As the funeral started to wind down, Pauline and I decided to head slowly back towards Entebbe and our flight home. But there was a place I really wanted to visit as I had read about it in depth over the years. The place is known as Fort Patiko and is 30 km from Gulu. The fort is more a pile of rocks with a deep trench surrounding it, but it has an important historical history especially to Africa nerds like me.
can’t really do justice to Fort Patiko here in this blog as it would go on for thousands of words, but I will include some links for you to follow which will give a much broader insight into one of the foremost yet almost unknown explorers of the time Sir William White Baker. He was one of those extraordinary men that lived in the early part of the 19th century and a real hero of mine. He had an amazing life, here we will only cover a very small part of it.
In 1861 he decided to find the source of the Nile but was beaten to it. However, he was the first white man to see Lake Albert. He was a civil engineer of some note and also invented the first elephant gun that was capable of killing the beast with one shot. He was fluent in Arabic and German and was a fierce abolitionist. In fact, when he was traveling with the Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1858-59 they visited a town called Vidin, in Bulgaria, and to amuse the Maharaja they visited a slave market. There Baker saw, and fell in love with, one of the slaves who was destined for the Ottoman Pasha. He bid as high as he could but was beaten by the Pasha. The story goes he bribed one of the merchantmen who was responsible for the slaves and ran off with the woman. They then went to England and were married. She spent the rest of her life with him traveling around the world.
Anyway, back to Fort Patiko. In 1869 Baker had been made the Governor-General of a new territory of Equatoria which included parts of Egypt, Southern Sudan, and northern parts of present-day Uganda. He was asked by Ismail Pasha, the ruler of the region, to stop the slavery that was going on in his kingdom. As a stoic abolitionist, he was up for the job. He was given 1600 Egyptian troops and enough supplies for sixty days then he and his wife set out across the plains of Sudan and entered what is now Uganda. They were on a much longer trip which is well written about in a post called An Expedition to Africa with Samuel Baker. They walked to Fort Patiko and chased away the Arab Slavers who had occupied the site for many years. Baker then freed the slaves and took up occupation.
When Pauline and I visited Fort Patiko we were amazed at how it had been so well preserved. There is an office where a very informative guide is available to show any visitors around. As in all places where slaves have been kept there is always an oppressive atmosphere as if the fear and cruelty have been somehow burnt into the buildings and rocks. The Arab traders had forced the slaves to chip away at the granite rock to make small caves about six feet square. They had then kept the slaves in these incredibly cramped conditions until they were sent to Kuwait, Iraq, and other middle eastern countries. Our guide showed us rocks that were blood red, which he said had been stained with the blood of the slaves. He also showed us chips on the hard granite where he said slaves that misbehaved had their heads chopped off!
The top of the site was covered with old gnarled amarula trees which were laden with fruit. Pauline and I sat on top of the rocks sucking on an amarula and looking out towards Sudan. We wondered if Samuel and his wife had sat on the exact spot over one hundred years ago and eaten the sweet fruit dreaming of home.
The tour was very interesting, and we were allowed to clamber all over the rocky outcrop and view the remains of the building. It was very clear that Fort Patiko was a very important site for Ugandan’s history as it was the start of the end of the slave trade in this region and the development of the country. Although it did become a British Protectorate for many years and has gone through some absolutely terrible civil wars, I think the country has a fantastic future ahead of it.
I was so impressed with Fort Patiko that I made sure I used it in my latest book African Vengeance. I am so honored that I am able to visit these wonderful sites and then be able to add them to my stories and hopefully in a small way keep them relevant.
Stay tuned for the final instalment where we visit the famous Murchison Falls. Have a great month and speak to you soon. If you have any questions about this mail or any other, or just want to have a chat, then please feel free to email me at [email protected] I love to hear from my readers.
Bye for now.