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The Ik Hike from Apoka

The Ik are one of Africa’s most remote and interesting tribes, living on top of Mount Morungole in Northern Kidepo. A visit to them is one of the most authentic that one will experience in Africa, largely because they are so untouched by the Western world as they are quite inaccessible.

It is an early departure – around 05h30 from Apoka Safari Lodge – and a 1.5-hour drive through Karamajong country to Kawalakol, the starting point of what will be a very long hike.

The first part of the journey was relatively easy as we mostly walked through a flat valley surrounded by smaller villages, cattle herds and pastures. The guides, rangers and armed UPDF soldiers determined the walking pace as we made our way up the first mountain range. What started as a scenic walk quickly turned into a hike and eventually into a serious mountain climb. After a strenuous one-hour journey, we reached the first resting point – a beautiful and wide plateau surrounded by large mountains. We were advised to eat enough during this break as the second and harder part of the journey was still ahead of us. Again, a scenic walk through a small swamp area until the path turned into a steep slope. Despite being in good shape we had to take several shorter breaks as most of us were exhausted after only a few

The guides were enouraging us to keep climbing as the weather in such an altitude changes quickly and we definitely did not want to be stuck on this mountain during a thunderstorm. We proceeded, silently without talking, concentrating on every step, just listening to our own breath.

Finally, after a 2.5 hours climb (it can take up to 4 hours however depending upon speed), we reached the top of Mount Morungule, completely covered in the clouds. We had our lunch break right before reaching the Ik village – a community living in a harsh environment beyond any modern technologies. On our way to the village I realized that we had not seen anyone on our hour hike up, which was no wonder considering the remoteness of this area.

The thought of giving up and simply going back was flittering through my mind, but when we eventually reached the village, I realized that it had all been worth it. The scenery, the people, the hospitality, the houses – it is like a different world up in the mountains of the Karamajong country. We visited a few huts and were told about the adventurous stories and traditions by which this tribe has been living for hundreds of years. We spent about an hour with them before heading back down.

On the way back we were surprised by a thunderstorm – something one of the elders of the Ik had foreseen and explained as a “never ending rain”. It took us about 2.5 hours to reach our initial starting point and eventually arrived, pretty soaked and exhausted; but happy and fulfilled by the impressions made.

It is truly life changing to interact with a community that has yet to be introduced to the most basic needs – needs that are seen by many of us as a natural given in any modernized environment. The scenery is magnificent, the tribe is fascinating and it is guaranteed to be one of your most memorable and authentic experiences in Uganda. Being with The Ik is a positive, feel-good experience too… they are content people, and highly value their freedom and isolation.

I believe it is one of the last remaining opportunities to see a true African lifestyle, characterized by old traditions, cultural dances and mystical rituals as it seems like the modern world has not yet reached to this part of Africa. It is however not for the faint-hearted! One needs a very good level of fitness in order to be able to make it.

The hike works best to enjoy as part of a 3-night trip to Apoka Safari Lodge, so that with one full day being dedicated to the hike and the tribe, one can still have enough time to enjoy the magic of Kidepo Valley National Park.