By Solomon Oleny
I thought quad biking in Uganda would be as ordinary as a boda boda ride — if not more boring — because this was on bumpy and dusty roads in a remote village known as Bujagali in Jinja.
However, when Amos Wekesa, the renowned tourism enthusiast told me his daughter and son were also headed for the adventure, a part of me melted.
I hastily joined the trio on their way to Jinja with fat expectations. There had to be something special about quad biking to compel Wekesa to take his little ones for a weekend, over 40km away from Kampala.
The quad biking arena is nestled at the northern shores of River Nile. Peter Knight, the initiator of this activity in Uganda, was there. He assigned William Okiror, a knowledgeable and courteous guide, to take us through the day.
Okiror gave each of us a helmet and overalls, which I loved to hate because of their funny look. But there was no time to ponder because Okiror shepherded us to the reception for instructions about quad biking. Save for the instruction that warned us against riding the bikes with over confi dence, I do not remember the rest.
There are sculptures of different animals and birds along the track, which adds more beauty to the scenery.
We trooped to the parking yard, where we found over 20 quad bikes to pick from for the adventure. But we had to rely on Okiror for recommendations — he advised Wekesa and I to settle for the manual bikes as the little ones took automatic ones, which are easy to ride.
The manual bikes are more engaging and offer a greater riding challenge. It was not till our engines roared that it dawned on me that quad biking was absolutely different from a boda boda ride. Going by its vibrant roar, I could tell the safari would be so rewarding that I would drop in the fi eld in victorious exhaustion.
Our convoy of four bikes was led through three circuits — each at least 100 metres long. One track is winding with sharp corners designed to acquaint bikers with abrupt breaking skills needed in negotiating corners. Circuit two has narrow tracks meandering around a giant aquarium and man-made stream fl owing in concrete channels.
Along its tracks were road bumps and statuaries of different wildlife such as zebras, elephants, all designed to arm bikers with defensive driving skills.
Having passed the test with fl ying colours, Okiror led us to the fourth circuit, which is a long meandering route, probably about 500 metres long, just about the edge of the River Nile. We were allowed to ride through at speeds of our convenience. It was only then that I realised how exciting riding the manual bike was.
Almost all my six senses were engaged — my eyes to admire the breathtaking river, my nose to smell the dust, my ears to pay attention to the engine’s roars and tongue to scream in fright every time I almost rolled over Wekesa’s bike. This gave the adventure a great kick start.
Hitting the road
At last, it was time to hit the road for the real adventure in the neighbouring village, Buwendo. Being below the age of seven, Wekesa’s daughter had to leave her bike and join her dad’s for her safety. “Curiosity always leads minors to try out different things, only to roll over,” Okiror said.
We rode through a four-acre maize field, whose tracks were criss-crossed by daring farm pests such as rats and squirrels. Then there were the cute orange weaver birds that kept jumping from one maize comb to another in search of a bite.
Before we knew it, we were in the heart of a circular murrum fi eld with a circumference of about 100 metres. It is right here that we were to showcase our best biking skills, but oops, we hardly knew any.
For this reason, we spent the next 10 minutes riding in circles as our eyes of envy remained glued on Okiror, who proudly stole the show by pulling daring antics that we only see on sports TV channels.
By the end of this phase, I was choking on a thick blanket of dust, which had fi lled the air — triggered by our rides. This prompted Okiror to lead us to the immediate bank of River Nile for some fresh air. No sooner had we arrived, than one of the bikes got a mechanical problem.
Okiror did not have the spares to right away fi x it, meaning there was going to be plenty of time for us to cherish the refreshing breeze of the Nile. But he called back to offi ce for a substitute bike which arrived in the blink of an eye.
Back on track
We got back on track right away for another phase of the adventure along a narrow and bumpy course. The bumpier it was, the greater the riding challenge became. It was quite fun to manoeuvre over obstacles that looked impossible to trample, such as huge blocks of rocks and medium-sized logs.
Almost every time I accelerated to ride over an obstacle, the bike sprang up and down, tossing me mildly into the air like an underweight baby.
Next, we headed for the fast and furious ride in a rectangular football fi eld. We rode wildly, but kept applying the brakes abruptly. The bikes would spin repeatedly at 360 degrees like the propeller of a plane. In just two minutes, the atmosphere was glowing with hundreds of multi-coloured butterfl ies. It was an electrifying experience.
Just like phase one, this rough ride heated up our bodies, causing sweat to soak our clothes and leave us panting for fresh air. We veered to the nearest water bank which is about one kilometre away from the gigantic Bujagali dam. At this point, we turned off our engines and went for a break. We resorted to gathering shells from the shores.
Before we knew it, time was up; we had to return to the start point. To give the adventure a memorable climax, Okiror used a return track that cut through the scenic rolling hills of Bujagali and we relished every minute of it.