Uganda - The land of milk and honey and wrong runways

By Salome Maree


I was based in Entebbe, flying the King Air 200 for the UN. In between the flying there was enough time to twiddle our thumbs and go for all sort of different adventures. We went and found the equator and did a spot of shopping in Kampala.

Now Kampala is an adventure in itself. Driving there takes nerves of steel.

One will be in five lanes of traffic, tightly packed in next to each other, crawling along, when in between the cars, a Boda Boda (a motorbike taxi) will squeeze, somehow missing the sidemirrors of other vehicles, with its load of a whole family plus a goat, or a table or a coffin or sometimes another Boda Boda strapped to the back.

Kampala back then had two traffic lights. When they work the traffic was dumped into total and complete chaos. When the traffic lights did not work, the traffic would flow smoothly.

Sometimes one will see a tower of pineapples approaching with two skinny tires sticking out at the bottom. This contraption, in my opinion, made for a prickly paddle into Kampala city centre. Kampala even had a Shoprite which was quite a luxury in Africa.

In between all the adventures we had to do some work as well. One day we had a charter flight to the West of Uganda towards Lake Albert with a whole bunch of American tourists. As there is quite a number of strips in the area, we made sure that we memorised the runway directions and main features of the airport. We also made very sure that we had the coordinates on the GPS perfect.

With all the preparation done, we set of on our flight. We flew to the exact coordinates indicated on the GPS and the runway directions matched exaltedly to what we had memorised. We did a precautionary to ensure there were no obstructions - human or otherwise, on the runway, and landed.

After the landing some of the locals arrived and looked very perplexed at this aircraft on their runway.

When we opened the door, the American tourists spilled out of the aircraft like a shaken fizzy drink onto the dusty area which I guessed was to be the apron area. After explaining to the head scratching locals who were looking for, they said, no, this was the wrong runway. The one we were looking for was, apparently, two miles that way.

We herded our passengers back on board and had to explain to them that apparently, we had landed on the wrong runway and would be flying them the two miles to where we were supposed to be.

After landing safely, we off-loaded our rather bemused American tourist and set off for a very welcome fried Nile Perch (fish) at the Blue Hotel in Entebbe.

In our next story we will be visiting Mars - almost.

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