Saturday, October 20, 2012


October 17-19, 2012
My firist trip outside of Nairobi is to the northeastern area of Uganda, a journey of about 320 miles. You have to imagine what the roads are like, that is if you want to call them roads. It takes 1 1/2 days to travel the distance. The roads we travelled are used by large trucks hauling goods and petroleum to landlocked Uganda and the new country of South Sudan. 
Kenyan Sights
Most people associate Kenya with big game and indeed they exist, but they are mostly confined to game reserves. The rest of Kenya is made up of small, poverty-ridden, subsistence farms, intensely cultivated, interspersed with larger commercial farms. If any game existed, it has long been eaten. Most of western Kenya is at a high elevation, so the climate is very mild, even cool.
Just outside of Nairobi is the 1,200 mile Rift Valley, truly spectacular with escarpments and volcanoes. For our trip we descend into and across the valley to the highlands of Western Kenya.The landscape continues to amaze me as we are on the equator.
Looking across a section of the Rift Valley with an extinct volcano to the left,
 behind which is the famous Maasai Mara Game Reserve
Upland scene with a Flame Tree on right
Forested area
Tea Plantation, a major Kenyan export
  Police, police in-training, and future young police cadets parade.
Kagamega, Kenya
  Street scene in Kagamega.
Bicycles are the main form of transportation, often carrying very heavy loads and pushed along the side of major highways.
Low powered motorbikes, called Boda Boda, are the main taxi's with some carrying two passengers. They are everywhere.

 Convoy of United Nations trucks heading for South Sudan.
Sign at a restaurant.
Owner says he goes through 12 rolls of toilet paper a day.
You really don't want to see the toilet.
Buyobo, Uganda
Crossing into Uganda at Busia, Kenya is a wild and frightening experience. There is lots of red tape, idling trucks lined up, money changers, push carts, uniformed people with AK-47s, everything you expect at a frontier border. In a way it is like crossing from the U.S. into Tijuana, Mexico, going from a rich place to a poor one with people always on the hustle. The only difference is Kenya is poor and Uganda even more so. To add to the backdrop is the memory of Idi Amin. Our car has red license plates, indicating we are either U.N. or someone important which makes the crossing that much easier. Photographs are those who like their cameras confiscated.
Sometimes "Failures to Communicate" happen, directions are scant, and cell phone reception poor. Such is the case when we are in Nambale, Kenya calling a person who says she will meet us at the famous "Chat and Chino" restaurant. Two problems exist: one is no one has ever heard of this restaurant and second no one has ever heard of Buyobo, Uganda, including Google, our destination. I luckily guessed Buyobo is near a town called, Mbale, Uganda which is in the opposite direction of our travels and not in Kenya.
Eureka! Upon arriving in Mbale, Uganda we locate "Chat and Chino", only to see it is a coffee shop unknown to all residents of Mbale, except a few Westerners. There are American lady sits, patiently waiting our arrival who after living there for nine months is not exactly sure how to get from Mbale to where she lives in Buyobo. We are to learn about the nine year program conducted by the U.S. based Women Microfinace Organization.
The famous "Chit and Chino" Coffee Shop, shared with Gatsby Microfinace, Ltd. 
Mbale, Uganda
Buyobo, Uganda Scenes
 Main Street, Buyobo
Toyota Land Cruiser is ours. Cattle theirs.
 An upscale Buyobo house
 Mt. Elgon
A 14,000 ft+ volcano which dominates the landscape between Kenya and Uganda.
Buyobo is along side it.
 Cheki, our driver, with Buyobo children
Samoan thoughts.
In many ways Buyobo reminds me of some parts of Savaii, Samoa with the rain, humidity, and misted mountain back drop.
Business Opportunities
One reason I am in East Africa is to identify business opportunities. So far, I have found three:
-Fried Banana Chips
     The microfinance women in Buyobo, Uganda harvest and sell bananas to earn extra money, but they never heard of slicing the bananas, frying and bagging them as a snack food. Banana chips are their next enterprise.
-Unique Baskets
     The microfinance women of Kagamega, Kenya basically sell the same food stuffs as hundreds of other people scraping a living. Upon a little thought, bull fighting (two bulls fight each other) and the crying rock are two very unique things about this area. Why not paint pictures of bulls fighting, the Crying Stone, and the name of Kagamega on baskets to sell?
 Crying Stone
-Bicycle Paths
     Why not rip up and sell the unused rails of Uganda for scrape and use the money to convert the roadbeds to bicycle paths? Why stop there when the bike trails can be dotted with coffee shops, boutique inns, and padded bike pant shops?
Picture yourself biking across Uganda.
Goats R'Us
I love goat meat and sometimes serve it at home to unsuspecting guests. Usually the goat I buy is chopped up into little bony pieces. When our driver learned about my love, and also his love for chomo (Swahili for goat), we just had to stop at a road "Chomo Eden".

 Kind of like "Fuddruckers", only the meat is fresher,
 being killed that day and unrefrigerated.
 Charcoal cooking, with fat dripping onto the coals.
Can't be beat.
As any carnivore knows, the most nutritious part of any animal is not the meat, but the innards.
These innards are dripping with fat and "Delicious!"