Uganda Rock climbing126 routes in area
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Most of UGs great rocks have never been climbed, so FAs abound! There is growing community and some good sport climbing too! It's a gorgeous country and a cheap destination for a climbing holiday.©
Uganda is an extremely diverse country. Annoyances and inconveniences may vary from region to region and village to village. What is agreed upon, accepted, or paid in one place may be rejected in another. What is safe one year or in one area may not be safe the next year or in a different region. Uganda, especially some areas, is also extremely remote. Some routes have only been climbed once. With so few climbers it has been impossible to fact check all route descriptions and difficulty grades. It is therefore possible that errors in route descriptions exist. Users of this guide must use their own judgment at all times. Neither the author, nor the publisher accepts any responsibility or liability for accidents or incidents that arise from consulting this book. This guide is intended for experienced climbers only. Climbing and mountaineering are inherently dangerous activities and one could be seriously injured or even killed. Inexperienced climbers should be discouraged from attempting the routes described in this book. Instead, inexperienced climbers should seek advice, help, and training from certified professionals.
Climbing and Mountaineering in Uganda
Uganda has arguably the best mountains in Africa. Tanzania claims the highest mountain (Kilimanjaro) and Kenya #2 (Mt. Kenya), but Uganda has huge mountains that are unspoiled, unique, remote, and see far fewer visitors. The incredible Rwenzori (third highest in Africa), are a true mountain range, soar over 5100m and contain glaciers on the equator! The virungas in the southwest have pristine trails, gorgeous jungles, rare mountain gorillas, and postcard quality bamboo zones. The peaks of Moroto, Kadam, Rom, Zulia, Napak and Morungole in Karamoja are almost completely unknown to the outside world and choke full of “raw” Uganda.
Uganda never had large numbers of European colonists or settlers like some regions of Africa. By comparison to Kenya, South Africa and Namibia, parts of Uganda have had very little European influence, hence there has been less climbing and less mountain exploration here. As I traveled around the country climbing, hiking, kayaking and looking for other adventures, I found climbable rocks and mountains mostly around the borders of the country. The British, under which Uganda was held as a protectorate until 1962, drew up the borders of the country using natural, geographic borders (mostly mountains), so following the land borders makes sense for climbers and mountaineers. In the west, the massive Rwenzori mark the border with the DRC. In the southwest, large Virunga peaks mark the corner of the country and follow it’s border with Rwanda. In the east, Mt Elgon marks the end of Uganda and the beginning of Kenya. In the south, Lake Victoria was used to mark the border, but in the north, no clear geographic border was used. Coincidentally or perhaps not, it is in Uganda’s north that has seen the lion’s share of trouble since decolonization. Until just a couple years ago, traveling in northern Uganda was not recommended. Travel restrictions have been lifted and today, the north represents the best place to see raw Uganda and the best place for climbers to explore. There are no huge mountains here, but plenty of big walls and 2000m mountains exist with no record of ever having been hiked. Very many beautiful and climbable faces have yet to be “discovered” and certainly many breathtaking, remote, and unspoiled treks have yet to be made known to the outside world.
Climate and Climbing Season in Uganda
The climbing season is year round, but parts of Uganda can be pretty hot with punishing sun, so early morning or early evening climbs are best. Some walls are shaded part of the day and I have tried to include that information in as many route descriptions as possible. Uganda lies on the Equator so sunrise and sunset are always right around 6:45-7:00 am/pm. The only noticeable seasons are “wet” and “dry”. Wet season months have been unpredictable in recent years and vary from region to region. i.e. the Rwenzori are almost always wet and best to hike in Dec-Feb when it is least wet. Kampala’s wettest months are April and November, but you can absolutely climb during those months. So, check climate graphs for the area you’re planning. Even though very heavy rainstorms can hit, they are usually brief. Terrible weather one afternoon can lead to great climbing the next morning as routes tend to dry out quickly. In the north, the best months are November to February. If you are heading for Mt. Oret, keep in mind that rock can hold water on the top/inside for days and takes a long time to dry out. The routes of Zigzag and Corporate Night will be very wet/slippery and might even run under small waterfalls even days after rain has stopped, so check the weather carefully and use your binoculars before starting up.
Dry season months, especially towards the end of dry season, have the benefit of less bush to contend with upon the approach and in the cracks and gullies. Bush is never a problem at the main/established crags like Pierre’s Quarry, Insita, Sipi’s Main Wall, Chema, Kkungu, Kilembe, and Rwakobo. The other sites are less well established, but have village/community trails very near to them. It is only the last few hundred meters of the approach that bush is ever an issue, but it can be a nightmare to get through. Plan accordingly. The routes on Amiel and Rwot can be bushy on much of the climb as well. Naita and Kilibi are excellent trad destinations as they dry fast and have pretty good trails very good trails leading right up or very near to the rock. I have done a lot of good outdoor climbing in all twelve months, but occasionally get really frustrated with a string of rainy days that can make some sites next to impossible.
I have traveled in every region of the country and been charmed again and again by Uganda’s charismatic people, geographic beauty and diversity. Most of the “new” routes we opened in the creation of this guide are in the far north. I love the north because of its rawness, but I also love it because it has very hard, good quality rock and more opportunities for real exploration and first ascents than elsewhere in Uganda. Plus, it is the cheapest part the country. Because of previous conflict in the north, it was ostensibly closed to climbers until just a few years ago, so I dedicated more time to exploring the north than to other, more well known regions. To be slightly more specific, I consider the north to be Karamoja, Acholiland, and West Nile. By far, Karamoja has the most promise for climbers and trekkers, however the entire north is ripe for exploration. Most of the known sport routes in Uganda are clustered around Kampala, not because these are the best rocks, but simply because most of the foreigners/expats/muzungus live in Kampala and have led the way in establishing the sport. Climbing is just starting to catch on among the Ugandan community and the first Ugandan climbing/trekking club, Uganda Mountain Slayers, was formed in 2015.
The mountains and rocks in this guide mostly exist around the western, northern, and eastern edges. So, I would recommend beginning in the Virungas of the southwest, traveling to the Rwenzori in the west, then across the north and finish by working your way down to the Mbale around near Sipi Falls in the east, or start in Sipi and reverse. This could take anywhere from a couple weeks to several month depending on how “deep” you want to go…
Scope of this Guide
This book covers all known climbing in Uganda. It also covers most of the known hikes in the country. I have done these climbs and hikes personally.
Climbers in Uganda have only just scratched the surface of potential climbs in the country and this is unlikely to change in the immediate future given the remoteness of some of these places.
Note on Currency
We have listed everything in Uganda Shillings throughout this guidebook because that is the currency you will most likely be paying in. In my four years in Uganda, I have never heard of a local refusing US Dollars and I have even paid for things using Kenyan Shillings and Euros. I’m sure you can pay in other currencies as well but UG Shillings are the norm. It is very rare to find an ATM that will give out dollars. Forex currency exchange bureaus exist in all the larger towns. The bottom line is that you’ll most likely find yourself paying in shillings most of the time. Uganda Wildlife Authority readily accepts Uganda Shillings or US Dollars and they publish their exchange rate at the beginning of each month. At the time of writing in July of 2017, the exchange rate was 3602 UGX to 1 USD and UWA was using a rate 3600 to 1.
Uganda Wildlife Authority
UWA is responsible for ten national parks and charges foreigners 30-40 USD per day for entry. Some of the most fabulous mountains in Uganda lie within these parks so plan on paying these fees for the Rwenzori, Mt Elgon, and the Virungas (Muhabura, Sabinyo, and Gahinga). UWA also manages many wildlife reserves and sanctuaries. None of the rock climbing in this guide lay within UWA territory. The hikes of Moroto, Kadam, Napak, and Morungole also lie outside UWA parks and these hikes can be done without paying UWA fees. This book mainly aims to provide information on “outside the park adventures” as the parks are already well documented in other books and websites.
Phones in Uganda
Given the unreliability of phone numbers in the country, I have very sparingly included numbers in this guide. Many Ugandans have several numbers, often change numbers, phones go missing, get stolen, get spoiled, etc. I have included some very reliable numbers that I have used for several years.
However, not to worry! While traveling, I rarely call ahead and usually have no trouble showing up unannounced. I just ask for the person I am looking for and usually find them at home, in the bar, at a boda boda stage, or under the local mango tree! Communities are quite small and everyone knows everyone, so you will find who you are looking for pretty quickly, assuming you are in the right town!
This book uses South African difficulty grades. This is a good system because, along with Aussie grades, has no decimal places, letter/number combinations, and +s, -s. It is a straightforward ordinal number grading system. Known grades in UG currently range from 8-25, which equates from roughly 2-7a in the French system, or 5.2 to 5.11d in YDS. Also most African countries already us SA grades and I hope by encouraging SA grades here, it will not only clearly communicate the difficulty of climbs to everyone in the easiest possible way, it will encourage all of Africa to have one unified grading system. South Africa, by far, leads the way in both sport and trad climbing on this continent, so they are the logical leader as well. Additionally, many climbers from SA visit UG and have encouraged the spread of this as the grading system in the country.
Most of the trad routes in this book have been climbed less than five times. Only Amiel (13) in Agago district has been trad climbed more than ten times in recent years. Several of the trad routes in this book have only been climbed once so use ratings with caution. Please send feedback to the author. Rating routes is a subjective “art” and discussions on ratings often end with some measure of disagreement. For all routes, I have consulted a number of climbers before publishing a difficulty grade, but as some of the routes are very rarely climbed, consulting many climbers was not possible in all cases.
- Costs and Proceeds of this Book
- I have kept costs to a bare minimum and bore those myself. All content will be freely given. The price for printed versions will only cover printing costs. The online content available at theCrag.com and ViewRanger has been made available at no cost.
Purpose of this Book
Uganda is a beautiful place, but also a tragic one. I have been fortunate enough to explore in every district of the country. I found many pleasant surprises and a few heartbreaking ones as well. Over my time here, more and more people began contacting me for information about the country and this grew to an almost daily occurrence. As my network grew, so did my knowledge of Uganda. More and more, I realized that a book like this needed to be written. Not only will this book share much of the knowledge I have gained whilst here, it will protect it as well. It is my hope that this publication will draw people to the rocks and mountains of Uganda. Through this, I hope visitors will do as I have done and try to leave this place in better shape than they found it. Travel responsibly.
Finding Climbing Partners in Uganda
The best way to find a climbing partner in Uganda is through the Mountain Club of Uganda. They maintain a closed Facebook group with over 4000 followers. Make sure to sign up for that group, answer the questions, and get accepted. Once in the group, simply post that you are looking for partners. You will probably find one within hours. If you are not on FB, you can write directly to the club to firstname.lastname@example.org to request information about possible partners. Also, make sure to ask about Whatsapp groups as a large number exist and are also a great way to meet people and find climbers. Most of the climbers are based in Kampala though, so if you are on an expedition in the far north, finding a partner could be difficult. The MCU climbs regularly at Pierre’s Quarry in Kampala (Kyeitabya/Muyenga) and at Insita Rock (Luwazi) in nearby Kalagi (45 minutes from Kampala by car), and finding partners for these two sport crags should be pretty easy. Trips to Kkungu, Rwakobo and Sipi Falls are popular as well and finding partners for weekend trips to those sites it pretty easy.
Tip: many climbers here don’t have cars, so getting to some of the crags is tricky. If you have a car and want to climb, filling your seats with climbing partners will be no problem.
Note on Climbing Gear
In Uganda, you won’t find any for sale, except for occasional second hand stuff on Facebook. At the time of writing, only a couple dozen people in Kampala own ropes, probably less than twenty have quickdraws, and I only know of five people with trad racks. There are no commercial shops in Kamapala, or anywhere in the country for that matter that sell any climbing gear whatsoever, so bring everything with you. I have tried as much as possible to include the gear needed in each route description. At the time of writing I had placed a #5 Black Diamond cam a couple times and a #6 only once in UG! If you plan to explore trad, definitely bring a full rack with micros, lots of Alpine draws and plenty of slings.
Pay to Climb?
There are no places in Uganda that require any payment for climbing, though people will tell you otherwise. Almost everywhere you go someone is likely to ask for money. Here is a quick summary of what climbers tend to pay. At Luwazi, we pay 3k for parking at Ishma’s house. For that, he will look after your car and we have never had a security issue, though if you leave your phone lying on the rock unattended, local kids will snatch it up. You can also buy things from Ishma like samosas and fruit, but climbing is free. At the Pierre’s Quarry, you must be a Mountain Club of Uganda member. Membership is 50k per year. Membership gets you lots of discounts around Uganda and is usually more than worth it. Quarry access is granted by the landowner to the MCU only and the MCU has paid for all the bolting. The MCU has access to the indoor wall at ISU as well and more info can be found at that section. Access at the Sipi wall is free, though you will have to pay someone 2k for parking at Moses Camp. Locals will demand payment and even claim to own the rock, but that is not the case. Visit the Sipi police station and ask for protection if needed. Access at the Chema wall is also free, though you should pay 2k for parking at Colin’s shop in Chema. You should usually pay a local person a couple thousand shillings to “guide” you back to most of the crags. This is usually very helpful and appreciated by the local community. Parking and access to all other sites in Uganda is free. I sometimes offer a small gift if I am crossing someone’s land. For the very rural areas, folks sometimes ask for salt and I find a bag of salt to be an excellent gift. You can get bags of salt in local markets for around 700 UGX. As these communities cook communally, salt gets naturally shared amongst everyone. The same goes for other foodstuffs like rice, flour, and beans. I have also given t-shirts out as gifts, but have seen people argue over those. I once gave a curtain that I no longer needed from my house. That created a bit of a problem as one very old woman just took it and wrapped herself in it. The other old woman immediately pleaded with me for more curtains… Stick with instantly shareable gifts like mentioned above. I always pay something if I park my car on someone’s land. If they “mess” with my vehicle, then I do not pay. Most people have very few problems in Uganda, but close your windows, doors, and backpacks or people are likely to dig through your things looking for things you can share with them.
Hiring Hiking Guides
I strongly recommend that you hire guides almost anytime you walk more than a couple hundred meters from your car outside of a town. If you are in a UWA park, finding a trained guide is as simple as asking any park employee. However as this guide focuses on “outside the park adventures”, the following advice applies to the rest of the country. Here are some basic principles to follow.
Everyone might say they are a “guide”. It can be really hard to tell who knows what they are doing and who does not. Use a reputable local contact to help you find a guide whenever possible. I frequently pull into local schools or monasteries. Ask for the father or headmaster. Explain your plans and ask for their help. This usually works. Then, test your guide with some non-leading questions and test their English before agreeing to anything. If there isn’t a school or monastery in sight, then drive as close as possible to the mountain or crag, just start walking in and find a guide along the way. I have found some of my best guides like this, as the people you run into on the path are very local and usually living or studying very nearby. Avoid trying to hire a guide in town centers. It can create quite a commotion and attract the wrong sort of people. Idle and available guides, often consuming alcohol at all times of the day are to be avoided for obvious reasons. Best to pick someone out in their field early “digging” or otherwise occupied. The payment they are likely to get from you is enough to motivate them to put other projects on hold for a day.
Be very clear with your guide. Make sure to explain exactly what you plan to do and what you need the guide to help with. Agree on a set price beforehand. Do not pay in full until the trip is completed. In fact, try to hold back 50-100% of the payment until you are packed, finished and leaving. Paying for any services in full in Uganda ahead of time is often a bad idea. After paying in full, some guides may just run off. Also be aware that these guides may try to cut your trip short and still expect full payment. Even UWA guides have tried this with me. My guide on Kadam swore that terrible weather was coming and that we needed to turn around. My guide on Morungole tried to convince us that the peak was too far and that we couldn’t make it. Long story short, be skeptical of this sort of thing and make sure you know what you are doing. Cutting your trip short will save them time and effort. Of course, they will expect full payment in all cases, regardless of how far you’ve made it.
Set clear rules with your guides. Quite often guides will take any “down payment” and buy waragi, a locally made gin. Sometimes they will chew a mild narcotic called kat as it can be found on some of the mountains. You may have to be quite vigilant with your guides to make sure they don’t end up drunk and/or mildly high. Also, it regularly happens that guides and porters will open your bags and go through your things on these hikes. Perhaps set a clear rule for them to leave your bags closed. It has happened to me on several occasions that guides/porters will consume some of the food/water in the pack they are carrying without asking permission. As frustrating as this might be for you, they don’t consider this inappropriate. Keep all your key valuables with you in your own pack. Remember outside UWA parks these “guides” lack the training and supervision of the somewhat more professional guiding services available inside parks.
Plan on “taking care” of your guides. Most of the people you’ll find in these villages have very few possessions. So, plan on taking some food and water for them. They will not want to eat most things that you do, so get them some local food or ask them to bring their own. They will also not carry water, so plan for that. They usually drink about half as much as me. Finally, if your trip is overnight, you will need to carry everything your guide will need, so tent, sleeping bag, plate, cup, etc. Groups sometimes forget this and end up uncomfortably sharing food, utensils, tents, etc with their guides, or worse they have them sleep outside or send them down in the dark.
Misconceptions, Misunderstandings, and Perspective
Many local people will think you are rich. To them, you probably are. They may assume you are prospecting for gold, harvesting precious gems, or have other economic interests in their mountains and rocks, so they may ask again and again exactly where you are going and why. I think most of this curiosity comes from money concerns. If you use profession photographic equipment, they may assume you are making a profit from the photos somehow. “Muzungus carry gold in their boots” is a quote I’ve heard more than once. I have also come to understand Ugandans as a more communal people than I’ve ever seen. Land is family land and belongs to many people. You’ll find this out if you ever try to buy any. You may agree on a price to camp on someone’s land only to have a relative show up later and start the negotiations from the beginning. These issues can be complicated. Just be friendly, patient, and open-minded. Food is also shared. If you have surplus of pretty much anything, some local will want you to share it. There is evidence of this everywhere. For example in cases of theft, Ugandans very rarely steal everything. They may take your extra, but leave some behind. See, communal. Sharing is the Ugandan way.
As you can imagine this leads to misunderstandings that can sometimes be tense. I think many Ugandans struggle to understand why muzungus won’t share and many muzungus struggle to understand why Ugandans seem almost entitled to some of your money. It can also be very uncomfortable during packing and unpacking. Many local Ugandans will gather around and stare at you and all your stuff. Anything left lying out will likely get picked up. After all, if you left it out, you don’t want it anymore, right? My advice is to lock your things away, and if you can’t, keep things out of sight as much as, like inside a closed pack. Even cover your car windows if you can so people cannot see what is inside. Leaving gear strewn about is a sure way to lose a trinket or two. This is just good advice anywhere, but especially in Uganda.
Food in Uganda
Local food is probably the only option in many of the rural areas where you might climb. It usually consists of rice, posho, chapatti, cassava, sweet potato, Irish potatoes, greens, avocado, some tomato dishes and meat. Meat can be any common type like chicken, beef, goat, pork, or fish. Meat is usually prepared in a stew and served with rice or posho. It can also be grilled or smoked.
Finding and eating in a local restaurant is extremely easy, fast, and very cheap but very different to a cosmopolitan dining experience. First of all, finding one is very easy. They are near any town center and usually just have a small dining room and veranda. Look for steaming pots. People sit communally, sharing the tables and condiments, usually just salt and maybe chili flakes. Forget using a menu of any kind because it is too slow, too confusing, and not part of Ugandan dining culture. Rather, just ask, “Is the food there”? Restaurants in Uganda do not serve food all day, though dining hours are very flexible. If the food is ready, the response will be “it is there”. Follow up by asking what food is there and then you will get the list of what they have that day (see above). Sometimes the food is bubbling in pots right there or just outside, so just ask to see it if you wish. Stick with what is immediately available, hot and fresh as waiting/ordering may take hours and Ugandans often fail to communicate that clearly. For example, you might wait an hour for a dish just to be told it is not there. Once you order, it will usually come very fast, within a couple minutes and if it doesn’t, there is usually a problem. Prices vary from place to place and range from 1500 UGX for basic beans and chapatti (kikomando) to 8000 USX for a large meal with meat, greens, several types of starch, etc. I usually average 4-5k UGX per meal whilst in the “village” (rural areas). I find eating local in Uganda to be fantastic. The food is hot, fresh, and filling. Variety is very limited, though, and you may really start to miss your comfort foods after awhile. Mix it up by shopping and cooking or hitting one of the larger cities, some of which may have alternative cuisines.
Soft drinks are available nearly everywhere and cost 1500-2500 UGX. Beers cost about 3000 UGX outside of the big cities. Expat bars in Kampala or other cites may charge double for food and drinks.
If you are in Kampala, you can get all kinds of international cuisine, though the quality is not stellar and the prices are a bit high. Outside of Kampala, some cities may have a café or two and maybe Indian food. If you are lucky, you might find Ethiopian food in one place or another. There are lots of ethnic Indians and Ethiopians in Uganda and they have brought their excellent food with them. Cities like Gulu, Fort Portal, Kasese, Mbale, Kbale, Entebbe, Lira, Jinja, Mbarara, and Masaka are probably big enough to have a café, Indian place, and/or pizza available. Outside these cities, only the expensive lodges will serve international dishes. So, outside the large cities and lodges, you’ll have to “go local”.
As of 2017, Uganda is an extremely safe country. I have only been chased off a crag once. That’s it. I think driving/road accidents are probably the biggest threat. Lots of folks get hurt on boda bodas (motorcycle taxis) and that is one of the riskiest things you can really do in the country. It is not recommended to take bodas at night. Theft is common, but it is usually petty theft and rarely violent. Watch out for drunkards. They are more aggressive and may pick a fight or cause other harm, but not more so than in other countries.
Malaria tends to hit everyone that has been in the country long enough, though some are here for years before getting it the first time. Typhoid also tends to hit everyone here for a while. I got vaccinated and still got it eventually. Traveler’s diarrhea and other food poisoning are common. Everyone that gets in the water much, goes sailing, rafting or kayaking gets bilharzia eventually and we have just learned to accept that can take the necessary treatment a couple times a year.
Some of the routes have been climbed so rarely that large, loose rocks still pose risks. Other than that, climbers often see snakes, but I don’t know of anyone who has been bitten. Bees are quite common in some crags, so if you come across a hive, just try to keep your head and gently move past them or out of their way. Easier said than done…
Like with eating, adjusting to local standards can make your trip much more convenient, cheaper and more of an adventure. Rooms in Ugandan guesthouses usually run from 10k to 30k per night. Paying 30-40k should get you a self-contained room and maybe even hot water. Paying closer to 10k will get you a very basic room, probably lacking a chair or table and bathroom. The cheapest rooms will have cold, bucket showers and shared pit latrine toilets. Local guesthouses are easy to find and are near town centers. All rooms should have a bed, pillow, sheets and a mosquito net. If you tend to be cold blooded, ask for an extra blanket. Nicer guesthouses will have some furniture, inside the compound parking, a basic garden and maybe a swimming pool.
Very nice lodges exist near the larger towns and national parks. You can get rooms for 50-500+ USD per night and these places are great!
Camping is allowed in loads of places as well. If you are on a very tight budget and/or want to sleep right at the crag, take your tent. Locals will usually let you camp right on their land for free or just a few thousand shillings. I have often done this. If you are worried about security, parking and camping within the grounds of a school or church might be safer. In that case, there is usually a night guard and you should pay something or leave a small donation. Lots of proper campsites exist too, usually near the main attractions and parks. Camping at a proper campsite is usually more expensive than local guesthouses because this is a tourist/muzungu activity and therefore prices are higher. Such camping usually includes access to showers, sometimes even hot ones, communal toilets and may include tea/coffee and a light breakfast.
Note on Transportation
All of these climbs can be reached through a combination of public transport and boda boda hire (motorcycle taxis). However, most climbers in Uganda have cars or ride with friends. It’s hard to do much climbing in Uganda if you don’t have a car or stay very near to the crag.
Driving in Uganda Any four-wheel drive can get you all around Uganda. The main roads rarely wash out. Road construction is ongoing and may slow you down. Potholes will cause significant wear and tear on your car. During rainy season, some village roads are likely to be impassible. Large, Land Cruiser or Defender type vehicles are the best, but small SUVs like Rav4s also do great.
There is wide disparity in the quality of fuel available at a hodge podge of petrol stations. Best advice is to always fill up at one of the very well known stations like Shell or Total, otherwise your car might run a bit funny. All the major towns have a major petrol station. If you are in a very rural area, you might have no other choice but to fill up locally. If you are very worried about this, take a jerry can of fuel with you, though the major towns are all close enough together that this really isn’t necessary.
Google Maps and other interactive online maps cover the country, but are quite inaccurate sometimes so use them with caution. Asking for directions can be hard because it is common for Ugandans to always answer when asked, even if they have no idea what you are asking. Just ask several people to see this in action, as they are likely to point you in totally different directions. The boda boda drivers tend to know their way around the best, so just ask one to show you the way and follow the boda in your car. That can work if their verbal instructions are difficult to understand.
Car Rental You can get rental cars from the airport in Entebbe. Tour companies also sometimes rent. Also, lots of Ugandans rent out their cars informally. For example, my mechanic rents a variety of cars for 50-100k per day. Just ask around to find the option you want. Even asking a taxi or Uber driver from the airport will likely lead you to a cousin or uncle that has a car for rent. These will be cheaper than the international car hire agencies, but may lack maintenance, support, and the professionalism as well.
Public and other Transport There is a system of buses and matatus (taxi) that cover nearly all the roads in Uganda. These are quite cheap and getting information is as simple as asking around in any town center. They are usually a bit uncomfortable, slow, crowded and very dusty. A ride from Kampala to Moroto might take you 12-15 hours on a bus while the same car ride takes around nine hours. I have almost always moved around Uganda by car. Once off the bus/taxi, people use boda bodas (motorcycle taxi) for shorter trips. They are fast, fun and cheap, but dangerous. Be ready to tell your boda driver puli puli if they are going too fast. Some of these guys seem to have no fear! Uber works throughout Kampala and exists in some of the large cities. If you need a ride, just ask around a bit. I often ask a guesthouse guard (askari) to help me find a reliable ride.
Power goes out almost daily in the large cities, is regularly out in the smaller cities and some towns and villages still have no power except a few solar lights and batteries. So, carry a solar light, head torch, extra batteries, and a power bank for your phone, etc. Always keep a head torch near you at night. Keep batteries fully charged or nearly so. So if the power is “there”, plug in. Uganda has the same plug as the UK, so adaptors are really easy to find. Definitely bring a USB adaptor for a car as that is a handy way to charge a phone should all your other options run out.
The Best Advice…
Probably the most useful piece of advice I can give is to never rush conversations with Ugandans. It gets their backs up. They become apprehensive and seem to assume you either don’t respect them or are up to no good. I try to talk to Ugandans until they seem bored with me, which doesn’t take long. Small talk goes a long way. I have been “detained” a couple times in Uganda by police and or park rangers. In all cases, after fully hearing out what they had to say, making small talk and having a few laughs, I made new friends and walked away either for free or for a small fine paid for whatever perceived infraction I had committed. This can be annoying, but keep in mind that many places in Uganda see very few outside visitors. Your visit is often quite interesting and exciting for the locals, so do yourself and them a favor by spending a few minutes chatting. I’ve done this all over the country and it has always made things go more smoothly.
ViewRanger, theCrag.com, GPS, Google Earth and Navigation for the Hikes and Climbs
There are free downloads of .gpx files for all the hikes and climbs in this book. For hiking routes, go to the ViewRanger website, search in Uganda under the hike name and download the tracks to your phone, gps or computer. You can load and follow these tracks using a number of free smartphone apps like ViewRanger or OSMand. For the climbing crags, you can download the navigation files from theCrag.com. Once on that website, go to Uganda and simply select the crag you want. On the crag’s map, click the download button and you’ll find options for either .gpx files or .kml file downloads. Again, the .gpx files can be loaded on your phone using ViewRanger or OSMand or a similar smartphone app. The .kml files are compatible with Google Earth.©
Access is freely granted almost everywhere by a warm local welcome. Most Ugandans are extremely poor by comparison to most travelers, so they might expect climbers to share or give something. Climbers are not obliged to give anything in most cases, but giving a little something small can go a long way.
Rather than giving handouts, I look for every opportunity to pay Ugandans for useful goods and services. That might be paying a guide or porter, or hiring someone to look after my car. Additionally, I agree to give donations to schools and churches if I camp on their property. I regularly give 2-5k UGX for parking on someone's land. I also buy local produce, stay in local guest houses, and eat locally. I try to always mention that I am climbing or hiking and also try to thank everyone for welcoming me into their community. Through this, I hope to give positively to these communities and build a positive impression of climbers and hikers in all these communities. I hope this will not only boost the local economy, but help pave the way for more adventurers to come and explore this amazing country.©
Climbing came to Uganda with the British who ruled it as a protectorate until 1962. The first climbing guide was published in that year. A supplement to the first guide was published in 1963. In 1991 an updated climbing guide was reprinted, but contained very few new routes/crags.
The Idi Amin years saw climbing and mountaineering activities cease. The Bush War prevented the same in the 1980s. The LRA War and general banditry in Northern Uganda and Karamoja prevented climbing and mountain exploration well beyond 2000, however climbing and exploring was common in Central, East, and West during the 90s and beyond. It was not until 2013 that climbing and mountain exploration began to take place all over Uganda, including West Nile, Acholiland, and Karamoja and these regions are now ripe for further exploration. This book only scratches the surface of this amazing country.©
Some content has been provided under license from: © Matt Battani (Matt Battani)
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