April 22, 2014

Mbale to Sipi

Filed under: Trips,Uganda — pearsey @ 12:05 am
Tags: , , , , ,

Next day, our destination was Sipi, via the Mt Elgon area, an area where Mike had done quite a bit of ministry. Mike thought it would be a great idea to drive toward Mt Elgon and have breakfast up the mountain overlooking some of the great scenery. It all sounded fine in theory, but by the time we did stop, it was no longer breakfast time! The road from Mbale to Mt Elgon starts off sealed, but quickly turns to dirt. Initially it’s two lanes of dirt road (ie one lane each direction), but that quickly narrows to a wideish single lane in most places. At one point we were stopped by a police road block. They pulled us over and were having a bit of a chat when a cheeky boda boda rider tried to ride through. The cops yelled out to him, waved us through and pulled him over. He was still being a little smart, so the policeman reached over, turned off his bike and grabbed the key. That soon wiped the grin off his face, while it was all we could do to hold the laughter in til we were far enough away… Later on another policeman stopped us to ask for a lift. Our car was fairly full and we weren’t going his way, but at least he was nice about it (many aren’t).

An abandoned piece of heavy machinery half way up

An abandoned piece of heavy machinery half way up

Mt Elgon is high, and the drive through the maize fields is soon replaced by a view overlooking the surrounding area, gradually getting higher and being able to see further as you go up. We eventually did stop for breakfast, the locals enjoyed the show and we enjoyed the view. It’s surprising how many cars actually go past and how many banana bunches are shipped out of the area. Plenty of trucks loaded to overflowing with bananas, or matooke as it’s called there, were headed down the mountain, for sale mainly in Kampala.

One of the many trucks on the mountain

One of the many trucks on the mountain

One of the villages half way up the mountain was having it’s weekly market. There were people everywhere, the road just disappeared into a sea of people. But like Moses and the red sea, the people parted, all be it slowly, so that we could eventually creep through.

Market ahead

Market ahead

Another obstacle on the road was young boys (early teens) out to make a few shillings. They would put tree branches on the road, or a rope across the road and expect you to pay for them to remove them. It’s illegal, but they still do it and although many do pay, we refused to. One young boy started particularly digging his heels in, absolutely refusing to move them until we paid. No worries, we soon sorted him out as we picked up the phone to call our friend the policeman from just down the road. A glare and a sullen look followed and he slowly moved toward his branches and dragged them far enough away for us to pass.

Further along, appearing out of nowhere, is a semi gorge/cave type area, where the road passes through, almost like a tunnel. We stopped here and spent some time exploring. The walls dripped with water dribbling down the side, the plants hung down, flowing toward the road, also providing a path for the water to dribble down. In some places the water was a small water fall and the whole area was lovely and cool. Drive around the next hairpin bend and you’d never know it was there, the top is covered in vegetation and appears no different to the rest of the mountain. It was in this gorge area that a cry rings out “Pastor Mike, is that you”? And what do you know, along comes somebody that Mike had ministered to on one of his trips up the mountain. He was quite a way from home, especially when he was only walking, but it just proves that you never know when you’ll run into somebody you know.

Approaching the gorge

Approaching the gorge

We were reaching the top of the mountain when we met with another road block. You could see the boys eyes light up. We fixed them by doing a u-turn and heading back down. We were about to head back down anyway, so nothing was lost.

There are plenty of places to pull over on the side of the road, each providing another scenic view point. It was a case of count the waterfalls, as there were so many that you could see in the distance wherever you looked. I’m sure Mike and Juliet got sick of me saying “Is that the main Sipi fall” each time I saw something vaguely similar! At one of these vantage points on the way down we met some young boys. One was very shy and would only poke his head out from bushes. The other came a bit closer and got rather interested in what we were eating. We gave him a biscuit and the other boy came out a bit further. We offered him a biscuit and he came out. We got a few words out of both of them, but they didn’t know a lot of english and none of us spoke their dialect. Ah, food, the way to break down any barriers.

The view at breakfast

The view at breakfast

On the road up to Sipi, we stopped at another little water fall type area. Such a a nice waterfall so close to the road, this one being more of a water stream than a vertical one. A few young boys were herding their cattle and I do admit, much to my amusement, they took the cattle straight up the side of the rocky mountain, I guess heading to the stream up the top. I thought it was only goats that went up mountains like that, but apparently not.

The cows head up

The cows head up

We made it to Sipi township, eventually found a place to have lunch (quite good), then headed off to find a place to stay. Everyone is happy to stand on the road and direct you to their resort, but we settled on The Crows Nest. Although it had great views, we got the impression that we were more an inconvenience to them than a welcome guest, but never mind. The food was cheap and there was lots of it for just the three of us, although it was nothing special (and just for the record, I am travelling with one Ugandan and somebody who’s lived there for 5 or 6 years, so they know what to expect food wise). After the night before at the Visitors Inn in Mbale, we probably had higher expectations that weren’t quite met given the price we paid to stay here. It’s quite cool up that way at night, so thankfully I still had my jumper at that point in time! We each got a hurricane lamp so we could navigate around the place and light our cabins at night. But, what it lacked in facilities, it more than made up for with the view. You could pay more, but you wouldn’t get such a great view at some of the other places.

Sipi Falls - 3 levels

Sipi Falls – 3 levels, the view from The Crows nest


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