Already I am at the end of my first period of work in Moyo, Northern Uganda and I am now in my second location Amolatar which is more central and half way to Kampala (in distance but not in travel time) This place is really remote as it is almost entirely surrounded by lake Kyoga except from the west.
Our Journey was to take approximately 5hrs 6min according to the GPS but we have stopped believing in the foibles of GPS timings and predicted speeds achievable, what was certain was … “it was going to take all day…”
So then the careful negotiation of what time to set off… Ugandans are optimistic travellers and it is wonderful to be carried along by that optimism, so our first request of an 07:00 start was met with a “you’ll be too early, better that you are rested for the journey and have a good sleep” So we got our good sleep and agreed on a departure of 09:00 which would coordinate well with the ferry timings across the Nile. We eventually left at 10:30 (that sort of slippage can be anticipated)
The journey is a mixture of difficult dirt road driving, to a ferry, followed by some faster dirt road then on to a surfaced road then a final section of variable dirt road.For this sort of journey you need two things a good vehicle and a very capable driver, we had both, a Toyota Landcruiser and Ibrahim. I’ve tried to include some footage of the first section which was the road down from Moyo to the River Nile, it certainly is a beautiful country.
The ferry crossing in recent times has been both a blessing and a curse. During the atrocities inflicted by the LRA Lords Resistance Army which used child soldiers in combat and made most of Northern Uganda a dangerous place for several decades between the late 1980’s and 2012. The River Nile, was a blessing, Ugandan villages to the north of it were relatively unscathed. Now in relatively peaceful times the River Nile presents a logistical challenge as the troubles in South Sudan to the north of Uganda have seen huge refugee camps become established inside Uganda, in the past few years, hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have fled their country and have been housed in several large refugee camps these require significant humanitarian emergency relief to support them. There are also refugee camps still within South Sudan and brave men and women work tirelessly and at some personal risk to take emergency aid into these locations.
The ferry crossing the Nile can carry approximately 10 vehicles in each direction every hour. So imagine our frustration when we arrived, the ferry had just left our shore AND we appeared to be vehicle number 14 in the queue. the time drags, its over 35°C in the shade and it has just gone noon.
We are running very late now with an ETA which takes us well into the hours of darkness and knowing that the last 1 – 2 hours of driving can be some of the most challenging I feel for Ibrahim . We elect to skip food, buy some snacks and water and press on.
Even the surfaced road degrades in condition with unpredictable potholes nearly a foot deep that if hit at speed could terminate the vehicle. Ibrahim skilfully snakes the vehicle around them, performing what appears to be a synchronised dance with the oncoming traffic. I just hope he knows all the dance moves….
As we turned off the surfaced road at Dokolo, the skies were darkening and the weather was closing in and the road surface was going to deteriorate, this part of the journey will stay in my memory for ever., I have never seen such a frequency of lightening strikes, it was like trying to thread a needle (navigate the uneven road ahead) with a faulty neon strip light, doing it best to blind you. It was mesmerising. Ibrahim to his credit was unfazed, we arrived at our destination just before the colossal down pour. It took us over 10 hours but we arrived in one piece safe and well, for Ibrahim, he had it all to do again tomorrow.
Point of Reflection. – “It’s time to make a move”
When you read this blog think of this perspective, here I am banging on about “oooh we must set off early”, “we must set off on time”, “oooh thank goodness we have a 4×4”, “we had to skip lunch”
For large part of recent history travelling in this region was near impossible, perilous to say the least, we have met people who have lost relatives and friends during these times and people who have had lucky escapes. Now think of the current situation with refugees from South Sudan flooding into Uganda over the past two years, the camp we passed, on this journey, near to Moyo have seen well over 200,000 people leave their South Sudanese homes; for them “it’s time to make a move…” has a very different context, no timed departure, no 4×4, and almost certainly, too few lunches