Karamoja Tour is off the beaten track

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By JULIUS BARIGABA

This year’s Tour of Karamoja annual cycling event will take cyclists to the West Pokot region of Kenya, the beautiful pristine part of the East African Rift.

Now in its fourth edition, the tour begins last week and continued until October 30. It was six days of immersive activity, spanning two animal parks, a distance of 500 km – 99 percent of which was gravel road – and a total ascent of up to 5,000 meters above sea level.

For the first time, the tour passed through West Pokot County in Kenya for a special 63 km stage, which traverses the scenic Amudat Hills in Uganda to the shores of Lake Turkana in Kenya.

The tour annually explores the potential of adventure tourism, with biking or hiking in remote locations, game parks and long stretches of deserted and open land.

“It’s the combination of an authentic local experience, the ability to reach off the beaten track areas and a physical challenge. In short: a real immersive experience, ”said Theo Vos, co-founder and director of Kara-Tunga Arts and Tours, a local travel agency that hosts the event.

Adventure seekers who dared the Karamoja Tour say the thrill lies in connecting with communities on the trails, in nature and experiencing it firsthand through the East African part of the Rift Valley. .

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For tour tourists, the trail through animal parks, surrounded by wildlife, offers a better experience than game drives. On bikes, people feel vulnerable, but more connected to wildlife, including lions, Vos says.

Ultimate wilderness

Since 2019, the Karamoja Tour has been dubbed Uganda’s ultimate wilderness cycling event, which aims to give a positive image of northeastern Uganda and promote its pristine tourism.
Kara-Tunga Adventures usually warns participants before they register: It is a challenge for body, mind and equipment.

Organizers subject cyclists to a rigorous test to establish fitness level, state of health and riding experience before full registration.
Great Lakes Safaris businessman and tour operator Amos Wekesa, who has been on a previous tour, says it is a physical and mental challenge and the cultural and wildlife experiences are the icing on the cake .

The journey begins in the low savannah plains of the Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, travels through the forests of West Pokot in Kenya to the East African Rift Escarpment and finally descends into the award-winning National Park of the Kidepo valley.

Tour cyclists pay $ 995 per person for the full tour and $ 395 for a U-tour.
Shortly after the end of the East African Tour through the region, Scott Rowswell, the Canadian distributor and organizer of cycling events, said: “People are interested in adventure tourism. By that I mean tourism based on cycling, hiking in interesting and remote terrain. It’s a huge group on a global scale and it’s a business opportunity to develop, ”he said.

The potential for adventure is high, as tourists seek unique immersive experiences. The Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for tourists to leave all-inclusive resorts, mass tourism and learn more about their impact on their travels.

The idea is to travel less, but to stay longer for unique experiences.

Region
In 2011, the Karamoja sub-region was the site of an important fossil discovery.
paleontologists have reddened the remains of ugand-apithecus major, a 20-million-year-old ancestor of present-day primates.

“This is a very important fossil and it will definitely put Uganda on the scientific world map,” said Martin Pickford, one of the researchers involved in the find.

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