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Discovering new gems while hiking the Sipi falls

 

 For a traveller in Uganda, one of the must visit areas is the country’s eastern district of Kapchorwa.

The district is home to the Sabiny people with ethnic ties to the Kalengin in Kenya who are famously known for their choice of hilly areas as their dwelling places.

It is also home to some of Uganda’s top athletic icons like Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo and Steven Kiprotich who have inspired a generation of athletes in the area.

Travelling to Kapchorwa, the feeling of one entering the land of world champions is compounded by the area’s scenic views of hills dotted with small streams of water flowing down the vegetated highlands, occasionally forming small waterfalls.

The roads then meander uphill through this beauty, a sight to marvel at.

On the slopes of the hills are small gardens of coffee and bananas running down to the valleys that are occupied by several houses.

Since the country lifted the ban on travel and tourism as a way of containing the spread of the coronavirus, several youth travel groups have taken to domestic tourism to relieve lockdown stress.

We had travelled as a group to this place with a mission of conquering the four hour hike to the three falls, taking on the daring abseiling and discovering new things not commonly known about this place.

Day one saw us travel from the capital Kampala and headed east making stopovers at Jinja city one of the country’s top tourism destinations famed for the source of River Nile. The journey went further east to Mbale city known for the Mountain Elgon and its inhabitants’ culture before entering the precincts of Kapchorwa.

Our final destination would then be Rafiki lodge, a budget facility built on the edge of a ridge overlooking the vast Karamoja plains and a short distance away from one of the falls.

Rafiki Safari Lodge

In the night, we could hear the mighty thunderous waters falling from the ridge into the valley far below.

The nights here are cold ones and the only warmth we found was by the campfire, telling stories, playing music and drinking away into the night.

Then came the day and we had to take a daring four hour hike through the local communities, past several streams to the three Sipi falls.

By around 10:00am, our guide Job Soyekwo of Mulima adventures briefed us before we set off, warning us about interacting with the locals because of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“Kapchorwa is one of the perfect destinations to visit while you’re in Uganda. The landscape of rolling hills, culture, waterfalls and one of the finest coffee is grown here,” Soyekwo said.

Excited children, youths and elderly all waved at us along the way with smiles on their faces.

The trek takes you through different feel homesteads of mud and wattle houses at the base of the hills.

We went higher in a single file, trekking through organised coffee and banana plantations occasionally taking breaks to either catch our breaths or wait for colleagues lagging behind.  

It took us nearly an hour of climbing uphill to the first water falls, a gushing phenomenon that one sees uphill when entering Kapchorwa town.

It is here that several visitors love to get wet. The water is strong and the wind blows it around the precincts of the fall. Standing near it felt akin to standing in a rain storm but many in our group took the dare and at times tried to out scream its gushing waters.

The trek continued from here to the next falls taking us through giant rocks and little cold streams flowing downhill.

It was a great descend against huge rocks until we got to the second waterfall. This one had caves which Soyekwo said used to be an assembly point for teenage boys who had come of age and were to undergo the circumcision ritual, a common practice among the Sabiny people.

Here one can buy goodies, souvenirs or a cup of coffee. We found several other travellers here many of whom couldn’t dare the hike to the first waterfall.

Sipi falls

The third and final water fall located about 20 minutes away was as breath-taking as the other two. The only difference was that for this one, we emerged from atop of it.

It is the commonest picture taken online of the Sipi falls.

Here is where abseiling, the epitome of the whole hike is done.

It involves one being tied on a rope at the top of the falls and then sent on a descent of the cliff just beside the falls.

This experience only attracts adrenaline junkies and those who fear no heights.

Other things to do in Kapchorwa.

Kapchorwa offers good terrain for cycling.

The area is also near the Pian Upe Game reserve which has animals like cheetahs, buffalos, kobs, different bird series and vegetation types.

The area is also near Mount Elgon National Park.

Cultural tourism is also an option in this area.

 

Here is a recap Video of the trip.

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Mr Jonathan Kamoga is a journalist currently working with The EastAfrican Newspaper. He has keen interest in regional Tourism, aviation and conservation.

kamogajonathan50@gmail.com

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