|Co-ords||N 0 36 42
E 36 01 22.5
|Fuel||52.3 L 53 480km|
Well, we did not get disturbed by hippos last night. Itís a pity but there you go. We woke up at 5:30 but only got up at 5:45 because it was still dark. We had Cornflakes for breakfast but unfortunately not with the milk we had so proudly procured yesterday. It was lumpy, not sure if it was supposed to be either. We packed up and were on the road by 5:30. Robert says it is a full dayís drive to Jinja in Uganda and we are always nervous about the time required at border posts.
The road is good and it climbs out of the rift valley in a spectacular fashion. The views are really amazing and for the first time we could see it for what it is Ė a big (very big), wide valley. The bottom is quite heavily bushed so we didnít see any wildlife besides the endemic goat herds. We stopped at some of the view points to see the sun rise over the lakes Ė good stuff.
Once over the valley rim the ground is fairly flat again and we made good time to the border arriving at about 11:30. There was a long line of trucks, over 1km long waiting to go into the border area. Not sure what to do, we went past all of them, it would have been hours of waiting otherwise, and were waved into Kenya customs. As soon as we stopped we were inundated by people wanting to Ďhelpí us through the border. Of course their help would mean us paying them. It was really easy to do without any help too. First carnet then immigration then police, 20 minutes later out of Kenya. No-one looked at the car.
Into Uganda was just as easy. Pay for Visa ($30 each), go to customs ($20 for car) and off we went. Another quick border crossing with no car search. In fact this is the first time our car was not searched at least on one side.
The road to Jinja is far worse than on the Kenyan side but it is still tar, just full of potholes. Jinja is a small town. We found the backpackers very easily, Roberts directions were good, and had a chat with the owners. South Africans. In fact I feel as if I am in a small South African town. Afrikaans spoken too! We went out to the campsite in a convoy of 5 vehicles Ė ALL containing South Africans, mainly expats.
The camp site is really beautiful, high above the Nile with great views. It was a little windy so we put up the small tent. The few other Ďtravellersí must have been dismayed by the arrival of so many vehicles. The South Africans came with everything Ė braai, booze, sakkie-sakkie music and even a bakkie load of food.
They were nice people with very familiar attitudes. We were of course berated for being anti-social while we cooked our rice and were invited over to test their delights Ė chicken, salmon (yes, true), ribs, rump steak, wings, potjie you name it. Also loads of brandy and coke flowing.
It was quite good because we were quizzed on how we had crossed Sudan
etc. We have been invited to stay at someoneís house for a few days in
Kampala. I just hope she remembers this morning after a few (many) brandy
and cokes. We will do a gentle reminder in the morning. Tomorrow we go
rafting on the Nile. Quite excited because Iíve never done it before. A
good nightís sleep coming up with the sound of Sakki-Sakkie in one ear
and the roar of the Nile in the other. Oh yes, one more point. The beer
so far in East Africa has been more than disappointing, in fact itís pretty
shit. Tomorrow I will settle for a castle.
10th July 1999
|Co-ords||N 0 29 05.2
E 33 09 49.1
A great nightís sleep and a good day too. We got up at 7am and had oats for breakfast. Quite good but I always feel hungry soon after. At 9:30 we were collected by Bingo (owner of Backpackers and Nile River Explorers) and taken to our rafting start point just under the new dam. We were issued with helmets and life jackets and given a talk on safety. My bloody helmet sits on my nose so I feel a bit doff.
Into the water. They made us swim the first rapid. Not too bad but I got caught in an eddy and got washed backwards. With my helmet half over my eyes it was a hard, but laughable, job getting back into the raft. We spent the whole day on the river and went over 8 or 9 rapids including two class fives. It was fun but not as exciting as I imagined it to be. The rapids are over so quickly and then you sit waiting for the next one. The river and the day were warm but after getting wet and then being in the wind you actually end up getting cold. We rafted with three Dutch people and an Australian. The Dutch are working in Jinja. The Aussie is travelling around (name is Carey).
At the end of the day you are greeted by a huge braai with loads of salads and things. It was really scrumptious. We also had a range of punishments and rewards. These were for things like paddling too slow or being brave. Both elicited the same Ė a swig of local cane spirits. I was well punished and rewarded and ended up quite pissed.
We got back to the camp at about 7pm and declined the offer to go and
watch a video of the trip. Weíll go tomorrow. Had a good evening just chatting
with our new found friends. It turns out that the offer of the flat does
stand. Good Night.
11th July 1999
|Co-ords||N 0 29 05.2
E 33 09 49.1
Well a day to relax and hang around Jinja. We have been invited to a potjiekos lunch with our hosts to be (Marguerite and Cecil) so we had time to go and watch the rafting video (which was good so we bought one) and go to see the source of the Nile. It was quite nice in a well kept garden. Boat rides out around a very close island could also be had but not for the price. We sat in the garden and had a coke.
At 2pm we were back at the campsite packed and ready to eat. Boy did
I stuff myself. Potjiekos and stamp mielies. It was very good. The drive
to Kampala was OK. The road was good, just lots of traffic and we got to
Margeís and Cecilís place at around 6pm. The Ďgrottyí (her word) flat turns
out to be a 3 room place with a double bed and hot shower. Wow. Had a shower
and a shave! Cecil and Margeís went for another braai and we went to bed.
This is very nice Ė electricity can be sorely missed when you are in a
tent. Our leading fluorescent light is bust!
12th and 13th July 1999
|Co-ords||N 0 20 34.6
E 32 36 26.6
Two days in one, both in Kampala. We found a landrover mechanic who now has his own garage, Rhino 4x4. He had a look at the car and said it was running well and not to worry about anything. I donít like oil leaks no matter how small so I asked him to remove the sump anyway and re-seal it. This and a general tightening up took all morning Tuesday. Also we changed the oil, oil filter and air filter and cleaned out the sedimenter and removed the breather we put on. Also had a puncture. The spare wheel was bubbling away nicely in the morning dew so I used up my last plug to fix it. Canít buy anymore either so will have to buy another type with a new tool to do it. None in stock until Friday.
We also got some calls to the family done. Marguerite has given us free use of her cell phone! The sad thing is that Reneeís grandfather passed away while we were en-route from Addis to Kampala. She is of course very upset and we will see if she wants to go home for a while. My folks are fine. Robin phoned us too which was really great.
We did some shopping and went to see Paul of GC Tours in Entebbe (Robertís buddy). We spent the afternoon swapping some good stories about Robert (what else do you do when he is the only common thing between us) and planned a 8 or 9 day tour of Uganda.
Tomorrow we head North.
14th July 1999
|Co-ords||N 0 20 34.6
E 32 36 26.6
|Fuel||65.66 L 54 066.1km|
On the road again. After buying some food from Margeís shop (Family Choice, really fantastic stuff and a good restaurant Ė Samís) we head for Murchisonís Falls. The car is significantly de-loaded so I hope nothing vital is forgotten. The first 160km is on good tar road and the rest is on good dirt road. What a MAJOR surprise Ė a good dirt road. It is quite narrow but very smooth and with no rocks.
Entry into this park is fucking expensive. $60 for Renee and I for 2 days and $30 for the car and $14 to camp. Over $100. Nothing has cost us this much for a long time (Khartoum Meridian). Still, the park is nice.
We camped at the top of the falls where there is no-one else except for three hippos in a pool in the river (Nile) less than 20m form the shore. Anyway, hippos donít eat people so thatís OK.
We had a look at the actual falls and they are amazing. The whole Nile squeezes through a small (10m maybe) gap. Actually in a flood during the 1960ís the river broke a new channel through. We bought some firewood and had a braai of chicken sosaties and sweet potato. It rained for a bit during the preparation but we still we ate, cleared and washed up before dark.
The roar (and it is a roar Ė conversation is not possible if you are
more than a few metres apart) is quite soothing. Also it means we canít
hear the hippos munching the grass nearby. Tomorrow who knows Ė Good Night.
15th July 1999
|Co-ords||N 02 16 34.2
E 31 41 25.3
No attack by the hippos last night. I slept as well as I expected to. We booked a 9am boat trip but changed it for 2pm as we heard that there were other people doing it then. You pay the same cost for the trip whether you are 2 or 10 people and as you can imagine splitting the cost 10 ways is a lot better than dividing it between the two of us.
Anyway, we decided to take the walk along the river from the top of the falls. It provides some good views of them and also of some of the pools where hippos lie around. They donít seem to do much. The walk was quite hard because it is very humid. We got back to the start point in time for lunch and then went to a nearby lodge to change money. We had to pay the park entrance fees in local currency and that wiped put our stock. The boat had 11 people so there was no problem with cost. Our guide was George who had a very good knowledge of birds. We saw tons (over 100) of hippos in groups along the river but very few crocodiles. We got very close to the hippos but none charged us (Pity Ė no photo of open-mouthed aggressive hippo). We also saw one lone elephant which had the last 10cm of itís trunk missing (from a poachers trap apparently) and quite a few buffaloes and water buck. The boat actually stops quite a distance from the falls but you do get a good view. It is a three hour trip.
We got back to the camp and had a shower using our own shower tied to a tree. Both as naked as new born babies but since we were the only ones there (besides the three hippos) who cares. It was quite nice because the morning walk was quite sweaty.
There are a few tsetse fly around. They gather around the car as you
drive through the bush and in doing so seem to follow you to camp.
Tomorrow is a day in the car but as the roads seem quite good thatís OK.
16th July 1999
|Co-ords||N 02 16 34.2
E 31 41 25.3
|Fuel||30.3 L 54 613.7km not full|
We drove out of the Eastern most gate of the park and South along Lake Albert. The first part of the road is quite sandy but never any fear of getting stuck. Canít get stuck anyway because our sandladders are in Kampala. This route does not give you any views of the lake so if that is what you want then you have to fly. This lake is the border between Zaire (DRC) and Uganda.
Leaving the lake takes you up rocky roads towards Moima and then Fort Portal. The only danger, and itís a real danger, I shat myself a few times is the matatus (Taxis). The road is really single lane and twisty. These Matatus drive like there is no tomorrow and we were surprised a few times as they raced around corners. Canít have any more accidents.
We arrived at Fort Portal at about 2pm and bought some supplies in an extremely well stocked shop. We then headed towards the Kibali National Park, home of the chimpanzees.
We went to the park headquarters, about 20km out of Fort Portal to book to do a chimp trek tomorrow, then off to find a campsite. Robert had recommended CVK which is also in the Lonely Planet but there was a Dutch overland truck with 15 Ė20 tents so we decided to look for another camp. The local communities all run campsites.
We went back to the park HQ and followed a sign through a very suspect track to one of these. It is actually on the same lake as CVK but on the other side. We were the only campers. This was a good move as we could hear the music from CVK all the way over here. There are no facilities other than a latrine but the locals will cook for you. We had our first taste of Matoke which is the local banana (plantain) boiled and mashed. Taste and look (texture) is like sweet potato without the sweet. Very bland actually. They cooked so much we didnít eat it all nor did we eat the rice we had cooked to go with it.
Had a chat with the manager this evening before going to bed. They are
doing a great job with the campsite, it is really neat and well kept. Pity
there arenít loads of campers (for their sake not ours).
17th July 1999
|Co-ords||N 0 29 33.7
E 30 19 40.8
Up at dawn, well 6:30 and decamped. The chimp walk starts at 8 and itís a 30minute drive away. The yoghurt we had bought at the supermarket was sour so we resorted to bread and jam for breakfast. There were five of us on the chimp walk, the maximum is 6 anyway. The walk is three hours long and we did see chimps. Two of them in the treetops about 100km above us. Not a Kodak moment at all. The forest was not what I had expected, it was quite devoid of life, no bugs and stuff. We heard tons of birds and saw evidence of elephants but saw very little. Still, it was a good walk. We headed back to Fort Portal for lunch.
We had seen an advertisement for a camp site called ĎGardens of Edení which was in town. It promised everything including hot showers but turned out to be a bit of a no-go. Firstly you cannot park within 400m of the place and secondly it did not deliver on its promises. The tour agency in town was the least helpful in giving us aid to find somewhere to stay. We decided to try a lodge and settled on one called Ruwenzori view. Really great with views of the said mountains( 35000 for a double), good, no Ö great showers which we had as soon as we were let loose in the room, drinks on the patio and off into town for lunch at the garden restaurant. We had chicken sandwiches (toasted) and chips which were very nice and quite reasonable in price then back to the lodge for a siesta (yay).
I am now sitting on the patio watching a huge storm over the Ruwenzoris and writing this. I have a castle beer on the table in front of me and we are having a vegetarian meal cooked for us tonight. Great.
One thing about the beer. I just donít like it anymore. I have been
spoilt by the creamies available in Madrid and these are just too
big. Renee says I should stop complaining and not drink any more but I
keep hoping it will not turn out bad. Sorry guys, the local beer is no
good, the imported is too much (500ml) and I canít find any wine either.
Maybe I should have bought some of that chat they chew in Ethiopia. Iíll
let you know how the meal was tomorrow, OK.
18th July 1999
|Co-ords||N 0 40 06.9
E 30 16 43.6
|Fuel||60.5 L 54 890.7km|
Supper was great. We ate with the family who run the lodge, Morris and Intca (not sure how it is spelt). The food was great, three courses and only 900 each.
Slept well and got up early again. A breakfast of bacon and eggs (spoilt to death) and on the road by 8. Good drive all the way to Kabale, arrived at about 1 then a bad road (though not bad by Ethiopian standards) to Kisoro. Bad news greeted us. No space to trek until Friday, two overland trucks had booked 5 days, hell, Paul warned it may happen but also said probably not.
Park office said we could wait at the gate in case there were cancellations. Fat chance we thought but off we went. The last 14km from Kisoro to the park were very slow on a track and quite rocky. It started to rain just before we arrived. On arrival we decided on a banda (rondawel) instead of pitching the tent. We also ordered dinner Ė getting lazy hey. Still, itís to support the community.
On Morrisí advice we asked for the manager whose name is Sheba and it turned out to be good advice. He reminds me so much of Mr. Cooper on TV, even tall and hip. He is very much into the community and gets the school kids involved in all sorts of projects to do with conservation and, even better, life skills. A real worthwhile kind of guy. I liked him instantly. Always smiling. He offered me a Rwanda beer which took 4 hours to drink Ė all 720ml of it, but it wasnít bad. He got the kids to sing for us which was really great. We like the one song so much we got the kids to write down the words for us.
Supper was potatoes and beans. Simple but very, very nice. Sheba ate with us. One of the overland trucks was there but we did not have much interaction with them. Theyíre fully self-contained so donít need much. They are Germans and actually started in Uganda and finish in Malawi so are only doing the easy bits.
Went to our Banda and put on all our clothes and even got our sleeping
bags inside our beds. It was freezing. At about 11pm both of us woke up
sweating and then could not go back to sleep. Renee was worried about getting
to see the gorillas and I was day dreaming about having Tapas and beers
at the mesons in Plaza Mayor Ė Madrid. Go figure.
19th July 1999
|Co-ords||S 1 21 11.7
E 29 37 10.9
Last night was the first time we had slept South of the equator though by now we have crossed it many times. Well, no gorilla tracking at Mgahinga national park for us and not much hope of a cancellation. But all in all, still a good day.
While we were waiting for news about the possibilities we went into the village with Sheba where we met the blacksmith. He was a real great guy full of fun and laughter. Anyway, he makes and repairs the villagersí (and those around) tools. Things like axes, hoes, ploughs, knives etc. His father taught him and his before him. He still uses all the traditional methods, not that he has any choice really. The furnace is a charcoal fire on the floor which is superheated by two bellows made from grass and goat skin. One guy pumps these whenever the blacksmith has iron in the fire.
The iron used to come from ore but today he uses any scrap he can. In about 2 hours he took a chunk of metal, that was first smelted by his father out of iron ore, and pounded and cut us a knife. Yes a real knife, even with a wooden handle, while we watched. Also the thing is sharp as hell so it really is a knife. It is amazing. Renee had to pose with him for a photograph, like a handing over ceremony at the end. We will most definitely send him a copy.
Also, we decided that hanging around the camp was getting us nowhere so we went back to Kisoro. The Park officials had no news but Volcanoes, a Uganda tourist company, told us that they could arrange two permits for Bwindi tomorrow. Yes we said, and so off. Even though it is less than 200km it took us nearly 5 hours. The road winds through the mountains and in places is very rocky. Sometimes I thought we were bush-bashing. Still, we arrived at the community camp at 6:30 and were met by Paul who runs the place. We pitched our tent and had dinner, chicken and rice, in the restaurant. We also met the park info officer who said no problems, come ready tomorrow with 500USD and thatís it. Itís $150 more expensive than Mgahinga but at least we will do it. We must, we are the ONLY ones who have entered the park today.
So, ready for bed. Will sleep better than last night thatís for sure.
20th July 1999
|Co-ords||S 0 59 08.2
E 29 36 59
Wow, wow, wow, wow and more wow!!!! What a day! (Too many exclamation marks I know but so what). Well, we did track, and we did get to see and we did have a really amazing time with the gorillas.
We went to the park office at eight, The chief information officer told us we would have to wait until 8:30 until we knew for sure if we could go or not, but he cheerfully took our 500 dollars. An affirmation to us of pending success. At about 8:30 4 other people arrived all Americans and two of them were the same people we tracked chimps with a few days ago Ė Richard and Carol. Patrick (the info officer) told us that we would be going with them Ė yay we were on.
We set off up the hill, and up and up and up. No zigzag switchbacks just straight up. Quite hard work. Then of course down the other side into a valley filled with gorillaís favourite food. On the way up we had a path, in the valley one was hacked out of the impenetrable forest (one way of penetration is by panga). We were accompanied by 1 guide, 2 trackers and about 8 soldiers, so not the 20 soldiers they supposedly send out at Mgahinga.
We found the sleeping nests and about 20 minutes later found them. Actually, when we were in striking distance, (in this case only 20maters away) the trackers, soldiers and porters stopped so that we were not too many people with the gorillas, only us 6, the guide and 1 soldier. The guide was called Levi by the way. Our first view was very close but because the bush is so dense we only saw hands reaching to grab leaves and some shadows. The guide decided on another viewpoint and we hacked our way to be behind them.
Fuck. My first view of the silver back from about 20m was just that Ė fuck me sideways. Renee was saying where, where, where but once I has showed her through the bush she went very quiet. Even though she would not admit it, she was thinking fuck too. The rest was really amazing and I donít think I will be able to write just now. We did not see the whole troop in one go but we did see quite a few. I lay on the ground taking some pictures of the Silver back when suddenly a little face appeared to my left. A baby, about 50cm tall was coming to investigate. It was about 5m away and really cute.
Suddenly he was too close and a male (not the silver back but one of his lieutenants) appeared. He marched along just in front of us warning us to retreat. When we did not, he charged. I was on the ground and remembered being told not to move so I didnít, just took pictures. He never really attacked but I was the closest to him at no more than 2m (fuck again). I really hope I got him in focus because his face filled the view finder. Wow, wow, wow. After about 10minutes the guide quietly asked me to move back and the gorilla backed off. I never felt in any danger though. We spent 1 hour with them and it was great.
Of course the trek back was unavoidable and it was a slow walk. Richard had to take it easy so we stopped often, But that was neat, I learnt about sorghum from one of the soldiers (excellent English who had just been posted here from the Ruwenzoris). I had never seen it before.
It was a 3 hour walk (or battle in some places) to find them, one hour with them (maximum allowed) and two hours or two and a half back. It was along hard day but worth each and every cent.
We agreed to meet Richard and Carol and George and Barbara (not Bush) for a drink later. We had a shower (cold but really great) and then went to their lodge, Mantana. It is a really nice place. On our arrival, Richard invited us for dinner which of course was gratefully accepted. We had a wonderful evening with them, they were the only guests there.
What a day
21st July 1999
|Co-ords||S 0 59 08.2
E 29 36 59
|Fuel||74.6 L 55 535.1km|
Just made it on the fuel. 200 litres of spare capacity and we nearly ran out! Well, a hard day but not too hard. The drive from Bwindi to Kisoro took 4 hours on shit dusty and muddy roads. We were going to stop at a halfway point to Kampala but decided to push on. It took 11 hours and we arrived in Kampala to meet the rush hour. The road from Kisoro to Kampala is OK has some potholes so you need to watch out. The truck smokes like a chimney but the air filter is totally blocked (it was new a week ago). We stopped for chicken on a stick about 20km out of town and also bought some fruit and veg.
We got to Margeís place at around 7pm before it got dark. Cecil was
out so we didnít see him but Margs was pleased to see us.
22nd, 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th July1999
|Co-ords||N 0 20 34.6
E 32 36 23.6
Kampala. We really just spent time getting ourselves sorted out. Cleaned the car, changed the air filter and got some washing done. Got all our tent stuff dried out and re-stocked the food box. We went out for supper with Margs and Cecil to a nice Thai place Ė Renee and I invited them out. We also visited some friends of theirs, the Porters, who live on the lake in a nice house with a magnificent garden. Caught up on updates, wrote postcards and generally got our act together.
Today we are on our third boat and it is the cheapest yet even though we are in first class - $150 for us and the car. We expected a ferry but itís not Ė itís just a boat. So whereís the car I hear you say. Well, itís in the bloody hold! How? Put there by crane!!! My nerves. They have what looks like a flimsy crane, attach things to each wheel and lift. It was loaded so the back was lower then the front. Then down a hole (only slightly bigger than the car) into the hold where I had to drive it to a parking position. Hells teeth.
Anyway, itís on. Weíve crossed yet another border (painlessly, no-one
even looked at the car) and are headed for another country. We have our
own cabin so hope we get a good nightís sleep. We left 3 hours late so
will only arrive at Mwanza at about 1pm. Hopefully this still gives us
enough time to get to the gate of the Serengeti. Iíll let you know about
the boat ride tomorrow. So far itís fairly comfortable, we are in the lounge
having a few drinks, our immigration for Tanzania has been down so only
customs to go.