For this adventure I decided to try one of the bi-weekly Mountain Club of Uganda cycling half-day outings from Kampala, the capital city. First let me warn you that it sounded very simple but logic should have warned me that a city renowned for its hills can’t possibly have easy bike rides. Second, when a local that has been raised in these hills (at 1,200 meters altitude) says the ride will be 20-25 km he may be speaking of just the actual off-road biking part of the ride (i.e., the non-city part).
So not knowing the above I thought I was going out for an early morning fun ride but in reality it was another thing all together. The hardest part of the day was the 7 km ride through the city to reach the port and again later in the afternoon when we returned to the port and had to back track another 7 km to make it back to our starting point. The city riding is all HARD riding. The countryside on the other hand is fun and mostly flat with only a few moderate short hills to climb.
See the Maps & Facts page for the routes from the starting point (Bike Shop Uganda) to the small port next to the Gabba Market and then back later in the day. Basically 7 km each way with some very steep hills in between. Also the countryside route is included.
Total Cost of this Activity is: 20,000 UShillings
The city ride started up Tank Hill Road, then undulated through a mix of upscale residential, commercial and local neighborhoods to reach the Gabba docks. We then loaded our bikes onto a boat, hopped on and set out on a leisurely crossing of Murchinson Bay for the far shore, and Mukono specifically.
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At the small Bule port we unloaded the bicycles and started the actual mountain biking ride on an orange dirt road. No more paved roads! Actually the next four hours were be along this dirt road with numerous detours on farm tracks or walking trails through cultivated fields, plantations, and a forest reserve or two. The area provided outstanding riding; not overly strenuous or difficult and full of local sights, sounds (children shouting ‘hello muzungu’) and food.
Incidentally, while riding a section of the main dirt road between loops we crossed paths with a large number of riders from a another club (called Fun Cycling Ug) with loads of riders. Seems this side of the bay is a biking hot spot.
And yes I did mention food above. Brunch (at the insistence of Marlene) was at the cross-roads village of Mpatta where a local woman setup an outdoor wood fire meal and two young men staffed a fast-food counter serving the world famous Ugandan specialty called Rolex. A double egg onion & tomato omelet rolled into a chapatti (flat bread). This local favorite is a fast food staple selling at a range of 2000 – 3000 Shillings (60 – 90 cents US) each.
After a hardy brunch we set out for more twists, turns and zig-zags along trails and through local yards (see Maps & Facts for details). Yet the ride was not entirely trouble-free. One of the bikes kept having mechanical problems with its gears and after three breakdowns the rider pitched in the towel, flagged down a Boda-Boda motorcycle taxi and got a ride (with the bike) back to the port to wait for the rest of us to return later in the morning.
After more than 32 km of dust we found ourselves back at the Bule port tired and ready to call it a day. Unfortunately that was not to be the case for most of us. When back in Kampala we still had to cycle a lot of uphill city roads to backtrack the 7 km to our starting point. But not all of us it seems. Marlene flagged down a Boda-Boda, loaded her bike on the back, jumped on and waved goodbye as they drove off with a smile.
Inspiring idea! The next time I do one of these casual bi-weekly Mountain Club of Uganda rides I’m going to get a lift to and from the port and skip the entire city experience all together. The real action and fun is in the countryside, not the city, anyway.
Happy cycling in Uganda.
Watch other videos.
Other Uganda Outings
Read about Murchison Falls Self-drive safari.
Read about the Nyero Rock Paintings day trip.
Read the Lake Mburo National Park Safari blog.
Read the Punishment Island, Lake Bunyonyi blog.