I could take the nice tarred road out of Uganda, but the scenery on the northern slope of Mount Elgon was to tempting. The road became more bumpy and dusty with every mile, but bigger also the people smile. From time to time i had to stop for a photo, or just for the stunning view, or simply to give way to a big truck on narrow roads. Time schedule got lost. Instead of a few hours drive i needed all day to reach the Kenyan border post. The last village before frontier i found a fuel station where the diesel pump worked by hand. Can’t remember when i had such a laughter with tank guys filling up my diesel tank.
The Sipi Falls
From Kampala leads a wide, tarred road to the Kenyan border, but on my way i decided to drive a detour to the Sipi Falls. The camp was settled opposite the falls with stunning view to the scenery. Even a sprinkling rainbow appeared with the setting sun. Unfortunately it’s a typically ran down campsite, as many others in Uganda and in Africa in general. The staff tell me from a owner living far away, not interested to invest in facilities, nor seems the employers really keen on keeping it nice and tidy. they only count on customers coming (and paying) for the scenery up here. Probably i would had stayed longer if the campsite would been better maintained. However, that one beautiful night i enjoyed the place.
The Source Of River Nile
I felt the privilege to camp on a grassy site overlooking the River Nile. One site called „The Haven“ became easily a base of tranquility and peace, inviting me to stop by for awhile and do nothing than watch the river flow, the eagles fly and fishermen boats float. It was both, inspiring and meditative. The village nearby couldn’t offer much but laughters and friendly talks when i got to the only little shop around. It was actually just a shack with a weird calendar showing the Ugandian president in truly Rambo style. The ‚roll-eggs‘ they made was delicious, though.
Another camp i found was just above the spot where the Lake Victoria giving birth to the River Nile. A humble monument shows the place where the first European, a certain Mr. John Hanning Speke, spotted the source of the river on 28th July 1862.
Nyero Village and Rock Paintings
A few kilometer off the main road, the dusty road leads trough savannah and small villages. Red rock boulders appear on the horizon, growing bigger to nice shaped mountains. On such boulders, the Twa people draw mystical signs and figures on the rocks. Next to a tiny building, which suppose to be the office, i can even camp over night. This let me time to explore the the small caves with rock arts, climbing on the rocks to watch the landscape from above and visiting the villages around. There’s hardly any artificial light at night. The colors of sunset and sunrise are amazingly strong and the full moon send a silver light over the landscape.
At The Banks Of River Nile
At the other side of the Nile a fishing lodge offers boat trips even into South Sudan, i heard. Fishing lodge sounds posh, but when i arrived it was a run-down lodge with basic facilities. Yet still the charm of better times stays in the air. A small group of locals arrived just after me. They came for a little party under friends, brought a living goat in the car trunk and let them to the butcher to slaughter it in the backyard. There were more animals waiting to get eaten up, but having a peacefully live till then. A pig with a bunch of small ones, chicken, more goats. Eagles circling over the river when i walked along the banks and gave the scenery a peaceful touch of freedom.
Moyo’s Refugee Camps
There’s a beautiful landscape far north of Uganda, just at the border to South Sudan, i read. Off i go, and many bumpy kilometers later i reached Moyo, a dusty border town. Dozens of big, white Toyotas and trucks with blue UN letters or red crosses crossing my way. It’s not a sleepy town anymore since thousands of Sudanese refugees fleeing from the war and passing trough here. I stopped for a bitter lemon at a bar, watching busses with refugees coming from reception camps, get somewhere out of town. Young men hanging around, drinking cheap liquor from small plastic bags. I need a tourist camp to stay overnight, i tell them. Helpfully they explain me the way, spell the name of a place and show me the spot on the map. Just at the river Nile. Looks great to me. When i arrived the place it turns out as huge refugee camp. It’s too late to turn back, so i ask around for a real „tourist camp/lodge“. Another friendly guy shows the direction, just to end up in another refugee camp, even further away from next town. I felt lucky to see a bunch of big, expensive Toyotas with the emblem of a NGO. I asked friendly to stay at the carpark, where a guard is watching at night anyway. A young white guy called himself in charge, but refused to take any responsibility and sent me away. When i turned for another help, he gave me the advice to ask the neighbors, but offer them some money for their help. „sure“, i smiled to him, but thought ‚fuck you off with your cheap advices while too cowardly to let me even stay here, you white prick‘.
The locals were more helpful, sent me to the police station midst of a refugee camp. In front of a few round houses some police officers were sitting in plain clothes. After i got the allowance to stay, i sat with them and listen to their stories. The current camp opened only three months again. Every day hundreds of more refugees are coming, flooding the camps and plans for extending the area already existing. While we spoke, some armed officers arrived in uniforms, turned back from their patrol by motorbikes. In one of the round houses the prisoners are kept until there’s a transport to Moyo to the bigger jail. Some of them move relatively free, others were with hand chains. They get out of the house to help carrying water or doing some minor jobs. When night falls over the camp, all went silent. No light, no noise. I felt like sleeping in a completely remote area.
Murchison Safari Camp
Crossing the Victoria Nile over a bridge with the view of Karuma Falls, i got to the north of Uganda now. I noticed a Camp, just at the northern gate of Murchison Falls Nationalpark, where wildlife seems to cross. At that remote and quite camp is a waterhole. The manager, a young, smart lady, confirmed sometimes elephants, giraffes and more wildlife are to observe here. Despite my patience to watch out for them, the recently rain didn’t gave them the urge to come to the waterhole. Instead big animals i found big spiders, cats, chicken …and then yes, some antelopes came shyly closer. However, some relaxed days in peaceful nature.
Ziwa – Rhino Sanctuary
Rhinos were distinct in Uganda during the „politically instability“, as the ranger stated it. With funds from overseas the breeding project started. Over years the group of white rhinos increased from two to four to nineteen animals by now. New borns are expected within the next few months. There’s a good chance those unique animals spreading again trough Ugandas landscape and enrich the wildlife. Let’s hope for a durable „politically stability“.
When i arrived the main building, i’m told a ranger get in my Land Rover and shows me the way to the rhinos. But then he changed his mind and asked me to walk there. Of course i liked a hike in the bush. Some other ranger tracked down the rhinos already and directed us by radio to the place, where we found a mother with child. A short while later, four more rhinos came along the way to graze in this area. I was excited to observe those huge, strange looking creatures so near by foot.
Murchison Falls National Park
The tremendous costs to visit the Murchison Falls National Park on my own was doubting me to visit the park. But then i got the offer to take a local car with driver to enter the park cheaper. At least to have a glimpse on the spot where Ernest Hemingway crashed with his plane, survived and got picked up by a tourist boat. To be close where Audrey Hepburn was staying and acting for the „African Queen“. Seeing the ruins of one of the residences of Idi Amin, the cruel dictator of prior days. But yes, also the wildlife, although i kept my expectations low. And there is still the waterfalls, after which the park is named.
Driving trough a huge, dense forest with big families of baboons and monkeys, we heading towards the Victoria Nile. Many colorful kingfisher birds flying off when we passed by. A ferry brings us to the other side with different landscape. A savannah with high dry grass. Buffalos glancing at us, antelopes grazing, hippos chilling in the Nile while socks and other birds stalking in the water. Many animals just given birth and keep their babies closely. On the way back we stopped by the great falls. Tons of water squeezed in a narrow valley, fall over several cliffs with big spray and get quite again on the way to Lake Albert. At end of the day, i have to admit it was worth the visit.