were one or two huts in the distance and further away was what I was told was the roof of a school. C'est tout!
I did meet 3 guys on bikes who proudly announced that they were smugglers who were transporting boxes of matches and salt to Arua. After riding along the border for some time the road veered off towards a small trading centre where I bought a warm beer: before carrying on the road back to Arua and catching up to the “smugglers” who were quite keen to have a race back into town. Being slightly downhill to Arua their loaded bikes gave them a slight advantage but soon passed the old boy at the back and a kilometre later sneakily passed the second rider before as the road narrowed to a bridge as it passed over a small river. The third bloke took some passing and was quite pleased considering my ageing mountain bike was stuck in the granny ring and I was spinning all the way passed the last smuggler until the small incline just before town and stopped at my usual boozer on transport road and downed a couple of pilsners.
Over all I had a top day out and considered the 8,000 UGX bike hire a bargain.
I was hot and needed a day buy the pool to cool off and relax. I was told about the White Castle Hotel that had a pool "it is 2 km out of town" I was told. So 2km would be quite a pleasant stroll. Anyway after about 5k of walking under the hot sun I was about to give up when on the horizon I spied a sign for the hotel. At last I can relax in the pool.
"Sorry sir but we have put dawa in the pool and it won't be ready for swimming for some time maybe 2 hours" I was told by the young chappie at the pool.
So back outside of the hotel I whiled away a couple of hours at a nearby hostelry supping a couple of cold Pilsners.
I returned to the White Castle after 2 hours to find the pool still looking very murky. This time I was told "Maybe its best you come back tomorrow." So back outside of the hotel I went to a local joint and got bladdered on a local spirit!
I did come back to the pool and found the water crystal clear I paid 5,000UGX and for the best part of 2 hours I was the only one there.
Well worth coming back to lovely pool.
Not the easiest place to find but well worth it if you want a really good Indian meal.
This place looks more like a residential home rather than a restaurant as the building itself is a large bungalow set in tree fringed grounds.
The menu is really quite extensive and with the shock of having so much choice for a vegetarian I eventually plumped for my stand-by on such occasions and ordered the veg biriyani. It was excellent as good or if not better than Indian meals that I have eaten in the capital. The price for biryani and a bottle of water came to 13,000 UGX
I came back a day later for breakfast and had a thoroughly enjoyable masala dhosa, but the best meal I ate here was the Paneer tika masala which I devoured with a garlic naan. It really was the best Indian meal I’ve eaten in Uganda.
Favorite Dish: Its all good!
As someone who likes my Indian food I thought the best way to find an Indian restaurant is to ask an Indian. So at an Asian owned supermarket opposite Centenary bank I asked the bloke there where if possible I would find an Indian restaurant in Arua Town. I asked the right bloke as he told me of two places where I’d find somewhere serving Indian food and one was not far away only on the other side of the bank.
J.J.’s was the place the other side of the bank. At first it looked just like a lodge but as I entered the compound a cheerful Indian guy came out to greet me and shook my hand warmly.
“I’ve been told you sell Indian food”
“Yes we have South Indian food. What would you like to eat?”
said the bloke all smiles.
I like South Indian food and was pleased to hear that they served masala dhosas and idli but “sadly they are over maybe you can come back for breakfast tomorrow”.
For now at lunchtime though I ordered the Veggie lunch. I was shown through the lodge to a an area with tables under a veranda looking out to the Hindu temple behind J.J.’s
I had come for lunch at the right time because as I sat at the table the heavens opened and as a young girl brought my soda to the table the rain hammered on veranda roof above where I was sitting.
The meal arrived “Sorry for the delay but the rain disturbed everything”
The meal consisted of rice chapatti, salad dal veg curry, curd and a papad. It was really nice and as I scooped up some dall containing a bright red chilli with a piece of chapatti the maze appeared saying “you might find it quite spicy” it was and just to my liking and I showed the bag of ‘Congo’ chillies that I had just bought from the market saying
“No problem I like spicy”
“I import these dried chillies especially from South India”
the mzee told me of the chillies that were contained in the dall they were nice but not a patch on the chillies I had bought from Arua market.
The meal was thoroughly enjoyable and I enjoyed the chat with the mzee.
I couldn’t make head nor tail of the bill but the total of the meal at the bottom came to 15,000 UGX
Several bus companies including Northern, KK, Nile and Gaagaa coach travel from Kampala to Arua and all of these depart the capital from Arua Park. I was recommended Gaagaa so the day before I left I was one of five people that had booked my seat and paid my 35,000 UGX for the following morning’s bus journey to Arua. The Gaagaa office first appeared quite chaotic till I realised that of several counters only one was for the Arua bus the other windows were for departures to Koboko and Paidah.
Arua Park was only 10-15 minutes’ walk from where I was staying. At the counter that sold tickets for Arua there was a ruck of people trying to buy tickets before the bus was due to leave at 7:30 and was I relieved that I had bought mine the previous afternoon.
Bang on time at 7:30 the bus left from outside the Gaagaa office and we were on our way. A lot of the busses with destinations in West Nile tend to leave at first light or earlier which is good as you leave Kampala before the crazy rush hour traffic turns the capital to a deadlock and it’s a rare sight to see the streets of Kampala as quiet as they were this morning.
We had one short stop at a filling station near the Masindi turn off to go for a short call and grab a quick bite and it was a real short stop possibly only 15 minutes before we were on our way again. The next time we had any kind of break at all was a short pause while a good few passengers alighted at Pakwach and again at Nebbi.
After 7 hours and 5 minutes we were outside the Gaagaa office in Arua. I was well impressed with the service, speed and efficiency of the coach and staff. Not sure if the fares of the other bus companies are similar but if I was heading this way again I would definitely use Gaagaa Coach.