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 15 of the unique report of an amazing scooter adventure Uganda, Rwanda en Kenya† In this part I visit the Karamojong in northeastern Uganda and experience the election campaign up close.
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)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 10 | Muhorro – Hoima (100 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 11 | Hoima – Murchison Falls National Park (120km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 12 | Murchison Falls National Park – Purongo (50km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 13 | Purongo – Gulu – Kitgum (173 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 14 | Kitgum – Kidepo Valley National Park
Table of contents
A farewell in style to Kidepo Valley National Park
Of course I can Kidepo Valley National Park Don't leave without saying goodbye to lovely manager Betty and her little boy Mandela. Mandela put on his Orange shirt for the occasion. So we took a picture completely in style.
In the morning I decide to take a last safari to the former lodge of Idi Amin. On a rock in front of the lodge I think I see a lion's head. By zooming in with the lens of my camera I know for sure.
Moments later, a tour bus with somewhat disappointed tourists stops. "Have you seen lions?" the question is. 'You're lucky. There's one there on the rock.' “Fantastic, really. But, huh, do you dare to stand here with that lion over there?' I answer: 'Look where your driver and guide are.' They are standing in the grass next to the bus.
Not much later I come face to face with a buffalo that just before had completely submerged itself in the mud. It's a farewell in style.
The first introduction to Karamoja: Kadepo
It's the old song again. I am leaving far too late and I have not prepared myself properly. This time I am riding on a barely maintained dirt track. The trick is to keep up enough momentum not to slip in the loose sand.
It is only at one o'clock that I arrive in the first village of the Karamojong: Kadepo.
In Kadepo I took a break. Immediately I am attacked by a whole mob of children. The village chief chases them away. 'Mzungu, don't give the children anything. They are stray children and they come every day to beg in the village. Every time someone gives them something, they have a reason to come back.”
I ask him if I am now in the land of the Karamojong. He nods in agreement. 'Yes, this is the land of the Karamojong. Don't imagine too much of it. There is a lot of poverty.'
Then he points to my scooter. 'I haven't seen them here in years. Long ago, an Italian priest lived here. He always rode a piki piki like that. I think hardly anyone in Karamoja has ever seen such a vehicle.'
Karamoja is a sub-region in northeastern Uganda. The region is mainly populated by the 1,2 million Karamajong. The Karamajong are traditionally a nomadic people and are originally from Ethiopia. They are related to the Turkana and Maasai in Kenya, among others.
The Karamajong live in an area that experiences a lot of drought. Famine is a regular occurrence and violence between the surrounding peoples regularly flares up. In particular the Turkana and Pokot from Kenya regularly loot at the Karamajong and vice versa.
The Ugandan army decided to intervene in Karamoja in the early 2010s. The Karamajong had to surrender their weapons to the army. This resulted in improved safety. Nevertheless, the conflicts flare up with some regularity. Drought and famine drive the various peoples to despair. The solution is often sought in the looting of food and livestock from the neighbours.
Remark: During my stay in Karamoja in both 2017 and 2018, I did not notice any possible insecurity. What stood out was the alcohol consumption. Many men in the villages were already in apparent condition by noon. In addition, I heard many stories about theft of cattle from the Turkana and the Pokot. The other way around, it turned out to be rare. Two months later I was on my scooter visiting the Pokot across the border in Kenya and heard the same song. They had a lot of trouble with cattle thieves from Turkana and Karamoja. The Pokot themselves did not engage in cattle theft.
An unparalleled rock paradise in the land of the Karamojong
It has rained a lot in recent months, which can be seen in the green colors in the landscape. It produces very beautiful pictures of an area that often experiences severe drought.
My pace is not too fast. The dirt road is too treacherous for that. There are quite a few potholes here and there and sometimes there is even a total subsidence. I can only walk through it.
The panoramas remain as beautiful as ever. Women on a rock wave at me. They do the laundry. A little further on are two goatherds. They maneuver their flock through an almost dry riverbed. After passing a bridge over that river I am in Kaabong.
A festive election campaign in Kaabong
The spectacular location of Kaabong is reason enough to visit it. The town of barely 12.000 inhabitants is centrally located in a plain with brilliant rock formations. There is also a lot to shop for. The Karamojong buy their stuff in the many stalls along the main road. There are funny hats for sale in many color combinations. The rubber sandals are assembled on site. The colorful rugs in which the Karamojong wear themselves come from Kenya. It is a custom inherited from the Maasai where they are known as Shuka.
I can't go any further outside the center. The main road is completely blocked. There are singing and dancing people everywhere. A few young men speed past on their motorbikes, honking loudly. A festive procession approaches from afar. 'We have elections soon,' I hear from a spectator. "This is one of the candidates." A moment later he drags me to the car in which the candidate is dancing happily. I can take a picture with her and for the occasion I don an original Karamojong hat.
Everything shows that people are up for a party. What an election campaign is not good for.
Arrival in the dark in Kotido
It's time to say goodbye to all the fun. My travel destination today is Kotido. If I want to reach Kotido before dark I have to cover 80 km in 2 hours. That is almost impossible to do given the condition of the road.
Just outside Kaabong I make a short stop to photograph yet another sign of an international aid organization. Due to the almost annual drought and poverty, the aid organizations in Karamoja are teeming. This time I'm at the World Food Program Field Office. The office is behind a high wall with coils of barbed wire. 'Fighting Hunger WorldWide' is the credo.
Because of all the commotion I lost track of time. It is ten past six and I still have 80 km to go to Kotido. So I'm never going to save that before dark. What does it matter? The area is so incredibly beautiful with those beautiful rock formations and traditional Karamoja settlements. I can not get enough of it…
So close to the equator, darkness sets in quite abruptly. The last 50 km are quite an ordeal. After a hot day, whole swarms of insects report to the road. They disappear when it is pitch dark and it immediately becomes cool.
Around half past nine I have finally reached my goal and I move into the Kotido Resort Hotel.
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