11th April – A road trip to the shores of Lake Albert

It was an early start this morning. We were on the road at 5.00am to head West towards the shores of Lake Albert. The road surfaces were rough and uneven. The journey would take 7 hours; 7 bone-rattling hours. The drive took us through rain-forest tracks and up into the elevated land of the East Africa escarpment that sits over the rift valley. We passed by baboons sitting by the roadside, keeping guard over their youngsters. Our journey culminated in arrival in the town of Butiaba on the North East shore of Lake Albert. This area had been explored  by Sir Samuel White Baker in the mid to late 19th century. Baker, who was as a personal friend of Edward VII, eventually became governor of the area that is now Southern Sudan and Nothern Uganda but at that time was referred to as the province of ‘Equatoria’.

Butiaba is to many extents trading on its past glories as a fishing village. Unfortunately, the fishing stocks in Lake Albert have fallen dramatically in recent years, and the town is struggling to adjust. In spite of the economic hardships that this has for the population living there, the huge Maribou Storks patrolling the drying fishing nets that line the shore in the stifling heat do not seem too concerned. Walking among the storks, we took time to look out towards the far shore of Lake Albert where Uganda ends and the Democratic Republic of Congo begins.

After spending some time chatting with some of the local people, we travelled back West to stop off at the town of Masindi where we had lunch at the Masindi Hotel. There was relatively little conversation over lunch – mainly because people were too busy connecting with the WIFI that the hotel offered – a scarce resource in these parts. The food was good. Katja opted for the local fish called Talapia. It is popular all over Uganda and is served whole – the eyes are a particular delicacy (Rosco very much enjoys the eyes…). Following lunch it was back into the Super Custom for the 4-hour trip to Kampala.

The road journey south served as a microcosm for our road-trips in Uganda; enormous termite hills frequently dotted across the landscapes; unfeasibly large loads on the back of motorcycles; babies tied snugly to their mothers back as they walk along the roadside; long-horned cattle chewing grass; signs advertising various nearby ministries and churches; bananas, jack fruits, and cassava sitting for sale on roadside stalls; clusters of small circular huts with thatched roofs where the people working the land live; the single story simple buildings that serve as shops (some emblazoned with paint work representing the products that they sell e.g. mobile phone top-ups for companies such as MTN, Airtel and Africel); palm trees, hand-ploughed fields and sugar canes. A myrid of people, shapes, colours and livelihoods.

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