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Bad luck in Pakwach and Gulu Central Market | #pipikikitour2021 ? (5)

In the 5th travelogue of the #pipikikitour2021 we drive after a last safari in Murchison Falls (including drone footage), to Gulu. works there Chris a day of remote at the pool and I go on a bargain hunt at the largest market in Northern Uganda…

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

A morning safari in Murchison Falls NP

We get there early and decide to go on a safari in Murchison Falls NP before leaving for Gulu. Just before the bridge over the Nile we drive down to watch the fishermen getting ready to fish for the Nile perch among the crocodiles and hippos.

Fishermen near the bridge over the Nile in Pakwach
Fishermen near the bridge over the Nile in Pakwach

By now they know us at the entrance of Murchison Falls NP. We park there for a while to have a chat and to take some pictures. A little further on I see evidence of the misery for Ugandan tourism, caused by all travel restrictions due to COVID-19. Because who still books a balloon flight over Murchison Falls NP based on an almost completely peeling advertising poster?

At the entrance of Murchison Falls NP
At the entrance of Murchison Falls NP
Peeling advertisement for a hot air balloon ride over Murchison Falls NP
Peeling advertisement for a hot air balloon ride over Murchison Falls NP

We have decided not to go out on mud trails this morning. We just stay on the brand new asphalt and that really produces enough beautiful encounters. Impalas are everywhere and nowhere and our big friend elephant is back again. This time the friendly pachyderm even has a few friends on his head.

Impalas stare at us in surprise
Impalas stare at us in surprise
An elephant with a few birds on his head that free him from those annoying ticks
An elephant with a few birds on his head that free him from those annoying ticks

Scooter trouble can be a lot of fun

On the way back my exhaust rattles again. On closer inspection, the fixing bolt appears to have come loose. We go back in Pakwach first but visit the mechanic. And as always we attract a lot of attention. While Chris proves to be a true manager and gives numerous directions, he leaves the dirty work to the mechanic. I don't get involved at all and am, as usual, treating half the village to lollipops.

Chris gives directions to a mechanic in Pakwach
Chris gives directions to a mechanic in Pakwach

During my walk I pass the mobile COVID-19 vaccination bus. The Ugandan government is trying to convince the local population that they should be vaccinated. There is a lot of aversion to vaccinations among the population. 'I think it's really scary. It will soon make me very sick,' an old woman assures me.

A COVID-19 bus in Pakwach
A COVID-19 bus in Pakwach

A lovely ride from Pakwach to Gulu

Once again the Chinese have done their job. In 2018 near Purongo I took the exit towards Gulu and had to struggle about 30 kilometers through the mud and along the many temporary road diversions due to the many road works. Then the Chinese and Ugandans worked together on the new asphalt road. In 2021 there is a smooth asphalt carpet.

There is hardly any traffic and we can drive a lot. At the gas station 'God Bless You' we have our tanks filled.

Chris opens his scooter for some gas
Chris opens his scooter for some gas

Contact with locals

Scootering about forty to fifty kilometers non-stop is pretty much the maximum. Then the legs really need to be stretched. So we do that on a regular basis. And it is precisely these breaks that make riding a scooter a unique experience. The contact with the locals, who all too often come out in large numbers to greet and admire those scooters and those mzungus up close, is in one word: great.

I explain about the scooters
I explain about the scooters

We realize that almost all tourists race through these villages at a killing pace in jeeps (or are raced by a guide). A camera lens is often the only thing the villagers experience from those 'strange mzungus'. They don't have or don't allow themselves time to get out and have a chat, because the next nature park is waiting. After the afternoon safari there is a 'cultural dance' on the program.

One lollypop a day keeps the doctor away
One lollypop a day keeps the doctor away

Everyday life in these villages is in stark contrast. It is often a struggle with very limited resources. A tractor is priceless and so the fertile ground is plowed with many hands. And because of Covid, schools in Uganda have been closed for almost two years. That means hordes of kids have something to entertain themselves all day long.

Bye bye mzungu's
Bye bye mzungu's

Our scooters are almost always the center of the conversation. “Where's the gear?” is a frequently asked question. And when you tell them that you drove it from Kampala, the surprise turns into doubt. Motorcycle taxis (boda bodas) are the mode of transport here. But with that you go from one village to another. You travel to the big city in a (crowded) matatu or minibus.

Child soldiers, sex slaves and millions of refugees

We have arrived in the unsurpassed capital of the Acholi: Gulu. On my advice we report to the Bomah Hotel. 'There they have a lovely swimming pool and a large garden, where you can work remotely in peace.'

At first glance, Gulu looks like many other cities (well, cities, in Uganda only Kampala is a real city with 3 to 4 million inhabitants, followed by provincial capitals with barely 100.000 inhabitants). In the center is the market and the tuk-tuk's (only in the bigger cities in Uganda), boda boda taxis and matatu's wait patiently for passengers.

Yet it has sometimes been different. From 1986 sow Joseph Kony death and destruction among the local population with his Lord's Resistance Army. The child soldiers, sex slaves and more than two million refugees regularly made the world news. It wasn't until 9/11 that things really changed. America put Joseph Kony on the terrorist list and Kony disappeared from the scene not much later (no one knows if he is still alive).

Bomah Hotel in Gulu

The civil war caused a huge influx of international aid organizations. And although the Lord's Resistance Army no longer poses a threat, the aid workers have managed to hold their own. And their employees (in contrast to the Chinese road workers) prefer to sleep in top hotels. Bomah Hotel dates back to that time and houses all the delights for the care provider accustomed to luxury: a gym, a swimming pool and meeting rooms with air conditioning.

Gulu has become an important reception and transit center for refugees from South Sudan. Many of those refugees are closely related to the Acholi here.

The swimming pool of Bomah Hotel in Gulu
The swimming pool of Bomah Hotel in Gulu

Chris decides to turn on his laptop to his website Wereldreizigers.nl to keep up.

Gulu Main Market

Bank Of Africa, Gulu Main Market
Bank Of Africa, Gulu Main Market

In between I take Chris to the huge market of Gulu. At the ATM I see the ever calm Chris for the first time quite angry. 'What happened?' I ask. 'That ATM does not give money, even though the amount has been debited from the account.' It's a phenomenon I think about a lot when I'm pinning and hear the machine make all kinds of crazy noises. Money has always come out of me. Not with Chris this time.

There is no solution or statement from the bank, so we decide to put it behind us and go to the market.

Crowds at the entrance to Gulu Main Market
Crowds at the entrance to Gulu Main Market
Clothes of all shapes and sizes at the Gulu Main Market
Clothes of all shapes and sizes at the Gulu Main Market

From the open air market we enter the very well organized covered area. There are various departments with fish, vegetables, fruit and a lot of meat. Every salesperson (or rather saleswoman, because 99% is female) has her own unit.

The covered market in Gulu
The covered market in Gulu
Uganda's president Museveni is ubiquitous in Gulu Central Market
Uganda's president Museveni is ubiquitous in Gulu Central Market
Bananas are dragged in and a saleswoman takes stock
Bananas are dragged in and a saleswoman takes stock

I am looking for slippers and seem to have found them. 'Great Eric, original ABIBAS slippers!' smiles Chris. Unfortunately size 44 is not included.

Original Abibas slippers on the market in Gulu
Original Abibas slippers on the market in Gulu

After a great afternoon strolling through the market we return to the hotel.

Gorillas and free condoms

In the toilet of Bomah Hotel I discover a plastic container with free condoms. Mmm… US Aid provides them for free to hotel guests. In itself a good initiative, because AIDS is still the number 1 or 2 cause of death (after malaria, COVID-19 is really 'Children's Play'). What I do have trouble with is the fact that all those aid organizations have their logo on the container. And who are these condoms for anyway? If anyone can afford a condom, it's a guest at Bomah hotel…

Free condoms provided by US Aid at Bomah Hotel
Free condoms provided by US Aid at Bomah Hotel

In front of the entrance of the hotel are a few big gorillas. "Having a photo, Chris." Of course we can't resist the temptation to pose with the ultimate symbol of Uganda!

Chris with gorillas in the picture at Bomah Hotel, Gulu
Chris with gorillas in the picture at Bomah Hotel, Gulu
A kiss for the gorilla!

The next morning we are fresh and fruity ready at our scooters. We don't know yet what a bizarre journey awaits us. On the way to Kidepo Valley NP through the pouring rain and on dirt roads that have turned into mud baths. To be brought to a halt just before dark, a stone's throw from the finish. "It's dark and I absolutely can't let you through," Kidepo's heavily armed guard says. "But it's only 15 miles," Chris stammers. Well, and then a jeep appears with an old acquaintance. Hey Eric, you're back! My son will be so very happy!'

In part 6 you can read all about it and more.

See you soon, see you soon from the Pearl of Africa: Uganda

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.

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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