It was very cold; everyone inside the taxi was coiled up in their seat. Monday morning traffic jam across the city is really annoying. You can sit still in traffic jam for close to an hour; at least on Gayaza road (A taxi in Uganda is a mini 14-passenger van that transports people within and out of the city.). It was quiet inside, stuffy but warm, unlike the outside that was fresh but very wet and cold. Then he entered, and the atmosphere changed completely.
It was only a man with a bucket full of mandazzi (locally made doughnuts that are a common a snack sold around Kampala kiosks and canteens). He entered and occupied the only empty seat in the taxi on the first row and carried the goodies’ bucket on his laps.
The young man who looked like he was in his early 20s was a mandazzi hawker; many of such are a common sight around the city streets and suburbs. He must have been ferrying them to town or to some canteen in the nearby markets. The aroma that came from his bucket swept through the taxi like a breeze of cheap scented body spray. This whiff was absorbed in silence.
Since the earth had just been showered with a heavy down pour, it was very irresistible to dose off but the new smell in the taxi couldn’t allow this.
Someone couldn’t take it anymore. He broke the silence by saying;
“mala gatuwaa tulyeko ssebo” loosely translating into “ just give us some and we eat sir”. This sent everyone into laughter. And the murmurs in agreement began. Some suggested that he donates them to hungry cold passengers as a sacrifice to God. Some of us couldn’t hold back our giggles at the seemingly unbothered guy as he smiled and sat still.
Then one passenger volunteered to buy 14 mandazzis for everyone in the taxi, including the seller. After making the payment, he asked everyone interested to order one mandazzi.
Everyone first kept quiet, as if shying away until one lady broke the silence. She asked that her share be packed so that she would have it at office for breakfast. Then interesting, the man who had just bought us the mandazzi loudly ordered;
“Ffena kuliira muno” loosely translating into; “we are all eating from inside the taxi”. This cracked up everyone again. But he was only joking.
Another one brought up a suggestion. He asked the seller to first take his share before all the rest start ordering. This didn’t stop him (hawker) from taking the first pick. He picked out one and ate in silence. Then a passenger ordered his, and another lady, and another. Before we knew, everyone was having their share. I honestly wanted to join the band wagon but my stomach wasn’t up to the challenge that early morning (7:00am). I instead “donated” mine to my neighbour.
In what seemed like a 20minutes stop in traffic jam, people ate away as they went on with conversations about the nice flavour of the mandazzi and the morning weather. For the first time, I thought that, that taxi ride was the most interesting I’ve ever had.
In Kampala and Uganda in general, taxis are the commonest forms of transport anyone can easily access. They can be boarded from anywhere within the city centre.
Experiences, prices and destinations
People’s experiences in taxis vary. You can have a great time or a bad time depending on your fate for the day. My experience above was one of the most interesting ones I have had in a taxi but there very many times I have cursed my taxi experiences. These vary from conductors (the one who collects fees from passengers) overcharging me to times when they don’t let me alight at my EXACT destination- You see, the beauty of the taxi is that one gets to board and alight from a stage of their choice.
Other bad taxi experiences include taxi gospel preachers, drunkards who yap and make noise about each and everything, bad body odours from passengers and conductors or to those that eat smelly snacks like sausages, ground nuts, among others.
In order to avoid being cheated, one needs to research about where and at how much one can get their taxis. Find out the prices charged at different times of day because prices fluctuate depending on factors like weather, time of day and seasons.
Depending on where one is heading, a taxi in any town in Uganda can be accessed from the main taxi parks within the town centres. They can be accessed from all corners of the city depending on what direction of the city you are taking. The taxis are available at all times of the day and most work till past midnight.