Page 1    Page 2    Page 3

Part IV: Mt Morungole and Kidepo

From Kaabong we took some boda-bodas to Kasile and from there started hiking northeast, towards Mt. Morungole. Soon we noticed that Lojang did actually not have the same level of competence that we had become used to through our two friends Lusike and Lachapp. But for now that wasn’t a big deal since we were hiking on a small dirt road and met other locals anyway.

Our plan was to hike around Mt. Morungole to the little UWA outpost Pierre, located on the southeastern end of Kidepo Valley National Park. The official park entrance is Apoka, 40 kilometers west of Pierre. We were hoping that Dennis Mandela had informed them about our coming: we wanted them to let us continue hiking outside of the park all the way up to Mt. Zulia and the border to South Sudan. From there we wanted to enter the park at a random spot and cross it all the way over to Apoka. Not quite their everyday business but we were hoping to somehow arrive at an agreement with the rangers in Pierre.

After a long day of hiking through trailless terrain we reached Pierre in the evening of February 23. The rangers were surprised – they had never seen anybody coming from that direction before; also, they hadn’t been informed by anybody. So they called their boss in Apoka who quickly sent a truck loaded with soldiers that brought us over to the actual park entrance. The next day he met us in his office – just to tell us that we could not continue our journey: the area around Mt. Zulia was not safe enough to hike through (the armed Topossa People from Sudan live there and killed soldiers before, now even the park rangers can’t go there anymore) and we could not do an extended hike in the actual National Park – the maximum length for a “Nature Walk” is four hours, and obviously you need to take a professional guide in order to get the permit.

We were pretty disappointed by the conversation we had with the Chief Warden, he seemed to have no interest in supporting our journey at all. But there seemed to be nothing we could do – so we left the area. In fact there were only 30 kilometers left to hike from Pierre to Mt. Zulia, so we came pretty far, but eventually didn’t really achieve our goal.

Now Gerald thought about doing some Nature Walks in Kidepo, just to see the amazing variety of wildlife. This park is actually rated one of East Africas most beautiful National Parks, it just doesn’t see that much tourism due to the “dangerous” situation in Karamoja.
I definitely wanted to leave this place and go for another wilderness hike: the “tourist program” was no option for me, I would rather take time searching for a new guide who would accompany me through Pian Upe or Bokora. Now Lusike mentioned that he also knew about those two reserves we’d had to leave out when we’d run out of water two weeks before. Gerald and I got pretty excited – so did Lusike once he understood that there was another chance where he could prove his skills to us.

We decided to go back to Moroto and hike into Bokoro, all the way down to Mt. Napak and over to Namalu. We thought that it would take another 8 days – pretty much exactly the time we had left. So we walked to the next town, got into a car and drove down to Kaabong where we checked in at the same little hotel again.

The next morning, it was February 25, Gerald woke up with heavy pain in his upper arm. The back of his right hand had been looking terrible for days: it was all inflamed, full of pus and now he discovered lymph nodes under his armpits. A serious infection, we thought, although Gerald had no idea where it came from. But since he was in pain and felt weak that day, he thought about going to a hospital.

While driving towards Moroto Gerald became more and more skeptic concerning the rest of our journey. Even with a penicillin injection he would have needed some days of rest; in his condition, hiking in those temperatures was definitely not healthy.
We were sitting in a big semi-truck on its way to Kampala, Uganda’s capital. If we wanted to go to Moroto we had to get out in Kotido – Gerald had to make his decision quickly. Finally he made up his mind and went on to Kampala, from where he flew back to Germany only two days later. The reason was obvious: Gerald would not have been able to start hiking with me the following day, too risky. Going to a hospital would have taken time and since there were only two weeks left, it wouldn’t have made much sense either. He didn’t want to take any risks at this point, so he said goodbye, flew home and visited two tropic doctors at home – by now he is completely fine again.

Together with my two guides I jumped into another truck which was on its way to Moroto and we reached town in the early afternoon.

I talked to Dennis Mandela about the route I wanted to take: the plan was to start hiking in Matany through the Bokora Reserve, all the way to Mt. Napak. After climbing the mountain I wanted to enter Pian Upe again and end up in Namalu after eight trekking days. Dennis agreed. Again I didn’t get an actual permit, but he also didn’t make me pay. So I gave my two guides Lusike and Lachapp money for groceries and enjoyed a couple of beers in a local restaurant.

Part V: Bokora and Pian Upe

We had a hard time catching a ride the next morning, so we arrived in Matany late in the afternoon and decided to stay in town overnight. But then, at 3.30 am on February 27, we started hiking, I was in a perfect mood.

It was a great day! Away from the trails we went through some bushes and arrived on a big dam at 4 in the afternoon. The area looked beautiful but for the moment I didn’t take a single picture – first I made camp, had dinner and took my camera out just one hour before sundown, while the lighting was best. The next morning we continued towards Iriri.

From Iriri we hiked up Mt. Napak, 2230 meters high. Even on that mountain we found some small villages – people are actually living up there!

On the south side of the mountain we entered Pian Upe, the reserve that Gerald and I had had to leave three weeks earlier because of water problems. Now with these two locals by my side, I didn’t have any trouble.

First we spent a night in the village of Nabwal, which even has a little school. I got introduced to the teacher and invited him for some beers (beer was the only thing they were selling in that place). He explained to me that many children never go to school because their parents need them to take care of the cattle and he asked me to give a little speech about the importance of education in front of all the pupils, which indeed I did the next morning.

The hike through Pian Upe wasn’t really that spectacular: most of the time we were following little dirt roads and met a lot of people on the way. Here are some more pictures of the area.

It was March 5 when we reached the main road again. We took a small car to Nabilatuk where I visited the program manager of “KACHEP” who I had been in contact with via email before I started this journey. With some beer my guides and I celebrated our last evening together – I was really thankful for their help! Then I paid them off and wrote a letter of recommendation for Lusike who was now hoping to become an actual guide for UWA in the future. If one of my readers here should ever want to go hiking in Karamoja: look up the website of Uganda Wildlife Authority and get in contact with Dennis Mandela or James Okware; both are able to get in touch with Lusike Mark, whose companionship I really recommend.

While my guides went back to Moroto, I drove further south to Namalu where I spent another two nights. Together with some friends I did a little hiking on Mt. Kadam and took pictures of monkeys playing around. And on March 8 two friends from Namalu took me to Mbale where we celebrated “Woman’s Day” together – what a good time we had!

In the afternoon of March 9 I said farewell to my friends and took a minibus to Kampala. From there I went right to the airport in Entebbe and slept for a couple of hours before I flew home in the early morning of March 10, looking back upon an amazing Karamoja adventure.

This journey was fantastic! It was my first time in Africa – so many things were new to me: the landscape, the animals, the climate and especially the challenges. Almost every day I learned something new; I got so much input during that time!

Surely, part of my emotions about this trip are due to its exclusivity: we did something new, something that hadn’t been done there in a very long time. It’s a great feeling to risk something and eventually succeed, although we also failed to some degree: this water problem in Pian Upe, the restrictions in Kidepo… those are things that were very disappointing for the both of us. But we learned from our mistakes. I think this journey was a lot about learning in general: now I have an idea about traditional life in East Africa. Before, I just had the feeling that I might like this continent, but in fact I had no idea what it’s really like.

Now I know – at least to some degree. And I definitely want to explore more, Africa has really captured my attention at the moment. In summer I will be going back to Alaska for three months, but I’m hoping to make it south again in the winter time. I just don’t know where exactly I should go – a region just as interesting and “dangerous” as Karamoja would be perfect; “a safe enough conflict area”.

Finally, I want to thank some people that made this journey possible and so enjoyable:

Gerald Klamer, my travel partner in Karamoja, who taught me a lot and with whom I would be happy to travel again

Miriam Lejeune, who lived in Karamoja for some time and helped me planning
Florian Steiniger, who helped me getting contacts in Karamoja
Giuliano Tiyan, our Italian friend from Namalu
Bob Wright, who gave me safety advices before the trip
Jean Grade, who helped me planning
Lokiru Paul and the staff from Karam’s Inn
my friends from Namalu: Susan, Paul, Peter, Benjamin and Sam
Bettoli Alessandro, “Morusapir” (ISS)
Otim Dennis Mandela and James Okware (UWA)
Lusike Mark and Lachapp Meriko, our „guides“
Fausto Conter, who hosted me in Iriri
Limlim John Paul, teacher from Nabwal
Mukisa Ayub (Kachep), who hosted me in Nabilatuk

Now my favorite picture of this trip. It shows the upside-down version of the reflection of a tree in shallow water.

Page 1    Page 2    Page 3