By Abalo Irene Otto
It was all excitement and giggles on Saturday as about 300 runners prepared to brace themselves for a first time adventure inside of Murchison falls National Park for the Wild Run 2017 organized by Uganda Wildlife Authority in partnership with Total E & P and Federation of Uganda Tourism Initiatives, FUTI-Uganda to create awareness among the local community about the need to utilize the available resources for local tourism.
The time check was 8:48am. The gate man at Pakuba was smiling as he inspected the vehicles and asking for details from drivers about the tourists on board. About two buses, a range rover, pick up and tour zip were parked simultaneously near the gate.
What started as a brief 5KM run that was calculated to take about an hour took just the calculated time.
The anxiety among the participants could be read all over their faces. Students, from nearby schools of Uganda College of Commerce Pakwach and Pakwach Senior Secondary School joyfully descended their buses to join the procession that started from the gate with a walk then a run through the park to Pakuba Safari lodge. It was the first time Uganda Wild Life Authority allowed a run inside a park.
Elephants could be seen feeding in the nearby bushes as antelopes dashed from side to side looking for their mates.
The Executive director of FUTI-Uganda, Labwoni Kabakumba Masiko dressed to impress in her blue jeans and white t-shirt with the inscription, “ Wild Run” printed in brown colours with pictures of trees and a giraffe eating at the front and “Run for tourism and wild life conservation” at the back.
“Do not fear, we have enough security around here and we are running for fun and to create awareness about tourism and wild life conservation in our region and beyond. You can rest or walk till we reach Pakuba Safari Lodge. The winners will get prizes but we are here for a cause, not competition,” said Masiko.
She later gave the floor to Nwoya district LCV Chairman Patrick Okello Oreyma was adorned himself in black and white, just like the New youthful Pakwach LCV chairman, Omito Robert. Christopher Ocuwun, the PRO Total agreed to have a challenge of finishing the race before the local government leaders.
It was a relief for many when the chief runner, Chris Opoka, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly flagged off the runners.
“Please go slow, don’t fall. Please space up. We are all winners here,” shouted Opoka after a brief remark about the need for locals to embrace tourism and enjoy the beauty of what lies in their region.
Off went the crowd with a few men tumbling and falling off the truck. Three men then fell in a raw with another skipping over one a continuing with a deer’s speed. Thank God, no one was hurt in the brief stampede so the Red Cross team did not have work from the start till the end.
The team of chairmen ran in their league, in silence till they were too tired to continue. Patrick Okello Oryema was then left behind by Pakwack LCV Chairman, Omito Robert Steen.
The secondary school girls and boys took it more seriously and in 30 minutes, most of them were at Pakuba Safari lodge.
The Red Cross team helped give first aid and massage as the bliss and glamour of fashion and design began to emerge. Some runners joined the team resting with taking pictures and selfies while others just continued chatting away and jogging. It was an environment for catching up with old friends too and the green lawn at Pakuba gives one a feel of the fresh breeze from River Nile Overlooking about 300 meters away. The chairs were set in the tent with reggae tunes from Lucky Dube and Bob Marley filling the air.
Those who were not too tired raced to the backyard to explore the beauty of Pakuba with a newly built swimming pool and an art gallery.
Kabakumba Masiko arrived with a cheerful,“This is the real wild run because we ran inside the park. “
In a few minutes, teams of two, three or five started arriving. Some were so excited that they hugged amidst the sweat washing their bodies while others preferred to do exercises. A girl took to standing on her hands on the floor as another carried a guy on her back in a back to back game.
Miss Tourism, Pakwach was all in selfies with her friends as another Muslim lady arrived with her friends, fully dressed in a hijab carrying an umbrella. She smiled sweetly and joined the rest of her friends in conversation.
The Total PRO, Christopher Ocuwun arrived just before Nwoya LCV chairman arrived alone but was morale boosted by Pakwach LCV Omito Robert Steen.
The day was crowned with speeches, more selfies and cool music in the background without the scare of wild animals since the rangers were all over the place, guns in their hands as they smiled and waved to whoever cared to smile with them.
Nwoya district Woman Member of Parliament, Lilly Adong, Assistant Director of Murchison Conservation Area, Tom Okello Obong together with other local leaders later awarded, silver, bronze and cold meddles to the first three winners of the run for both male and female. The third, fourth and fifth winners got a yellow twenty liter jerrycan and basin each.
Okello later told the runners to enter their vehicles on their way back and follow the specified truck rout back to and out of the gate in peace. Those who opted for game drive were given rangers for directions and guide. One by one, the buses left as other vehicles followed by around 3:00pm for yet another adventure as the animals especially the elephants, antelopes and giraffes ate peacefully in the park, their home and grazing land.