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A curious buffalo in Murchison Falls
Home » Africa » Uganda » East Africa on a scooter | Part 12 | Murchison Falls National Park – Purongo (50km)

East Africa on a scooter | Part 12 | Murchison Falls National Park – Purongo (50km)

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 12 of the unique report of an amazing scooter adventure Uganda, Rwanda en Kenya† In the twelfth part of this journey, I meet the shoebill at Lake Albert and experience perilous moments after falling off my scooter in Murchison Falls National Parkrc.

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)

East Africa on a scooter | Part 10 | Muhorro – Hoima (100 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 11 | Hoima – Murchison Falls National Park (120km)

Lake Albert, in search of the shoebill

The owner of my guesthouse advises me to drive to Wanseko in my search for the illustrious shoebill stork. 'You can walk along the Nile here and try to spot that bird. However, you have the best chance at the place where the Nile flows into Lake Albert. Ask around in Wanseko, because there is always a fisherman willing to take you along.'

Fuel in Wanseko for the boat trip on Lake Albert
Fuel in Wanseko for the boat trip on Lake Albert

Good advice doesn't have to be expensive. On a narrow but good dirt road (in case of rain this road is impassable) I drive in half an hour to the fishing village of Wanseko on the shore of Lake Albert. I don't have to look for a fisherman for a trip on the lake. The fishermen come to me. There is already a boat ready, but due to a lack of tourists it takes a while before guide William shows up.

A shoebill on the shore of Lake Albert
A shoebill in the grassland between the Nile and Lake Albert

Lake Albert is by no means small with a length of 160 km and a width of 30 km. Almost half of the lake is in Congo. Guide William first directs me to a small motorboat. With that we sail to the larger covered motorboat, which is anchored in the lake.

Congolese fishermen in Lake Albert
Congolese fishermen in Lake Albert

Ten minutes later it's already time. 'This is pre-eminently the area where shoebill ferns have their nests. Look, there's one.' A shoebill stork protrudes its peculiar head above the long grass on the banks of the Nile.

After this special meeting we sail towards a canoe, in which two Congolese boys proudly show their catch. There is plenty of fishing anyway. 'Look, there are two fishing in a shallow part of the lake. They are not afraid of the crocodiles and hippos. They occur in large numbers in Lake Albert.'

Catch of the day in Lake Albert
Catch of the day in Lake Albert

A boat trip to Murchison waterfall

It's something different than a scooter safari; the boat trip to the world famous Murchison Falls. The falls featured in the 1951 film The African Queen starring Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. The boat sails upstream towards the falls for over an hour and a half. Crocodiles laze in the sun and hippos regularly stretch their huge mouths above the water. An African osprey perched on a branch, looking for a tasty fish in the Nile.

An African osprey lurks for a fish in the Nile at Murchison Falls
An African osprey lurks for a fish in the Nile at Murchison Falls

Unfortunately, the boat doesn't really get close to the waterfall. The force of the water is too strong for that.

Murchison waterfall from the boat
Murchison waterfall from the boat

A scooter accident in the park

On the map I have selected my possible routes on the way to Kidepo National Park. Kidepo is located in the far north of Uganda and is more than 350 km away. It is now half past five and I will not get very far today. According to the park ranger I can get to Gulu, but then I have to drive a lot. Via Pakwach it is 145 km. For that I first have to go through the park for over 30 km on the dirt road, which I also drove yesterday. Or I'll take a shortcut to the Wankwar exit. That saves 25 km. 'That road is good. But do you see those dark clouds?'

The red dirt road towards Wankwar Gate, Murchison Falls NP
The red dirt road towards Wankwar Gate, Murchison Falls NP

It's a gamble, but I'll give it a shot. The road is already difficult after ten kilometers. Where the Paraa – Pakwach track goes through an open savanna area, the grass here is much too high. Nothing comes of a safari. The clouds are getting closer and then it starts to pour. It's half past seven and I don't have much time left. In half an hour it will be pitch dark.

'Wankwar Gate 10 km' I read on a sign. A kilometer later I start to slide. Due to the rain, the wheel track on the sandy path is no longer visible. I drive barely 20 km per hour and try to slow down. He's not going to jump off. If I can't keep up with the scooter or if I slip in the sludge, my scooter is broken. Will the backpack with all my stuff stay intact? My Macbook probably won't survive.

It all flashes through my head in a split second. I decide to opt for a controlled fall. It means that I drive the scooter into the verge at low speed. The scooter falls on me and a sharp bar from the stand is stuck in my left foot.

There I lie. I can't get the scooter moving. I try to lift him slightly to get the bar out of my foot. After about five minutes I give up temporarily. Then I look up and stare into the eyes of an adult elephant. The elephant stands at about ten meters and does not move anymore. I lie still and can do nothing. Strangely enough, there is no panic. I resign myself to my fate. The elephant takes another step or two toward me. He's definitely seen me and my scooter now. He stops again and waves his trunk at a bush. Then he decides to walk in the other direction. Pffff…

Purongo, the next morning
Purongo, the next morning

It's getting dark. My foot hurts quite a bit. I can't get any movement in the scooter. Now I sense danger on the other side of the road. I'll hit it. All the way I saw no sign of life and now it hits twice within five minutes. This time it is an adult buffalo. With the elephant and the hippo, the buffalo is just about the trio of most dangerous game you don't want to encounter when you're under a scooter. You generally have less to fear from lions, leopards and to a lesser extent hyenas.

I already have some experience with buffalo. For example, in Queen Elizabeth I remember a herd of about 100 buffalo. They were about thirty yards away, while I'd gotten off my scooter for a photo or two. The leader then started walking towards me. A park ranger had already taught me how to behave. 'Keep calm, because buffalo hear very well, but their vision is limited. So they hear you, but they don't see you. So they come closer to make sure you're not a threat to them. Don't jump, yell or frantically try to drive away on your scooter. He's faster than you think.'

His words don't have much value now, because getting away on the scooter is not an option anyway. I'm under it and can't move. The buffalo walks in my direction and peers. About ten meters. It's not much more. In the meantime I managed to free my foot. The bar is out and so is the blood. That squirts out. The buffalo hesitates for a moment and then disappears into the tall grass.

Minor repair to the scooter in Purongo
Minor repair to the scooter in Purongo

Very slowly I push the scooter away from me. I get up and feel pain everywhere. I need a few minutes to recover a bit. I note that my luggage is undamaged. Except for the mud that's on it. I put the scooter on the stand. I hold my breath as I put in the handbrake and turn the ignition key. A few sputters and then the engine runs constantly.

The wound from the scooter accident in Murchison Falls NP
The wound from the scooter accident in Murchison Falls NP

In the pitch dark I mainly drive by touch. It takes me over half an hour to drive the last seven kilometers to the exit. "Mzungu, you're late." The park ranger shines his flashlight. 'Why are you so late? And what is that? A piki piki?' I point to my left foot. 'Damn. That's a serious yawn. Had an accident?' I nod. 'You are lucky. Purongo is seven kilometers from here. When you get to the t-junction, drive straight on to the other side. That's where our doctor's station is. Get well soon mzungu.'

First aid in case of accidents and 'back' in Amsterdam

It is almost nine o'clock when I stumble into the doctor's office in my slippers. The doctor looks at me concerned. 'What's the matter? Ok, I can see it already. Go lie down on the stretcher.'

The bill of Nile Medical Clinic in Purongo
The bill of Nile Medical Clinic in Purongo

The doctor calls his assistant and gives some instructions. For ten minutes she cleans everything in and around the wound. Then a bandage goes around it and as bouncer I get a syringe in my ass. The doctor has now debited the bill. "20.000 shillings please." He adds a few more boxes of bandages. "Oh yes, and come by tomorrow morning for a check-up." What a bargain, I guess. So much service for barely four Euros.

The doctor shakes my hand and asks, "Where do you sleep anyway?" 'No idea.' 'Sister take him to our neighbors. They must have a room for him there.' The neighbors happen to run a guesthouse. The sister says goodbye in front of the curtain that serves as an entrance. "Get well soon and see you tomorrow." Behind the curtain is a desk with two young ladies behind it and quite a few bottles of beer. They give me a room key, a bar of soap and a towel. "Your room is fourth from the right after Copenhagen, Washington and Montevideo."

The bar of the guesthouse in Purongo, the next morning
The bar of the guesthouse in Purongo, the next morning

I walk to the right of the courtyard, where about twenty young men and women sit around a few tables drinking beer. Loud music is heard from a beatbox. How is it possible?, I think to myself. The fourth room after Copenhagen, Washington and Montevideo is Amsterdam. Yes! Incidentally, 'room' is a somewhat euphemistic description of the dog house where there is a dirty mattress and a lot of mosquitoes buzzing around.

At the reception I hear that there is no food available. "What do you actually want to eat?" 'Does not matter. Chicken or something.' "Give me 10.000 Schillings and I'll get you some."

After a delicious stew with chicken and rice, I stumble to Amsterdam. Finally home'.

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)

East Africa on a scooter | Part 10 | Muhorro – Hoima (100 km)
East Africa on a scooter | Part 11 | Hoima – Murchison Falls National Park (120km)

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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