Fort Patiko is located 32 km north of Gulu town in northern Uganda. It was a slave trade haven for the Arab traders in the late 1800’s and there are still marks as evidence of the gruesome killings that took place there. Surrounded by two beautiful hills – the Ajulu to the north and the Kiji to the south – the place is great for both climbers and campers. There are magnificent palm trees lining the road on both sides leading up to the Fort and it is said that this are the largest in Uganda. The Fort was used as a hideout for the rebels during the 20 year insurgency in the north as they would lie in wait for unsuspecting travelers and villagers that came to harvest the palm fruit for food. Now, however the area is extremely safe and the beautiful palm collection is beautiful to visit.
There are no tour guides at the Fort but you should stop at the Patiko sub-county town on the way to the Fort and ask for the sub-county Chief who serves as a guide. He charges 2,000 UGX for Ugandans and 5,000 UGX for foreigners. There is also a group fee if the group has more than 10 people of 20,000 UGX per group. The fees, he says, are used for the upkeep of the Fort. The Chief is an excellent guide, fluent in English so no translation is necessary.
The Fort itself appears abandoned – overgrown with grass and scrub – but this lends to the beauty and, as the Chief points out, some people do come just to use the grounds for photo shoots.
The tour starts at the entrance with the Chief pointing out the watchtower that is now crumbling and made of ancient stone. Next stop is a small cave where he says young girls were kept after capture from their villages and before they were sorted and sold as slaves. The opening is knee high and anyone going in or out would have to do so on all fours.
Behind the cave is a placard placed in 1872, when Sir Samuel Baker put an end to slave trade in Gulu and declared Fort Patiko a base for the British Protectorate. It was also declared the headquarters for the governors at the time: Emin Pasha and Charles Gordon. It served as such until it was abandoned in 1888.
A few meters from the placard is a flat surface of stone. There are marks on the stones and the chief says they were made with an axe and/or a panga in beheading any slaves that tried to escape.
Touring the whole Fort can take from thirty minutes to one hour depending on how many stops and questions you will have. It is advisable to carry water and any other refreshments from Gulu town for the tour. The Patiko village has some shops that also sell water and refreshments but they do not have a wide variety.
After the tour, there are a couple of places in Gulu town to relax and unwind. BJ’s bar and Restaurant serves everything from local food with roasted meats, to burgers with fries all day every day and night. They are open till late and take reservations. Just phone: +256 471 432235. Entrance is free and there are theme night’s every day of the week.