Friday, 20 March 2015

Unleaded Fuel – what is that?

On my last trip to the great Karamoja region, I enjoyed the vast expanses of land and breathtaking scenery of the landscapes along Katakwi, Napak and Moroto. Aside from the dust embedded within each facet of their lifestyle, Moroto town was relatively quiet with the exception of loud Ugandan music played at the small clubs over the weekend.

Today, I am not going to focus on the night scene of Moroto, but a whole other issue that the town is grappling with – fuel scarcity. By scarcity I mean that the town has only two available pumps which sometimes run out of fuel, so when you find it available you had better top up.

We decided to fuel up at the one on the main street of Moroto town since we were informed that fuel scarcity was a common occurrence in this part of Uganda. This station was the worse option of the two near the market area was the better option of the two with the other being very run down, but we only realized this much later.

Before we left Soroti town, we had fueled up but were currently running low after the back and forth journeys we made between Moroto and the Napak district headquarters. As we pulled into the fuel station, we were greeted with silence as we quietly waited for the pump attendant to serve us - however there was none in sight.

After 1 minute of looking around, the wind blew the fuel station office door open and we could see a gentleman seated with a plate of food munching away on something.

 We waited another minute as we tried to make contact with him by waving our hands in the air and calling out to him from our vehicle.

Me: “Sebo, sebo, hello we want to fuel up.”

Nothing worked and it only took the driver jumping out of his seat and moving in his direction to get him out of his seat and he started walking towards us.

Driver: “Sebo do you work here, we want fuel?”

Pump Attendant: “You want fuel?”

Me: “Yes we do!”

Pump Attendant: “Okay,” he responded as he stared at us before another man run out of the office.

The pump attendant’s counterpart pulled him aside as he whispered something in his ear as he watched us intently and a grin accidentally crossed his lips.

Me: “Could you fill the tank?” I yelled in their direction as they had gone a little way off to hold their conversation and yet we were in a hurry.

Pump Attendant: “Fuel is 5,000 Ugx a liter”

Me: “5,000 Ugx, why!” 

Pump Attendant: “You know where you are?”

Me: “What is that supposed to mean?”

Pump Attendant: “This is Moroto?”

Me: “Yes so, not even 4,000 or 4,200 but 5,000?”

After a brief moment of reflection, with the advice of the locals to ensure we fuel up to avoid running out, I decided to heed to their advice and responded.

Me: “Fine fill up the tank.”

Driver: “Sebo put Petrol – unleaded,” he said as he walked back to his side of the car readying himself for takeoff.

Pump Attendant: “huh?”

Now this chap decided to stretch out our fueling experience at his pump so long that given our journey from Soroti and then Napak and back to Moroto, we were exhausted and wanted nothing more than a hot shower and sumptuous meal.

Driver: “Unleaded!” he said as he yelled across from the driver’s side.

Me: “Give us Unleaded sebo, I reiterated since I did not want the pump attendant to feign deafness. After a brief pause coupled with a clueless face he responded,

Pump Attendant: “What is that?”

Bwahahaha! Chuckled the rest of my team travelling who were seated in the back of the van. That was the final straw as the driver responded in frustration.

Driver: “You put what you have we are not going to sleep here.”
After he finished I wanted nothing more than to never see this pump attendant ever again and it is working out pretty well so far.

Me: “Can you give me a receipt?” I said disgusted at how the fuel quantity did not match the number of liters’ I had paid for?”

Pump Attendant: “Huh!”

You all know that conversation went south.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

The spaced out Ssese Island lodge proprietor.

I recently had the opportunity to travel to Kalangala for work reasons and I must say it was such a pleasure to be back to the island which I visited briefly about 5 years ago for one night only. 

On my last trip, I used the ferry from the landing site in Entebbe, but this time I was fortunate to use the one in Masaka off Bukakata.

I was pleasantly surprised at how relatively punctual the ferries are that ply the route to and from the island 5 times a day at 7:00am, 9:00am, 11:00am, 1:00pm and 3:00pm. We were a little late but fortunate to catch the ferry which delayed loading motor vehicles on the island as it was on its way to Bukakata. As my team and I got onto the ferry, we were all extremely surprised that only our names and telephone numbers’ were jotted down for itinerary and no single coin was requested for fare. In addition, the journey to Ssese Island took only 20 minutes from Masaka on MV Ssese as opposed to the 3hours the last time I travelled on MV Kalangala via Entebbe. The ferry was very clean; the crew was smart, helpful and courteous even when my crew requested to take pictures the captain obliged with barely any fuss.

When we disembarked MV Ssese, I was taken aback at how much development had taken place since my last visit; with the extensive road works, the solar plant that powers the entire island completed and hectares of oil palm on the hills and slopes of the island. All this development was in stark comparison to the only 2 fuel station pumps on the main street of the island.

We arrived at sun down owing to our late departure of 5:00 pm from Bukakata and after getting our schedule for the following day sorted; we sought lodging as we decided to also experience the island by night. We visited hotels cottages, lodges and cabins that had either lodging or meals not both and when I asked about the food this is the response got.

Me: “Hello, how are you?”

Lodge proprietor: “I am fine.”

Me: “I am looking for accommodation for 5 people but would like to have that with full board.”

Lodge proprietor: “Full what!”She said.

Me: “Full board,” I responded politely.

Lodge proprietor: “wanji, hhhmm.”

Me: “Accommodation and breakfast.”

Lodge proprietor: “This is what we have,” she said as she took me to the front of her establishment to look at the quad bikes that were parked in a pen at the front of her establishment with a restaurant overhead.

Me: “Okay, I mean do you have accommodation and food – bed and breakfast for 5 people?”

Lodge proprietor: “I have only food.” She said as she walked back to her seat with a nonchalant look on her face.

Me:  “What kind of food?’

Lodge proprietor: “Continental menu!” she said in a cut way.

Me: “Okay, no local food at all?”

Lodge proprietor: “No!”

Me: “And what about accommodation?”

Lodge proprietor: “No accommodation, but there is accommodation down there. You can eat here and sleep there,” she said as she pointed across the main road to a little dingy looking establishment.

Me: “Okay, thank you,” I said in response as I walked away shaking my head on disbelief.

So then I thought to myself, she expects my team and I to wake up at the wee hours of the morning to cross over from our rooms to the breakfast area and then cross back to pick equipment before we could head out for the day’s activities. That was not going to happen.
The long story cut short we made 2 phone calls and got a recommendation of a good place right by the beach called Brovad Sands Lodge. 

The food was on point, the customer service was awesome and the manager was alert although it was pricy. That aside owing to my negotiation skills and the sizeable group I was travelling with, I managed to get a discount for our stay and every shilling was well worth it.

On the day of our departure, we intended to catch the 7:00 am ferry and so the manager of the lodge advised us to be at the dining at 5.30 am latest but when I got downstairs I did not expect his team to be ready or even awake. 

As I walked into the dining area, a lady seated in the corner shot out of her seat and headed straight to where I stood as she said;

Assistant Manager: “Good morning Mum, what will you be having for breakfast?”

People, great customer service exists within this beloved country of ours although I must add it I went all the way to Kalangala to find it but it was well worth the wait.

UMEME “ate” my Yaka units

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