The boda-boda is to Uganda what the yellow taxicab is to New York City: the best, door-to-door mode of transportation for people in a hurry. Only instead of a roomy back seat in a Ford Crown Victoria, on the boda-boda you’re straddling a motorcycle behind an over-zealous driver who – with or without a helmet – seemingly knows no fear.
I once was an over-zealous boda passenger who knew no fear. Swerving in and out of bumper-to-bumper traffic was just part of the daily commute. I got so comfortable riding bodas that could write text messages on my cell phone at the same time. But the horror stories abound: the mythical hospital ward dedicated solely to victims of boda accidents; the tell-tale “boda burn” on the inside of the calf, from getting scorched by the motorcycle’s over-heating exhaust pipe; passengers falling off as rickety bodas flail on Kampala’s incredibly steep hills.
I’ve since wised up and I now take the slower, relatively safer, matatu buses around town. So consider this a virtual boda-boda ride, as I try to impart some of my experiences in Uganda without hitting a pothole or leaving anyone in the dust. Like most boda drivers, I have no license certifying that I’m any good at what I’m doing, and I don’t really know where I’m going. So please bear with me. At least you should be able to simultaneously send a text message without endangering your life.