greetings from gulu: discovering fort patiko and aruu falls

When I decided I had fully packed the essentials for our weekend camping in Gulu, there were all kinds of thoughts running through my head. It was finally time for me to make my own judgement, based on a camping experience with a group of 50 others.

Our plan was to hike up Fort Patiko on Saturday and then take a dip into the Aruu falls on Sunday…

Fort Patiko is one of the most famous historical sites in Nothern Uganda, a 137-year-old fort built by Sir Samuel Baker in 1872. The fort, built on an imposing rocky hill in Ajulu parish, was the site of Samuel Bakers first major victory against Arab slave traders from the Sudan later becoming the base from which he protected British interests in the region.

To discover this new part of Uganda that I had heard mixed reactions about for so long made me nervous, anxious and excited at the possibilities of the unknown. The mountain slayers Uganda were the organizers of this trip and the thought of meeting new people at a camping site was slightly frightening. It was good to have my work colleagues join in.

Getting there

As we were a large group, we took two buses for about 5 hours and arrived late in the night at Fort Patiko where we set up camp, with torch light.

I was mentally prepared for the outdoor experience, with the star-filled sky beaming down on us.I had to be very hands on right there and then… By the time my air mattress was puffed up and fitted into my small tent, my eyelids were heavy.

Activities and Food

Our itinerary the next day involved breakfast, then start 6-8 hour hike up three different mountains… It was a sunny Saturday morning, with most of us radiating positivity, ready to take on the rocks and hills toward Fort Patiko.

Two hours into the hike and we had started to manoeuvre through tree twigs and thin plant strings. For me this meant being slapped by twigs a few times, as well as getting my feet coiled in plant strings. It also made sense raising our arms above our heads to avoid the elephant grass. It’s these little things that allowed us make it all the way to the top.

Our guides were very helpful in keeping a steady pace, allowing for breaks in between. It started to rain once or twice and I cursed having forgotten my umbrella in my tent.

Patiko however is a beauty endowed with mountains, hills and thick vegetation that made it all worthwhile.

We had dinner around a camp fire which included delicious boo and odi, made just right…Most of us carried snacks and plenty of water to keep hydrated throughout the walk. As I’d had a slight knee pain, I decided to skip the mountain slayer initiation ceremony, and dosed off to the sound of laughter and music.

Sunday morning was a delight, as I woke up refreshed. We decided to explore the rocks for the last time, which not only made for excellent photo backgrounds, but felt relaxing to simply sit and relax on.

Aruu Falls

Put simply, getting to Aruu falls was a team effort. Standing right beneath the falls and watching the water fall was the perfect way to spend the Sunday afternoon. Gulu is definitely is a part of Uganda that many may not know about and is worth exploring.

If you would like to plan a similar trip, I am willing to share with you some helpful contacts and answer further questions 🙂

Your travel-buddy,


Photos by: Timothy latim and Karen Kana

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