In Uganda, the motorcycle is known by the name bodaboda. I have not yet discovered the meaning of the word but maybe with time.

The bodaboda is the basic means of transportation throughout Uganda. Even in the small village of Kibaale there are many….. I think of it as a simple effective taxi. It can travel the main paved highways, on the red dirt roads or along the narrow footpaths…. it can go anywhere for a inexpensive price. A litre of fuel is around 3,500 shillings which is more than $1.25 US.

As I travel back and forth from Kibaale to Masaka I see many of them stationed at certain crossroads along the way from the big town to the small villages ready in a second to carry one, two, three or maybe four passengers to their village. Yes…. these motorcycles are the basic ones found in most parts of Canada and the USA, nothing fancy but they are used everywhere for transporting many people at a time short or long distances. I rarely see anyone wearing a helmet.

Some drivers own the bodaboda while other rent them….. but it is a job. Whatever there is a town, village or city….there is a spot where the bodabodas congregate for conversation, repairs and washing…. the driver work hard to keep the motorcycle functioning and sparking clean.

When I say is it the basic mode of transportation it is not just for people but everything else. I have seen 30 or more pineapples tied to the back of a bodaboda hanging down like tails or the double bed balance on the back so wide that I cannot see the driver, or numerous jerry cans for water bounding around like a yellow flower in bloom. The motorcycle carries luggage, large bags full of roasted coffee, stocks of matoki, cases of pop, lumber, bricks, wooden crates of fruits and vegetables, book shelves, and anything that needs to be transported including the body of a loved one who has passed away. I think I have seen almost everything somehow tied down, balanced on the back and transported on the main road to the narrow paths. It is amazing what the motorcycle can carry.

BUT….. they are very scary. I have not yet had a ride on one but they can get you from one place to other in Kampala faster than a car….. the congestion in many parts of Kampala is just as bad as the gridlocks in Vancouver during rush-hour. So, many business men in their suits and ties use the bodaboda as a means of quick transportation from one appointment to another.

BUT for me…. they are scary on the roads. They dart in and out between the trucks, cars and bikes as if they have the right of way. I have seen a mother carrying a new baby on the back between two other people, or a father driving his four children to school or an elderly couple holding tightly to numerous heavy bags of who knows what. It looks like it is a fine balancing act which goes well most of the time and then…… there are the time when things fall apart. Like the other day, when a bodaboda carrying three men plus the driver passed me on the wrong side, darted out in front of me as I was going up a steep hill on the dirt road into Kibaale. All of a sudden the last man of the bike falls off…. I almost ran over him. This is just of the many times I have watched the bodaboda a few feet in front of me drop off the last passenger. I watch to make sure the person is O.K….. but wonder if the person gets their ride free.

Bodabodas are a good thing but I wonder how many people are seriously hurt when the driver makes a mistake turning, passing or traveling up a hill and someone or all fall off. I watch these drivers and ponder the value of life….he is balancing the making of a few shillings with the health and well being of his passengers.