Urban cowboys

I recently spent a week in the Netherlands and I was welcomed by some heavy snow and temperatures that were at least 25 degrees Celsius below what we’re used to in Uganda.

Walking through the city, I spotted many tough-looking men and women, wearing leather boots, as if they had come straight out of the bush.

One snowstorm seems to be enough to attract people to the shops, where they treat themselves to an outfit that’s totally out of place in the city. Insulated ski wear and thick, leather boots – prehistoric people would have loved those!

I saw people getting out of their Range Rovers as if they had just arrived back from the jungle. While I suspect that even their driveway is fitted with underfloor heating…

So different from Africa. The real survival people go around in a pair of shorts and Bata safari boots. Or desert boots perhaps, but that’s about it. Any brand of T-shirt or shirt will do and most importantly, you’ll never see them drive a Range Rover. That’s considered the type of car made for urban cowboys.

In Uganda people say: “If you want to get into the bush, you take a Land Rover. If you want to get out of it as well you take a Land Cruiser”.

The Land Rover, or Range Rover, has become a status symbol in the Netherlands, but in Africa they’re considered bad taste. And they’re useless for a trip to a natural park anyway. Leaving Kampala to go to the bush, the roads generally don’t get any better.

After each kilometre, you’ll see the size of the potholes increase with a centimetre. By the time you reach your destination, your car and your shock absorber in particular, has suffered a lot more than 100 years of curbs in the P.C. Hooftstraat.

Therefore, a short course in automotive technology comes highly recommended for everyone who lives here. My wife and kids often watch over my shoulder when I open the car bonnet.

A few things that everybody brings on safari include duct tape, wire and ty-raps. With these three items you can fix 95% of all problems.

A car equipped with loads of electronics, which steers and brakes automatically, isn’t any good to us. But I understand it can come in handy and looks good when you go shopping for a cool outfit. Imagine you would actually come across a pothole on your way there…

Feico Smit,

General Manager, Royal van Zanten Uganda