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East Africa on a scooter | Part 9 | Fort Portal – Muhorro (100 km)

Who dares to drive more than 3.000 kilometers on a scooter through East Africa? Visiting mountain gorillas? Scooter safaris (does this word exist?) in five National parks† To admire lions, buffaloes, hippos and elephants up close, among other things. My name is Eric and I like to travel around on a scooter. Read here part 9 of the unique report of an amazing scooter adventure Uganda, Rwanda en Kenya† In the ninth part of this journey I drive from Fort Portal to Muhorro, a drive of about 100 kilometers.

Also read:

East Africa on a scooter | Part 1 | From Kampala to Kigali (180 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 2 | Bugala Island – Lake Mburo (170 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 3 | Lake Mburo National Park – Kabale (230 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 4 | Kabale – Ruhija – Gorilla trekking (50 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 5 | Bwindi – Kabale – Kigali (160 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 6 | Kigali Genocide Memorial – Kabale
East Africa on a scooter | Part 7 | Kabale – Queen Elizabeth National Park (175 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 8 | Queen Elizabeth NP – Fort Portal (120km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 9 | Fort Portal – Muhorro (100 km)

Welcome to the land of tea, monkeys and rain

Fort Portal is the ideal base for visiting a considerable number of nature reserves. In the vicinity are a series of crater lakes, the Kibale National Park en Semuliki National Park† Hardly anywhere in the world are so many different monkey species as here. In addition, the city is the center of an extensive tea culture.

View of Fort Portal from my hotel
View of Fort Portal from my hotel

Unfortunately, my stay at Fort Portal has not been a resounding success. In the two days that I am there, the rain is playing tricks on me. After a 35 km ride I learn at the visitor center of Kibale National Park that there are no trekkings to the chimpanzees. Kibale is the place to see these whoppers in the wild. Nowhere is the chance of a meeting so great.

'It has rained so much that it is impossible to get through in the tropical rainforest. We've also canceled tomorrow morning's draw.' No sooner has the park ranger said the words than it starts pouring again.

Rwandan tea pickers deposit their harvest in the pick-up in Fort Portal
Rwandan tea pickers deposit their harvest in the pick-up in Fort Portal

On the second day I decide to stay closer to home. Just outside Fort Portal I admire the tea pickers. I get into a conversation with them and am amazed that they all turn out to be from Rwanda. 'Rwandans are hard workers,' I hear from a tea picker. 'Yes, and the Ugandans don't feel like it anymore. We work for wages they no longer accept. But what should we do? There is no work in Rwanda.'

The Palace of the Kingdom of Tooro

In Fort Portal I take a look at the palace of the Tooro. King Oyo Nyimba Kabamba Iguru Rukidi IV is abroad and a guard is willing to show me around for a few thousand Ugandan shillings. I don't have to be with him for any explanation, because he is constantly on the phone with his mother-in-law.

The guard at Tooro's palace in Fort Portal calling his mother-in-law
The guard at Tooro's palace in Fort Portal calling his mother-in-law

Brief History of the Kingdoms in Uganda

When the British annexed Uganda as a protectorate in 1894, this initially only concerned the kingdom of Buganda. Successively, the British annexed other surrounding kingdoms and territories. Until somewhere in the 1920s Uganda with the borders of today arose.

After Uganda's independence in 1962, the principalities initially remained intact. They were temporarily abolished in 1967. President Museveni decided in 1993 to re-recognize four of the five principalities.

The Location of the Five Kingdoms of Uganda
The Location of the Five Kingdoms of Uganda

So today there are 'officially' four kingdoms in Uganda, which actually have a purely ceremonial function:

  • Buganda, capital Kampala (8 million);
  • Busoga, capital Bugembe near Jinja (3 million);,
  • Bunyoro, capital Hoima (1,4 million);
  • Tooro, capital Fort Portal (1 million).

Only the kingdom of Ankole with its capital Mbarara (4,1 million) was not re-established by President Museveni.

Tooro Palace in Fort Portal
Tooro Palace in Fort Portal

A look inside the palace with sponsor Gaddafi

There is not much to see. There are some newspaper clippings that I'm used to seeing in places like this. With mainly those photos in which the king is depicted with a different topper. For example, the president of Uganda, Museveni, visited a few times.

Another 'topper' is Colonel Gaddafi, the former leader of Libya. Gaddafi was also the patron saint of the kingdom of Tooro. He financed much of the restoration of the palace.

Gaddafi was also the one who donated the beautiful mosque in Kampala to Uganda. Until his death in 2013, the Uganda National Mosque was known as the Gaddafi National Mosque.

Uganda National Mosque (formerly Gaddafi National Mosque) in Kampala
Uganda National Mosque (formerly Gaddafi National Mosque) in Kampala

Stranded in Muhorro

I spend the morning in Fort Portal wonderfully relaxed. Just cross to the market and have a good chat with this and that. Everything is fine. Oops, and then it's already an hour or two. Time to go. How can I still reach my intended travel destination, Hoima, more than 200 kilometers away on a scooter? Then everything has to go well. And that's not it.

After a quarter of an hour there is already the necessary delay. I barely manage to dodge a police barricade. Hallelujah. If I had driven through it… The local constable on duty compliments me a little later. 'Luckily you don't tear like all the others. They could take an example from you.'

A spiked barricade on the road in Fort Portal
A spiked barricade on the road in Fort Portal

The fear is just as good. Then I manage to pick up speed again to literally get bogged down in roadworks 20 kilometers away. There is almost no getting through. The red sand is wet and slippery. Step by step I make it.

Roadworks on the A109 towards Rugombe
Roadworks on the A109 towards Rugombe

Well and then I take the exit in Kyenjojo. The poorly maintained asphalt road gives way to a murram road of red sand. Unfortunately, this road has not been tamped down for a long time. Several times I have to pull out all the stops not to get caught in the loose sand.

Friendly residents of the village of Kikoroba
Friendly residents of the village of Kikoroba

Around half past six I stop at a matatu parked on the road with a tire problem. "Do you know if there will be a village where I can sleep?" 'Muhorro is about 20 km from here. If you're lucky, you'll arrive dry.'

Dark clouds and a matatu with tire trouble
Dark clouds and a matatu with tire trouble

There I am in no man's land. The rain is pouring down from the sky. The red dirt road has turned into a slide. I curse myself for an hour. What the hell am I doing? I intend from now on to inquire about the road conditions before departure and to keep a close eye on the weather.

All in the knowledge that less than ten percent of all roads in Uganda are paved. Not all of these roads are in good condition. Sometimes it is even better to drive on a well-maintained road with gravel, laterite or red sand (murram road in East Africa). It doesn't matter much when it rains. On a scooter, the credo is: wait for the rain to pass. The road dries up quickly in the tropical climate.

The darkness sets in and the rain subsides. I decide to continue at a snail's pace.

Severe weather on the way to Muhorro
Severe weather on the way to Muhorro

After driving in the dark for an hour and a half, I arrived in the village of Muhorro. I take up residence at Highway Standard Hotel & Lodge. Where is that highway?, I really have no idea.

Muhorro Highway Standard Hotel & Lodge
Muhorro Highway Standard Hotel & Lodge

In daylight the 'highway' appears to be little more than a wide red dirt road. There are many puddles on it as a sign that it must have poured a lot during the night. A short walk through Muhorro tells me that hardly any tourists come here. All the children stare at me in surprise and some even flee in panic when they see that tall white man.

Bobi Wine, Kagadi and plodding towards Hoima

Striking is the banner that hangs between a few rusted and barely legible information boards. It can be read that MP Bobi Wine will perform with his Fire Base Crew and Solid Band in nearby Kagadi.

Banner announcement performance Bobi Wine and band
Banner announcement performance Bobi Wine and band

Bobi Wine is the stage name of Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu. He is immensely popular as a singer in Uganda and the rest of East Africa. Bobi is also a successful movie star and politician. In April 2017, for example, he was elected MP with a large majority. Its popularity is not well received by everyone. President Museveni, who has been president of Uganda since 1986, is not too fond of him.

What could be more fun than listening to this part with one of Bobi Wine's biggest hits: Kyarenga?

And then it's time to move on…

Also read:

East Africa on a scooter | Part 1 | From Kampala to Kigali (180 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 2 | Bugala Island – Lake Mburo (170 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 3 | Lake Mburo National Park – Kabale (230 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 4 | Kabale – Ruhija – Gorilla trekking (50 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 5 | Bwindi – Kabale – Kigali (160 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 6 | Kigali Genocide Memorial – Kabale
East Africa on a scooter | Part 7 | Kabale – Queen Elizabeth National Park (175 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 8 | Queen Elizabeth NP – Fort Portal (120km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 9 | Fort Portal – Muhorro (100 km)

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.

Seen a mistake? Ask? Remark? Let us know in the comments!

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Eric on a scooter in Uganda

Eric

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