Where the dinosaurs lived

I encountered the most beautiful place I had laid my eyes on, Karamoja. From Napak to Kaabong, it was all awesomeness, I was left in awe at the nature of the landscape, people and weather.
I have been embarking on these journeys alone but there is nothing like ‘solo travel’ because everywhere I have gone so far there are familiar faces, family and friends.

 

 


Being always madly impatient on most journeys with this one being the longest, it was a totally different travel experience. I hitched a ride with Lorika and his family so most of the time I was preoccupied with interaction with his very brilliant kids  and the rest of the time I was enjoying the Savannah grassland landscape filled with green hills and marvellously shaped rocks and different rock formations. The road itself was a typical safari road, mostly Marrum but smooth. It was a ride straight out of a movie with us heading to a far far away land of mystery. The first thought that came to my mind as I was gazing at this landscape that was unendingly moving past was ‘this is where the dinosaurs lived’.
Dinosaurs, the poster boys of extinction must have enjoyed such a landscape. The flatness where one could see as far as the eye could allow, the rocks scattered  all over, and the hills and mountains.

The journey took us through most of Eastern Uganda and we were lucky enough to take a ferry ride on the Lake Bisina.  It was  rather a big raft with a big engine. It was amusing. Looking at the ferry from far you would think it can hardly accommodate more than 5 cars but when it was time to board, am still amazed at what this big raft could carry

 

 

Proceeding through the beautifully formed Napak mountain I was like ‘screw it, I have seen everything where is the exit?’ but little did I know this was just the icing on the cake. Mount Moroto was far more monstrously imposing and stunning.

Passing through Kaabong to the Kidepo valley national park felt like I was in a place outside time and maybe space. The sunrise from behind the mountains found us on the road to Kidepo. I was dumbstruck and embarrassingly simple minded at this moment like those seconds when you wake up from bed.

 

 

This was a reserve for us from God but with the help of the early elephant hunters like Lorika’s great grand father. The story goes that Lorika’s great grand dad was a prominent elephant hunter who helped foreigners  in their hunting expeditions. But he cunningly took the foreigners In circles around the mountains and never really let them see and possibly hunt in the kidepo valley because he knew what a beauty it was and also wanted his great grand kids to behold this piece of nature’s cake. Talk of unsung heroes and a fairytale story as I got to do a park drive with one of his great grand children.

we saw the Buffaloes, lions, antelopes, water bucks, and the very elusive elephants, giraffes and one thing I noticed is that all animals in this very large expanse looked well fed, I guess it was just nature at its best. The Eco system was intact.

 

 


We also got to pitch camp at the Karatum lodge which is a new lodge still under construction  perfectly wedged between two rocks and overlooking the national park. There is no better view than this and I vow to be one of the first clients when it opens. Hope Lorika gives me a heads up.
So definitely I will be back to Kidepo valley.

 

Advertisements

The Karamoja cultural festival

What is culture if it cannot be celebrated proudly by it’s people and admired by people from outside that culture. That is why with an impromptu invitation from long time friend Lokol, other culture hoggers, appropriators and I took a long rather scenic ride to what seemed like the end of the world to Kaabong in Northeastern Uganda. A place I would later describe as ‘where the dinosaurs lived’. This ended up being a road trip around Uganda with new friends,family and fascinating stories.

 

The Karamoja cultural festival is arguably the biggest cultural festival by a tribe in Uganda. This started as a tribal meet up in Kampala perhaps to escape the usual snore of urban culturally eroded lifestyle lacking the fashion and pomp in lifestyle, food and clothing. perhaps the love to involve the people back home or lack of ceilings high enough to accommodate the edonga jumping dance. Anyway the mtv premier league second hand clothes wearing minds of the concrete jungle would not really appreciate a major distraction in terms of this traffic stopping colourful cultural festival which clearly truely belongs in the beautiful  flat, hilly, rocky savannah plains of Karamoja. So there was no venue more befitting this year than Kaabong which attracted all k’jong tribes from various walks of life. From the Turkana from Kenya, the Jiye and Toposa from South Sudan, and those  from Ethiopia. So despite  consuming the mind farts of many professors, historians and teachers I still cannot totally break down this very diverse ethnic group.

The usually traffic deprived streets of Kaabong this time were busting with energy and life with different sects dancing and singing in processions. Each displaying what is unique about them as K’jong. The Karamojongs are a big tribe divided dinstinctly by district borders. So we have different sect of k’jongs in Uganda coming from Moroto, Kaabong, kotido, napak, amudat nabilatuk, abim , Nakapirit, each having a major distinction from the other in some very unnoticeable way to a foreigner.

 

And what is a cultural festival without the food and drink. I got to taste the Agodish which is a flour meal mixed with ghee, milk, and some oil. I could only compare the sharp tingling taste to the Injeera from Ethiopia. Then there was the Emunna which would make the best snack ever. Emunna is a groundnut sim sim  paste mixed with milk, ghee, and pounded meat. There should be other ingredients in this food but that is what my amateur tongue got to taste.
The scantily but smartly clad girls adorned in various ornaments and beads including the current Miss Tourism Uganda who I got a glimpse of got all the fibers in me raged to an unpleasant stiffness but I did not mind much with all the local brew ngagwee streaming  through my veins in the scotching semi arid desert sunshine which unfortunately later turns into a bone biting cold breeze in the night.

It is hard to relieve this whole festival in a blog post but I got to take pictures of everything and anything with no one of the festival goers giving a flying squirrels posterior about it. Perhaps because here everyone was a moving exhibition of style and pomp. I myself was not left out as I followed norm and dressing, I felt k’jong, Scottish and female at the same time. The Shuka cloth for a trouser with barely nothing under and multiple colourful beads, many a fashion guru could use some ideas.

With the sound of energetic  stomping, synchronised sing songs , 2 day sleep debt all still in my head, I had to bide farewell to the festival and return to the less colourful life.

The Kasurur falls

Many know them as the Sipi falls probably after the place they are found , Sipi Kapchorwa Uganda but the locals have a name for them which is Kasurur falls altogether. Being a hater for cliche and very suceptible to boredom, a believer in ‘something different’ I will refer and implore all to refer to them by their given name by the locals, Kasurur falls.

After a long solo ride and being the annoying neighbour on the bus, I reached Mbale then Kapchorwa, perched up and camped at the scenic Moses camping site. Well I want to say this is the best spot to camp while in sipi. It is on the edge of the rock right opposite the Kaparukungu fall which is the biggest and main fall given that it even earned a spot on the 10,000 Uganda shilling currency. The Kaparukungu falls is named so by the villagers but many refer to it simply as Sipi 3 or the main falls.

 

 

Sipi falls is a combination of three breathtaking falls and the best of them is something relative. To me the best is the first fall Kapacheborion commonly known as Sipi 1 though am still undecided on that. My best as I got closest and one gets to busk in the mist formed. Also it starts it all.

 

 

The second fall is Kapachebrot also known as Sipi 2. This is the smallest of them but i got to view it from behind, quite a spectre. So basically each all is unique. After typing this I have to rethink which the beat of the falls is. It’s hard to choose. Because remembering Kapachebrot, I stood right there behind it, like standing behind an unsuspecting person to whisper something. It was amazing.

 

The falls are referred to beginning with ‘kapa’ as it means ‘family of’ in kooksabiny. So the falls are found in land that belongs to different families Chebrot, Cheborion and Rukungu.

Thanks to my guide Emmanuel, I managed to have a memorable time in Sipi and also he took the pictures, mostly. So after an ‘ice bucket challenge’ kind of shower at the camp i proceeded further up the mountains to Kapchorwa town to have a God’s view of the plains. Stunning, I could see as far as lake Bisinia and mount Moroto.

The pictures.

 

 

 

A TREK TO MPANGA FOREST CAMP

After acquiring a camping tent, my sense of adventure once more came alive just like it did that time I acquired my national id.
I have decided to trek to Mpanga forest in Mpigi and camp there for a few days. The plan was so random that when I invited my buddy Allan along, he told me he had laundry to do in the morning and therefore couldn’t make it. The thought at this brings me to laughter, so modest. But I don’t blame him, this was a personal plan therefore am going solo. I don’t see any other open minded person in sight.

PREPARATION

Am packing up, lightly of course and my biggest dilemma is whether to carry underwear or not. Because I know what 7 hours of trekking can do to a ninja. But am also thinking of the extra warmth they will provide once am in the tent in the middle of a cold forest. So I have decided to carry a pair, after throwing out the hair brush. I will bushman this out. But the Vaseline and deodorant stays. Vaseline and me are inseparable.
Am all packed up now and ready. Several items keep popping up in my head but if I listen to these thoughts of carrying mosquito repellant, torch, camping chair, 20 litre jibu water bottle, stove, matches, food….I might never leave kampala. So like I said before, am going to bushman it out.

THE ROAD TREK

I have just set up my tent now so I can just dive in and sleep off. The trek was gruesome, tiring, unforgiving and full of wise and stupid thoughts in my head. I almost felt hopeless, had lost hope of making it to the campsite. Luke Cage kept popping up in my head with his corny phrase ‘forward always’. Well Luke Cage is a beloved character but for some reason I find the series bor……here I go again with the tired body thoughts. Back to the trek.
It was small town after small town…Nabingo, Nsangi, Maya, Katende, Lugala, Kavule, Kalagala and on. Endless. But finally I made it here. If I had gone any further, I would probably sedate a whole town with body odour only. I have also made it out of a 20,000 shillings camping fee. I am tired but I remain sharp. So apparently this trek is now all about spreading awareness for healthy living and lifestyle, organised through my local Rotaract club of Ntinda…..hehehe far from truth, this is about using my time right now.

Am here but I cannot feel my lower body, yes from there below. But the sounds around will help me relax. The birds, monkeys, drum makers, the highway and some random guy shouting in the forest. I would like to go check on the drum makers but God am so knackered. Am not sure about how huge my trek was but am glad am here. It is a place I can stay for a week. If the camping fees don’t come up.
Now I just realised I came here with no plan on how I will get back but definitely am not walking. As for my provisions, I did not carry an inflatable mattress or sleeping bag but only a Masai throw though now I see in the camping site this very soft detachable seat cushions and am getting ideas. I think I got a mattress for tonight. I really need to be immobile for a while but for some reason I won’t settle till I fully survey this place. I need to go to sleep with a good plan for my forest trail excursion tomorrow.

CAMPING

The first night was awesome. It rained and being the only camper here so far I got the best spot. The spot under a palm tree and next to the forest. I was told by the very hospitable guide that this is the spot everyone chooses. Given that this was the first time to set up my own tent, I guess I have the instincts of a natural camper.
The body was exhausted but the mind was still awake so it took me time to drift off. The seat cushions made a good bed and my bag made a soft pillow.

I woke up early, took a shower and I have to say the camp water pressure was great and very cold, changed cloths and headed to the drum making village of Mpambire. It is amazing that drum making is one of the oldest traditions and occupations still being practised so I would say we have not completely abandoned our ways. It’s drums and hides everywhere in this village but I managed to also find a spot to have my breakfast and charge my phone. I did all this under extreme muscle pain but hunger is greater than any muscle pain.
I hurriedly got back to the camp through the village trails and drifted off into a morning nap. Am not sure when I will venture into the forest. Though the birds and monkeys keep calling.
They have to wait as I feel my body is going through change to that of an early man before I do anything. It’s also a painful process. I feel like a ware wolf right now. At least a vegetarian one.
The day is down and this is how it has ended, with me being immobile preferring the horizontal position only. Good enough I was joined by other campers earlier, a number of them arrived riding bajaj boxer motorbikes with a follow up van carrying their luggage. They are French speaking if I didn’t forget my languages. It now looks like a real camp.
I hope tomorrow I will be able to make it for my highly anticipated forest trek.
Meanwhile let me go enjoy a camp fire. So it is me, the fire and a Black Coffee music mix at Salle Wagram for cercle. Epic. Let us see who goes out first.

THE FOREST TREK

I think am lost. Am lost definitely. After an hour of walking on a route that says 45 minutes, am lost. I have never been a map reader, I do not know why I tried to do it this time , only the sound of the highway gives me hope. The red-White tapes along the trail did not help much apart from reassure me that there have been humans here.
I had decided to take the butterfly trail which I think I did successfully and later join the family trail because it’s shorter but looking at the time which has been a major guide, am off somewhere. And ooh that was not the highway am hearing, it was a plane flying overhead. Planes fly over this area all day. Time to prepare for an emergency evacuation because I have no idea where I am.
A big trail always means something good…right? But I still feel lost. Getting lost is not good given I had to make a u-turn back to this point where am writing this. The red tailed monkeys won’t be of any help. They are actually shy. Then there are these black bluish insects that won’t let go of my legs, I can’t tell them to get a room, this whole jungle is a room. Maybe they are trying to tell me something. Unfortunately I don’t grasp the groping language.
After about 20 more minutes of walking, I don’t feel lost anymore. No one has ever been so relieved to see a garden of cassava, maize and matooke. Am finally exiting from the forest through someone’s garden.
The village I have come out from is called Ndugu which is far off the camping site but with help of a villager I got directions back. ‘ndugu’ means friend in Swahili so I guest it explains the helpfulness of this stranger. He also informs me that Mpanga is a peaceful forest. Thank God there are no black panthers otherwise I need to have a conversation with it on why it is not claiming rights to copyright or trademark from Chadwick Bosman and others.
I have finally made it back to camp after another full hour of walking from Ndugu village then through Mpambire town. I Will get a little rest, pack up and head back to Kampala with the fastest means possible. Maaso awo conductor.

Uganda’s very British problems

The coloniser left us with a number of problems including these very British problems we inherited. Not sure how they were passed onto us but perhaps it was during the signing of those several forever binding agreements where tea and cookies were served. The front runners of all this must have been the rich enough and privileged enough to chill with the coloniser. Or the beautiful and Melanined enough to sleep with them.
Perhaps it was a natural pull that the British found their perfect match in us as we shared the same ways. Quite a love story but unfortunately after the break up one party is still in confusion and suffering from abject poverty as they were more of leaches and dependants in this relationship and the other was just cunning. Bad thing is that even after the very ceremonial breakup, either party won’t fully let go. There is a commonwealth.

Speaking of break ups and the commonwealth, there was a royal wedding last weekend which reminded most of us of our own Royal weddings down here in the banana republic. Tooro and its princess who wasted our time then the Kabaka who ended up conforming to his traditions and getting a prince out of wedlock after marrying in church. What absurd state of confusion.
We have failed to find a balance between our British ways and our traditional ways. I can’t be sure where we shall draw the line on the topic of homosexuality.

But “We should definitely organise something soon to further discuss this!”
When a Ugandan says this, it’s just a polite way of saying see you at the next wedding. This phrase is #4 on the English language cheatsheet we were left with to guide us with the British language.

#1 on the Ugandan English language cheatsheet. Here is a baffling one.
All answers to how are you is ‘am fine’. But here are a few suggestions we can use. These should be crammed.
– I’m very unsure
– Bad, I think?
– I’m just pretending to work until home time
– I’ve no idea what I’m doing
– There’s so much to do but I’m not going to do it
– Have you seen the state of me?
– I’d rather not say
– Please go away
– No

The scary bit is not being honest about everything else. We are not honest about how we are or how we are feeling and this I suspect has led to dishonesty in other things like prices of items in owino or government funds meant for the sick or needy.
But I understand due to the many problems we have down here, it’s safer answering ‘am fine’ because if someone begins deliberating their problems they will be endless. And no one has time to listen to 99 problems and money is all of them.
Actually I came across a joke that if you have less than $40 on you in Kampala, don’t dare ask a girl how she is.

This is from some friends.
“Aged 20, the concept of being honest about feeling crap didn’t occur to me as a possibility. I thought you just didn’t tell people you were ill until you were dying or something.”

“I baffled my French boss one day when I was feeling ill and didn’t bother him about it until I felt I could no longer sit at a computer. ‘But you said you were fine an hour ago?!'”

And at the work place you find phrases like “I hope this email finds you well”
I bet you have come across this in your email. I swear this must have been the same statement John speak started with as he wrote to the Royal geographic society when he ‘discovered’ the Nile. Of course he must have said ‘hope this whatsapp text finds you well’

Nope, it finds me bored, tired and irritable, but go on…

Then when it gets to modern day communication You get things like “Did you get my text?”

Yup. Read it as soon as it arrived. Bye.

Often when we meet long lost friends.
“You are lost”
“You’re very quiet”
“You’re not”

And finally talking the weather
“Cold out there”
“Yeah it was raining when I left the house

– end of conversation –
– repeat tomorrow –

Nothing much to talk about the weather anyway. The British have over four different seasons but it all comes down to lots of rain and some sunny days as down here in Uganda we have two seasons but it all comes down to sunny and abrupt rain. You will wait in vain to put on your fav shorts if you are counting on perfect weather in either country.
Given how unpredictable the alternation is, the weather to put on shorts is anytime. So if you find a Ugandan soaked from head to toe wearing shorts, do not take him for a fool for the wardrobe choice, i guarantee you it was sunny and hot as the Sahara that morning as he was leaving the house.

Excerpts from my debut novel.

Chapter 3: Lost in La-la land

Everyday is another adventure day.Exciting lively days.
Some moments am killing bandits in a jungle in Cameroon, the next am building castles in the sand at the beach in Hawaii. A place I came across watching my favourite tv series Hawaii five-0.
Here I got plenty of friends, we execute missions together and sing victoriously through the Spanish streets after defeating the wild blood thirst toro bravo bulls at the annual bull run.
Me and my friends are mafias who are ruthless, merciless, rich and have all the money in the world to buy all our favourite toys.
We got the admiration of all the girls including the magnificent Stephan who is in my class, that is middle class at st. Mary’s school.
In my adventures Stephan is older than me but loves and adores me to the chagrin of my boys because they like her too. But here am the hero in my days, in my head.
Am the lead protagonist in this life of me, Stephan and my loyal friends. My henchmen.

This life is good, I rule the world but it is only often interrupted when mom calls my name to go do a chore(now i sweep the streets that I used to rule) or when she stumbles in drunk from her night of self pity or when the school bell rings waking me up from my la-la land.

This is the world I want to live in, I think about this as I see Stephan talking to other boys, yet she has never told me a single world.

My world is different, I go places even though am in the corner(watching you kiss her) alone with nobody around. Am lost in it everyday.

I have to feed this hungry monster of imagination, so I always make sure I have the best movies and comic book collection, the TVs remote is mine. I fully enjoy the pacs of unsupervised Tv. Despite dad coming once in a while to watch boring sports then knudging, nagging and urging me to play a sport.
Yes of course I play sports in my world often and am the MVP but presently I see it in the eyes of my dad that he would want me to look a little less timid but more confident and aggressive. Not in this world for me.

My ideal world is in my head. But my present would be so much better if mom got her job back and we saw her less.

Chapter 8: My Babies

I love my babies, I adore them and am glad everyday that I have them.
Ethan is 4 years old, Tracy is 2 years old.
They are such sweet little darlings, fragile angels that need protection.
It’s a fast paced world I live in now and I have a 9-5 job. Unfortunately am a divorced and on countless days a single parent. I barely have time to put my hair together.
Life is so hectic, am always running helter skelter in the city but the thought of my babies is ever present.

Am I even a parent, do my babies know I miss them, do they know am their mom, I always wonder.
I wake up at 5 leaving them in bed and I return at 9, when they are fast asleep most times except Ethan who tries to keep awake to watch unsupervised tv. The things he has learnt from that flat panel I cannot come to teach anyone. Most I guess are undesirable lessons for children.
Tracy is one I never get to find awake yet she is so lively on those special occasions when I get to hang with her on my off days.

But today…today I get to see my babies as I was fired from the job.

Guest Post || Weekend Away To a Tropical Island Part 1(Ssese Islands | Uganda) ••By Kisambira Hassan

image

Guest Post By Kisambira Hassan
Travel Blogger
Blog http://www.kisambirah.wordpress.com

image

For me it is a love and hate relationship with water. I never think about it as a place to go have fun and explore, it never crosses my mind to do a boat
cruise and visit an island or I never look forward to a weekend spent
frolicking on the beach but sometimes I go to the swimming pool, though I haven’t been there in a while. I like to go to the pool on the first date, I realize this is a good idea as I get to see what am getting into before
hand.

Who wouldn’t in this era of hair extensions, tonnes of makeup,
enhanced and pulled up body parts. But no that is not what i was talking about getting into. Getting into pool water is easy, you know the depth and the deep end and there is someone ready to come to rescue as soon as you start swallowing your way out. As for the other waters, no idea am a cat person there. You never catch me anywhere near the shore, i know how capricious those waters are.

image

Well it is a new month and like all new months I look for a place to travel to and recount the trip on my blog after.  This time thank God for the independence weekend (TGFIW said no one ever) I will take a trip, a different trip and i will write about it before I get there unlike my previous trips.

image

Finding myself planning a trip to an island on lake Victoria was not my choice really.  I needed to get away and normally when am out of the country I choose low budget accommodation, not my choice again but this time since it is an inland trip I had to go for exquisite high end accommodation so of all the travel details I took care of that first.

Through a friend I got a place without knowing where it is(everyone deserves some randomness). with further time on the internet I found out Brovad
sands lodge > is on an island, Ssese Islands Kalangala on Lake Victoria. I liked the place and a little water(lake Victoria is one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world) will not stop me from going there to unplug and waste time away.

So here is what I plan to do and what I expect at this island gate away :

1. To see the Sunrise

Seeing the sun after a night out has been one of my best moments and makes for good memories and not to forget is a benchmark for a a really fun night.

But unfortunately most times i do not get to see the sun, it is as
rear as seeing the eclipse. so see the sunrise i must. Saturday morning would be nice.

image

2.To See the Sunset

I bet everyone has seen those magnificent sunset shots taken at the seaside, lakeside or ocean, in movies, on Instagram or on a camera .

Actually sunset shots have their own hashtag on different social media platforms. Well I not only want to take a picture of one but I also want to see the sun set on this tropical island. How beautiful it is going to be. I imagine it being like in that scene in the pirates of the Caribbean.

3. *The ferry ride, Getting lost and loosing bearings on the lake*

The last time I  took a short boat ride, I completely got confused and lost my bearings. It was a feeling of confusion and relief when finally I got back to land.

Well this is not something to look forward to but it is guaranteed to happen, I want to know how I will react to it many years later, a lifetime later. Or I should just avoid this and download a compass
app on my phone. I would but I wont because I know that app will be as useless as the calendar app on my phone. So let me go get lost at sea(lake).

image

4.*camp fire, the white sand and swimming*

Well the last camp fire did not go well as i almost set myself on fire but camp fires are life. Best way to chill at night in the open but i hate the cliche guy with a guitar at the fire side. Hope i don’t find him. I prefer my music blaring from speakers.

Sesse Island has white sand I heard and I haven’t been anywhere near lake Victoria with white sand or clean blue water so this will be nice. I will definitely swim in it(Goes to cut and wash old shorts to be used as costume. kidding. I purchased brand new swimming shorts a week back.)

5. *Quad biking, hiking, sleeping, dirt biking, bird watching, dinner*

Well this here is a just a bunch of activities available and I cannot
guarantee my participation. i will probably be too lazy or out of time to do them. But they make for good attractions to the place.

Off to the island.