Although I’ve now flown on MAF a good number of times, it’s still a thrill to see the little planes on the airstrip at Kajinski. Brought up on tales of missionary adventures in Africa I early on knew about MAF and never dreamt that one day I would be sitting in an 12 seater flying over that beautiful continent.
Today our pilot for the 90 minute flight to Moyo is a Dutchman called Rembrandt. I’m not sure what height we fly at but it’s low enough that unless there is cloud, the beauty of Uganda can clearly be seen below you. Leaving the sprawl of Entebbe, the landscape changes, a contrast of green and orange as roads crisis cross and snake between settlements, the sun glinting off the metal roofs. You can see the patterns created by agriculture: neat, angular plantations and coloured strips marking different crops. The presence of water is marked by narrow clusters of tall trees which wind their way along the banks of invisible rivers. Further out, the land is largely undisturbed except for the occasional road or small village. And then there are the barely visible tracks which fade into the green. Dark patches of forest run for miles across this flat, flat plain, cut through by wide meandering treeless avenues. Every now and then there’s a small compound, so remote that it seems hard to imagine life there.
We are flying pretty much in a straight line to Moyo (NNW if I’m remembering my girl guide badge work correctly) and to the right of the plane we can see Lake Kyoga, one of Africa’s massive inland seas. The end we are flying over narrows into the Victoria Nile which winds west to Lake Albert. Lake Albert straddles the border with the Congo and is fed by the Albert Nile (patriotic lot round here!) which much further north in South Sudan becomes the Blue Nile. Then, on our left, according to the map we are following there’s a national park and game reserve at the top of which are the Murchison Falls which are home to a big hydroelectric dam.
Approaching the falls, you can see tiny white lines, looking all the world like someone has spilt a bottle of Tippex across the water; these are the rapids caused as the river falls away towards Lake Kyoga. Flying directly overhead, the water shimmers like burnished silver as it reflects the bright sunlight, its surface constant movement as the water is pushed and pulled, competing for the narrow paths through the rocks.
The last leg, over Gulu and Adjumani, takes you over terrain that is largely uninhabited and presumably for the main part untouched. There is a small ridge of mountains running north to south in an otherwise flat plain. From time to time you can see tiny clusters of tukuls but apart from the odd road scarring the surface of the land, from our height there are no signs of modern life. It’s the end of the rainy season, but the only clouds we see are comfy puffs of white floating below us, for all the world as if a child has taken their mother’s bag of cotton wool and joyously torn it up and tossed it into the sky.
Of course, where there are clouds, there’s turbulence and as we start our descent into Moyo it’s as if we enter a new world of towering clouds that gently bump and buffet us about. Coming through the clouds we see the hilly country that surrounds Moyo. Small hills peppered with rocks lie underneath us and then first the farms and then the town appear. Swinging around in a wide arc, the airstrip appears and we touch down.