“After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable.  A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go.  You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow. “ (H G Wells)

Leaving busy highways is always a relief on a bicycle. When you hear your own tyres rolling over tarmac rather than the continuous drone of engines and exhaust pipes it’s one good measure of a cycle-friendly road.

In my last post I described the road from Kampala-Jinja as being one of the worst  I’ve cycled on in Africa. Now I’m going to say something about one of the best roads. This one involves mountains, (the best always do) waterfalls, forests,  lots or smiling children, almost zero traffic and villages free from the garish colours of corporate advertising I’ve seen so much in Uganda.

Colourful characters: Ugandan school children

This road runs east from the town of Mbale and loops over the northern slopes of Mt Elgon (4321m), Uganda’s second highest mountain, It is an obvious route choice for anyone travelling in eastern Uganda and wanting to see some of the country’s best scenery.

Sipi Falls, a series of three waterfalls, is the main draw-card to this region. I was told the place would be crawling with tourists, but unless I was staying in the wrong place it appeared I was about the only foreigner enjoying the sublime views from the porch of my tent. It’s the first time I’ve camped in Uganda and campsites don’t come much more scenic than Moses’ Campsite in the village of  Sipi (take note cycle tourers).

Sipi falls

Monkey at camp

Moses' campsite: Sipi

Around Sipi: Eastern Uganda

The tarmac stopped beyond Sipi, but the scenery remained spectacular as a traffic-free track wound its way around the green fertile foothills of Mt Elgon towards the Kenyan border. If the reaction of children is any measure of how many Mzungus come out this way it’s fair to say this far eastern region of Uganda sees far fewer than other places I’ve come through.

Climbing away from Sipi

Through Mt Elgon National Park

Mt Elgon National Park

Village life

Off to School

Young boys: Eastern Uganda

At some point as I was heading towards the Kenyan border it dawned on me that with only several dollars worth of Ugandan Shillings left in my wallet I didn’t have enough money to pay for a Kenyan visa. I needed $25, which I didn’t have. How I hadn’t thought and planned for this I’m not sure. Now I was faced with the decision of either leaving my bike in a village and waiting for transport back to Mbale to use a bank, or continuing to the Kenyan border and hoping the immigration officer would be friendly enough to allow me to take a bus into the first town in Kenya. I opted for the latter.

Had this been any number of border crossings in west or central Africa I feel the demand for a bribe of sorts would have been on the agenda. But not here. The only concern after leaving my bike at the immigration post was surviving the mini-bus journey on a treacherously slippy track between the border and the town of Kitale.

Well that’s where I am now, after having found a bank, returned to the border to pay for a visa and cycled back here. Next week I’m off to distribute a few thousand mosquito nets. Never too late to donate a few.

Goodbye Uganda