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Uganda: Sipi Falls

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Sipi Falls | Uganda | Africa

[Visited: March 2015]

The minibus to Mbale fills quickly, and we are on our way in no time. But getting out of Kampala turns out to be a lenghty affair, and even though I have asked twice if the matatu was really going to Mbale, and have gotten positive replies, it turns out that it was stopping in Iganga. Shortly before arriving in that town, I am moved to another matatu, with a mzungu on the front seat, while I am squeezed into the back. Even though the matatu is full, the assistant on the bus keeps on shouting our destination to waiting people at the roadside, and the bus gets always fuller and space scarcer. The white girl gets a quite big boy on her lap, and the row in front of me has a guy with a live chicken under his seat. The closer we get to Mbale, the more stops we make: every person getting off means that someone else can get on, and we end up taking more than five hours to reach Mbale. There, I am told that the minivan to Sipi leaves from far away, and that I need a bodaboda. However, after less than 100 metres, the driver stops, and I get into the minivan. I refuse to pay, and a little quarrelling goes on. In the end, everyone sees my point, laugh at the driver, who quietly disappears.

Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): The canyon and cliff over which the third waterfall of Sipi thunders down

The drive to Sipi is pretty straightfoward, apart from a short stop at a crossroads where our car gets attacked by a crowd of aggressive sellers. Suddenly, plastic bags full of tomatoes are inserted through the windows. And of course, almost everyone buys a bag or two, which are then added to the pile of luggage in the back. I just hope my bag won't be covered by tomato juice at the end of the ride. I also wonder what is so special about these tomatoes? It is getting dark and rainy when I am dropped off at the beginning of the village of Sipi. To my surprise, a guy is waiting for me: he has been informed by someone in Mbale who has seen e taking this minivan. I drop my stuff in a rondavel with views of the waterfall, but it is too late to really see it, and it is raining always harder. I just hope for the best for the next day. During dinner, the guy tells me that to visit the waterfall will cost $75, and when I first think he makes a joke, it soon turns out he is serious. I am appalled, and ask how this amount is calculated. I soon decide to skip one other waterfall, and want to walk, but still the entrance and guiding supposedly costs $25, which is an absurd amount for just seeing a waterfall in Uganda - we are not talking the mightiest fall here, after all. When I light the oil lamp in my dark room, there is only the sound of falling rain.

Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): Playing primate in the trees at the third waterfall of Sipi

The next day, I wonder what the sound is I hear outside, and suddenly realize that the rain has stopped, and I am hearing the falls. I hurry outside: the clouds are just high enough to make the lowest waterfall visible, and I wonder what I will be able to see. We walk up to the first waterfall, a beautiful walk on a trail past farms, through plantations, under trees, and hear the water fall before we see it through the fog. You can get close to the small pool where the water from above empties into, before disappearing under the earth. Walking down brings us past some nicely decorated houses, and we arrive at a small pool where people are washing their clothes, and motorbikes: right over the edge, is the second tier of Sipi Falls. Walking further down, we come to a school where, just below the building, we get a great view of the mightiest third stage of Sipi Falls. With some effort, I manage to convince the guide that we should go down, on a rickety and slippery wooden ladder. There is a big group of monkeys playing in the trees on our way down to the bottom of the falls. The view from here is awesome: you look up the steep cliffs, the enormous arch, and the constant spray of water coming down from above. The clouds are lifting a little, and when we are back at the edge of the escarpment a little further down the valley, I can actually see both the first and third stage of Sipi Falls. A good farewell of these fine falls at the foot of Mount Elgon.

Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): The first and third waterfall of Sipi in overview of the landscape
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): The third waterfall of Sipi
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): The first waterfall of Sipi partly covered by the fog
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): The last, and tallest, waterfall of Sipi with plants in front
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): Third waterfall of Sipi
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): The third waterfall seen from a distance
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): Steep and rickety ladder leading into the valley formed by the third and lowest waterfall
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): View across the ravine of the third, and tallest, waterfall
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): View of the second waterfall
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): People using the water basin above the second falls to wash their clothes or motorbike
Picture of Sipi Falls (Uganda): Trail leading to the first waterfall of Sipi

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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