For Part 1 of the Great African Expedition Phase Four Photo Journal, click here.
Explorer’s Club Anthropologist and Explorer Julian Monroe Fisher has officially reached the Karamoja region and began his expedition in earnest. The remote region is home to a myriad of wildlife, indigenous peoples, and beautiful landscapes. As always, quotes are directly from Fisher himself unless otherwise indicated. Pictures are transmitted through a mobile phone with limited bandwidth, so please excuse the quality.
“The Karamoja Trail today took me about 40 kms roundtrip to Uganda’s Lake Kyoga. The Victoria Nile passes through Lake Kyoga on it’s way to Lake Albert where it becomes the Albert Nile. From there the River Nile heads for the Mediterranean…”
“Depending upon who I asked, the distance from Soroti to Moroto town would be 75km to 290kms. As for the conditions of the road, a South African couple at Sipi Falls warned me that the road was not in drive able conditions even now in the dry season. The lady had said,”under no circumstances would we let our clients go through Moroto!” Well here I am in Moroto that turned out to be 165km from Soroti, a drive that took me 4 hours to navigate. The road took me through Iriri over a pass just left of Mount Napak, 2537m. Iriri marked the true beginning of the Karamoja region, lots of pastoral herdsmen in traditional attire. The trail took me through the Pian Upe Game Reserve and on into Moroto where I will base for a few days…”
“Having travelled to Uganda since the late 1990’s I am very happy to finally be exploring the Karamoja region for the first time…”
“I woke at around 4am to a chorus of hearty roosters here along the backstreets of Moroto town. Since then its been a long hard day in the bush chasing the Karimojong and their cattle/camel herds some sixty or so kilometers. It is the dry season here in the Karamoja region of eastern Uganda and the locals are struggling to find water for their cattle as well as food for themselves. Along the way I saw the struggle firsthand in one of many villages thrown out there over the savannah. At the end of the day I feel quite fortunate to have eaten rice and chicken stew regardless that it’s been three days in a row. If only the chicken had been half as meaty as any one of those sunrise roosters…”
“With the departure from Moroto town this morning I have left behind electricity and smooth dirt roads and in return I am discovering the magic of Karamoja. After 110 km without a single directional road sign but lots of left and right turns I rolled into the town of Kotido. I quickly looked for gasoline although I had 3/4 of a tank and two 20 liter Gerry canisters full I always top off. Here only one of the three stations I found had fuel. As I filled up off in the distance I saw a group of girls singing and dancing, a typical Sunday occurrence I was told. The mobile phone does not do justice. Absolutely magical…”
“A lone mosquito inside the net had me up before the equatorial sunrise. I was packed and on the Karamoja Trail early to visit Nakapelimoru which is reportedly the largest manyatta in east Africa. Afterwards I travelled 69km on a single dirt track from Kotido to Kaabang where I topped up the fuel tank(last chance before Kidepo National Park). A quick rice and beans at a small guesthouse next to the Kaabong gas station allowed me to close the final 54 km in time to reach Kidepo at 3:30pm local time. That means sundowners today on the deck at Wildplaces Africas Apoka Safari Lodge, hands down the best view in Uganda…”
“It’s a wonderful day when the wake-up call comes from a group of twelve elephants passing by in the distance. I’ll be based right here at the Apoka Safari Lodge in the small cottage pictured in the middle of the Kidepo Valley National Park in far northern Uganda along the South Sudanese border for the next week. From here I am planning numerous excursions out of the park researching the surrounding Karimojong villages to include a trip to the top of Mt. Morungole to visit the Ik people…”
“Another day in paradise here at Wild places Africa’s Apoka Safari Lodge in the Kidepo Valley National Park in northern Uganda. Its been a busy morning at the watering hole as Zebras, Warthogs and Blue faced monkeys have all stopped by. I’ll be enjoying the Apoka a few more days before heading back into the bush. Of course it’s not as though the Apoka is located along the beaten path. Kidepo Valley National Park is Uganda’s most remote and most visitors arrive by air. I spent ten days driving up through the Karamoja though they say it can be done in 9 hours from Kampala. The current plan after Apoka will be to climb Mt. Morungole and visit the IK people. The IK were made infamous by Anthropologist Colin Turnbull in his 1970’s classic The Mountain People…”
“I met with Obote Raymond last night here at the Apoka to plan the trek to Mt. Morungole. I’ll be leaving the comfort of the Apoka Safari Lodge tomorrow morning. Along with a security guard who works at the lodge who is from the village where the IK live we will drive about 25 km outside Kidepo National Park. At the trailhead we will hire a local person to watch the vehicle. For the hike up Mt. Morungole(estimated to take between 4 to 6 hours) we will be joined by two porters and three Ugandan soldiers. Once up the mountain we plan to base there for several days. So all of our gear, food and drinking water must be carried up. I will update from the mountaintop IK village if mobile coverage is available otherwise when we get back to the Apoka…”
“I am happy to report that not only did we make it to the summit of Mount Morungole, we also made it back down. No doubt one of the most challenging hikes that I have ever gotten myself into. My guide Hillary and I departed the Apoka Safari Lodge and drove for one hour to a small village where we hired the required villager to watch the vehicle. We also hired two porters to carry the gear as well as two Askari UPDF army soldiers from a nearby barracks. Although we never felt like we were in danger the UPDF(Uganda Peoples Defense Force) felt better that we go with security since that region of Uganda is very close to borders with Kenya and South Sudan. The hike up had four parts: flat for 1 hour, goat path with boulders for 2 hours, slight downhill across a stream then across a forested plain for 2 hours and then straight up for 3 hours. If I had been in better shape I think we could have made is up in 6 hours instead of the 8 it took but stopping for shade ate alot of time but there was little choice because of the heat. Once on top we were met by IK tribal elders. We cleared a section of an after harvest corn field to make camp. I strung my hammock while the rest of the team slept on the ground. The camp afforded the most spectacular view I have ever seen on the African continent. We settled in for the extremely windy and cold night under a sky of a kazillion stars and near full moon. The next day we trekked to several mountaintop IK villages. It is a very tough environment up there with cold nights and blistering hot days where water must be trekked in from one stream during dry season. The 4.5 hour hike out left me exhausted. I plan to recoup over the next two days before hitting the Karmoja trail to new points unknown.”
Julian’s Gear for the Great African Expedition:
[Stay Tuned for another Installment next week!]