As I conclude my stay in Uganda, it feels fitting to pay homage to my hometown for the past few months, Lugazi. Not a town on many visitors’ radars, Lugazi is located about halfway between Uganda’s capital, Kampala, and the country’s tourist destination at the head of the Nile, Jinja. You must pass through Lugazi to get from one to the other, and so, while many people know of Lugazi, most do not know much about it.
But, after two months of living here, I can tell you it’s a wonderful place, and definitely worth a stop. So, if you find yourself nearby, here is a little peek into how to spend a day and a half stopover in Lugazi, Uganda.
Friday, 7pm: Check into the Liz Motel, conveniently located in the center of town, right across from the Lugazi taxi park along Kampala-Jinja Road. Just ask the conductor of your taxi to drop you at the Shell Station, and you’ll be a short walk away. There’s a cute cat that wanders around the premises, and there are clean, flushing toilets available to guests. After a few months at home with only squat toilets, flushing ones are to be appreciated!
Friday, 8pm: Grab a drink with the locals in Namango Village, who you’ll find more than happy to welcome you to their party. The gathering spot is right around the corner from the Liz Motel, off of the railroad. The local brew is millet-based and is enjoyed as a group: everyone grabs a long rubber straw and shares a bucket. Gossip and card games ensue. Once you’ve had your fill (apparently, it’s strong stuff), head back to the Liz Motel with your flashlight leading the way.
Saturday, 9am: Start your day with a pleasant wander through the nature walk on the golf course belonging to the local sugar estate that employs a large portion of the town. The landscaping is beautiful, and it feels like you’ve wandered into an entirely different world. If you can’t resist, stick around to play a couple of rounds, too.
Saturday, 11am: Since you’re in a sugar-producing town, make sure you snag some sugarcane to try out. It could be described as tasting like watermelon, just without the fruity flavor. Roadside vendors will sell it to you, or, if you’re feeling daring, you can join the groups of children that snag loose canes off the back of sugarcane trucks.
Saturday, 11:30am: It’s past mid-morning—time for a quick snooze, right? Choose a green patch under one of the mango trees back near your hotel before you start your trek to the top of Namango Hill.
Saturday, noon: Purchase a couple snacks from the vendors near the roundabout and a make pit stop at the ice cream boda-boda (ice cream motorcycle), then make your way up the gravel roads to the top of Namango Hill where you have a beautiful view of Lugazi and the surrounding countryside.
Saturday, 2pm: As you make your way back down the hill (be ready to see lots of chickens, goats, and cows!), stop in at Friend’s Café for a late lunch and some delicious juice. Their orange-passion juice is mix of several fruits (we watched the blending—it isn’t just passion fruit and orange) with a touch of ginger. You can also order affordable local meals, such as rice, matooke, and fish, to fill you up.
Saturday, 3pm: Market time. Just off the main road, you can find the local market offering everything from dried sardines to watermelon and tea seasonings. Just know that you shouldn’t pay more than 200 shillings for an excellent local banana and 2,500 shillings for a large, juicy pineapple. And along with the avocados, both shouldn’t be missed during your stay in Lugazi.
Also not to be missed in the market are mandazis from Kisozi. Mandazis are sweet little cakes for 200 shillings, and Kisozi makes the best in town.
Saturday, 4pm: You’ve so far eaten your way through town, so now it’s time to pick up some souvenirs at one of the local shops selling goods from nearby villages. These establishments are also the suppliers to local witch doctors, so you might just find the petrified mouse you’ve been looking for, or the porcupine quills to heal your wounds.
You can’t leave town without visiting Musana Jewelry! Part of our project this summer was opening a storefront, so you can come through to buy beautiful jewelry and meet the women that make it. Make sure you pick up some bright jewels for all of the women in your family. One day in the near future, you will also be able to enjoy a delicious fruit smoothie while browsing jewelry.
Then, it’s time to get back on the road. If Lugazi was your stop on your way to Jinja, continue through and check out the Indian restaurant next to the casino for some of the best Indian food you’ll ever have. If you’re headed to Kampala instead, I’d suggest trying some sushi in the Nakasero district to finish off your day. Whichever your direction, thanks for stopping by in Lugazi!