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Part II: Pian Upe

We started hiking into Pian Upe Reserve on February 8. They told us that we would find enough water in there, at least one or two sources per day. After crossing a river at noon we filled up our canisters and kept going with 13 liters each – not enough, as we found out later. Due to the extreme temperatures I had only 4 liters left the next morning. We continued hiking deeper into the reserve and got thirstier and thirstier until we arrived at a spot that was supposed to have water – but it didn’t! At that time I felt like I was going to lose my consciousness sometime soon, I was extremely weak. After the sun had gone down we knew that we wouldn’t survive another day looking for water… altogether we had only one liter left. So we took a few hours rest and hiked back to the main road during the night. You cannot imagine how demanding this hike was for us; physically it felt like the hardest hours of my life. We reached the road just before sunrise with empty bottles. Somebody took us to the town of Namalu, where we drank, ate and slept.

Now some pictures of our little Pian Upe disaster – the area is actually beautiful and we felt pretty stupid for how we had to leave it.

In Namalu, we reconsidered our situation. We definitely couldn’t move alone anymore; there was way too little water and the sources were not obvious: one needs to know exactly where they are in order to survive in Karamoja’s backcountry. So we decided to leave the area for now and took the bus to Moroto, but before that we spent another day in Namalu, took some pictures and made friends with Giuliano from Italy, who is locally married and now runs a little farm down there.

Part III: Mazeniko

We left out the two nature reserves Pian Upe and Bokora and now wanted to look for a local who could join us on our way from Moroto to Kaabong, straight through Mazeniko, helping us with finding water. First we went to an Italian guy called Morusapir (“shaggy hill”) who is involved in NGO and church work in Karamoja. He had two people in mind who could potentially guide us, but neither of them was there. He also advised against taking our preferred route (we wanted to stay close to the border to Kenya, away from villages and roads) because of the armed cattle raisers of Turkana whose herds were grazing there at the time.

Fortunately the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) in Moroto was able to help us. They knew a man who had lived as a cattle nomad for a long time until the Pokot and Turkana took his family’s cows away, now he lives in Moroto and even speaks some basic English. His name was Lusike Mark. He and his friend Lachapp Meriko showed up after the commanding officer, Dennis Mandela, called him – from then on we were travelling with the two of them as our guides.

Dennis Mandela was a great help to us. Not only that he helped us find a guide, he also wanted to inform UWA and military stations in northern Karamoja about our coming. And, especially, he didn’t make us pay anything – his support was outstanding. First he wanted us to take a military escort with us into Mazeniko but he didn’t force us, so we ended up as a group of four. We gave our guides some money for food (we planned on an eight-day hike from Moroto to Kaabong) and met them again in the next morning.

In the morning of February 14 we took off from Moroto and hiked northwards. Quickly we left some small villages behind and entered the actual wilderness of Mazeniko Reserve. A beautiful landscape and encounters with nomadic cattle raisers were our daily live now.

Lusike and Lachapp knew the name of every little hill in that area! They knew about every water source, regardless of whether it was a borehole, dam or a wet spot in the rocks. Again, we got reminded of how important it is to hike with locals in that area: as a stranger it’s absolutely impossible to survive in a dry place like this.

Here are some pictures of the first three days in Mazeniko.

On February 16, late in the afternoon, we met a group of Turkana People from Kenya who, in the dry season, wander around Eastern Karamoja, always looking for water and grass to feed their cattle. It was absolutely incredible to see how they were digging holes – 8 meters deep – to find water, using just some old bowls. They were very surprised to see us; in fact their elders told us, that they had never encountered a white man in that area at all! And many of them wanted me to take portraits – no problem!

The Turkana were armed, which didn’t really concern us. They somehow knew our friend Lusike, who seemed to be friends with pretty much all the different tribes living in that area. So we actually felt very welcome, they even wanted to prepare a goat for us.

There is not much to say about the rest of our hike to Loyoro. We were still surrounded by this beautiful scenery; a mix of grass land, rocks and hills. We kept seeing nomads with their cattle. I guess I’m just going to show some more pictures.

On February 20 we reached the little settlement of Loyoro which unfortunately doesn’t have a market or anything of the like. So we hiked along the road up to Kaabong where we paid our guides and checked in at a little hotel. Now the plan was to continue hiking northwards, all the way to Kidepo and the border to South Sudan. To get there, we needed a new guide, Lusike and Lachapp didn’t know that area anymore. Still they wanted to come with us and started looking for a third person in Kaabong themselves. Of course they found somebody: a young Karamojong named Lojang, he grew up raising cattle in the northern part of the region. Actually one guide would have been enough for us, but Lusike and Lachapp insisted on coming with us, so now we were a group of five!

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