Go West! (Fort Portal, Uganda – KM 17,685)

« She too will be able to cycle to Rwanda? », asked the skeptical Ugandan border official to Pierre as if they were two adults discussing a six-year old child. “I’m just a girl in the world”, Gwen Stefani would say, and lately I am also just a mzungu from Wazunguland, kept at arm’s length with stares, giggles and some begging. The disconnect makes me practice the muscle of staying curious and interested in spite of how I am being treated—sometimes easier said than done! With our visa days ticking and our sight on the Batwa pygmies, living on the western edge of Uganda and the Albertine Rift, we hit the pedals hard towards the sunset.

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Leaving Kisumu and the narrow Winam Gulf, part of the vast Lake Victoria—second to Lake Superior in size—behind. The Mombasa railway line reached here in 1901 and ships navigated its waters between Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. Nowadays the railway has been abandoned and the lake as such a large water hyacinth problem—the aquatic plant was introduced from the Amazon basin with devastating results—that ships are few. Kisumu County, Republic of Kenya.

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Friendly roadside encounter with three students from the Maasai tribe. Maseno, Siaya County, Republic of Kenya.

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After more than 17,000 kilometres, our Shimano SPD sandals get a little bit of care from an expert. Busia County, Republic of Kenya.

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Porter on two wheels between the Kenyan and Ugandan border posts. No man’s land.

After crossing the border from Kenya, Uganda seemed more fertile, lusher and greener, the big Victoria Lake seeping into the low-lying areas. On the Ugandan side there were less shoes, more bikes, less cement and more brick houses. Green and white mosques dotted the verdant scene as much as churches from denominations we had never heard of.

We stopped for three days in Jinja while Pierre wrote an article for a Canadian outdoor magazine. Our tent pitched on the lawn of a former mansion turned into a rafting base for trips on the Nile, by a slack line and under Tibetan prayer flags, we ate banana pancakes and met adrenaline junkies from Africa, Asia, Europe and the U.S. Jinja is famous for being the source of the Nile; the point at which the water leaves Lake Victoria and starts on a 6695-km journey to the Mediterranean!

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We arrive in Uganda on the day when hopeful candidates register to run for office. In Busia, the border town, the air is electric with chanting, honking and screaming—a little scary actually—and there is a long way to go until the February 28th elections! Busia District, Republic of Uganda.

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It is so great to share the road with cyclists again! Busia District, Republic of Uganda.

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Uganda is a landlocked country and imported goods are freighted in from Mombasa, inKenya. On the section between the border and Kampala, the capital city, we witness some of the most illogical and dangerous driving. Bugiri District, Republic of Uganda.

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It is passion fruit and jackfruit season! Bugiri District, Republic of Uganda.

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Between sugar cane and tea plantations women do their “women chores”. Buikwe District, Republic of Uganda.

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In Africa we have been asked often for more money to camp at a hotel than to sleep inside a room. Here we managed to negotiate a reasonable price for a square of grass. Drying session in the morning after an equatorial downpour during the night. Mukono District, Republic of Uganda.

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Approaching Kampala where bigger is king. Mukono District, Republic of Uganda.

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The North Bypass road was the fast track we needed to avoid the capital’s traffic jams. Sugar cane anyone? Kampala District, Republic of Uganda.

After Kampala we descended and climbed steep one and two kilometres sections in quick succession, so that we would have gone up 900 metres over 80 kilometres but remained at 1,300 metres of altitude. In the lower swamps we would cross fields of papyrus, the tall stalks and curly heads a further proof that Uganda is the source of the Nile.

Even on a fast track to the west, travelling on our bicycles we could notice more garbage, more dancing and singing, more sweat, more sex and bicycles, and the landscape getting even greener. Marabou storks stayed around garbage heaps in towns while we saw cranes, herons, eagles and the chipper weaver birds along swamps, sugar cane fields, pine tree and tea plantations.

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Plantain travels any way possible. Mityana District, Republic of Uganda.

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Graceful papyrus beds in swampland. Mityana District, Republic of Uganda.

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Afternoon shower in cute company. “How are you? Goodbye mzungu!” Mubende District, Republic of Uganda.

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When it rains, it pours! Mubende District, Republic of Uganda.

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In sub-Saharan Africa, the oldest profession in the world is practised by young women at any country guesthouse. There is always an all-night room-only price for the weary travellers. Mubende District, Republic of Uganda.

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Bivouac at the brothel. Mubende District, Republic of Uganda.

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Outdoor sawmill! Kyegegwa District, Republic of Uganda.

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Church benches will be ready for the new temple being built across the road. Kyegegwa District, Republic of Uganda.

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Manioc expertly loaded. Kyegegwa District, Republic of Uganda.

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Granite pillars embellish the green carpet. Kyenjojo District, Republic of Uganda.

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The rainbow boys followed us for the better part of an afternoon. I’ll tell you that Ugandan men don’t like to be passed by a woman on her bicycle! Kyenjojo District, Republic of Uganda.

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A perennial of the ginger family, the aframomum angustifolium has a sweet sugary pulp that is eaten raw and seeds that are crushed and used as medicine and aphrodisiac.

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Another contender for the #carryshitolympics in the tea plantations around Fort Portal. Kabarole District, Republic of Uganda.

Forty kilometres before Fort Portal a couple of boys asked “How are you Madam? Aren’t you tired?” I answered that I was just fine before they asked “Why did the man leave you?”, pointing to Pierre who was some four-hundred metres ahead of me. I laughed and said I had stopped to take some pictures and would catch up to him later. I did not say anything about girls being as able, brave and tenacious as boys 🙂

We rolled into Ruwenzori View Guesthouse in Fort Portal just in time to dig in its famous mouth-watering dinner. There were soups, salads, pork meatballs, European bread and a fruit salad with passion cream from heaven. The polite and fascinating Danish organic farmers who shared the huge wooden table with us did not say anything when we polished off every communal plate, we must have looked like we had just cycled straight from Kenya!

The next day the guesthouse hosted its Christmas craft fair and we held ourselves tight not to buy every basket, jewellery, art, aprons and Christmas cookies on offer. Then, the next day I burped and it tasted like rotten eggs…and it all made sense. I had been feeling run down, raked over coals like my immune system was working overtime. With bags under my eyes I would sit by my bike at lunch time and fall asleep. A dry cough I had since Kisumu was not going away and Pierre could testify on my foul mood. With the sulfurous burp I could diagnose myself with giardiasis and take two grams of Tinidazole—it is always in our first aid kit. We should be up and rolling tomorrow morning.

Of gorillas and men! (Kisoro, Uganda - KM 18,075)
Equatorial meanderings! (Kisumu, Kenya - KM 17,055)
in Uncategorized

4 Comments

  1. Nice pics. You missed Sipi and Mt Elgon? Watch out for the tree-climbing lions in Queen Elizabeth NP if you’re heading south from Fort Portal.

  2. Tim Wilson Dec 15, 2015, 18:15

    WOW!! Great images! Safe travels!

  3. Sorry to hear about your giardia – but you sound pretty blasé about it! A bit alarmed to see you’ve abandoned the helmet in Ugandan traffic – don’t bow to peer(Pierre!)-pressure not to wear it. Will you hit Katavi National Park? Peter’s hippo experience was pretty cool: https://vimeo.com/115854793

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