Thursday, November 6, 2014

Incredible West Nile!

I always knew there was much more to West Nile, this beautiful part of Uganda, than the little I knew when I was setting to move and live in Arua, the biggest town here, back in 2010. I just didn't imagine it would be so much more! Since settling here in February 2012, I have had the chance to visit most of the region and to fall in love with it.

From the landscapes to the people and culture to the vegetation and water bodies-notably the Albert Nile, there’s so much that will leave you amazed and impressed. It is astonishing that this place has so few tourist visitors. That of course can be blamed on the insecurity associated with the region during the heyday of Joseph Kony’s LRA insurgency that doomed the area and most of northern Uganda to the fate of being a no-go zone. Those times are long gone but the image still lingers in the minds of most other Ugandans, let alone people from other countries.

Our company Arua Today and a few local partners are preparing to do a group tour trip that we have decided to call the "The Expedition: Experience West Nile" from 5th to 7th December 2014 for people from Kampala and elsewhere in Uganda, and even those within West Nile who haven’t, to come see what West Nile has to offer in terms of tourist attractions and opportunities for investment in the tourism industry here. In preparation for that I have been moving about visiting some of the sites we’ll be taking folks to. I’ll talk a little about three of those I have already visited.

Mount Wati

The views and the feeling up here-priceless!

Standing proud at 1200 meters above sea level, this mountain in Terego County, about 29kms out of Arua Town, is the highest Mountain in West Nile-It is part of the many mountainous features that make up the Western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley of which Mountain Rwenzori in South Western Uganda is also part. It offers breathtaking views of all the surrounding lands and has a bare sheer North face that may provide rock climbers with something to do-I’d estimate the height to be not less than 50 meters. It is also ideal for hiking and a picnic if that’s your kind of thing. There are clear trails up the side of the mountain to the summit. And oh, there’s some monkey and bird species you can see up there too. I hope the locals haven’t vanquished the population of porcupines which they told me are a delicacy here. According to Lugbara legend, this is the mountain whence their ancestor Dribidu, also known as Banyale, established his home with his wife Ofunyaru after being expelled from the East of the Nile-present day Acholi land.

Miriadua Falls

I know, great pic but some dude is blocking the view!

I have a personal attachment to this one since it was my very own uncle that named it after himself. He was the county chief of Maracha in colonial times (it didn't survive the district creation binge the Uganda government has been on); when he went to visit this place, he asked the locals what the falls are called and they said “Iyi Kuru” which literally means “rough flowing waters”. Since all over Lugbara land such falls are called iyi kuru, he decided to name it after himself and that is the name by which the place is known everywhere else except the locality-people still call it iyi kuru there.

Just a 20 minutes journey out of Arua Town, this beautiful falls is a great place to picnic, camp and do some community tourism- and take selfies of course. It is just the ideal place to retreat from the noise and stress of urban life.

Alikua Pyramid

I imagine the people who built it neither looked like or dressed like me.

The pyramid at Alikua, not as big as the ones at Giza in Egypt, but not any less mysterious. Theories abound as to who really built it. Some say it was built by the Belgians when West Nile was still a part of Belgian Congo in the 1890s. Still some others say it was built by their Egyptian or Sudanese servants-a monument to show that they were here: but whatever the case, it is a vestige of the turbulent and complex history of the region. And the locals have many stories about it too.

I very much look forward to seeing all the other beautiful places in West Nile and taking others out there to see and experience what I have for themselves- and to share my experiences and insights with you here. Ciao for now!

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