Day eight (Kasese to Hoima)
After breakfast, they spotted Kabaka Ronald Mutebi in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Nnabagereka Sylvia Nagginda going for a game drive in a Mweya Safari vehicle.
However, the trio did not take a drive through the park instead they drove to Hoima via Kyenjojo District.
In Hoima Town, they stayed at Glory Summit Hotel, a new hotel in the town which boasts of the only lift in the entire Bunyoro sub-region. Kyamutetera was not happy about the poor service.
“One damning thing I have found about our hotel and tourism industry is that people over-invest in infrastructure and under-invest in people.
Seated in this new hotel in Hoima, where it took 15 minutes to get a menu alone and more than 30 minutes and none of our orders had arrived.” With nothing much to see in Hoima, they sampled the night life.
Day nine (Butyaba port/West Nile)
After breakfast, they drove to Wanseko Port to catch the ferry across Lake Albert to Panyimur Port in West Nile. They hoped to spend the night in Arua, however, Opio wanted to see Butyaba Port, first.
“You made us drive 8km off-road to see a rusting ship,” Gonahasa says to Opio, continuing, “But, it is one of the best beaches I have ever seen.
Butyaba has sand, blue waters, blue sky and palm trees. There are many fishing villages in the area. We did not see the ship, though.”
Not deterred, Opio explains the history of Butyaba site which was washed away in a flood that also swept away the walkway above Murchison Falls. “The flood capsised the Lake Steamer SS Coryndon steam ship the colonialists used for transport to Pakwach and Masindi. Those ruins lay there from 1962 until two years ago when they were vandalised for scrap.”
It is also the point at which Lake Albert touches the Albert Nile, called Kampala.
Although there are lodges on the port, after a photo-op with the locals, the trio drove to Wanseko to catch the ferry for the two-hour journey to Panyimur.
“Travelling on the ferry was the best time,” Opio says, adding, “We were updating Twitter and Facebook and making important calls. It was a zoning out moment for us, although even in the car, Gona was almost always on the phone, working.”
After disembarking, they drove to Nebbi and entered the town at 9pm, hungry. Every eatery was serving kalo and some form of meat. “Life was hard,” Opio reminisces, continuing, “They brought the food with a blue mug of water. I asked if it was water for washing our hands, and they said it was for drinking. I have never seen anything like it.”
Kyamutetera says it was the worst food he had ever eaten. “The thing is, when travelling to Nebbi, especially at night, carry your own food. I asked a boda boda rider to take me to a good restaurant and after five minutes of driving me around, I realised he was taking me back to the same place we had come from.”
Disappointed they checked into Leosim Guest House, where the electricity supply was irregular. They slept to the sounds of loud Lingala music – whenever the electricity supply could allow it.
Day 10 (Arua)
For breakfast, Leosim offered a rolex made with a deep-fried chapatti and Irish potatoes, before they drove to Arua. “Arua Town fascinated me,” Gonahasa says, continuing, “It is very big, as big as Bujumbura, with so many people and many businesses. It is a place we would like to start a business, such as a public relations firm.”
The only tourist attractions in the town are the magnificent churches, and their first point of call was Ediofe Cathedral (Catholic), and then the old Mvara Cathedral (Anglican) built in 1936 without cement.
“We discovered the town gets its name from the word Aru which means prison,” says Kyamutetera, adding: “There is a hill, called Aru in the town where colonialists used to imprison those defiant men at the time. The name stuck to the town.”
From Arua they drove to Miriadua Falls on River Oluffe, 20km of Arua-Koboko road. Because of the dry season, the water did not have a great surge.
On a spur, they drove to Koboko, looking for former president Idi Amin’s village.
A boda boda man, claiming to know the place, told them to follow him. “We probably drove 12km before we stopped at a compound. He talked to a man he found there and from their nodding, we instantly knew we had been taken for a ride, but we had to pay them.” It turned out the house belonged to one of Amin’s relatives.
From Koboko, they drove towards Moyo Town, but in Yumbe they stopped to visit The Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a minor basilica in Lodonga, Yumbe District. As a Catholic, the basilica fascinated Kyamutetera. “Yumbe is 70 per cent Muslim but they have this mini basilica which attracts pilgrims every December 8, because of a Virgin Mary appearance at the church.
It was built using 750,000 bricks and stands 12m high. Africans are similar to Orientals: they believe more with their eyes, so seeing a large church, they will think of the greatness of God.”
Another wonder was a concrete road in Moyo Town. That night, they slept at Multipurpose Hotel.
Day 11 (Moyo to Gulu)
From Moyo, they drove to Laropi to catch the ferry to Adjumani and then on the murram road to Atiak. “There is a lot in the north,” Gonahasa muses, adding, “All roads are being repaired and all ferries are in good condition. We saw a lot of activity at Laropi.”
Kyamutetera concurs with him, saying, “We sit here in Kampala and imagine things but there is a lot upcountry, especially good roads. Can you imagine driving at 100kmph on a murram road? Most of the murram roads there are better than the tarmac roads in Kampala.
The only problem is that there is not much traffic or activity on the roads. On the drive to Kitgum, we would go 20km without meeting a human being or another car.”
To Opio, some of the roads in northern Uganda are much better than those in western Uganda. “So, when you hear that the north is being marginalised, do not believe it. If there is a bad road, there is a grader nearby waiting to work on it.”
At Pabbo, on the Atiak-Gulu road they stopped by the roadside to make a barbeque lunch of pork chops and hoofs, “because Kyamutetera was very hungry,” Gonahasa says, adding “He had lent me a pork chop in Bwindi so I had to pay for that chop the entire trip. Kyam ate the hoofs and he made sauce – Yalabi Sauce – with lemon juice, chilli, and salt that we ate with the chops.”
In Gulu Town, the trio stayed at Churchill Courts Hotel where they sampled the steam bath and sauna to take off the weariness of the last few days.
“We hoped to catch the QuizNight at BJz in Gulu but it turns out the people in Kampala who directed us there got the days mixed up,” Opio says.
They had to rush to Kidepo Valley National Park before the gates closed, so there was not sightseeing in Gulu.
In Kitgum, they stopped to have lunch at a shop in Orom. “It was the best lunch I had ever had, maybe because I was very hungry or that yellow chicken tasted so good,” Gonahasa says.
With 2,556km behind them, they stopped in Kitgum town to stock up on food and fuel. On the drive out, the murram road to Kidepo is lined with cotton and sorghum fields, which Opio likens to a scene from The Lord of the Rings.
They arrived at the national park in the evening. While Gonahasa and Opio took out their tents, Kyamutetera converted the Subaru into an executive suite, complete with air conditioning and sound.
Day 13 (Kidepo National Park)
December 31, 2016, ushered in a relaxing atmosphere in Kidepo. “The scenery is beautiful because it is open savannah,” Gonahasa says, adding, “The sunrises and sunsets are beautiful. Apoka Safari Lodge gave us complimentary breakfast.
Gary Segal, the proprietor of WildPlaces Africa, built a manmade watering hole next to the suspended restaurant where we had breakfast. Guests watch the animals – lions, giraffes, elephants, hartebeests, warthogs, and waterbucks – coming to drink in groups.”
After breakfast, it was a game drive in a UWA vehicle which the trio hired at Shs90,000. “It is easy to see game in Kidepo than in the other national parks in Uganda,” Opio says, adding, “I think that is why tourists travel there a lot.”
Longing for fireworks, at 2pm, the trio decided to do their longest drive – Kotido to Mbale Town. On the road from Soroti to Mbale, just before Kumi, their Subaru got a flat tyre. Kyamutetera had to send for a tyre from Kampala.
Mbale Resort Hotel, the only five star hotel out of Kampala, had offered them complementary accommodation, with sauna, steam bath and massage. They watched the fireworks at Sukali Bistro.
“This was the end of the trip for me because I had to rush back to work. I returned to Kampala on the most uncomfortable coaster,” Gona says.