The Picturesqueness of the Irresistible Mount Moroto

Written by Lorna http://lornasadventures.com

“I have forgotten my handbag in my bedroom” I uttered out in dismay as Ivan our Uber driver parked the car in front of the Namayiba bus park where we were meant to board the bus to Moroto. Cyndee pelt, an amazing friend of mine that works for the American embassy in Kampala, said to Ivan and I, “Let’s drive back to your home and pick it up’’.  With that, we put our seat belts back on and began to hurriedly drive back to Bukasa a Kampala suburb where I reside.

“I forgot to re-fuel the car and it looks like we are running out of fuel’’ uttered Ivan as we glanced at him in distress. It was about 02.45am and the bus was meant to leave at 3am.  I wondered why any driver would drive clients around with a tank that was almost empty but at the same time I didn’t want that to heap blame or lose my cool as it was not necessary. After trying and failing to get fuel at three different petrol stations In Kabalagala one of the liveliest suburbs in Kampala, we were lucky to finally get a fuel re-fill at the fourth petrol station along the road. We hurriedly rushed to my house shortly after to fetch my bag and rush back to the bus station.

The air in the bus was quite stale as some of the passengers had been sleeping inside for hours, myself, Cyndee and Paulinas, a brother from the Tapac monastery in Moroto, were seated closely to each other at the back of the bus. Frederic Lepron, a former sports journalist & professional photographer in Paris and Les herbiers in France was also coming along with us. He was luckier than us, as he had found himself a much more comfortable seat at the center of the bus.

“Are you sure you never want to get married?” I asked Paulinas again (I have asked him this same question several times before). “Yes! I want to be free and dedicate my life fully to God.” He responded as Cyndee and I looked at him in dismay. I still have difficulties understanding why a young aesthetic man like himself would choose that path in life.

‘Do you have mountains in Burkina Faso?’ I continued to pester him with various questions. ‘Of course, we do, but they are not as high as the ones you have here in Uganda. “You should Google about it and learn more” he responded as I laughed. I have never met anyone from Burkina Faso before hence was intrigued with Paulinas and wanted to find out as much as possible about his country, the people, culture and lifestyle.

We were in Soroti at about 1pm; the scorching heat could be felt from within.  The driver halted to take in more passengers in a bus that was already bursting with passengers. More passengers poured in carrying plenty of luggage, chicken, food stuff and children. The bus was carrying more passengers than the legal limit opting some to sit on tiny stools and buckets along the bus corridor rendering movements within the bus almost impossible.

By about 4pm we had safely arrived in Moroto town, the alluring mountain ranges could be sighted at a distance. After bargaining for several minutes with the boda-boda riders we finally heaped our bags on bikes as we sat and headed out for the 47km ride to the Monastery in Tapac where we would rest for the night.

The surrounding mountain ranges were prepossessing; I have always considered Moroto as one of the most unique districts we have in Uganda ranging from the semi-arid climate in some months of the year, the pastoralist background of the locals and their unique form of dressing, culture and lifestyle which they have maintained to date. The Karamojong can easily be compared to the Masai of Kenya and Tanzania who are among the most admirable tribes in Africa.

“I think we are going to fall!” I said to my boda-boda rider as we fidgeted through a muddy path on the road. He narrated how the heavy rains had poured in the past few days rendering some parts on the roads impassable. “I think it’s best if I get off the bike and walk a bit ahead to make it easier for you to ride through”, I continued to say to him as I got more and more uncomfortable. I was seated with a heavy bag, a tent, hiking sticks and a sleeping bag. I felt like the weight on the bike needed to be lessened especially during the slippery part that we were heading for.

“Don’t be afraid Madame we are going to pass” said our rider. As soon as he had completed that statement, the bike gave way making us fall hard in the middle of the road! I watched as my oranges scattered all over the place, my bananas were mashed into a pudding, my elbows and knees were grazed and bleeding. Luckily for us an ambulance was passing by and offered to clean and disinfect my wounds to avoid an infection.

“I think I will walk to the monastery “I said to him as he urged me to jump back on to the bike. “It’s almost 8km between here and the monastery Madame. It is very far come and we go’’ he insisted.

“Don’t worry about it, I will still pay you fully for the entire journey” I insisted and grabbed a bottle of water from one of my bags and started the long walk to the monastery. Frederic and his boda-boda rider caught up with me and he decided to get off the bike and walk with me.

I was in a bit of pain but tales of France from Federic played a great role in keeping me distracted. We walked for about 2km until Paulinas caught up with us riding a massive CTX200 Honda motorbike. “Let me carry you Lorna, the monastery is still far ahead. I will come back and pick Federic up as soon as I drop you off.’’ Paulinas said to us as I jumped on to the back of the bike without any hesitation. I insisted on wearing his red helmet and comfortably held on to him as we set off. I was fascinated by the size of the motorbike, I have always been a huge bike lover but I would never attempt to ride one.

“Am glad you kept your word and came back” Father Hans said to me as I arrived at the monastery. Father Hans is a German priest who has lived in Uganda for almost 20 years, serving in different monasteries within the country.

“Are you all okay?” Cyndee asked. She had arrived an hour earlier before the rest of us and was worried about us, as we had taken a while to arrive. She was relieved when we all safely got to the monastery.

After settling into our rooms we sat down for dinner at the monastery living room. Being International Women’s Day, Cyndee and I were treated like royalty by the gentlemen. They set the dinner table for us, served us food and even offered us a tasty bottle of whisky to celebrate womanhood. Cyndee and I felt quite honored, but were careful not to drink too much as we had a long hike the following day.

We were up by 7am Friday morning and by 7.30am we were gracefully walking past the fields and on to the trail that led to the ascent of the mountain. The distant views of the mountain peaks got clearer prompting us to take out our cameras and capture some memorable shots. We had agreed to hire some local porters from the community to help carry our bags so we could pay them in return; money they could use to buy food and cater to their personal needs.

There were plenty of massive cactus plants along the trails that highly fascinated all of us especially Cyndee. Our first stop was at a small Tepeth community of Karamojong that spend most of their time in the mountains and rarely descend to socialize with neighboring communities and villages that surround the parish. They barely go to the health center when they fall sick; they would rather visit the neighboring forest to hunt for medicinal roots and leaves to treat their illnesses.

“She is asking you to give her soap or salt as a token’’ one of the guides translated to me as an elderly woman pulled out her hand towards me and spoke to me in the local language. Federic was kind enough to give away a bar of soap with a lovely floral scent that got her excited and the rest envious of her. We gave out salt, biscuits and oranges to the rest of the women and children as we taught the men how to hold the camera and take pictures.

We got to the forest and pitched our tents leaving most of our luggage behind alongside two guides. We recruited 2 more local Karamojong guides who diligently led us through the various trails within the mountain.

I rated this particular hike as one of the easiest I have ever done because we set a comfortable pace for everyone and hiked as a group, unlike a few previous hikes I have done before where some hikers were a bit too fast and others too slow.  We put emphasis on sticking together as a team, which is usually much easier when hiking in a small group. The sun was not as strong as it was in the previous months and this worked to our advantage.  The skies darkened at some point threatening rain but luckily there was no downpour, whilst the distant views of Mount Kadam and other ranges were mesmerizing.

I noticed Federic was extremely excited, he was constantly recording videos of the views and speaking in French. I imagined he was eager to share the beauty of the mountain with his friends back in France, probably entice them to visit the country and do the hike themselves. Cyndee on the other hand pulled out her camera and was busy capturing photos of various bird, insect and plant species. Uganda boasts about 1,000 various bird species, making it an ideal birdwatching destination for bird lovers like my dear friend Cyndee.

We successfully summitted the Imagit peak by 2pm, captured lovely photos with the Ugandan flag and later begun our descent towards our camp in the forest. The Karamojong guide and I were feeling exceptionally energetic and opted to compete by running down the mountain towards the forest every now and then, until we got to camp. I could tell he was impressed with the fact that I was running after such a tiresome day of ascending.

We were all settled in at the camp by 6pm. The guides were busy cooking beans at the fire they had set up, Federic was making some tea and noodles on a tiny stove he carried along, the rest of us were munching on various snacks to get our energy levels back as we sat around the fire to keep warm. We hung a speaker on the branch of a tree and started to play and dance to all sorts of music from France, Uganda and West Africa. The best moments of every hike to me are the excitement and celebrations that come after the descent; the feeling of accomplishment is always so good that it makes me want to dance and be merry. I barely slept as it was extremely cold in the night and the guides could not stop laughing and cracking jokes by the fire, this went on till dawn. It was a beautiful experience for me, very different from my usual comfort zone.

We were up by 7am, had some coffee and begun our 2-3 hour descent back to the monastery where we were welcomed back with a feast fit for a king by Father Hans and Father Jimmy. After lunch and a few beers, we took showers and jumped on motorbikes in preparation of the 47km journey to Moroto town to board the evening bus back to Kampala.

 

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Amabere Caves- Explore history and Crater lakes

This is a popular historical site about 10 km from Fort Portal Municipality. There is a legendary tale that has kept it lively till today. Waterfalls and Caves welcome you. The picturesque crater lakes nearby are breathtaking. This tourist site in Kabarole district.It is preserved by the Rubombora family. They have preserved it for the future generations. The guides at the site are quite knowledgeable about the historical and scientific formation of the breast like formations on the rocks.

The locals explain that these breast like features hanging below the cave are associated with a legendary tale of a daughter who disobeyed her father.She was an attractive beautiful girl.It is told that King Bukuku of the Cwezi dynasty that gave birth to the current Tooro and Bunyoro Kingdoms cut off her breasts for refusing to marry the husband chosen for her. She later fled to this place and disappeared without trace. Therefore it believed that the oozing pillars on the rocks represent her breasts and milk.

Scientists call the hanging pillars that look like breasts, stalagmites and stalactites. The site guide explains that the oozing milk is calcium that rolls over the rocks as a result of the waterfalls over the rocks. He cautions you to avoid touching them, because they take several years to grow to their current size otherwise you risk breaking them thus hindering them from further growth. Stalactites and stalagmites are considered as part of a Country’s natural heritage and are protected by law in some countries.

The largest stalagmite in the world is in the cave of Cueva San Martin Infierno, Cuba. It is 220 feet high (62.2 metres).

Guide explaining the formation of Stalagmites and Stalactites

Guide sharing information on Stalagmites and Stalactites

As you walk down the caves you will enjoy the Nyakasura Waterfalls that pours its waters to the basement of the caves. During the rainy season the paths are slippery so it is advisable to watch your steps.

An extended walk to the surrounding is quite enjoyable and requires physical fitness. You will enjoy the crater lake scenery and have the chance to view them at the top of the hill.

How to get there

Amabere caves can be accessed by private transport. Since it is a short distance you can hire a taxi or tour operator to the site from Fort portal town. If it is part of your itinerary to other destinations, most tour operators will drive you there.

Accomodation

The Rubombora family has B&B accommodation on the site.

More accommodation is available in Fort Portal town that fits your budget.

This site combines well with nature walks, culture and cave exploration.

Other destinations that can be visited alongside the caves include Semuliki National Park, Kibale National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Source of the Nile at Jinja Uganda

The Source of the Nile is the the original place where River Nile starts its maiden journey to Mediterranean sea. It travels 4000miles.It takes  3 months to complete the journey to the Mediterranean sea.

Jinja town is best known as the location of the source of the river Nile and as a famous business hub for Asians in the 1970s. However the Asians have been returning in good numbers to resume their trading. Unlike in the 1970s where they dominated the trade, today even locals have since joined business mainly in the retail shops and supermarkets. Jinja is also attractive to other investments in the hospitality industry.

Jinja is about 84km away from Kampala City. You can travel by public means or private car. Travelling time is about 1hour 30minutes to 2hours.

During my two day trip I was able to visit the Source of the Nile, which is a popular place for both locals and foreign guests. The main attraction is the genuine point of the Source of the Nile where the River Nile starts its maiden journey to Mediterranean sea through Sudan and Egypt. The source of this mighty river is Lake Victoria a lake named after Queen Victoria by Explorer John Speke after an expedition to locate the source of the Nile.A monument has been erected to mark this event on the western side of the river where he stood and identified the source of River Nile in 1862.

It is such an exciting experience to travel by boat to the exact point of the source of the Nile. Not only can someone enjoy the photographic experience but also enjoy the ride on the River Nile and Lake Victoria. You will also see birds hovering above the river trying to spot fish for a day’s meal and fishermen drawing their nets in water to catch fish for an evening meal and trade.

The excitement among the visitors feels the air. Travelling on water is fun for the revellers. A boat cruise can be for 30minutes to 2 hours.

Another place visited is the Mahatma Gandhi Monument. This Monument is associated to the ashes that were poured into the Nile to fulfill his wish. Gandhi’s ashes were scattered in selected places across the world including at the source of the Nile River near Jinja, Uganda, and today a memorial plaque is in place to mark the event.

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Gandhi, a Nationalist and renowned advocate for civil liberties led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. A Hindu nationalist, assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948 by firing three bullets into his chest.

Another historical place visited is the World War cemetery, where World War One and Two Ugandan casualties were buried. These veterans were part of the colonial regiment,King’s African Rifles.

For an enthusiastic reveler you will also want a variety of activities after a day’s adventure on water. At the source of the Nile, there is a recreation park similar to the Entebbe Zoo that has recently opened to provide an additional travel experience for its guests. It has snakes, a crocodile, donkeys and also a cultural village exhibiting a Basoga tribe (natives of the area) homestead (hut) and its handmade tools used for cooking and hunting.The items are labelled with the English name and its equivalent local name.

Restaurants at the river side can give you a place to relax as you enjoy the fish delicacy, fries and drinks as you view the river and lake activities.

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Accommodation

Jinja accommodation favours the backpacker, midrange and luxury travelers, like Jinja backpackers,2 friends Guest house, The Haven, Gately on the Nile,The Holland park among others.

Other activities availaible in addition to sightseeing is Kayaking,Water rafting, Horse riding and Quad biking along the Nile or through the Ugandan villages.

Women Integrated Empowerment Development Group (WIED)

A Visit to a women community group concluded my trip. These hardworking single mothers and care givers have made progress despite all odds. Its mission is to help women attain self reliance using sustainable livelihood approaches. They have specialized in recycling paper ,banana fibre, Kitenge materials and cow horns to produce handcrafts like ear rings, neckalaces, money purses, shopping bags, Table mats Aprons, Toliet bags, head scarfs, desk organisers, sugar and sauce bowls.

The group was started in 2003 with 17 women. It currently has over 200 members. Business was going on well from 2006.However in 2012 the market was saturated by competition with recycled paper products ,their main business line thus making them redundant from 2012 to 2015.

In late 2015, a lucky member of the group through a friend got the chance to go for training at Uganda Industrial Research Institute. Despite the tough training, the member benefited from the training and network. She was able to make sample products out of cow horns a new raw material to replace horns like earrings. The product was later shown to the members who were excited and later agreed to continue making products. Fortunately a Good Samaritan arrived from the USA who had earlier interacted with them.Samples we given to the Good Samaritan who supported the group find donors to fund the new project. Like the say the rest is history, the group finally secured funding for the new machines that could cut & mould the cow horns in April 2016.Beautiful Handicrafts have been made from the cow horns. The group is very happy about their new innovation, however more funding and market is needed for the products preferably overseas. Plans are underway to seek more funding for project expansion and acquisition of land to establish a new permanent home, with own workshop rooms, conference rooms, offices and also set up other income generating projects to boost their revenue and also act as a demonstration site for the group members.

For any donations, support or visit to the women group Contact: Dorothy Wakabi Email:dorothywakabi6@gmail.com Tel: +256773106728/+256706106728 or Judith Talitwala +256782488996/+256703878593.

 

Crater Lake Safari

Craters are large, bowl-shaped cavities in the ground, typically one caused by  volcanic explosion. It is a result of volcanic up warping and down warping thus leaving a caldera that is later filled with underground water as explained by my guide Brydon.

In Uganda there are several craters mostly in Kabarole District, Mid -Western Uganda .

My holiday trip to these craters was such an exhilarating experience. There are over 25 crater lakes that can be visited. However the more exciting ones are the ones with lodging side by side on the crater rim. A stop over at the King’s palace was also another exciting cultural experience.The enthusiastic site guide  welcomes you, ready to tell the cultural history of the kingdom.

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Nyamiteza crater lake was my first destination. This crater  off Fortportal- Kasese road is such an exciting place for a holiday. The crater rim is surrounded with beautiful hills  that makes it look more impressive. It is more exciting when you step further down about 80 metres to have a closer look of the crater.

The lodge Bella Vista offers the right comfort for both the midrange and backpacker holiday maker. The rooms give you a perfect view of the crater making your relaxation exhilarating. On the other side the view of Mt.Rwenzori ranges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is such a great sight. The swimming pool at the lodge, gives you a chance to test your swimming skills as you relax.

The Italian lodge has fond memories of 1906.The crater area  was the 1st climbing of Rwenzori mountain by an Italian prince –Luigi Amedeo in 1906 who reached its peak, and named it after Queen Magherita of Italy.The peak is known as Magherita peak till today.

 

The next destination was Kyaninga crater about 10km from Fort portal town with its popular Kyaninga Lodge (Luxury) which was fully booked for the Christmas holiday. Entry was closed to all visitors but I was able to visit another lodge on the Kyaninga crater rim, Kyaninga Royal cottages (mid- range).The Kyaninga crater rim is now a popular destination for lodge investments and we are yet to see more come up which is good for the visitors.

Lake Nkuruba

Lake Nkuruba  a beautiful lake with abundance forest habitats was another exciting destination on my crater trip. The forest reserve around the crater rim is home to primates that include the Uganda endangered red colobus, black and white colobus, Vervet monkeys and the nocturnal potto. My guide asked  me to look out for the young  black and white colobus monkey (usually purely white) in the trees,  , which is a rare sighting. This can be prize winner for the primate photographers.

I was able to visit the Crater lake and also enjoy the sightings of the primates in the trees and on the ground especially the fearless Vervet monkeys. Tourists at the site could hardly miss a photo shot of these primates.

The site has budget accommodation,crafts shop and also space for the camping visitor.

Lake Nyamirima

Crater Lake Nyamirima is another famous crater due to its view above the hill. The hill view has been named “Top of the world” because it gives you great views of other crater lakes like Nyinabulitwa and Nyabikere craters and three national Parks namely  Kibale Forest N(a destination with the highest concentration of chimpanzees in East Africa), Rwenzori Mountain NP(a UNESCO world heritage site) and flat plains of Queen Elizabeth NP a recognized biosphere reserve.

Midrange accommodation for guests is available and the lush gardens are also favourite for camping.

Lake Lyantonde ,Nyinabuga and Kifuruka Craters.

These crater lakes are known to share the crater rim with lovely luxury accommodation for guests namely Papaya lake Lodge , Ndali Lodge and Kifuruka Eco Camp(budget). Nyinabuga crater is locally referred to as a twin lake because of its close proximity to Lake Kifuruka another crater seen on the opposite side, just a road between them. The close proximity of these crater lakes gives you a chance to explore their beauty easily.

A visit to the Papaya lodge at Lake Lyantonde  is so welcoming. Your private stay at the beautifully designed self-contained cottages will also give you breathtaking views of the lake. The lush green walk ways also provide you with an opportunity to enjoy the fresh air. It’s  pool side is also another relaxing point after a days adventure.

Ndali Lodge on Lake Nyinabuga crater rim was my next destination after Papaya. The founders of this luxury accommodation have fond memories of Uganda. The grandfather of the current owner owned tea estates in Tooro kingdom in 1920s .Grandpa Trevor Price a retired Major in the British Army chose Uganda as his retirement base. The memories have lived on from generation to generation giving birth to the lodge in the 1990s.

Nyinabuga crater is also known as the UGX 20,000 shilling note crater. It’s features can be traced on the currency note as shown by my guide Brydon.

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Kifuruka Eco camp overlooking  Kifuruka crater is ideal place for the budget traveler. If you are a shoestring budget traveler you can camp on the site. More budget accommodation is available on site for the non- camping guest.

Crater Lake Mwamba, Rukwanzi and Mahoma Falls.

Lake Mwamba is also other crater that can be seen by the roadside as you go to visit Mahoma falls. Lake Rukwanzi was visited too. Rukwanzi means necklace i.e shaped like a necklace.

My last destination was Mahoma falls. These falls are an ideal place for relaxation, a shower and swimming. To visit these falls you should be physically fit to go downhill and return uphill.

The Crater safari can be combined with a visit to Kibale Forest National Park for Chimp tracking, Bigodi swamp for bird watching, Tea plantation bicycle rides, Queen Elizabeth National Park for game drives and boat rides ,go for a Mini Hike on Rwenzori Mountain and Track Gorillas at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park (UNESCO World heritage Site) home to 50%  of the endangered Mountain Gorilla or explore the famous Batwa tribe village trails and other village communities.

Why visit Uganda

“Uganda is from end to end a ‘beautiful garden’ where ‘staple food’ of the people grows almost without labour. Does it not sound like a paradise on earth? It is the Pearl of Africa.”Winston Churchill

Beautiful Country

Tourists coming to Uganda will meet  its beautiful people, its beautiful culture, the dances, the different tribes and the diversity that cannot be found anywhere else.

Adventurous

Uganda is full of a variety of adventurous activities like Whitewater rafting, bungee jumping, jet boating and river surfing on the Source of the Nile near Bujagali Falls in Jinja. It is an opportunity for the brave ones.

Affordability

Tourists to Uganda will enjoy an affordable holiday be budget, medium range or Luxury and have enough to purchase souvenirs or can always extend their trip.

Good Climate

With two seasons of rain blended with sunny seasons and spectacular vegetation, Uganda’s weather is admirable across the country; you will enjoy the tours and travels.

Culture and heritage diversity

With a varied rich culture, of over 56 tribes, and each one has their own dress, their own language, their own food. We have a very hospitable people, very beautiful country, all year-round summer-like conditions.

A Variety of Wildlife

Uganda is Gifted by Nature .It is a home to the world’s largest concentration of primates. Half of the world population of Gorillas is in Uganda. Other Primates include Chimpanzees, monkeys, baboons.

Memorable experiences

Uganda with an open heart and a good mind gets you far because the people are extremely generous, very friendly, giving you a relaxed stay in Uganda.