<b>We Want Adventure:</b> Riding East Africa Part 2

We Want Adventure: Riding East Africa Part 2

When the few travel plans they had in mind didn’t go as expected, new adventures were, of course, found along the way.


Mandy & Pieter AKA
We Want Adventure

We Want Adventure is a project created by Mandy & Pieter about the three things they love: traveling, photography, and motorcycles. Preferably, all at once. Mandy is an international freelance photographer who specializes in bridal and commercial photography. Pieter works as a retail manager at REV’IT! dealer “MotorKledingCenter.”


Mandy & Pieter

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During our trip through Central Africa, we ended up getting lost in the east of Uganda (see our previous blog for this). How it went on was actually - again - an accumulation of coincidences. That’s the fun of traveling with two old motorcycles.

It’s also the fun of traveling without too many plans in a country where people live from day to day. We had survived leopards, lions, and elephants, but would we also survive the warrior tribes of eastern Uganda and Kenya?

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From the National Parks in Eastern Uganda, we set our compasses toward Karamoja. Back in Kampala, where we rented our bikes, we coincidentally met a Dutch guy with Ugandan roots, Theo Vos, who owns a travel agency called Kara-Tunga. Theo invited us to come to Karamoja and really sold the place to us, mentioning adventure, off-road tracks, culture, and beautiful nature. It’s a region where very few tourists go and all that combined got us excited.

After witnessing a long period of armed conflict and isolation, Karamoja is now starting to open up to the world. As a result of years of isolation, this area has witnessed little outside influence and is one-of-a-kind. The people there are called the Karamajong and they are mainly nomadic pastoralists. Others rely on hunting and gathering for their livelihood. Due to the relative tranquility of recent years, tourism in this part of Uganda has been increasing. People from all over the world are starting to discover the region. As we experienced, this is an outright clash of cultures. Kara-Tunga, we think, does a great job in the field of sustainable tourism. According to Theo, we would be among the first to discover Karamoja by motorbike.


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In a sense, two alienating tribes are meeting here on the side of the road.

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With a strong backwind, and all zippers of our jackets open, we are pushed forward on the unpaved flat roads of Karamoja. The lush green of Uganda soon turned to brown sand. Here and there, dust clouds are hanging above the vast savannah. In the distance, the flat land is interrupted by the outline of mountains. Dark clouds are gathering above these marking points and thunder is looming in the distance. Sometimes we pass through small villages with stone houses. Further down the road, we discover wooden huts. Occasionally a herd of cows is accompanied by a few children with sticks. This abandoned country, upon first sight, is friendly, but does also feels threatening at the same time.

During the days in Karamoja, we are frequently in awe of the beauty of the land and people. We sleep with the men who guard the cattle in the ‘Kraal.’ We dance with the beekeepers of the Tepeth tribe. At the local cattle market of Kotido, we learn about the price of a cow. At a fire with local ‘beer’ we also discover how many cows in generally is paid as dowry. 

The Karamajong have a rich culture that they are proud of and they consider the number of cattle as their wealth. Facial scars are a type of tattoos. They are applied to Karamajong women for beauty, to men to show their strength. A scar on the face of a man stands for killing another man. Like we said, people are warriors here. Men protect their cattle or raid other clans to steal theirs.

The half-naked boy that is roaming around in the savannah with bow and arrow looking for dinner looks as strangely to us as we do at him. Who are those people on overpacked motorcycles covered from head to toe with motorcycle clothing while its 35 degrees? In a sense, two alienating tribes are meeting here on the side of the road. At times we feel as far away from home as we can possibly be, but at the same time, they made us feel at home through their hospitality.

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It's a good thing that we have some photos because, in retrospect, there really is no evidence to prove we’d been in Kenya for a week! The border crossing consisted of a bamboo hut with a lonely soldier. He looked at us, wrote something in his big book, and then lets us continue. The border area was mountainous with challenging, steep slopes and descents. The curvy mountain roads slowly gave way to a vast mountain landscape. In a tiny village, we passed a police station which was the first check in Kenya. They looked at our passports and let us continue. Slowly but surely, we rode into the desert and our “road” became a broad, dry riverbed.

The night started to fall. The day was coming to an end and we seemed to have too little water and food with us and were without Kenyan money. In the few villages that we came across, they would not accept Ugandan money. Any kind of road couldn’t be recognized in the loose sand, only hundreds of paths, as was the case in a pasture. It was now dark and we had to go a long way to the next city with a hotel. We did count on a long day, but what we didn’t count on was engine trouble.

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Without any reason, Pieter's motorcycle just stopped. Pieter took a look at the engine a few times with the flashlight of his mobile, but strangely enough, that did not help. In the meantime, a number of Kenyan men had come in the dark of the night trying to help in a very friendly way. I started to worry a little bit since we were in the middle of nowhere, in the dark, and we were there with some Kenyans smelling of alcohol. But before our minds could get too carried away, we switched up our thoughts toward positive ones.

A few moments later, lights appeared in the distance and it turned out to be a 4x4 Ambulance. The nice driver wanted to help us. We tied the broken motorbike with a rope behind the Jeep. As soon as the car started to drive, the Honda XR swept from left to right through the loose sand. That did not work. Then we tried a boda (that is a moped) to pull the broken two-wheeler. Luckily, this went better and with the car lights from the Jeep, that gave us some extra visibility. We covered the last 40 kilometers in two hours. Exhausted and hungry we arrived at a hotel. Luckily the cook wanted to bake a fish for us, which was served with fries and a soda. Long live Coca Cola!


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After a week in Turkana, we discovered that we should have had stamps in our passports and that the imported motorcycles needed the right insurance. Turkana is a remote area in Kenya and we also found out that we couldn’t arrange our affairs anywhere in the province. For that, we needed to go south - a two-days ride - to sort out the papers in a big city or at an official border crossing. We doubted whether we should do that. Since we were already in Kenya without the right paperwork, perhaps they’d give us a hard time there and make things even more difficult. 

And it could cost us a lot of time and money. We did, therefore, decide to drive the same way back to Uganda. This time,we left early, loaded our bags full of bananas, biscuits, and water then set off. Toward the end of the afternoon, we arrived again at the lonely soldier's cabin. He looked at us and asked if we could spare some money. We shake our heads side to side. “Biscuits?” he then asks. We gave him all our biscuits and we rode the last bit to Moroto where we said goodbye after a few days. We slowly made our way back to Kampala to bring home the bikes.

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Our first encounter with Africa was amazing and made us long for more. We arrived with no expectations, but of course, you always have an idea in mind. Some idea, you just don’t really know what. But before we arrived, we didn’t think we would enjoy the nature parks so much. We came for the culture and adventure, but riding on the dirt roads atop your motorbike while watching elephants and giraffes crossing the road is just amazing. It left us speechless. 

We would definitely recommend Uganda. The people are very friendly, they speak English very well and if you go further than the standard tourist attractions, there is so much to discover. ‘Land of the free’ as our hostel host in Rwanda described this diverse country and that is absolutely true and all an adventurous biker needs. We can’t wait to go back and explore more of Africa.


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