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Home » Africa » Uganda » East Africa on a scooter | Part 13 | Purongo – Gulu – Kitgum (173 km)

East Africa on a scooter | Part 13 | Purongo – Gulu – Kitgum (173 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 13 of the unique report of an amazing scooter adventure Uganda, Rwanda en Kenya† In the thirteenth part I travel from Purongo to Kitgum, a ride of about 174 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)

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)

A night in 'Amsterdam' does wonders

The pain in my foot is alright. Although the wound looks terrifying. In the guesthouse with 12 rooms named after world capitals, I was allowed to spend the night in Amsterdam. I liked it.

Armed with a towel, I look for the communal shower. On closer inspection, the shower turns out to be just a concrete cubicle. I have to bring the water myself. For that I pick up a jerry can at the reception.

The 'shower' of the guesthouse in Purongo
The 'shower' of the guesthouse in Purongo

Fresh and fairly fruity, I walk on the verge along the asphalted road in Purongo. Purongo is like hundreds of other villages in Uganda. It is not much more than a row of houses, huts and shops on a main road. A Ugandan version of a settlement from the American Wild West.

The center of Purongo
The center of Purongo

The road through Purongo heads north to pakwach where you can turn right towards the Congolese border or further towards northern Arua and arrive in Juba, the capital of South Sudan. To the south, like so many other Ugandan highways, the road ends in the capital Kampala.

Nile Medical Clinic and the guesthouse in Purongo
Nile Medical Clinic and the guesthouse in Purongo

It's time for breakfast. At a chapati bakery I order a rolex (rolled eggs) deluxe. Onion, tomato, bell pepper and three eggs are fried with the chapati dough. It tastes great and is very filling. Meanwhile, the local mechanic is busy patching up my scooter after yesterday's accident. He does some minor repairs here and there.

A freshly prepared breakfast in Purongo
A freshly prepared breakfast in Purongo

Welcome to Acholiland

Exit to Anaka and Gulu
Exit to Anaka and Gulu

After yesterday's accident I don't feel like an hour-long ride on the scooter. I'm sticking to a 80-mile trip to Gulu. Just south of Purongo I take the exit towards Gulu. On a sign along the road I read about work in progress. The well-maintained murram road (red clay sand) is asphalted for its entire length to Gulu.

Upgrading the Arua - Gulu road
Upgrading the Arua – Gulu road

After 15 kilometers I stop in the Ugandan western village of Anaka. I buy a bottle of soda in a shop. The owner warmly welcomes me to the land of the Acholi: 'Apoyo bino.' I answer in Swahili: 'Asante.' Ugandans generally understand Swahili. "Apoyo is thank you in Acholi." The man urges me to at least memorize 'kop ango', 'kop pe' and 'apoyo'. Literally translated: 'What's the problem', 'no problem' and 'thanks'. 'In Gulu, Kitgum and Kidepo they speak Acholi. They really like it when a mzungu greets them in Acholi.'

Characteristic Acholi settlement on the road to Gulu
Characteristic Acholi settlement on the road to Gulu

Northwestern Uganda is also known as Acholiland. About one and a half million Acholi live here. About 50.000 live across the border in South Sudan. Many of them have since fled here because of the civil war. The rural Acholi live in clusters of thatched huts. On my way to Gulu I meet them with some regularity.

Gulu: a city full of refugees and aid workers

In barely two hours I reached Gulu. Gulu is by Ugandan standards a large city with more than 150.000 inhabitants. Many are or were once refugees. From the 1960s onward, Congolese and Sudanese fled wars in their country. From the 1990s onward, local refugees were added. They fled from Joseph Kony's Lord Resistance Army. Today they are residents of South Sudan fleeing the civil war. This type of refugee flows naturally have a different flow, namely that of aid workers.

Signposts to many NGOs in Gulu
Signposts to many NGOs in Gulu

I am not surprised that many signs in Gulu refer to government agencies and international aid organizations (NGOs). I see whole zippers standing next to each other. Of course, the magic word 'development' is not missing.

The long-standing presence of refugees in Gulu has also provided a significant number of aid workers. And the latter group usually does not stay in a run-down guesthouse. Hotel Bomah is where she and the Ugandan elite prefer to stay. After my misadventures from the day before, I report to the reception for a room. Then I pick up a bath towel and settle down on a sun lounger by the pool. Take a break.

Relax at the pool of the Bomah Hotel in Gulu
Relax at the pool of the Bomah Hotel in Gulu

Next stop: Kitgum

Only the first kilometers of the more than a hundred from Gulu and Kitgum cause some delay. Work is underway on the last kilometers of asphalt between the two cities. On the other 98 km there is a proverbial billiard cloth. An asphalt road can be that smooth and fine.

A billiard cloth of 98 km: Gulu to Kitgum
A billiard cloth of 98 km: Gulu to Kitgum

The area is as beautiful as ever with lots of greenery and many Acholi settlements. I take a break at a school complex in the village of Atanga. Just to stretch your legs and get some curious looks.

Children waving from a school in Atanga
Children waving from a school in Atanga

A hundred children who are being taught under the shade of a tree wave enthusiastically. On a blackboard I read today's attendance figures; August 11, 2017: 610 children.

Blackboard with attendees in a school in Atanga
Blackboard with attendees in a school in Atanga

At three o'clock I drive into Kitgum. In terms of size, Kitgum is one third of Gulu with 50.000 inhabitants. I hear from the market that the number of refugees from South Sudan in Kitgum is very high. However, they are accepted with virtually no problem. The Ugandan government even gives them a piece of land. I'm surprised the locals are so tolerant. They don't even have it that wide.

A market vendor explains. “The refugees from South Sudan are our brothers. They speak Acholi like us and have it very bad. You can't leave it out in the cold. Yes, some people here sometimes complain because they inadvertently drive up the prices.'

She explains the criticism as follows:

'They speak Acholi like we do, but they do have an accent. On the market here, they immediately recognize these refugees. The merchants know they get money from the government. So what do some do? They increase the price of a chapati from 1.000 to 2.000 schillings. That's double the price. Refugees often do not dare to negotiate. Thus prices go up. Do you understand?'

Kitgum .'s humble town hall
Kitgum .'s humble town hall

Also in Kitgum there are rescuers and therefore also a hotel with a swimming pool. After that I will rest in preparation for tomorrow's tough stage to Kidepo National Park.

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

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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