How to Ride a Piki Piki

Actually I like the use of the word boda boda better. It’s the name we give to motorbikes that are used in the same manner as a taxi.

Boda boda originated at the border (hence shortened to boda) of Kenya and Uganda. With the drop in the price of the Chinese made motorbikes, there are plenty available.

I catch bikes every now and then and love it. Most expats freak out at the thought of catching a motorbike in Africa. Liz catches one to work each day. They are so cheap to go on you just can’t say no. For only $1 you can go a few kilometres which is about a quarter of the price of a car.

I was watching a Kenyan doco and the presenter said “Anybody who rides a piki piki takes their life into their own hands.  And they are correct!

Our boda drivers in Uganda

Our boda drivers in Uganda

Thanks to our generous friends we bought our own motorbike but we made sure that we also bought high vis gear (think bright orange council jackets). Drivers are shockers here. Today I was walking on the footpath and the next minute a large bus decided it wanted to share it with me.  While we are waiting to buy a car, I catch a piki piki when Pete has the car. This year I aim to get my motorbike license.

On our last trip to Uganda Pete and I went on bodas (they shorten it in Uganda) everywhere. One of our longest trips was about 30 minutes. Kampala traffic is twice as congested as Nairobi, hard to believe but true.

There are some tricks to catching a piki piki though:

  1. Always negotiate a price beforehand.
  2. Have cash in your pocket. Getting your wallet out is a bad idea and too tempting for the price to be raised.
  3. Ask for a helmet. You can’t grow another head (although I must confess that I am bad at insisting on this).
  4. Give instructions as you go along with your hands. There seems to be more ‘lefts’ than you think.
  5. Always be on the lookout for a jump off spot. You just never know when you might need it.
  6. Get off the bike before you pay the driver.
This is illegal, but it still happens

This is illegal, but it still happens




Going to the Movies

I’ve been to the cinema twice here in Nairobi, once to see The Hobbit and then the latest Die Hard movie. When we are in a new country we go and see a movie just for the experience.

It all started with watching 2012, showing in Arusha Tanzania. Pete hated going especially since there was an outdoor cafe outside and he despises those types of movies. After 8 weeks on the road I told him he owed his kids that much. He survived.

In 2011, Liz and I were on our almost solo trip to Uganda as Pete was holed up in a very nice hospital in Kenya with a broken leg. Since we were staying in a $15 a night motel we splurged out and went to see Rise of The Planet of the Apes. We thought it was a bit risky to leave our bags at the security desk but had no option. But for $6 we got a movie and a Coke. A pity there was no air conditioning but since we there were only 3 of us in there I ripped off my hiking boots and rolled up my pants. There’s not many fun things to do in Kampala, but I do suggest the cinema.

As soon as the Hobbit arrived in Nairobi, Liz and I jumped on some motorbikes and headed up to the local mall. Actually, bodaboda’s are a really cheap way to get around town, all of $1 to get to our mall. I hadn’t read the book so it was kind of vague and I didn’t know the movie was a trilogy so I was a bit of a let down. Also, the teenyboppers behind me were like “OMG is that for real, if it were me…” the whole way through the movie. Really wanted to turn around and slap them silly but you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t. On the upside, we didn’t fry because of a lack of air conditioning and then we accidentally bumped into some fellow Aussies in the cafe next door.

There’s a small but nice waiting area where you can buy some snacks and wait for the doors to open, there’s a flat screen TV playing previews and there’s even some toilets. Here’s the sign outside the lift:

theatre 2

Roll forward to 2013 and Die Hard. Liz was keen as mustard to see it. Me, I like the action, hate Bruce Willis’ language, I just want to get in there with some soap and a toothbrush to wash out his mouth. Seriously, there’s no need for every second word to be the ‘F word’. We dragged Pete along under the guise of a dad/daughter date, with me as the tag along. I was seriously surprised at how little swearing there was in comparison to his other Die Hard movies (or it’s been so long since I saw them that I’ve forgotten). Entry was a whopping $5 each and for another $5 we all got a bottle of fizzy and the most delicious caramel popcorn. Because it’s been here for so long there were only 7 of us in the theatre, all adults and although the air con wasn’t on, it was quite pleasant.

theatreHere’s one of the theatres, there’s 4 in the nearest cinema.

I’m looking forward to May when a whole bunch of decent movies come out. The TV shows here are really old and if you choose to buy DVD’s on the side of the road (we don’t) the sound can be terrible, the movies don’t work or they suddenly stop halfway through.

I’m not sure if I can convince Pete to come again as he’s not a big theatre fan, but Liz and I will definitely take some time out from all of our work here. There’s nothing quite like zoning out of reality for a couple of hours and having a breather. While most people here can’t afford the $5 to go to the movies, it’s something we can do every few months that doesn’t mean eating ugali, corruption, dealing with poverty or avoiding potholes bigger than the car.