A Tale of #KoiKoiNorth

An Elephant in Murchison Falls National Park.

The itinerary said 8am. By 8:30 the lovely ladies at Java Cafe at Shell Lugogo were approaching our tables with some Toast, Sausages and Eggs and for me, a hot cup of coffee, because it had been such a long week. I was particularly looking forward to this trip. It would be a good chance to unwind from the Kampala rat race. And if the breakfast was anything to go by, it was going to be a great weekend.

After fueling our bodies, the good folks at Shell also fueled our rides with the new Shell Fuel Save offer. In the pre-trip briefing, Hans Paulsen, the Shell big boss, was so confident that this fuel would help us go further for less. He staked it on getting a testimonial from the driver, a chubby, strict looking Muganda man by the name Kayongo Billy. Just having gotten my first car and with the way Uganda’s economic situation is set up, I was eager to see if this was more than brand bravado.

So at about 10:30, we boarded the bus and headed towards Masindi. It was quiet at first, just a handful of people knew each other. There was the occasional mummers and giggles, and then silence again for a while. I however think midway the journey, people realized they were stuck together and they might as well make the most of it. Conversation started crossing the isle and in a few minutes it seemed like we had know each other forever.

Before we knew it we were in Masindi and then at the gate of the national park. We signed in, proved we were Ugandans, paid, and off we were to the top of the Murchison Falls. It’s hard to properly describe what this view does to you. So please refer to picture below and die of ‘nugu’ for choosing I don’t know what over this.

After that humbling view, we got back onto our bus towards the ferry, which helped us cross towards Pakwach where we would spend the night at Heritage Safari Lodge.

Designed to look like a traditional Acholi homestead, this lodge is nothing but exceptional. We were welcomed with a glass of tamarind juice, fed a sumptuous buffet and led down to our room which was a combination of traditional structure and modern amenities. We showered, changed. And the few of us who were brave enough, headed back to the campfire for ‘one drink.’ (You have to come for a trip to understand what this is.)

Let me pause for a minute and tell you something about me- I am a deal guy. I am always looking for the best stuff for the least amount of money possible. The #KoikoiNorth trip was valued at 250,000UGX. Anyone who has gotten any quotations for Murchison Falls will tell you that’s about how much you pay for a room and some little things here and there. These guys had managed to turn that 1 loaf into a thousand, left me short of hallelujah, it’s a miracle. Long story short, by the end of day 1, my money was literally done and we still had 2 more days.

The next day, at the stroke of sunlight, we were fed and were in the car looking out for game in the national park.

Another thing about me is that I am petty. I had tried to convince my friends to come for this trip but they judged the price point and thought it would be lousy. I was determined to make them feel the burn. I loaded my budget data option, Airtel Gattawo, that would help me spread twice the amount of fomo that I would have done with any other package.

Giraffes, Buffalos, Antelopes, Elephants, Warthogs, a tortoise. I blew up my whatsapp groups and Twitter timeline with everything I saw. It was my first time on a game drive and I was like a child in a candy store.

4 hours later we were done with the drive and we boarding a ferry for the boat ride towards the Murchison falls. Again, my social media did not survive this. Herds of Elephants, Crocodiles, Hippos, Exotic birds, and finally the falls.

2 hours later, we were back a shore. On the bus and on the way to Gulu town. It had been a long day. Long hours on the road. So when I heard the hotel we were booked in, The Golden Peace Hotel, had sauna and pool at our disposal, It couldn’t get any better.

After a relaxing evening, a couple of drinks and a good nights sleep, it was morning. We headed towards Fort Patiko, a former slave bay that was reclaimed by Sir Samuel Baker where it derives its other name from, Bakers fort. The stories were heartbreaking, awakening and hopeful. It was a somber way to end the trip- and after lunch in Gulu town, we were on our way back to Kampala.

Ps. Guest writer.