Sir Samuel Baker remains a familiar name in the Northern part of Uganda. For good or bad reasons, I’ll leave that to you to decide. But on this trip, he was the hero that fought the slave trade at Fort Patiko in Gulu. And it wasn’t just him, but his wife too: power couple goals. If you are camping at Aruu falls, then you aren’t too far off from this historical site; it’s worth the visit!
The drive to Fort Patiko takes you across River Aswa as you cross from Pader into Gulu district. For years, I’ve been curious about what lies beneath its bridge. A brief stop for photos, and I was running down the steep sides to get beneath it. You see, each time I passed over it, the groups of kids cooling off the day’s heat in the river, or the lone boda-boda guy washing his motorcycle or bicycle caught my eye. Turns out it’s all rocks and pockets of fine sand. The dry season also meant low water levels. Watermarks on the sturdy pillars suggest how high the water levels rise during the wet months. My agelong curiosity was finally satisfied!
Generally, the journey was hot but not dusty, even when we hit the murram road.
On arrival, I loved the UWA reception cabin ushering us to the historic site. I was equally impressed by the information signboards and the extremely welcoming, enthusiastic, and informed tour guides. They made trekking in that scorching heat worthwhile! The occasional breeze provided no relief, for it too was hot, dry and occasionally carried dust.
It was through the stone-walled main entryway also called the gate of no-return that we commenced the tour. The guides narrated horrific stories of deceit, betrayal, and torture that local Ugandans endured at the hands of the slave traders: thousands of undocumented deaths and acts of sexual violence as characterised by the slave trade era. Beyond the gate of no-return lies a flat grass lawn, leading to the rocky plateau on which both death and victory resided. It’s a painful walk into the past!
According to historians, relief from the slave trade and its horrors came in the form of Sir Samuel Baker and his wife. Before their marriage, he had saved her from a slave market in Europe. It was a cause close to home. His intervention alongside the existing fight by local communities eventually paid off and saw an end to this painful era. Today, standing high on the rocky plateau, one now peacefully enjoys a splendid view of the grass plains to one side and the surrounding hills to the other.
A visit to Fort Patiko partly released my inner-hero and brought to life the saying, “Bad things happen when good people do nothing.”
Do something good today, it doesn’t have to be as grand as fighting slave trade, it simply has to be good!