Our ride in Uganda started with a flight to Entebbe on Lake Victoria, just outside the capital city Kampala. This time it was two friends Jussi and Pade and myself. Late arrival to our hotel Via Via Entebbe, where the very helpful Linda re-opened the bar for the thirsty travelers. Immediately we felt welcome to Uganda!
Pearl of Africa
One of the reasons why Uganda is called the Pearl of Africa is the fact that it is green in large parts most of the year. Arriving just after the rainy season, we got the best of the lush green landscape. A point of interest is the fact that some of the 1940’s Tarzan films, starring with Johnny Weissmuller were filmed next to our hotel at the National Botanical Gardens with their rainforest providing the backdrop for the films.
Rains earlier had been substantial and Lake Victoria was now 1,5 meters higher than usual, causing some local flooding disturbing some resorts and swallowing popular beaches. But now the weather looked good.
It was very hot on arrival but as most of our tour would take us higher, also some cooled air was expected, though we were right on the equator. Located on the East African Plateau, Uganda’s average altitude is 1100 meters (3609 feet) above sea level making it generally cooler and greener. The general landscape of Uganda slopes towards South Sudan in the north and our route would cross through to Lake Albert and continue round the south.
Getting ready and on the bikes
Our bikes on this trip were Honda xr 400’s, which were ideal for the rough terrain and manageable also on transit stretches. We had the best possible expertise planning our trip with Maxime Van Pee drawing the route. Maxime is Captain of the National motocross team, he is 6 times national champion and 3 times east African Champion. A well-known figure in Uganda, we found on our tour. Continue reading Uganda Tour June 2021→
Seeing the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda, was one of the much awaited highlights of our biking tour – although we did not take the bikes into the forest/jungle here!
The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is part of the Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area, bordering Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga Gorilla and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks provide a home to half of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas in South Western Uganda. Currently the population of the mountain gorillas stands above 300 in Uganda
There is a fast population growth leading to increase to intense farming around and up to the protected areas edge that leaves no buffer zone at all. The border between the farms and the jungle is like drawn with a ruler – dense forest starts from the side of the crop field. This population sometimes suffer negatively from results of conservation activities like wildlife crop damage which infuriates them and sours relations.
The farmers are also not allowed to enter the jungle and look for the gorillas. This is a job for special rangers, who daily look up the area where the gorillas are and visit them daily regardless of tourists. Just to keep the friendly connection alive.
As many say, it is the people that make the travel worth while. I do subscribe to that view as well. It is always fascinating to meet different people from different cultures and although one meets only a small number of the people in any country, somehow in one’s mind a picture starts to form.
I like to take pictures of people and usually people are happy to pose for me as well.
To raise funds, this fantastic team of kids are doing an African dance and song performance. They entertain the visiting tourists at their local hotels and other venues. As Covid-19 has greatly reduced tourism in the area and the orphanage relies on charitable contributions, they need all the help they can get.
Why is Uganda called The Pearl of Africa? It is commonly believed that the originator of this reference to Uganda was Sir Winston Churchill who described Uganda as The Pearl of Africa in his book “My African Journey” in 1907.
What is known for fact is that he at least made it famous but he may have borrowed the phrase from Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the Wesh explorer. Yes, this is the man who also famously said: “Dr Livingstone, I presume”, when he found missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone looking for the source of the Nile.
Having now toured the country right after the rainy season, the scenery was magnificent everywhere. Green and lush, animals I had only sen in books and zoos roaming free. And of course, the great people! Clearly the Pearl of Africa ingredients!
Uganda (or Buganda) and the British have a long colonial history, which for the purposes of this blog, I will skip. Then again, my trip was made considerably easier by the fact that English is now widely spoken in Uganda.