Mount Elgon loop

June 16, 2012 (day 395) Uganda

What initially seemed to be a piece of cake turned into one of the most difficult rides just in matter of a few minutes. After the asphalt had finished few kilometers after Kitale, we rode on a dirt track connecting last villages before the border. The clouds had been there since early morning and moved in such direction that collision with them seemed inevitable.

This road is not bad yet

This road is not bad yet

The rain started at the same moment when a huge crowd of boys left their school just to spot two white guys coming on bicycles. The attraction was too big to care about the clothes and books getting wet and for few hundred meters we had a company of shouting and running children.

Going to laundry

Going to laundry

A small house by the road was equipped with a roof at the front. Two other men with their bikes were already using the shelter but the remaining space was enough for us. Having crossed the ditch, already filling with water, we claimed the last available places. The school crowd gathered around and stood in the shower.

If I had learned from the sight of a truck skidding on the slippery road into the ditch, perhaps I would have not insisted on leaving just after the shower had finished. After some twenty meters the bikes were absolutely stuck with the mud. Wheels, blocked by clogs of brown matter against the frame and mudguards, were immobilized.

A crowd of children was looking at our every single move during the next few hours while we cleaned the bikes and pressed water from the clothes in nearby bush. In the late afternoon we were ready to go, but the road was not. The crashed truck still blocked the traffic and the surface glued to the feet of the people carrying goods from one side of the obstacle to the other.

Dirty mess

Dirty mess

Eventually, dragging our vehicles on a narrow slope between the road and maize field, we reached a part with less mud. Another cleaning later we were cycling slowly with the tyres scratching on remaining dirt.

We reached a village just about the sunset and asked for a permission to camp in the compound of a school. Instead, we were let into the teachers' room and slept on desks, as the floor displayed signs of the late weather conditions. Exhausted and dirty, as the water had ran out, we fought until midnight to repair the cooker which had broken down just before the evening tea.

The border crossing, which we reached the next morning, was situated upon a pretty and clean Suam river. We crossed it without problems and I contributed to both Kenyan and Ugandan archives my immigration cards stating "fisherman" as my profession. I entered eighteenth country on my way.

From the very beginning Ugandan people seemed friendly and honest. Even the money changer instantly offered fair rate and the children greeted us cheerfully with “How are you”.

Welcome to Uganda, mzungu!

Welcome to Uganda, mzungu!

Everyone looks for shade

Everyone looks for shade

Launched!

Launched!

As we proceeded to cross Mount Elgon's lateral ridges, the landscape became spectacular. Mud huts with their banana groves were tucked into valleys or sat on hilltops, surrounded by flood of greenery of forests and maize fields. Without hesitation I put those surroundings among the most beautiful places I have seen in my life. We were wondering about the people, living there in simplest conditions possible, with no electricity or running water. How they perceived the immense beauty that surrounded them? Did they wake up and smiled at the sight of misty valleys or cursed the mundane work on maize fields? The place was asking to stop, settle down there and forget about the modern, outside world.

Greenery

Greenery

In a paradise valley

In a paradise valley

The reality came back to us in the form of horribly bumpy and steep uphills. A mountain bike without all the baggage would be much better option for crossing huge boulders and lumps of dried dirt that barely resembled a road. Enough to say, the only forms of public transport there were trucks and motorcycle taxis. No minibuses dared to enter.

The road becomes a challenge

The road becomes a challenge

The night was coming. Wild camping, which we dreamed of, seemed impossible due to huge density of population. Although remote and barely connected with outside world, the Elgon's slopes were dotted by countless huts and each of them inhabited by a huge family. Pitching a tent without being noticed by a single child seemed impossible. And a single child would mean a crowd of them, staring at every our move, a few minutes later.

A school appeared just as the darkness was setting in. It was not only easy to get permission for camping from the teachers, but just a moment later we were sitting with them, being fed with ugali, beans and cups of delicious milk tea.

When we woke up, most of the students were busy with Saturday laundry and their clothes covered every single bush in the school compound. We set off to fight another steep and bumpy uphills, just to discover that if the previous day we had done just a few kilometers more, we would have slept in a beautiful riverside camping spot in a forest.

Who will descend with no braking?

Who will descend with no braking?

I had been riding first and I sat down there, contemplating the beautiful scenery where finally no one stared at me and no one shouted “mzungu”. I waited and waited and waited and eventually became a bit nervous about my companion. Michał appeared eventually, rolling slowly, and announced that his bike had broken down completely.

For the first time in my life I saw such disaster. Half of his rear wheel spokes were loose. The nipples unscrewed on the bumpy road and the buckled wheel stopped rotating, blocked against the frame. The failure of builder's work was obvious and we spent another half an hour in the woods to true the wheel enough to make it rideable.

Villages reappeared soon and we did not find any other desolate place to put the tents. Guided by someone's advice, we asked at a police station. The officers were friendly and offered space on the lawn. Things became less pleasant when the post's commander learned that unexpected guests had entered his backyard. Our passports and bikes were held at police custody to make sure we would not commit any terrorist act and escape easily. In the morning, however, we retrieved our things without any problem.

At the Sipi falls

At the Sipi falls

We welcomed the asphalt again with shouts of joy. Riding became easy again, even despite constant climbs and downhills. Eventually we arrived to the village of Sipi, famous for its' high waterfalls. The Moses Camp, located over a high rock cliff, offered stunning views. With a wooden house where we sat during the evening downpours, drinking tea and planning route in the light of a lamp oil, it scores as the most beautiful camping site so far.

Planning the route

Planning the route

The next day we descended onto surrounding plains, beating speed records on numerous steep downhills. The lowlands, however, offered little interesting views. Much better it looked in the terms of food – the abundance of cheap bananas and pineapples put smiles on our faces.

Tea tosser

Tea tosser

In the evening we arrived to a school compound, where no one was present, except of course for a handful of children who stood and looked at us without saying a word. We waited until the sunset made them go home and drank tea.

The watchman was probably drunk and in the beginning behaved quite aggressively. Had his torchlight not blinded me, obscuring the sight of a huge machete in his other hand, I would have not been so calm while negotiating. Eventually he called some kind of boss and we were admitted a place under mango trees in guarded area. Our morning preparations broke the school discipline, as about 700 pairs of eyes, of both students and teachers, watched our every move instead of attending the classes. That made me wonder again how many wazungu must be distributed across an African country to paralyze all its' functions.

The last three days to Kampala were marked by a sudden change of our diet. Oily chapati were replaced by fruit and fish. Finally I enjoyed sweet, ripe mangoes which I had been missing since Sudan. A novelty appeared in a form of a spiked green fruit, in a size of a piglet. Jackfruit, as they called it, once cut was leaking white, sticky juice which quickly dried up to a form of slightly melted chewing gum. It was incredibly cheap and almost impossible to buy in pieces. A single fruit, which I barely manged to strap onto my panniers, made us full after just a few pieces and left my hands still sticky in the morning.

A piglet for dinner

A piglet for dinner

Into the wild Africa

Into the wild Africa

The ride to the capital was nothing pleasant, as it is usually around a big African city. Heavy trucks, speeding matatus, reckless bikers made us extremely tired at the end of the day. A small patch of dense rainforest, full of monkeys and birds, which we passed around noon, it made us feel hopeful about the western part of this colorful country.

Comments:

hose morales
hose morales
7 years, 1 month ago
Niesamowite widoki, świetne zdjęcia, pozazdrościć przygody. Więcej, więcej!
mama
mama
7 years, 1 month ago
Jak smakuje prosiakolep? Poza tym, że zalepia??? Fajna nazwa. Malo nam zdjęć i opowieści!!!Życzymy Wam jeszcze piękniejszych widoków i samych pozytywnych doznań!!!
Miki
Miki
7 years, 1 month ago
Jeśli chodzi o szprychy, to normalne, nowe koło czasem się poluzowuje pod bagażem. Trzeba dobrze naciągnąć i potem będzie ok!
Michał
Michał
7 years, 1 month ago
Prosiakolep smakuje jak żelki Haribo, a najbardziej jadalna część jest dość mięsista. Wypełnienie zaś kompletnie gumowe ;)
hdk
hdk
7 years, 1 month ago
domagam się częstszych wpisów !
Robert
Robert
7 years, 1 month ago
Świetna relacja, te drogi mnie rozwaliły, właściwe ich brak;) Dzięki za Twoje wpisy podczas podróży, bardzo motywujące! Uważaj na siebie i szerokiej drogi:)
ws
ws
7 years ago
22.06.2012:
3-ci kontynent,
18-ty kraj,
20.000 kilometrów
i nadal ...2 koła.
Uff... brawo Misiek!
arkosław
arkosław
7 years ago
śledzę tą wyprawę i czytam te Twoje przygody i nie mnie się nacieszyć tak wspaniałą przygodą. Powodzenia.