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In the photo with the Ugandan army near Kaabong
Home » Africa » Uganda » Karamojong, the Ugandan army and bad luck on the way | #pipikikitour2021 (8)

Karamojong, the Ugandan army and bad luck on the way | #pipikikitour2021 (8)

In part 8 of the #pipikikitour2021 rijden Chris en ik through picturesque landscapes and have many surprising encounters. We enjoy insanely beautiful rock formations, we visit the lively market and stay in a beautiful new hotel. In the unsafe northern part of Karamoja I pose with Ugandan soldiers and later have bad luck on an impossible cobblestone path. Chris is already in Moroto watching Max Verstappen, while a jeep from South Sudan comes to my aid.

Also read:

pikipikitour2021 ? (1) Buying a scooter in Uganda & ViaVia Guesthouse
pikipikitour2021 ? (2) Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Refugees & Scooter Breakdown
pikipikitour2021 ? (3) Murchison Falls NP | The first scooter safari
pikipikitour2021 ? (4) Drone images scooter safari | Murchison Falls
pikipikitour2021 ? (5) Bad luck in Pakwach and Gulu Central Market
pikipikitour2021 ? (6) Struggling through the mud in Uganda (video)
pikipikitour2021 ? (7) Kidepo Valley | The Legacy of Idi Amin

The beautiful land of the Karamoja

We drive through the beautiful country of the Karamoja. Where we enjoy insanely beautiful rock formations, visit the lively market and stay in a beautiful new hotel.

After an excellent breakfast at the beautiful Kidepo Savannah Lodge, we depart through Kidepo Valley NP to Kaabong. Today's route couldn't be much nicer, because the area towards Kaabong is very similar to that of Utah. With a difference: the crazy rock formations are not located in a desert-like landscape, but between a lot of greenery. wow.

Insanely beautiful rock formations near Kaabong
Insanely beautiful rock formations near Kaabong

Chris poses in front of one of the many rocks that rise everywhere and nowhere in the oh-so-beautiful country of the Karamoja. Chris is therefore in a hurry today, because he has to be in Moroto at four o'clock. Max Verstappen then races and he doesn't want to miss that. I would like to point out that the MTN mobile signal is actually of top quality everywhere.

Chris poses in front of one of the many striking rocks near Kaabong
Chris poses in front of one of the many striking rocks near Kaabong

In tow to Kaabong

It's really hard on me, while Chris is happily riding his scooter on his scooter, I always have something. In the meantime, almost all bolts and nuts have already been vibrated and replaced. Now it's hit again when we get assistance from a couple of Karamoja at 12 km from Kaabong. Half an hour of tinkering and the problem remains.

My scooter is roped to the motorbike for a 12km tow to Kaabong
My scooter is roped to the motorbike for a 12km tow to Kaabong

The solution, as always in Uganda (and all of East Africa) is close at hand. A boda boda rider offers to pull me along with a rope. That's not as easy as it seems, because there are a lot of hills and I always have to be careful not to bump into the bike during a descent.

In Kaabong a mechanic manages to fix the scooter in an hour. In the meantime we have taken up residence in two houses of the new Kaabong Resort Hotel where we enjoy a delicious Tilapia (after a long wait…).

Our bungalows in Kaabong Resort Hotel
Our bungalows in Kaabong Resort Hotel
Tilapia (Nile perch) with chapati is a popular dish in Uganda
Tilapia (Nile perch) with chapati is a popular dish in Uganda

Market in Kaabong

The next morning we leave early again. We stop at the market in Kaabong where we can see our eyes out. We see many shops with rugs and homemade slippers. The homemade slippers are uncomfortable but very useful. There are many spikes on the ground here that go right through a scooter tire but not through… hard rubber from car tires. The rugs are knotted around the body. Just like the Maasai (Karamoja are related to the Maasai).

Karamoja slippers and clothes in Kaabong
Karamoja slippers and clothes in Kaabong
A collection of colorful Karamoja hats in Kaabong
A collection of colorful Karamoja hats in Kaabong

Where we see this busy market as a crazy attraction, it is the same the other way around. Every step we take, the crowd that follows us grows bigger and bigger. Two Mzungus on scooters, they don't see that every day here. When we start trying on hats, half the village is in a rut.

Chris fits a Karamoja hat in Kaabong
Chris fits a Karamoja hat in Kaabong

Chris fits on a pair of Karamoja hats, they are just too small for his big head. I pass and buy a cool Karamoja hat.

Meter-high billboards of President Museveni

We continue our journey and it still gives you a crazy feeling when you see the face of the president of a country on billboards that are meters high. Especially when the best man has been in power for 35 years. You would say that the Ugandans have gotten to know him by now.

President Museveni on a billboard in Kaabong
President Museveni on a billboard in Kaabong

I especially don't want to judge the politics in Uganda. I like to leave that to others. In Karamojaland and the north, Museveni is still extremely popular. That is not at all strange, because the population in this part of Uganda suffered terribly during the years of Go Amen† And then came the Lord Resistance Army of Joseph Kony. Phew what a misery. President Museveni has at least brought peace to the north. And they are very grateful to him for that.

The Ugandan Army

I'm taking it easy today. At a roadblock I stop to chat with some soldiers of the Ugandan army. They have machine guns at the ready, but are mostly relaxed. Even so relaxed that the commander asks for a selfie.

A Ugandan army roadblock on the road from Kaabong to Kotido
A Ugandan army roadblock on the road from Kaabong to Kotido

Well and then just a photo shoot of about ten minutes. And to think that in Uganda you have to be very careful when photographing strategic objects. Chris experienced a few days ago when he took a photo of the bridge over the Nile in Pakwach. A soldier immediately approached him.

In the photo with the Ugandan army and supporters near Kaabong
In the photo with the Ugandan army and supporters near Kaabong

All kinds of sights on the sandy road to Kotido

Our drive to Moroto (186 km) is for the most part on well-maintained marram roads (sand/pebbles/boulders). Given that it doesn't rain much in Karamoja, it drives fine.

Goats and children on the road
Goats and children on the road

In any case, you drive more slowly and sometimes you have to, because there is hardly any motorized traffic, there are plenty of passers-by. The photos speak volumes in this regard.

Surprised Karamoja women look at two blue scooters and mzungus
Surprised Karamoja women look at blue scooters and mzungus
A taxi van is lost along the road to Kotido
A taxi van is lost along the road to Kotido

A short stop in Kotido

Kotido is the second 'town' of Karamoja. There are no asphalt roads here. The donkey functions here as one of the most important means of transport and we refuel at such a gas station where a crank is first turned. Beautiful.

Vintage style gas station in Kotido
Vintage style gas station in Kotido

All this time I have told Chris that the 100 km from Kotido to Moroto is on a well-maintained dirt road. I remembered that from two previous trips in 2017 and 2018. Mmmm… However, nothing could be further from the truth. The tight dirt road has been turned into a hotseknotse begonia road of the out-of-the-ordinary type.

Along the way we stop here and there to stretch our legs and of course to hand out some lollipops. The locals are amazed.

I'm handing out some lollipops on the way, with my new Karamoja hat
I'm handing out some lollipops on the way, with my new Karamoja hat
Is that a pikipiki?
Is that a pikipiki
A Karamoja woman with traditional tattoos on her forehead
A Karamoja woman with traditional tattoos on her forehead
Karamoja women pose for a photo near Kotido
Karamoja women pose for a photo near Kotido
A team of oxen walking with wood on their way to Kotido
A team of oxen walking with wood on their way to Kotido

Two nature reserves and a bad road

For Chris it will be a race against time, because if he wants to see Max Verstappen, he has to go full throttle. I let it go and ride at my leisure. A cobbled path with quite a lot of mud due to rainfall, runs right through two nature parks, namely: Bokora and Matheniko. Not that there is much wildlife to see. 

Karamoja herders on an impossible sand track towards Moroto
Karamoja herders on an impossible sand track towards Moroto
Some road users looking for grassy meadows in Bokora Nature Reserve
Some road users looking for grassy meadows in Bokora Nature Reserve
In Bokora Wildlife Reserve
In Bokora Wildlife Reserve

Halfway through, I stop at a dozen soldiers who are walking along the road. One even carries a rocket launcher that I know from Rambo's adventures. 'A boda boda driver was recently shot dead here,' one of the soldiers says. I'm not going to ask how he's going to use that pre-war missile launcher against these bandits. No, I'll give them all a Big Daddy lollipop. That is much appreciated.

Happy meeting on the way to Moroto
Happy meeting on the way to Moroto

Broken exhaust and flat tire

I happily drive on and around four o'clock I notice that something is not right with my scooter. Since I wear headphones with heavy rock music, I didn't notice that the exhaust had broken off for a while. When I slip for the umpteenth time and get off my scooter, I see the misery: a flat rear tire and an exhaust on the floor.

A case of scooter bad luck
A case of scooter bad luck
A flat rear tire and a broken exhaust on the way to Moroto
A flat rear tire and a broken exhaust on the way to Moroto

However, MTN works fine and I app Chris. 'I'm in no man's land about seven kilometers from the asphalt road to Moroto. Chris switches the auxiliaries from the Kara-Tonga lodge and texts: 'I'm busy arranging a jeep.'

Oh well, and then after an hour without any traffic, a white Toyota pick-up suddenly stops. "Hey mzungu, how are you?" I hear. I look at the driver and don't recognize him at first. “Mzungu, we met you in Kidepo. We were then on our way to South Sudan, because a plane had crashed there. We're on our way back to Moroto now.'

The scooter in the Toyota on the way to Moroto
The scooter in the Toyota on the way to Moroto

Francis and George first take some tools from their jeep and then come and have a look at the scooter. They are immediately out: 'Mzungu, this is not possible. We'll lift the scooter into the pickup and take you to Moroto.' I immediately app Chris that I have been helped.

George races like a madman on the cobblestone road and is in Moroto within twenty minutes. Just before Moroto I make him stop. 'Let's see if the mechanic who tinkered with my scooter for two days in 2017 is still there. The mechanic is called immediately and appears a little later with a smiling face when we lift the scooter from the back of the jeep. 'You are back, mzungu!'. grandiose.

The mechanic in Moroto
The mechanic in Moroto

George and Francis I buy soda and give them some gas money. Something they didn't ask for, by the way, but which is customary in East Africa. One simply expects a douceurtje when a mzungu is helped out of the fire.

Kara Tunga Lodge in Moroto

After this considerable delay I arrive at the lodge. Chris is clearly enjoying himself. Max Verstappen has won the Grand Prix. "Where's your scooter?" he asks. 'At the mechanic in Moroto. I can pick it up tomorrow.

De Kara Tunga lodge was recommended to us by the passionate Charles of Charlies Travels in Nairobi. The lodge is owned by an extremely friendly Karamoja Dutchman. But much more about that in part 10 when we discover Moroto and the surrounding area and then make our way to Pian Upe (where I, it won't surprise anyone anymore, have scooter trouble again…).

Also read:

pikipikitour2021 ? (1) Buying a scooter in Uganda & ViaVia Guesthouse
pikipikitour2021 ? (2) Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Refugees & Scooter Breakdown
pikipikitour2021 ? (3) Murchison Falls NP | The first scooter safari
pikipikitour2021 ? (4) Drone images scooter safari | Murchison Falls
pikipikitour2021 ? (5) Bad luck in Pakwach and Gulu Central Market
pikipikitour2021 ? (6) Struggling through the mud in Uganda (video)
pikipikitour2021 ? (7) Kidepo Valley | The Legacy of Idi Amin

Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

What is it like to drive more than 10.000 kilometers in Madagascar on a locally bought scooter? Or on a pikipiki (scooter in Swahili) through East Africa? In more than 20 years I have visited more than 100 countries. This has resulted in a lot of priceless travel experiences, which I would like to share with you.

ERIC – OVER 100 COUNTRIES
– Currently in Kenya.
– Share unique travel experiences.
– Favorite destinations: Madagascar, Uganda, Japan, India and Colombia.

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Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

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