Uganda Bike Ride 2013 part 8

Posted on by Elaine Miller

Thursday 14 February Paraa Lodge to Gulu

Our last day of cycling began with a drive through Murchison Falls National Park north of the Nile, where most of the game is to be seen. Elephant, giraffe, hartebeest, Ugandan cob and buffalo were all spotted.

Once out of the park, we were driven to Anaka, where we first visited the local African Revival office, a hub for the team supporting a number of schools in the area, useful to reduce the travelling time from Gulu where the main office is located. Andrew, who runs the office welcomed us. He and Kennet, who heads the AR operations in Uganda and Zambia, explained that during the fighting the local people had been displaced from their villages into camps. The local schools were abandoned and some schools such as the school at Anaka had been expanded. Its roll was now reduced to “only” 1200 children. It is a primary school notionally taking the children from 6 to 13 but in practice some come earlier and some much later (this wide age range not making the task of teaching effectively any easier). The head teacher welcomed us and invited us to be led into the school in a dancing, drumming procession, our path lined by clapping children and petals were scattered beneath our feet as we walked.

We were introduced to the teachers, the school management council, the PTA, the District Education Officer and members of the local council. The parish priest led a prayer and the children danced and sang for us. We saw some of the building projects African Revival had contributed to and the fruits of their other support, such as assisting in the development of teaching aids made from locally available materials. We were shown the school’s development plan that demonstrated the scale of the problem but also the determination of the community to improve the education for their children. It was a moving experience and one that reinforced the importance of the work that African Revival is doing and how important they have become to the schools they assist. We are extremely grateful for the generous support of all our sponsors that will make a significant contribution to that effort.

The school was generous with the time they devoted to entertaining us and we were behind schedule but eventually we were once more given our bikes and instructions for the ride to Koch Goma. Mandy’s knee had recovered enough to allow her to get back on the bike, with a little help from the bungee. Here in Northern Uganda it was evident that the land and the people were,still recovering from the conflict and the difference compared to the south was marked. The people a little less openly welcoming, although happy to react to our waves and greetings, the agriculture less organised and the buildings run down. The road was fairly rough, with sandy stretches and in the heat of the day it was a testing session (morale not helped by the fact that the 20km we were promised turned out to be 30 km and steadily uphill).

At Koch Goma, the children had waited patiently for our arrival (now some two hours late). A quick lunch followed by introductions and singing and a chance to see the new classroom block and classroom furniture funded by AR. We also joined a class to see the teaching in action, the children managing to concentrate well enough on their teacher’s lesson in the local language, Acholli (or Luo). We were invited to take some water as a token of their hospitality and then back on the bikes.

The road to Gulu was rougher and more uphill but our legs had the strength that comes from the knowledge that the end is in reach. On the outskirts of Gulu we gathered again, donned balloons and set off en mass into the town and to the Churchill Hotel. The townspeople snapped us on their phones and eventually we were there, dismounted and content, if a little weary. The slightly crumpled “something smart” clothes were donned (notable how different the girls and the men had interpreted this instruction) and a celebratory dinner enjoyed by all, including the speeches. Charles is a great spokesman for Uganda and Henk for Africa and adventure. Mandy and Glen did their bit for AR (Glen made three speeches today: all excellent, not least for their unexpected brevity). After dinner some hardy souls made to a local nightspot until the early hours (or so we are told).

Total distance covered 56.5 km. Total ascent 420m. Maximum temperature 41 C

With thanks to Glen and Wiliam for the update