This past Thursday marked Team RailRiders Explorer and Anthropologist Julian Monroe Fisher’s arrival for Phase Four of the RailRiders Great African Expedition, which will take him on an Explorer’s Club Flag Sanctioned research expedition through the Karamoja Region of Uganda. With the expedition officially underway, Julian has been sharing with us some of his thoughts and photos from the African bush. While Phase Four, in earnest, will take a bit of time to really get going, this first photo-blog installment sets the scene for Julian as prepares to venture into Karamoja. All quotes are from Julian Monroe Fisher unless otherwise indicated.
“After a 23 hour flight from Wilmington to Philadelphia to Doha to Entebbe I arrived safely to Kampala. This day has been spent adjusting to Africa time, meetings and new sim cards for the mobile and dollars to schillings at the casino exchange and getting regaining my balance on the back of boda-bods taxi. The morning afforded me time to meet with Thomas Leth Madsenand the afternoon has been spent at the Uganda Tourism Board with my New Vision newspaper journalist friend Oleny Solomon Mario talking about The Baker Trail and the new expedition I start tomorrow north through the Karamoja to Kidepo”
“I connected with my friend Billy who owns Self Drive Uganda and together we navigated Kampala to Jinja traffic before he bailed out and left the driving to me. Just in time for the Friday afternoon sunset I am now based at The Haven overlooking the River Nile. The river is under threat from several hydro dam projects that if they continue to move forward will have an everlasting effect on the kayak and whitewater rafting companies that provide jobs and economic impact to the local communities…”
“It was a foggy Sunday morning crossing the river Nile before turning northeast for Mbale town. The road from Jinja was nice and smooth paved tarmac for the most part as it wound its way through thousands of acres of sugar cane fields. At just about every ’round about’ I met lots of locals that gave me good, bad and at times absolutely useless directions. But in true Ugandan fashion they did so with a big smile and a genuine concern that I get to where I was going. Once I hit Mbale the paved roads turned into one large construction zone. So frustrating in fact I ended up paying a boda-boda taxi driver 1000 UGX (a little less than 50¢) to guide me and my self drive Rav4 to the Mbale Resort Hotel. I am now poolside where the music is playing so loud it might just burst the windows where ever you are located reading this post. Luckily the Tuskers are cold and cheap. I also stocked up on pineapples that are a real bargain @ 75¢ a piece…”
“I spent the morning with Sula who was on loan from the hotel base camp buying supplies in the local Mbale town market here in eastern Uganda. Overwhelming sights, sounds and smells as I weaved my way through the seemingly endless maze of sellers that by definition is an African market. Tomorrow I head north and accept after Mbale that with each new passing day I’ll move a little deeper into the Karamoja region where this adventure will truly be defined…”
“After a wonderful farewell send off by GM Isaiah Weboya and the staff of the Mbale Resort Hotel I headed 51kms up the road for a morning hike to Sipi River Falls. Situated within walking distance from Will Clark ‘s Sipi River Lodge the waterfalls were surrounded by lush tropical forest and truly breathtaking.”
“The drive afforded me the opportunity to see one of the most unusual political placards as Ugandans look ahead to presidential elections in 2016…”
“The Karamoja trail took me today northwest of Mbale town to the Nyero Rock paintings in the village of Kee Moru Ikara in the Kumi District. The site is about 8 km off the Mbale-Soroti road after the turnoff in Kumi village. According to the local caretaker OPIO William the paintings were put there by “Batwa pygmies 1300 to 3000 years ago before they were chased away by the Teso” that now surround the site. Not sure William has the history right or the timeline but he was way friendly as together we climbed about the rock formations for several hours. Tall cactus trees dotted the landscape as well traditional dirt brick savannah grass roof huts. I have reached Soroti town where I am trying to determine which way to go from here. I have to admit there is something way cool about traveling hundreds of miles along dusted roads where you have to be sure before you set out that you always have a few boxes of bottled water and extra Gerry cannisters of fuel…”
Preparations are ready and the wild calls. Julian will be heading deeper into Karamoja, to the heart of his journey, with each passing day. Stay tuned on Planet Wild for updates as he continues along Phase Four of the Great African Expedition! More updates coming next week!
Julian’s Gear for the Great African Expedition: