Monday March 6 2017

Charmed by the warmth of the Ik

The Ik entertain the mountain climbers. Photo

The Ik entertain the mountain climbers. Photo by JOEL SSENYONYI. 


Mid last month, a group of 50 set out for Kaabong District. Our mission was to climb Mt Morungole, visit the Ik community, and tour Kidepo Valley National Park. We looked forward to plenty of fun, tour of Uganda, and to raise money for Grace Villa, a home for vulnerable girls in Kabale District.
Thirteen hours later, we reached Kidepo Valley National Park, having made a one hour stop in Gulu for lunch. The park, a rugged savannah which sits on 1,442 square kilometres, was to be our place of abode for four days. We had the option of camping in tents, or occupying the bandas, beautiful small lodges in the park.

Selfies with Karamojong
On Friday morning, after a fairly heavy breakfast, we set out to climb Mt Morungole, the peak of which is home to several communities of the Ik. Before we got to the foot of the mountain, we made a stop at one of the trading centres and interacted with the Karamojong. This was an opportunity for our team to take pictures of and with the folks. One Karimojong warrior clad as such was a favourite for selfies.

Uphill task
The climb was exciting for many at the start, but the elation soon fizzled out as the climb began to take a toll on most. However, the sheer determination to make it to the top of the 2,749m high mountain was unmistakable. Along the way, we encountered some of the Ik trekking to the foot of the mountain as they normally do for light trade. On the hills of the mountain were several cows, a closer look at them sent shivers down our spines, given that they could be mistaken for goats due to their malnourished look. The drought which has hit many parts of the country has especially dealt a heavy blow on Karamoja. Thankfully, on the second day of our arrival, rain fell, something which had not occurred in months.

Mix and mingle
After a few hours of climbing, as we approached the peak we caught sight of the Ik communities. This was a source of reinvigoration. These people are welcoming. They received us with song and dance, sending a warmth through each of the climbers. This isolated lot, having been forced up the mountain by communities which rode roughshod over them. One of their most urgent needs seemed to be clothes, something which they pointed out to us. Fortunately we had brought them clothes, food, plus scholastic materials for the school-going children.

Wildlife time
On Saturday, with most people limping from the previous day’s rigour, we set out for a game drive through Kidepo Valley National Park, hoping to see several of the beasts. The team was elated to see two lionesses and two lions, all of which seemed to have just devoured prey. Interestingly, the lionesses do the hunting as the lions keep watch. I loathe the day among humans when women will do all the donkey work, as the men sit by. Most of the animals are generally shy and tend to flee on seeing cars. Other animals like the antelope live on the edge, considering they are the easiest to prey on by the carnivorous animals.
We hated for Sunday to arrive, as it meant departing for Kampala. Kidepo Valley National Park is must-visit, one gets to prove why Uganda is the Pearl of Africa. A memorable trip it was, considering all the boxes for its intention were ticked, and we put smiles on the young girls of Grace Villa in Kabale, for whom we partly embarked on this journey.

Mount Morungole lies within the Kidepo Valley National Park, north-east Uganda. It is in the rugged, semi-arid Karamoja province near the border with the Sudan. Neighbouring peaks are Mount Zulia, and the Labwor and Dodoth Hills reach heights in excess of 2,000 metres.
The local inhabitants are the Ik, who were moved by a previous administration. They were attached to Mount Morungole considering it a sacred place

BEFORE MOUNTAIN CLIMBING...Compiled by Joel Ssenyonyi

head gear

A sunhat or head sock would do you good if you have to climb a mountain. This is because the sun rays or extreme cold have to be kept at bay. Keep the colours neutral such as brown or navy blue because the wildlife sometimes is irritated by bright colours.


To enjoy your uphill climb, do not go in skinny tight jeans as your thighs and other body parts will suffocate in the sweaty activity. Cargo parts are the first option as they allow for aeration and comfort as one does the hectic activity. Even then, you can make bigger strides.


The terrain is normally slippery and hard. Protect your feet with safari boots or hikers’ shoes lest you get bruised. This type of shoes is designated to keep your feet from sharp objects and keep you steady on the terrain. You could also go for walking shoes instead of running shoes.