Mount Napak – cave folks and a jungle up there

Having scaled Mt.Moroto the previous day, I was hoping for the next day’s Mt. Napak hike (about 1.5 drive away). Very rainy morning greeted us, so instead I ended up exploring all the markets of Moroto, and quite an educational Karamoja museum in town.

The base for Napak hike is in Iriri – small town tucked between Napak and Okisim Mountains. The sky partly opened up midday. Greeted by my guide Francis in Iriri, I pitched my tent at a house of Moses and Betty. Very nice and hospitable people involved in farming, ploughing fields for others with tractor: also in beekeeping and tree planting. They even built a pub/bar by the road, with some eccentric lights and decorations. Apparently a place to be on Wed and Fri with people coming all the way from Moroto. I enjoyed a few games of pool with Moses there in the evening, him earlier entering the bar on his motorbike :-).

No rain at night made for reasonably good hiking conditions the following morning. Francis being late, we drove about 20 min to the rural health center – where our hike started amidst scattered local settlements and fields of maize. The soil around here looks very fertile as Napak is an old extinct volcano. The density of population still very low around and we passed the last village of Lokwanamoru.

The mud was very sticky (and heavy) on our shoes: my two guides had shoes with very smooth insoles… some falls ensued…. We took a “new” alternative route to the top as the shortest route apparently too steep and slippery in these conditions. After about 1.5 hr, the terrain became steep advancing toward the ridge. Already enjoying some nice views here and there, we reached there pretty quick. The surprise came when the trail did not continue along the ridge as I expected, but went deeper and across the mountain: the terrain was expansive and flatter.

Another surprise is that we crossed from more of (what is usually) a woodland to the tropical high forest, with some fresh water streams. Big tall trees in lush valleys: this side of the mountain must hold enough water year round. Something not expected in this dry part of the country?

We met a few recent “settlers” on top of the mountain, Lomeche and Longole. They moved up the mountain from the plains. As they said, their minds are now “free” and they very much enjoy their freedom. They cultivate maize, and when we arrived there were chewing upon some local wild greens, laughing that this is now their food!

The guys showed us around some caves, where Lomeche also sleeps. There are more of such caves on the mountain inhabited by people. I have an open invitation to visit again, camp up there and explore the caves and make friends with local folks. I am sure I will be back :-).

Same as few days before, I did not reach the very “top” of the mountain, but it was very fun to roam around the mountain’s plateau. I must say I enjoyed Mt. Napak even more than Mt. Moroto, mainly because of the lush forest, big plateau on top and less impact of the people (yet) on the mountain. Very friendly people in a nice village. Lots to explore here again.

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