Visiting the Elephants!
Where are you going? Uganda!
How often I have been able to explain this I cannot count on one hand.
Crossing Uganda on a KIBO K250 allroad bike! Camping in the most beautiful parks, looking for adventure and enjoying ultimate freedom! That is what Frank, Bill and I are aiming for. In Uganda Pim de Pooter awaits and will drag us through this pearl of Africa. Pim already indicated that he is looking forward meeting us!
HOW TO GO GET IN UGANDA
Something that is not easy when we live in the south of Spain, our flight takes us first from home to Paris where we can take our next flight to the south again. Our flight plan is Malaga-Paris-Nairobi and to arrive at Entebbe in Uganda. It must have been due the price of our plane tickets that we as true Dutch people have chosen this flight plan. Looking out to riding a motorcycle in central Africa will be enough for a reason to take this for granted. Waking up early to complete the first stage and then fly for another nine hours to Nairobi. We arrive in Nairobi around nine o’clock in the evening and our next flight is not until eight o’clock the next morning. Then you can assume that we have seen the entire airport a thousand times, from smokehouse to drinking loft but where should one get some sleep? On the floor, of course! After a good night’s sleep the last part of our journey towards Entebbe in Uganda and then our adventure can truly begin.
Leaving the plane to pick up our luggage, we quickly grab two of our three motorcycle bags and that should already be a sign something went wrong. Waiting at a completely empty luggage carousel waiting for the third bag, but no luck. Frank’s bag hasn’t showed up, besides his motorcycle suit, his helmet and underwear which all can be replaced there where also 6 packs of Drum tabacco in the bag. Which we unanimously decided that was the biggest loss for the next 14 days. First to the office to prepare the necessary administration and report the lost luggage. Then we head outside with the comforting words to Frank that he can borrow a pair of shirt and underwear from us.
Kampala is the capital of Uganda, the city has over 2 million inhabitants and is the largest city in the country. It is more fun to report something about the traffic in this city. Besides the car, vans and freight traffic, roughly 150,000 scooters drive around the city: left, right, front, rear, on the sidewalk and against traffic. Roaring, smoking and honking, like swarms of bees on steroids. Great to get in there with the bike, it seems like a complete chaos but there is still an order in the way they move around in this city. Then they all drive on the wrong side for us who are used to drive on the right side of the road. The first adrenaline rush has arrived! UG-Motobike is based at the ICU Guesthouse in the Rubaga district Kampala. Pim is already waiting for us and after a small tour, a good meal and getting to know the residents, it is time to admire the motorbikes that are waiting for us. We have been suggested the “Murchison Madness” tour, we do not know if Pim knows us but the word Madness is found right next to a picture of us. Time to saddle up our Kibo 250cc motorbikes. Hey, we get a tent !!,a sleeping bag !! a very thin sleeping mat!! a small tent light !! The madness starts before we are on our way. The argument that we are on average sixty years old is waved away by Pim, OK the good, the bad and the ugly will supprise him later on this tour.
A GOOD MOTORBIKE FEELING
With the packed Kibo K250 we are ready to start our tour, first it is important to leave the city of Kampala safely and where we will put our first kilometers on the bikes. It is quite an experience to get through this chaotic traffic, claim your place and leave the city in one piece. On the road towards the town of Hoima a city located on the edge of the Murchison Falls park in the northwest of Uganda. This park extends inland from the shores of Lake Albert. The White Nile flows through the park from east to west and has wild waterfalls and rapids. Where first some asphalt rolls under our wheels, we have to turn right. have to? No idea! Following Pim and then we go on to the sand. I am not an experienced offroad rider but I am not planning not to let my friends down, so I follow the others with full throttle on the dirt roads.
Had we perhaps chosen the wrong time to avoid the rainy season, or had I not noticed that driving on dry dirt roads would generate dust. A lot of dust! In no time I can not longer see a anything in front of my eyes and bike and my clean motorcycle and gear has been transformed matching the natural colors of this environment of which the military service would be proud of. We stop and take a break in the town of Bukwiri.
First we clean our faces and wash all the dust from all parts of our face, after a some rice with gravy and meat we are ready to jump on the bikes again. Paasing the city Hoima we drive to our destination for today: Busingiro forest where we will also spend our first night in the tent. We are warmly welcomed by the rangers who are in charge in the middle of this forest and camp. We set up our tents, wash ourselves with a little water, drinks and beer on the table and our evening can start. It’s amazing that after a trip like that you can be so satisfied with a bowl of water, a place to sleep and a bottle of beer.
As lazy Spaniards, we are used to getting started a little around ten in the morning. Much to our surprise we are chased out of our tent before seven o’clock and it is also 2 hours later in Uganda thus making it 5 o’clock in the morning for our understanding. Pim had agreed with a local guide who will take us on an excursion to see the chimpanzees. After a short fast ride, the guide on the back of our bike and are on our way to the forest where these boys are having fun. Those smart guys sit on the edge of the forest next to a sugarcane field where they have become as addicted to sugar as we are. We follow the guide very carefully into the forest and see the chimpanzees in their natural habitat for the first time in our lives. The eye contact with the chimps is fascinating. They jump through the forest, shouting and screaming. Stamping on trees they make a hell of a noise. You can’t imagine a better start of the day. After a few hours we returnthe guide to his village and we’re going off-road to the Murchison Falls Park. This night Pim has booked a luxury lodge on the Victoria Nile. We will stay on the camping site of this lodge and sleep again in our own tent. But with the restaurant and bar in the immediate vicinity we can’t complain. We forgot to mention that we are not so enthusiastic
to take Malaria pills because of the side effects that these pills give. We have carefully chosen the old and more traditional remedy to prevent Malaria. British colonists often drank tonic because it contains the anti-malarial drug quinine. Since the tonic tasted quite bitter, they added gin to make it more tasty. Smart guys those Brits. We could not have come up with a better alternative to prevent malaria. Besides Frank who does not like the Gin at all, we enjoy ourselves with these cocktails and the more you drink the more fun and later it gets at the campfire that is burning between our tents. There is even a moment that night when Pim wants to light up the fire with a bottle of cola!
MURCHISON FALLS AND THE BIG FIVE
The most impressive part of the Nile on its long journey from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean is the Murchison Falls falls. The longest river in the world here plunges explosively over a width of less than six meters gorge into a cloud of sparkling white water. Getting up early, getting dressed, having breakfast and packing the bikes, it promises to be a great day with the Murhinson Falls and wildlife park on the program. On our way to these waterfalls we already hear the water thundering its way through this gorge at a distance, I have the waterfalls in Europe as a frame of reference, but these do not compare to what we see here.
We keep looking at this natural violence for so long, blown away by the spectacle that we almost forget the time to make our crossing into the wildlife park itself. Uganda has several wildlife parks of which Murchison park is one of the most famous, we have to be at the ferry to cross the Nile at two o’clock and we can stay in this park for a maximum of 24 hours. You read that right 24 hours, the plan is to stay overnight in the park among the Elephants, Giraffes, Buffalo, Antelopes,Leopards, Lions and not to forget the Hippos. Almost the Big Five, we miss the Rhino because it doesn’t easily show itself in this park. It is a very special experience to see where others go on safari in closed and specially designed Jeeps and that we can drive open and naked on our motorbikes through this park. With Pim’s clear instructions we know what we should and should not do when we will meet these animals in their natural environment.
In all my impressions that I get in this park, I notice that I have the most respect for the Buffalo. Those boys are often not alone and always with a large group with a look of “you or me”.
And then we have to stay overnight in the park in a tent, would this explain the word “Madness” in our tour? Late in the afternoon we pick up a ranger armed with a Kalashnikov, he jumps on our bike and shows us the way to the bank of the Nile where we can make our camp. We stop under a large tree with a view over the Nile. Of course again we start with a big campfire and check our water supply if there is still enough water available to get through the night and the next morning. We decide to save the water, so we do not to wash ourselfs and instead start to drink
our wine and beer. The hippos are still quiet in the water, the lions behind us can only be heard in the distance, so far so good we think! Everything under control.
A very special experience I can assure you and with a good conversation at the campfire we enjoy a very beautiful sunset.
SLEEPING ON THE ROCK PATIKO
We already begin to get used to getting up early, also for a reason this time as the animals are out and about in the early morning because they go out to look for food. With the knowledge and
instructions of the ranger and we are served our every need. what an experience to be allowed to ride a motorcycle in this wildlife park amongst these animals. We are even lucky enough to spot a leopard that can be admired on a branch in a tree. We leave the wildlife park on the north side and decide to eat something near the town Pakwach. Bill our rookie is eager to buy a souvenir, he purchases be a wooden figurine of a Giraffe which he is taking good care of the rest of the whole trip and also is having doubts whether this was a good purchase. We are on our way to the city of Gulu where Pim tells us that the plan is to stay in a guesthouse here but also proposes us the option to sleep on a rock. Before I can answer, Frank has already decided that it will be the rock. We already beging to get used to not having the comforts of home and the stories about this rock also make us curious. We first pay a visit to Baker’s Fort Patiko with the title: “A beauty born out of slave trade”. A gruesome story with a historical act by Sir Samuel Baker who suppressed this trade in the Gulu area. Starting our motorcycles again and on our way to the Patiko mountain, in all my imagination I was already thinking about how we would get up that mountain with our bikes. And with our European and Western background I thought that there will be some path or road that will take us up to the top of that mountain. Not in Uganda, after a challenging enduro fight, we stand at the foot of the Patiko and look up at a huge steep mountain wall. I can’t help asking the stupid question, where and how we get up that mountain. The answer is not long in coming, Pim throws the gas wide open and drives onto that wall. Bill follows directly and his bike stops halfway on this wall and I drive too close behind Bill have forced to stop as well. Thank god I do not slide all the way back down but andrenaline kick is a fact.
When we arrive at the Patiko we are looking for a good place to settle in and decide to sleep under the open sky. Some local villagers provide water and look for wood to light our famous
campfire. Another great evening around the campfire where the bottles of wine let tell us stories that have to stay on this mountain. Frank is right about choosing this mountain, nothing
could have matched this experience.
PLAYING IN THE SAND
The last days of our tour we are driven off road on the lesser known and unpaved back roads to get acquainted with the lifestyle and culture of the inhabitants in this area of Uganda. Pim has mapped out routes through which we drive through the districts of Kiryandongo, Masindi and Ngoma to arrive in the vicinity of our base town Kampala. And Pim would not be Pim as he comes up with a proposal to play in the sand in the Ngoma district. Before I fully understand what the proposal entails, Frank already said yes. Full of expectation we drive to our place where we will spend the night and make time to strip our motorbikes of all luggage and prepare our bikes for our sniff of sand.
Confidently shoot after the drivers on our way to our cross terrain. Now I am not such an good off-road rider and I struggle the most with loose sand despite all the well-intentioned tips and experience that I have already received on our roads in Uganda. But this is different,in the loose sand my motorcycle is going in all directions except where I want to go, “you always drive to what you are looking at” is a well-known statement for every motorbiker and I can confirm that it works like this. The professionals are no longer in sight but what about me? I’m screwing up both my ankles, I try to keep my bike on track or get it off the track and with dry grass stuck between my teeth after a crash I make every effort to like this game. After the first session, the proposal is to take another spin on this open cross terrain after a break, you guessed it. I declined nicely. The boys are having fun and I have my rest to dream again about the past 9 days that we have experienced together in Uganda.
NIGHTLIVE IN KAMPALA
Due to our later return flight to Europe, we have a few days of rest left as we stay in the Guesthouse in Kampala. Pim can’t help it and suggest us as a good host to experience the local nightlife in Kampala. We unanimously think this is a very good idea. He may be many years younger then us and already indicated us several times during our trip that he has never drunk so much during his motorcycle days, where we believe that Pim is better in drinking than we are. No problem, challenge accepted. Now it is the custom in Kampala to move with a Boda Boda transport, then it is better to have a drink because you step without a helmet on the back of an unknown driver who is the only one who knows where you are going to. We are completely blown away by the way we are transported at full speed by the chaotic traffic. We start and enjoy a delicious meal at a Mexican restaurant. There we start with a few large glasses of fine beer and finish with the famous tequila. When we arrive at the disco, it is still early and we play some pool to get started, a few hours later, our table is full of glasses, bottles of Rum and Gin with some soft drinks around it to add to the fun. A great evening where we have a lot of fun with the local residents of the city and who made it unforgettable. In the early morning we are returned safely at our guesthouse by the Boda Boda. We ourselves would have gotten lost and not able to find anything in Kampala in our condition.
After a short night’s sleep, I get up at seven to take shower, Also Frank and Bill are up early. And Pim our youngest friend, is hardly visible all day and has an incredulous hangover.
I started this report that “Pim is going to experience it” we succeeded, Pim is down and will not forget those old timers for a lifetime.
Travel information: UG Motobike
My name is Pim de Pooter, I am enthusiastic about adventure and love adrenaline, I prefer to look for this combination in nature. By setting up UG-MOTOBIKE I have created my own ideal dream job. Organizing motorcycle tours in Uganda under the concept of biking and camping. The great thing about motorcycle travel is that you get to places where you cannot always get by car, so you have a bit more freedom of movement. Is not it nice?! If you can also pitch your tent in the most beautiful places to share your unique experiences of that day by the campfire in the evening, then the picture is complete for me.