After a longer than expected bus ride from Kampala, I was happy when we finally crossed the Nile at the Owen Dam. I was told that the bus would not even stop in Jinja at all, and I got off at a roundabout. Walking next to this road was not interesting; fortunately, a van stopped and offered me a ride. Once in downtown Jinja, I said goodbye to my new friends, and walked down the main street. At the old police station, I asked a boda boda (motorbike) driver to take me to the source of the Nile plaque. After driving across the railway bridge over the Nile, he turned around with a puzzled look in his eyes, and I immediately knew he did not know where he was going. I was sure we were not far from my destination, and asked him to let me off. He also did not have change, and a passer-by was friendly enough to give me a little money to pay the driver. Also this guy, born and raised in Jinja, did not know where to find the plaque. He accompanied me through fields of green, down to the river, where pirogues were lying on the shore, and fishermen were chatting under a tree, with cows grazing near the river. Whenever I asked about the memorial I was looking for, they pointed to the river, and told me that I could take a tour of the river with them, to the source of the Nile. No one could help me - so I just stood there, watching the flow of the water; the river is already quite wide here, just off the northern tip of Lake Victoria.
I walked up the steep road, and turned right in the direction of where I thought should be the memorial I was looking for. I reached a park, and realized I had finally arrived at the spot Jinja is most famous for. The monument turned out to be modest: an obelisk-type pillar with three sides (one side for each country through which the Nile flows from here), and a plaque commemorating the fact that John Hanning Speke spotted the Nile from this very spot in 1862, realizing that he had found the source of the longest river in the world. It is, of course, a little strange: you expect something like a small water well, a trickle of water coming from the earth perhaps, to be the source of a river. What I saw below, was a pretty wide river, seemingly flowing off the enormous Lake Victoria (also discovered by Speke) just south of here. The view has changed considerably since the days of Speke; what used to be the Rippon Falls below, are now mere ripples in the water, caused by the Owen hydroelectric dam a few kilometres downstream. The view of the river flowing through the green landscape was fantastic nonetheless, further helped by the warm afternoon sunlight. I walked down to the Nile again, wondering what the scenery would have been like before the Owen dam was built. After taking in the panorama from the Source of the Nile Gardens, I walked along the railway track, which proved the fastest way to reach the bridge to return to Jinja, and continued walking the track until I was close to the Bujagali roundabout.
By now, I was thirsty, and treated myself to a cold drink at a street stall, before taking another boda boda to Bujagali, where I wanted to spend the night. It was a great feeling to be on the back of the motorbike, despite the dust showers that rained upon us whenever a car passed. After taking a tent at a beautifully located campsite, I walked down to the Nile again - to discover that the Bujagali falls that had been here once, had disappeared as well because of a second dam in the Nile further downstream. What supposedly was an exciting landscape of rapids and waterfalls, now has become more like a wide lagoon, teaming with wildlife. I sat right at the banks of the Nile, watching the sun sink on the green landscape, giving the water and the sky a brilliant orange glow. Birds were flying everywhere, fishermen were plying the quiet waters of the Nile in search of a catch, while the lights were squeezed out of the sky. I walked back up when there was just enough light to see. The first thing I did the next morning, was to walk down again, to the shower with a view and had a refreshing shower while watching the Nile beneath. I was determined to walk back to Jinja, and the walk was probably the highlight of my visit. Walking through a landscape of rolling hills, through small villages with yelling kids running towards me, being overtaken by men on their bikes, passing women carrying loads on their heads, chatting with passers-by made me walk the 8km with a broad smile. I visited a small market outside Jinja, before doing a walking tour through the town with its wide streets, many of those tree-lined, with some remarkable, old buildings, with mosques, hindu temples, churches, shops, and in the city centre, boda bodas waiting at virtually every corner.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Jinja (Uganda). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Jinja. Read more about this site.