Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik

Marie Javins has come out with a new book. Below is a passage from Stalking the Wild Dik-Dik, about her ‘misadventures’ in Africa, traveling solo.

In the countries of East Africa, as in many countries all over the world, public transport is in shared minibus taxis—matatus in Swahili—that run “when full.” “Full” means fourteen passengers, one driver, one conductor, and countless babies and toddlers. In Uganda, passengers are legally required to wear seatbelts. In reality, this law is usually enforced only on long-distance routes and even then, often only the passengers in the front seat buckle up.

Kampala has two taxi parks. One—the new taxi park—serves destinations to the south and west. The other—the one I now looked at—serviced the north and east. Neither of them looked especially new. They might be more aptly titled “Old” and “Older.”

Hundreds of blue-and-white minivans lined the big, dirty city block in front of me, while conductors hollered out destinations. A thick smell of diesel permeated the air. Vendors carrying an assortment of items—socks, watches, bottled water, pens, flip-flops, keychains—plied their trades as they circled constantly through the maze of taxis, shoving products through any open window.

Dazed from both lack of sleep and the onslaught of diesel fumes, I turned right and aimed for “Tourist Hotel.” At $25 a night, it wasn’t cheap by my standards, but it featured standard-hotel quality in a central location. I was in Kampala for only a few days, just long enough to get the permit I needed to see the mountain gorillas in the southwest of the country.