Koboko District is bordered by South Sudan to the north, Yumbe district to the east, Maracha district to the south, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to the west. Koboko district is approximately 480 kilometres by road, north-west of Kampala, the capital and largest city of Uganda (Source: Wikipedia)
Recently – and as usual – together with the amazing Mountain Slayers Uganda, we embarked on one of the last hiking trips for the 2020 calendar to Koboko district. Gerard “Iowa” Iga was the master-mind behind the beautiful experience that saw about 40 of us spending that weekend beautifully.
I am not ready to hike; atleast until 6 months are completed as my body is still recovering from an operation but I had to take this trip, to get out of the house – for a bit and get to see this beautiful district of Koboko.
Two nights, great company and a great catch-up with my dear friend Dr. Charles Ayume and these were my top 5 highlights from the trip:
1. An 11 hour bus trip and PAIN!:
A Mountain Slayers Uganda trip is not as complete when it is not the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) buses that are graciously delivering us to our destinations. UWA has invested in a couple buses as part of promoting tourism in Uganda. For the last 2 years or so, these have been our favourite mode of transportation and they have not disappointed us at all. The drivers are well trained and can give you a lesson or two on Uganda and some other interesting things.
As mentioned earlier, Koboko is 480Kms from Kampala and that meant we had to have an early kick-off of the journey and plan which stops to make (health break and toilet checks). We even took lunch orders on the go – with Dominic (bless his tall long self) taking each and everyone’s order and calling Karuma Travelers Hotel to place the orders for more than 35 people. We could not make as many stops to admire the ensembles the long journey presents while crossing through three regions of Uganda (Central region, Northern region and then the West Nile region). Thankfully, we saw what we could through the big windows of the buses.
….and then, somewhere between Nebbi and Arua districts – I started to feel severe excruciating pain. Pain that only came from the long sitting and the bumpiness on the road. This was my first loooong journey after my operation and was surely a big dare taking this trip. Thankfully I had carried a strong painkiller that saved the day and helped me enjoy the rest of the journey.
Caution, give your body time after an experience such as surgery or illness heal (I learnt this the hard way).
A journey that started at 8am – had us arriving in Koboko at 9:30 pm-ish.
2. Perils of “No phone Network” and standing a-top an anthill
As mentioned, this was a trip I took to get out of the house but not to hike. So, as the other guys were hassling and bassling; climbing and descending the beautiful Mount Kei – I had a class to attend to most of the day (from 8am to 2pm). I had to attend my last class for the Harvest Institute Leadership course that I commenced on at the start of this year.
I had been warned that phone network in Koboko hadn’t reached teen-age and boy – did I have the experience of my life trying to log into a zoom call. Class is and has always been compulsory; more so we had to turn our videos on for assurance of physical online presence. I struggled for over two hours trying to log into the call. I run all-over the campsite; asking the residents where the best network spot was. The gentleman pointed me to an anthill neatly perched close to the campsite entrance.
I rushed as fast as my body could carry me and then climbed atop the massive mound of soil hoping it would help. There were two young boys watching me from a distance. They had witnessed a grown up woman running around the campsite grounds; raising her phone in the air as if taking pictures of the sky and looking super frustrated….and she had now taken it a notch higher and climbed an anthill and still looking like she is taking pictures of the same sky.
The Anthill experience did not help. Thankfully there were a couple of us that had requested our hike organizer to kindly avail a car to take us to town and it so happens the car was leaving in a few minutes. However, the town-center was more than 30 minutes away. Class was ongoing and I was not online yet. I called my assessor to inform her of my predicament and I thank God she was super supportive of me.
Anyway, an hour later – with the help and encouragement of my dear friend Kagimu Ntonio; I managed to get onto the class call and catch up with the discussion that was a beautiful one.
I can never wish this experience on anyone – I laugh at in now but it was quite a stressful day.
3. No Hike for you Anita – sit down!!!:
As mentioned earlier, thanks to an operation and no thanks to slow healing – I could not hike this one. I had to sit it out and watch my colleagues slowly trod in – exhausted and beat from the entire experience but satisfied (as usual) from the conquest of the day and from the lasting mental break they had out there; bonding with the beautiful lush vegetation and the great landscapes that Koboko has laid out for the wanderer.
4. The Tripartite tree:
This was possibly the key highlight for me for this trip. I mentioned earlier how Koboko district at some point intersects South Sudan, the DRC and off course Uganda. Being the wanderers that we are and on suggestion by the ever so amazing “Viv”; we took off and went looking for this tri-intersection point. It was a very interesting 1.5 hour drive as we got to some points and our gps kept notifying us on how “we were in DRC” and then “back to Uganda” and then in “South Sudan”. We finally got to the border post, made some good banter with the border control team, signed in their guest book and then our curiosity was taken to the actual point where the three countries intersect.
Some of us were expecting a huge stone with writings; others expected a huge monument of sorts and others expected a huge building with a large label indicating the “TriPoint” BUT no – far from this all; the demacation was a huge old tree with three stems. One stem is in Uganda, the other in the DRC and the third one in South Sudan.
The defence teams from each country hold fort doing border control. Our guide mentioned that the military detail on the DRC part is the strictest with who crosses over to their side.
I doubt this moment will ever be erased from my memory!
5. Human reconnection like never before:
I have been indoors and rarely interacting much with people – the pandemic but also because I slowed down after my medical operation. Coming out on this trip gave me a great platform to interact with people in a large group, have fun and make that human re-connection. I had not seen some of my hiking colleagues for a while and not even had deep engaging discussions.
It is very easy to take granted to need for human interaction and discussion and engagement and physical touch (hugs) but Covid-10 induced locked down was the biggest show-and-tell experience that we surely need this to be sane. It was beautiful to laugh, dance, eat, talk and share space with human beings once again. Off course, we endeavored to maintain SOPs lest the beautiful experience ends in many of us contracting the virus through this human contact.
Koboko – I will definitely be back one day soon!
Finally, thank you “Charlie” (Dr. Charles Ayume) for sparing time to come hang with us and host us like you did. You were quiet and humble about it all but we had a beautiful loud experience. Go win that seat and keep doing what you do best – speak for the lowly and underprivileged.
Love and Light