Mutatus are brilliant. Imagine a 12 seater Toyoya van battered, bruised and brimming with people. Weaving their way through the city of Kampala, mutau drivers constantly beep their horns at passers by in an attempt to encourage more people on board. Similar to British buses they follow a set route, though you’re able to simply flag them down and jump on. The driver’s job is to get the van from A to B ‘safely’, whilst the second member of the team, the conductor, hangs out the window cajoling members of the public to jump onboard whilst also dealing with the money (our thirty minute ride into town cost 20p each).
Claire and I decided to take a mutatu into the central Kampala taxi park. We had a pretty chilled day previous – hanging around the hostel and seeing the local sights in the nearby village of Lusaka – and thought we would sample the busiest and most hectic part of the capital.
The mutatu ride in was fantastic. Initially it’s a daunting prospect jumping in a cramped van practically sitting on the laps of fellow passengers as they stuff as many people in as possible. But as soon as you’re off it’s great. Our driver hurtled through the traffic doing whatever he wanted as more and more people jumped on and off along the way. One of the things that struck us most was the women on these buses. Beautifully adorned in colourful dresses and skirts, with intricately made up hair and full make up, they looked completely out of place on a dusty roller coaster ride into town.
The taxi park in central Kampala is impossible to comprehend without witnessing it first hand. Hundreds of minivans congregate from all angles on one dirt car park where passengers disembark and others jump on for a trip out of town. Resembling a beating heart, thousands of people make their way in and out in a seemingly impossible yet perfectly orchestrated example of organised chaos. I would have had a photograph to show you, but alas, my camera was stolen.
We were devastated to lose the camera so early on, but in doing so we have learned never to leave valuables in the front pocket of your bag whilst walking through such a busy place. Though it is made all the more frustrating when you consider a kind stranger approached us to tell us we were being followed by potential pickpockets seemingly moments after we had had the camera pinched. His good Samaritan efforts were in vain.
This put a slight dampener on our day so we headed back to the hostel, on another more spacious matatu, and planned the next step of our trip. We’ve been in Kampala for four nights now, and tomorrow we’re off to visit Kendra for a few days in Jinja, a small town at the source of the river Nile.