No place is scary if you meet kind strangers

As traveler’s we have lived through the good and bad. We often remember them both with equal frequency…though very often the ‘good’ incidents remain our memory longer – be it a kind word, an invitation to coffee, a hand with our heavy backpack or a mere heart-to-heart talk at the end of a long hot, day with a friendly stranger. Yes, that’s what we remember.

I have had my share of kindness in the most unlikeliest place – a corner of Turkey, Uganda, Thailand, Austria…but kindness that I will never forget.

When I first backpacked in Thailand years ago, I ran into Mrs Supawadee Maspong, Public Prosecutor of Ayutthaya Province whose kindness went beyond words. In Uganda, it was Stella, magistrate of Njeru Dt (near Jinja) whom made me fall in love with Uganda.


Stella – the kind face of Uganda

On the way to Jinja on a matatu taxi, I found myself between Stella and the driver and naturally we struck up a conversation. Stella understood that I had no fixed plan and was eager to see as much of her country in whatever little time I had – and that I was not eager to see it through the pages of a travel guide. She listed out a few places. Mbale, she said was a beautiful place to visit and not far from Jinja. My original idea included a visit to the source of River White Nile, followed by whatever took my fancy. But Stella went a step further.

She suggested that I get off at Njeru with her, assuring me that I would see the source of Nile in style. I fell in with her idea.

After a brief visit to her legal office, she sent me off with a car and her driver to show me around Jinja and to drop me off at Explorers Backpackers where I intended to stay. We promised to catch up for dinner before I left Uganda – whenever.


Matatu taxi are a very popular mode of transport in Uganda

So while the town continued to bake in the February sun, I had the comforts of a car to take me to the hostel before being dropped off at the Source of Nile.

We met a week later, for dinner at one of the nice Indian restaurants in Bugolobi (Kampala). I was to leave the next day. She offered to drop me off to the airport at Entebbe, about 45 kms away. Now, what do you say about that?

The next morning, Stella’s kids, 10-year-old Daniel and 10-month-old Emily accompanied us to the airport. Two bouncy kids. Emily even fell asleep in my arms… I wasn’t sad to leave Uganda so much (it was HOT), but saying goodbye to Stella and Emily was hard.

It is true what is said of travel. You make friends – and you keep them!! They just give a different meaning to your travel.

Read more about Stella in my book THERE ARE NO GODS IN NORTH KOREA


  1. Anjaly,

    That is a perfect close for our Valentine’s Day, an accounting of ones encounters with others that become true friends, being respectful showing love for our sisters and brothers no matter where we may find ourselves or they find us. That matatu taxi ride proved to be a phenomenon-logical inquiry, an experience that will never be forgotten. You found in Stella what most of us found in you, a beautifully spirited person with so much to discover and so much to offer. Thank you for sharing have a safe and fulfilling journey.


  2. 🙂 Good souls usually attract good souls…

    • You know, traveling cuts us down to size 🙂 Teaches you that unles you clean up your act, you will never find help when you need it!!!

  3. Touching indeed! You attract what you believe in…BTW… a suggestion. How about a human interest section on the website only for such pieces (where it won’t be lost amid tips and rules of a backpacker)

  4. You had started the tour on a promising and heart warming note.There are always a few Stellas around the world and you were pretty lucky to have bumped into her.Her generous gesture without any expectation in return to a stranger whom she may not meet again is indeed admirable and touching..I am looking forward to read your posts on places you have visited in Kampala and Uganda


    so sweet

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