Uganda: Cycling in the Shadows of the Rwenzori

Posted: June 12, 2014 by kirisyko in Adventure Travel, Bike, SykOtic
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Below the majestic backdrop, dotted with green tea estates, rolling hills, over 100 craters

Not many Ugandans can think of cycling as an adventure. We see it as a way of life of Uganda’s poor rural folks. But that is if you haven’t cycled around the Rwenzori.

Sauntering through the wilderness -with a bike below you and the world all around – the scenic views give you second thoughts about a bicycle. It gives you chance to explore at your own speed, far from the dusty and heavy traffic main roads.

As instructed by our guide, David Joel Mwesige of Kabarole Tours, we woke up early -as the morning birds were chirping and the sun struggling to rise above a calm forested hill, surrounded by an extensive green tea estate. It is in this tranquility at the Jacaranda hilltop guesthouse that we had spent a night, before starting off our cycling expedition.

Situated on a hill six km off the Kampala-Fort Portal highway, inside Mpanga tea estate, which is 20km before Fort Portal town, this guesthouse is barely seven months old. It overlooks the tea estate on one side and is fenced off by the thick rainforest of Kibale national park on the other. The main structure is a house that was formerly the residence of the principal of a training institution for tea farmers.

It is reported to have been constructed in the 70’s and officially commissioned by former president Iddi Amin. This is before his bad rule had devastating effects on the economy: tea plantations were abandoned -with tea plants growing into big trees -some still standing on the boundary with the forest.

Since the revival of tea-growing in 1995, the house had been lying idle as the Ugandan principals prefer to live in urban centres. This prompted the tea estate, now owned by a group of farmers, to offer the house to a private developer. Richard Tooro, one of Uganda’s most knowledgeable tour guides quoted widely by travel guide books like Bradt, promptly turned it into a guesthouse.

Although it definitely needs some renovations, it can do for anyone keen on spending a night on a farm and get adventurous in the morning. Before setting off at 9am, our guide gave us a few lessons on how to brake and change the bicycle gears. It looked simple in the guesthouse lawn, but no sooner had we set off than one of us rolled. He had pressured both brakes and yet it was a steep slope.

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