Northern Uganda trip report

Mark writes:

I thought I’d provide a little feedback. If you’re not the one doing updates of the book, perhaps you can
forward it to whoever is?

I rented a Landcruiser VX from Alpha Rentals in Uganda, then drove a loop around the North, to the
Sudan border north of Arua, across to Kidepo, then down thru Karamojong to Mbale, and finally back to Kampala.
Mostly, I went that way to avoid other tourists, an endeavor which was singularly successful.

For people planning to do self-drive, I’d just like to re-emphasize the following….

1) Take a phone with a good battery and plenty of minutes. Your rental company will move heaven and earth to
come rescue you if you need rescue, but they can’t do that if they don’t know you need it.

2) I would agitate for a second spare tire.

3) Be aware that it’s unwise to average more than 45 kph on many northern roads. Don’t play chicken. Just pull to
the left when ANYONE approaches.

4) Build huge delays into your itinerary if driving anywhere near Kampala. I was caught in a Saturday jam for
6.5 hours half-way from Jinja to Kampala. The guys I was with didn’t seem to think it was anything terribly
unusual.

5) If you know where you plan to go, use Google Earth to scout the route. Write down how to find your way thru
towns, and make note of whether roads that are on the map are actually there in reality. However, unlike in
Ethiopia, English speakers are easy to find, so you’ll get thru OK if you’re willing to ask for help.

Some notes on the loop I drove….

Arua – The Crane Hotel (on Weatherford, formerly Heritage Bamboo) is pretty good. The sign on the dining room
says “dinning”, which should be a warning of things to come, at least on a Saturday night (ALL night).

Arua-Sudan – New paved road built by the Chinese, all the way to the border. Probably best road in Uganda, and hardly
any traffic.

Moyo – The Pent House Hotel… I finally found it, after an hour or more of looking. There’s a sign on the main road
which is completely wrong. You have to go a little bit NE of town, just past the hospital. Best to just ask
for the hospital, then go another 200m or so. This place is really quite nice, completely out of character for the
region. I guessed that it was a “project” by a foreigner, and it seems in fact that it was built by a doctor who practiced
in Canada and then returned to Uganda. I was told that it’s used by gatherings of Ugandan health workers and
government people. Maybe, maybe not, but it certainly has the grounds to host such gatherings. What it didn’t
have when I was there was running water, but I don’t want to be too picky 😉

Atiak-Kitgum – this road is terrible, and NOT to be attempted w/o 4WD.

Kitgum – can’t beat Fugly’s…. sit and have a beer with the owner and listen to him talk about the NGO’s that aren’t there
any longer

Kitgum-Kidepo – Follow the road on the map to Orom, then head north from the “roundabout”. On the map, this road looks
sketchy, but it’s really quite good. You’ll get over to Karenga in no time. In Karenga, there’s now a good place to stay,
Buffalo Base, on the main road heading N out of town. This was started by a Dutch guy last year, and currently has
five three-bed units and one three-bed banda. Projected to double in size in a year or two, and include one “dorm
banda” for backpackers. S/d/t non-sc’s are 50/90/110k. A highly-recommended guide (for Kidepo)
works out of there.

Note: The road on the maps (including Bradt’s) from Orom across to near Kaabong, and from Karenga south to that
road, ARE NO LONGER THERE. They may go a ways, but then peter out. The only way to get from Kitgum
to Kidepo is over the road from Orom direct to Karenga.

Kidepo-Kaabong – I was told it’s much better to take a road (that’s not on any map I saw) that leaves from Karenga and
goes fairly directly east to Kaabong. Supposedly, it’s 20 km shorter than the mapped road, and in better (but not
very good) condition.

Kaabong-Kotido – In Kaabong (should be renamed NGO City), it’s best to ask for directions to Kotido, as there’s too many
options.

Moroto – The Mount Moroto Hotel is excellent, as you said, a real treat after a few rough days. However, it isn’t signed
anywhere in town. Even the hotel isn’t signed. I had to ask at the front desk if I had the right place (!).

Moroto-Nakapiripirit – large parts of this road have been rebuilt in preparation for paving, and some of it north of Naka
are actually paved. I’d expect the whole thing to be paved in a year.

Nakapiripirit-Sipi – bad road… there’s a quarry north of Nakapiripirit and trucks carrying 29 tonnes of rock use this road
to go down to Tororo, with predictable effect

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