Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bodo Boda

You can get them other places, but Uganda is the true home of "boda-boda" motorcycle taxi.

Originally boda-bodas were bicycles that gave you a ride between the Kenya and Uganda border ("boda" get it?) posts back in 1960s. You can still get bicycle taxis in Kenyan towns. It's a very pleasant way to travel. It has the advantages of cycling but without the work. They put a padded seat on the back of the bike. In Nakuru rush hour doesn't mean noise, stress traffic jams and pollution. Businessmen read their newspaper as the bicycle taxi man ferries them to work.

But these days the word "boda-boda" means a Ugandan motorcycle taxi. They are everywhere. It's very conveniant. Even if you have your own car, you will find yourself taking the occasional boda when you are in a hurry. Traffic is terrible in Kampala, but the boda-boda men can pass between cars or on the sidewalk so you reach your destination on time.

I sometimes ended up taking bodas late at night. It's a dangerous thing because they could drive you somewhere dark, where their friends are hiding, beat the crap out of you and take all you stuff stuff. But it's also exhilerating because the town is deserted so there is nothing to hold you back. The boda-boda men love to race. You fly through the silent sleeping streets and you realize that life is a glorious thing and short.


Kenton Williston said...

Man, that sounds like fun. Well, except the part about getting beat up!

Seraphina said...

Oh Dan! That's how I feel when I ride trains late at night and everyone else is asleep and I'm the only person watching the world whip by.

Dan Carpenter said...

Kenton, I should say that Uganda is a very safe country. Plenty of people are out at night shopping and having a good time.

At the same time, a boda boda man can be anyone with $10 to rent a motorbike for the day. You don't know them from Adam. My trick was to ask them if they knew the route and when they answered I'd sniff their breath to see how drunk they were.