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Curious what backpackers do in Uganda? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day37

    I am loving Uganda! The people have been incredibly nice, and actually wanting to help us! The kids still sometimes say hi, but with a smile, authentic attempt at just saying hi! Who would have thought. None of them have tried following us. None asking for anything. Just saying hi. Actually many of the Ugandans, kids or not, say hi. As if to welcome us to their homes. Maybe Ethiopia has made me excited at simple things, but this is wonderful. I'm still getting gender mix ups, but none of which have made me feel awkward or judged.

    Our walk around Entebbe started off very positive and light, but after 2 hours of me expressing my hunger and not finding anywhere that serves breakfast, I got slightly frustrated. It's hot, humid, and I'm hungry! We're not used to this heat and humidity in the morning, we actually had our sweaters on in the morning in Ethiopia because of the altitude, temperatures dropped at night. Here, it's 9am and we're already sweating. Water was available everywhere in Ethiopia, you couldn't pass 2 shops without water bottles being sold. Here I actually walked 3-4 blocks before finding someone who sold small bottles of water, odd.

    In case it was too much suspense for you, we found food, lots of little street vendors set up in front of a construction zone. I got to try my first chapati, and I loved it! Rolex (eggs rolled into a chapati), also amazing breakfast! We finally got to the botanical gardens, and they were so worth it! As soon as you come in, you spot the area all the monkeys hang out in, we just sat with them for like 30 minutes while they played around us...

    The walk through these gardens brought us through incredible trees and tropical like forests, to the water front of Lake Victoria. Peaceful and wonderful. We had to eventually boda boda (motorcycle taxi) back to our hostel because Jack was exhausted, it was her first full day out since she was sick.... Well full, it was 1pm. But she did amazing! This same boda driver waiting while we grabbed our bags from the hostel to head out to the pier where we would head to the Ssese Islands. The 3.5 hour ferry ride should be relaxing enough for Jack... Lol.

    We bought the second class tickets, having read there's no real difference between first and second... Of course once on the boat, there's no signage as to which is where, so we make ourself comfy on a seat, the rest of the seats fill up, and just before leaving they come around checking tickets, and sure enough we're in the wrong section. There's no seats left in our section. Damn.

    Eventually people were curious to see outside and get some fresh air so we score 1.5 seats. Jack sat down, exhausted, and I get half a butt cheek on. Just enough to be able to read my book, and watch the bags as she slept with her head against the table. She's absolutely amazing in her abilities to sleep anywhere, anyhow. Again, the people on the boat, no stairs, no awkwardness. The people on our bench squished in to make space for us. Honestly wonderful people. Some saying hi, trying to practice whatever English they can manage, some of which actually welcomed us, and said "I hope you like Uganda" or "you will love Uganda". I do already.

    Ssese islands, more specifically Baggala Island, was peaceful, beautiful, and welcoming. We arrived at the dock and there was literally a line up of women with signs from all their accommodations. Jack and I started from opposite ends, asking each of them about their options. There was about 10. Turns out, literally the first place to our right, where we had already wanted to check out since we could see it from the pier, was the least expensive. A third of the next best price actually. Camping it is! They had these strong, sturdy tents up, with an actual running shower and flushing toilet... Seems like a lot of luxury for such a tiny, not developed town at all! We've gathered, Uganda and Ethiopia are very different, different in its people, in its weather, in its religion, in its humidity, but also in it's finances! Uganda has money. For 30,000 shillings (12$CAD) we had flushing toilets and a running shower!

    No actual beach at our camp site despite being at the water front, but we had read that we could just go to the nicer ground places and pay for pool access. Walking through the downtown (which is a funny statement if you look at the picture), we got some local food and met a man that would take us on a tour the next day! The food, which was the only thing this particular place sold, was boiled plantain, white rice and a fried fish. Mmm mm good. Surprising what I'll allow myself to eat when I'm travelling. FYI Jack and I have been sharing every meal since day 3 of our trip. Portions are huge. We have yet to pay for 2 meals in a restaurant. Not a budget question, there's just too much food... And kind of a budget question....

    Because of Jack's rencent stint in bed, we were both looking to get active, and not just lounge on a beach or pool side all day, so we got Abraham Thompson (awesome name) to tour us around the island from his motorbike. The whole tour brought me back to the day my dad and I spent riding in the Gatineau hills, he brought me for ice cream, I always remembered that day so fondly... 4 hours with this guy, we saw a pineapple farm, palm tree plantations for palm oil, a mini cave in which a "medium" stayed and helped communicate with spirits of the dead ancestors (an ancient religion here, still practiced by some), some view points, some villages, fishermen prepping their boats and nets... Abraham was able to explain everything, it was fascinating. He drops us off at the resort next to ours where we paid for their pool access (after bargaining it down of course) and had a late, but wonderful lunch while enjoying the water and the sun by the lake side! Absolutely beautiful day.

    We watched the sunset from the pier, having brought over our lawn chairs from the camp site and bought a beer in town. Talk about québecer! Lawn chairs and beers on the pier. Beautiful sunset. To finish the night off, like the previous night, our Lovely King Fisher camp site staff made us a bonfire. Just for us 2. 4 employees running around every time we just mentioning wanting something. At the fire Jack mentioned to me she'd like some tea. Next thing you know, there's a kettle on the fire and we're served fresh ginger and African mint... Perfect! I did some laundry using the buckets that were left in the shower, and they ran over with laundry soap. Funny bunch. All for a whopping 30,000 shillings (12$CAD), after negotiating from 40,000 of course.

    Fantastic staff, fantastic people, and a true rural Ugandan experience.
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  • Day53

    Considering my excitement for the chimps themselves, I didn't elaborate on how this all came about. We knew that Kibale National Park was the place for chimp tracking. We also knew it was expensive. It's 150$ for the permit, entrance fee to the park, and they supply the guide. So kind of a package deal for chimp tracking. There's other parks in the country who offer "primate walks" for about 60-70$ on which you have roughly a 30% chance of seeing chimps. Jack and I discussed and decided I would be way too disappointed if I was to try another park and not see chimps, so we decided to bite the bullet and go big! A lot of tour companies offer something with the chimp tracking and crater lakes in a day, but those tours were 550$US for the two of us. One company did offer this crater lakes and chimp tour to us for 390$US, but that basically means you're paying 90$ for transportation there and around the lakes. We decided to do the crater lakes ourselves.

    We took a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) out to where we thought we needed to go buy the tracking permit. This was at 630am, because since I'm a nervous wreck about making sure this happens and I'm convinced something will go wrong, I wanted to be at the park office as soon as it opened at 730am to reserve for the next morning. That's right, we were planning on doing the hike the next day, but I was determined to make it there before yesterday's group started, in case it was full today or something and I had to go another time. Who knows.

    The boda ride is an hour long in red dirt roads with speed bumps and potholes. We were covered, along with our bags, in a full layer of red dust once we arrived at the park's head office, only to be told the permits are sold at the headquarters, not the office, 10km back up the same road. I panicked. What if someone had woken up just as early and was at the right place just in time to buy out all the permits? Exhausted from the bike ride, we decided to go check in to our hotel before going back to the headquarters with this boda-boda.

    We chose the Primate Safari Lodge simply because it was the only lodge walking distance to the head office, which is where the chimp tracking walk starts from. It's actually right next door, but there isn't another option close enough to walk from. And of course, the idea of missing the hike simply because of ill planned transportation would make me cry.

    Turns out, the lodge was 14$US per PERSON to camp, not per tent like we thought. Picture this : super nice, fancy lodge, advertising private cottages with stone showers and hers and hers bathrobes, and a "full board" option or meals of 19$US each... EACH. That's more then our camp site price. And here we are, two girls hanging up a hammock tent under the not so well kept shelter because we don't have a rain cover. Granted, why would they upkeep their camp ground site, I don't think they've ever had campers... They didn't really know what to do with us. Of course we attempted to argue the price, but we weren't getting anywhere. So we made sure to get our 28 dollars' worth. Keep in mind - this is the most we've ever paid for a room in Uganda, and this wasn't a room! This was simply the permission to put our tent up. Getting back from our crater lakes walk yesterday, they let us use the empty room's shower. The cottage was gorgeous! I didn't want to leave. Part of me was angry we were sleeping two girls in one hammock when this cottage was going to be empty!

    Having seen the prices of the meals in the morning when we dropped our bags off, we knew groceries needed to be done. So after "checking into" our hotel (dropping our bags off in the office), our lovely boda-boda driver took us to the headquarters to buy our park permits which acted as reservations. The man must not have known about my anxiety, because we expressed what we want, 2 permits for tomorrow morning, and he looks down at his computer and starts typing... Something... And not saying anything... A good 5 minutes of torture later I break the silence and ask "is there still permits available? Are we good for tomorrow?" to which he replies ever so casually "oh yes yes, that's OK long time ago". Damn him! Making me sweat! So it's confirmed! I hike tomorrow! (well today).

    All that to say we managed to do it on our own! Insert blog from yesterday - we walked the lakes on our own. Then boda back to the Primate Lodge before dark to set up our luxurious accommodation for the night. I've never drank so many hot drinks in my life! Like I said, we wanted our 28 dollars worth... And hot drinks were included, buffet style. That night, I had a hot chocolate (my first since I've left) and 2 teas. Today, I had 2 coffees and 3 teas. Why not! We had bought a bunch of fruit and mini breads from the little towns along the lake, so we got them to supply us with bowls and cutlery to make a fruit salad. We bought Rolex from the town to have for diner (eggs rolled into chapati). We didn't order a thing from them for the 3 meals we were there, and I was never hungry! This wonderful American older couple took pitty on us I guess, they bought us lunch today! Never say no to free. They wanted to buy us each lunch, but the kitchen prepares the food ahead of time, so they only had the one plate, so we shared. Super appreciated.

    It was clear that the people who stay in this lodge have money. Most of them had their own guide following them in the country. Mostly an older crowd. I guess with the price of the permits, not very many backpackers do this... After our briefing at the park office, our chimp tracking guide goes "OK, everybody in your vehicles and we meet you at the trial". Jack and I look at her and respond "what vehicles?" so the lovely American couple who had their own guide for a week gave us a ride... Apparently tours are a big thing here... Lol.

    All that to say, we did it! We relaxed at the lodge after returning around 1130am (left at 8am), and hung up the hammock in the front lawn for Jack to read from. I don't think they've ever had guest quite like us, they didn't really know what to do with us... I asked to lay my clothes on a chair to dry, and they offered to put it in the dryer for me. I didn't think dryers existed here... We asked for a knife, they would bring a whole place setting. We made our way back to town today riding in the back of a pickup truck full of bags of red beans... Covered in dirt again on arrival. Jack was facing forward so had the outline of her sunglasses marked in dirt. Sexy.

    I get to sleep in a bed tonight. I don't have to calculate if my hip bone is digging into Jack's leg, or if I want to move my leg I have to ask Jack to roll over, or contemplating if it's really that important for me to have sensation and circulation in my right leg since I'll wake Jack up if I move... Two people in a hammock is not recommended... FYI.
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  • Day61

    We've been taking minibuses (aka matatus or taxibus) mostly since we've arrived, as the locals do. Often when we ask our hotel or other travellers how to get places, they'll tell us the voyager or big bus options, which are often more expensive, and/or mostly taken by foreigners or higher class locals. We like the personal approach and challenge to minibuses.

    Today was a decision I think both Jack and I wished we could take back. We were instructed by our hostel on where to go for the big buses going to Mbale, but we chose to go to the taxi park where the minibuses leave from. I was in the back row against the window, with the usual 3 people to my right (4 per row), for which I thought I scored since they were small girls. Jack, the row in front of me, also had a small (maybe 10 years old) girl to her left. All good so far.

    It's should be a 2 hour bus ride, but I never checked the time, so who knows. About 10 minutes in, the 10 year old starts puking. At first in a handkerchief. Then someone gave her a bag. This was on and off throughout. Maybe an hour in Jack notices her thigh is wet. Unknown origins. Every once in a while, as we hit speed bumps or the breaks, there's a chicken, half of its body tied inside a plastic bag, the other half fighting to get out, which comes from underneath my seat to rub up against my leg. I got scared everytime, kicked my legs up everytime, only to get a dirty look from the women in front of me who's seat I'm kicking. The little girl in the middle of her two sisters to my right then pukes all over herself. That was a lot of fun since she was just eating a muffin and drinking an orange fizzy drink. My nursing friends won't mind reading this next part, but for the rest of you, if you've got a weaker stomach, skip ahead. Someone gave her a bag and she proceeded to wipe the puke bits off of herself and push them onto the ground using this bag as a glove. She then left the bag on the ground. So I supplied her a new bag that she can hopefully aim for next time. We eventually dropped off the lady that was sitting next to Jack's puker. As she got off, I noticed her bum area of her dress had a wet ring around it. And to further clarify what we were dealing with, I got an unmistakable whiff of urine. Remember, Jack has a wet thigh. I won't lie, I laughed a little on the inside. Few minutes later, we drop off Jack's puker and she's also wet, leaving behind a wet seat.

    As much as I'd like to say this is entirely out of the norm, it's not really. We've witnessed plenty of people being sick in buses. Sometimes in bags. Sometimes on the ground. People tend to ignore it. We were once behind a baby that projectile vomited against the seat, the window, the works. When they got off, people sat in that seat, no problem. And I've actually seen the peeing before also! I swear! I just can't remember where. The wet seat, the person looking awkward... I've seen it! I remember it being a long bus ride. But today! 2, maybe 3 hour bus ride, max! How bad can you have to go...

    Anywho, that's my input for today. To end on a good note, we made it to Sipi Falls. Found a place to stay where they gave us this cute little straw, round "bandas". We've got our hike for the morning booked nice and early so we can make it across to Kenya by tomorrow evening. Wait until you see the views!
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  • Day53

    Yep. Amazing morning. I'm overwhelmed with random emotions that are kind of funny... All brought on because I've done something today I never thought I would... I saw chimpanzees! Lots of them! Like 20! For those who have known me for a while, I've been absolutely head over heels in love with chimps since my childhood, reading everything I can about them whenever I could. I remember I would rotate through renting out the chimp books at my primary school library over and over again...

    I was in a world of my own all morning. And now I'm emotional. It's making me wonder where did I go right in life? How did I deserve all this? I'm even getting as philosophical as going all the way back to how did I land such amazing parents? They gave me a sense of responsibility, they made sure we knew how important school was, and I made something of myself because of the values they taught me. I have an amazing job, great schooling, I'm incredibly happy in life, I have an amazing partner who encourages me to be confident and partake in making decisions... I've always been a follower and now I know I can make decisions and reach for goals of mine and be selfish sometimes... I say selfish because I just spent my morning running in front of the group of people on the hike to be the first one in line to see the chimps. Lol. Selfish because I asked Jack to carry everything including the camera so that I could be free to enjoy the experience.

    Yes, seeing chimps has made me rethink of my life and be incredibly proud of where I am. Best of all, and those who know me well will understand, I'm at a point in my life where I can actually say that I deserve all this. I deserve a good, supportive partner. I deserve to treat myself to these crazy adventures and expensive day trips. I worked for it. And I'm loving it.
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  • Day56

    What a day! Private driver, a 3 hour "game drive" as they call it, a 2.5 hour boat ride and an hour hike up the side of a powerful waterfall.

    We weren't thinking of doing a safari game drive in Uganda, but since the Murchison Falls NP entrance fees were 40$us, we decided to take advantage of a full day in the park. On this drive, we saw Jackson Heartbeats, waterbucks and a hippopotamus out of water - all in the first 10 minutes! The drive was absolutely beautiful, Savannah type landscapes, beautiful shining sun. By the end, we had seen waterbucks, African buffalo's, hippos, Jackson Heartbeats, elephants, Rothschild giraffes, Ugandan kobs (antilopes), warthogs (Gen! Pumba!) and a few gorgeous birds.

    As if that wasn't enough, we had a quick packed lunch and off we went on a boat tour along the Nile! 2.5 hours of wind blowing, cooling us down, drinks being served, and again all along the shores incredible animal watching! More hippos, one girafe, tons of elephants, birds and crocodiles! Beautifully sunny day. Incredibly warm.

    The boat stoped at a dock somewhat far from the falls themselves, but you could definitely appreciate their power and beauty! Jack and I were the only ones to get off as we planned to do the hike up to the falls, and the boat turned back around. Our hiking guide was waiting for us when we got there, arranged by our wonderful private driver Moses. The hike was super easy and it gave us a closer look at these falls. To be honest, they weren't very high, not the prettiest falls I've ever seen, but definitely powerful. I wouldn't want to fall in... Honestly the world's easiest walk, and I managed to fall. Yep, my first true reason to open my massive first aid kit! A bandaid and polysporin... Considering the size of my medical kit, it's kind of sad. I scraped my knee when my foot slid forward in a dry sandy downhill part. Honestly the lamest story ever. I'll be going with lion's bite from now on. This lion's bite was just deep enough to have people concerned about the bleeding, but just superficial enough to make me feel like an idiot. Meh.

    This is probably the most luxurious day we've had to this day, yet with our skills we are paying the same amount as advertised on a poster for a group of 8 people. We found a driver willing to take us for a good price. And by calculating all the fees along the way we paid the exact same amount as groups do, but we had a private driver doing exactly what we wanted... We want to stop for a photo, we ask. We want to go, we go. Easy.

    Fantastic day. Worth the pretty penny it cost. And now onto the capital! Kampala tomorrow should be quite the change of pace.
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  • Day61

    I guess 140$ goes a long way here... At least considering prices elsewhere. Confirmed via email the day before, Nile River explorers picked us up at our hotel, brought to their rafting headquarters/hostel in Jinja, fed us breakfast after a briefing (I asked for a second breakfast and got it!), followed by 3.5ish amazing hours on the river, a snack along the way, and a BBQ to end it all with free unlimited drinks. Yep, free beer. That never happens here. Usually they know it's their opportunity to make money so they charge even more then regular price because you're isolated. But here, free! We even arranged for our night in their dorm to be free! They used to do it but stopped in July last year apparently. But because we "asked nicely" according to our emails, we got a night for free!

    Their camp side hostel is absolutely beautiful. Restaurant and deck overlooking the river from on top on the hill, outdoor themed showers, there's a slide and zipline at the water... Just beautiful. Complete with a view of monkeys.

    The rafting was great! 8 grade 3-5 rapids, we fell out once and the boat flipped once... Good times! Bright sunny day, of course our legs got burnt despite sunscreen... They aren't used to being exposed! There was a lot of "dead" river between the rapids, so lots of rowing... Arms kind of tired... My workout of the week! Working out is easy when you just think back on your week!

    This morning we're off to our last stop in Uganda... I'm sad to leave but I feel quite satisfied with our time here. I feel I have a good idea of what Uganda is, and who Ugandans are... Almost time to move on.
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  • Day48

    We walked back to Uganda! This is after a full day of activities at Red Rocks.

    Yesterday Harriet had taken us along with this other girl to tour around the different homes and families their organization was helping. It was pretty much a bunch of village home visits because this other girl was starting her own organization with homestays and wanted to check out what they had running in the local community. We were just bored so we joined.

    So today for our cultural walk, we said we wanted less of a house tour and more of a cultural experience. Instead we got more of a nature walk, with milking cows at the end (to my request). It was funny, we were asked what kind of experience we were looking for, so we expressed that other then the recent history of the genocide, we haven't gotten to know the true Rwandan culture, and that's what we wanted. Along our walk, we didn't talk to a single local person. Just walked through their town to get to the fields behind it, walked through beautiful greenery and nature, visited a power plant from the river waters, and that's about it... We actually really enjoyed it, we got to ask the guide a bunch of questions about their education system, their politics, they have quite a few women in the government, on coming elections in Uganda, their alcoholism problems, etc. We got followed by quite a few kids on our way back. I had asked to milk the cows because they had mentioned it as an option yesterday. It's a very odd, intimate thing to milk a cow... As you get wacked in the face by its tail...

    Get back, sweaty and hot, take a classic cold bucket shower, eat, and learn to make some banana beer! It's a local classic in Rwanda. You basically crush a bunch of bananas into a log with the help of long grass. Eventually you get quite an impressive amount of liquid out. This almost clear liquid taste really sweet, and obviously quite banana-y. Mix in some freshly crushed sorghum, and voilà! In 5 days, you get beer. Really sweet, strong (13%) beer. Not a fan, but meh. Like Uganda, Rwanda has its fair share of drinking men... They like their banana beer. Our guide from this morning was saying, as an example, the women work all day long and make 1000RFr. They spend 300 at the market to feed their family. They save 700. Their husband take 500 to go drinking. Only 200RFr left at the end of the day. Men. Pft.

    Once all is done and drank, what else does a girl due but cross a border the day before elections! This is, believe it or not, a different yet smaller boarder then our first border crossing. Quick minibus ride drops you at the gate separating Uganda and Rwanda. You walk across to the Uganda side where the "exit Rwanda" stamp office is right next to the "entry Uganda" stamp office. 5 minutes and we successfully walked across. There's a funny car gate with Rwanda written on one side and Uganda on the other. There was one armed security guy standing at the "gate" (rope across the dirt road) asking to see your passport. Then one armed army guy on the Uganda side once you get to the other rope across the dirt road. Very official business people!

    Kisoro is the closest town to the border and yet already we see so much more life and excitement. The difference is striking. Ugandans are all smiling and laughing and enjoying themselves. We hear music coming from the shops, street food being sold (it was illegal to have street shops in Rwanda, only legit store fronts). We went for a beer, and elections were being talked about all around. We'll keep our heads low and political opinions to ourselves for the next few days until the winner is announced and we see what that brings. If anything, we'll avoid Kampala. Easy. I for one am quite happy to be in Uganda again.

    We didn't know if we would spend the night in Kisoro or make our way to Kabale tonight, from where we could head to our next destination easier. By the time we were done exploring the town, and eating diner, it was 5.30pm, sun going down, so we decide Kisoro for the night, and Lake Bunyonyi for the morning via Kabale. It's been super easy to find accommodation during our trip - so it being 530pm, easy peasy. There's tons of options, our waiter gave us a suggestion which turned out perfect. Every second door seemed to be a bar and hotel. How they make money, no one knows.

    FYI : we're half way! If you make the quick count, we left on January 7th and are coming back for March 29th... We're half way! I feel a mix of excitement for what's to come, pride for what I've done, wanting to continue for ever and yet missing my people and wanting to see them... A whole mix!
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  • Day55

    Murchinson Falls National Park, you have challenged us. After noticing that we weren't spending as much time in Fort Portal as we thought, we had extra days to work with for Uganda. We decided to go up north a little, outside your typical tourist trail, and see if we could get to the falls.

    A rocky minibus half way to Hoima and then a shared taxi the rest of the way was a warning sign for what was coming - challenges. We reached our record of 24 people in a minibus, going through unpaved red sand roads. The kinds where if a truck is passing in the opposite direction, you close all the windows and breath through your shirt as to not aspirate a ton of sand. The shared taxi broke the record - 10 people in a car that reminded me of my mom's old '85ish Honda accord. The last hour of that 2.5 hour car ride was one of the most painful things I've had to endure... And I have a decent amount of tattoos... My left buttock was screaming for blood that I could not provide...

    Hoima was... I don't know. It was dusty since all the roads were that red sand. Everytime any vehicle passed by, you took cover. We would have loved to shower since we felt like we were covered head to toe with either dry sand or mud, but we had made the decision not to find accommodation right away in the hopes to make our way to Masindi this same day. Turns out, the town really isn't that interesting. And carrying our backpacks in a dusty hot town made us a little low energy. Our highlight of the town was finally finding ice cream after searching for a bit. Ice cream has been a rare yet so, so welcomed treat.

    A little background on minibuses, or matatu's as they're called around here: it's a really old, yet rough an tough, 14 passenger minivan. There's the driver of course. There's also what they call a conductor. The conductor is the one yelling out the destination from the window, finding passengers, charging everyone while we're rolling and remembering where everyone is getting off. So as a client, you simply listen for the direction you're looking for, wave it down if you're on the street or approach it in a bus station. And you make space for yourself in the fullest one. I say fullest because it doesn't leave until it's satisfied with its number of customers. So you squeeze into the fullest, hoping it leaves soon.

    When we wanted to go to Masindi from Hoima, the conductor said his bus was full and pointed to the empty bus behind him. We counted and saw there were 3 people in the back which is usually 4 and no one was sitting on the conductor. Yes that's a legit seat. So we argued but they left us there, in an empty bus. We waited an hour and 10 minutes before leaving, finally full. The only positive there was that we got the front seats, which usually has a max of 2 plus the driver for visibility, which means you don't get piled on. We arrived in the dark, which I hate, but these things happen. Turns out litterally next door to where they dropped us, was a guest house offering "self contained" rooms (private washroom) with hot water for a reasonable price. I haven't had my own washroom with hot shower in a long time and considering the layer of sand we were dragging around, I was quite happy!

    Today we set out to find this map of a walking tour of Masindi, written by this volunteer group years ago. We had heard the sites weren't much to see, but the stories made it interesting. We were just looking for a good way to tour the town, so why not. The map took us to these really old schools, some still running, some abandoned, it took us by a hospital, an old European cemetery, a big fancy presidential Lodge and even a monument commemorating the first white guy to meet with the local King and to see Lake Albert in the 1800's. I really wanted to visit inside the hospital but felt a little awkward asking... The white nurse from Canada want to see how you do your work... Here, hospitals and schools aren't tall, no second stories, they are all individual buildings. One building, one class room. Or one building, one ward. There was a men's ward, female ward, children's ward, maternity and orthopaedics. It made for an interesting and different way of seeing the town as I'm sure we went places most white people never go... The people were smiling and friendly, a few welcomed and nice hellos from the locals.

    Mixed in with this fascinating walk was our attempt at planning to see the falls in the National Park. Uganda really isn't meant for independent travellers, at least not their parks. Just like in Kibale, they're clearly used to having people with their own drivers. There's no public transportation taking you to the park gates, and if you do make it there, there's no transportation inside the park, nor is there anything accessible without transportation. We looked into staying at a camp site inside the park, but their tours leave from Kampala, they don't offer transportation to their camp site, even though there's no other options, and they don't offer 1 day tours in the park... Every option of public transport or getting a ride was leading us no where. We had hoped to run into a group of fellow travellers going and to hitch a ride, but there's no other traveller that we've seen staying in this town, even though it's the closest to the park. They all leave from Kampala. So that left us with one option, and one option only, hiring a private driver. So for 330 000 shillings, we get someone picking us up at 630am, we get to the park entrance around 9am, do a game drive, then do the boat trip at 2pm, with a hike up the falls where he picks us up, and we return to town. This 330 000 includes the driver, the car, and the fuel. All other fees are on us, like the 40$ entrance to the park (crazy!), 32$ boat ride, 15$ hike... Ouch. This day will have coast around 130$US when all is said and done. And yes, it's the cheapest option. Obviously, we just grocery shopped at the market to pack a lunch. They won't get a single other penny from us! Lol.

    Tomorrow is the day we might see hippos, crocodiles, girafes, elephants... Pretty darn exciting! And we get to act like royals, private transportation. I feel like the rich!
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  • Day59

    We've been taking it easy in this big ol' capital. We walked over to a place called 1000 cups of coffee yesterday since both Jack and I have been itching for a good latte. So, so rewarding. Along the way was a little craft village with all your typical and repetitive tourist aimed crafts like wooden giraffes, drums and bags. We've decided to keep our shopping for our last stop - Nairobi. Thats hoping we'll find what we want there... You find yourself weighing the pros and cons of having to carry things for another month or not finding them again later.

    Visiting the Mengo Palace and Bulange Royal building gave us a good bit of new knowledge of Ugandan history and their attachement to their tribal history. The monarchs reign over social and cultural issues here, and are incredibly respected by the people. As our guide from yesterday put it, in newspapers here you will find many caricatures of the president, mocking him, but you will never find anyone saying something negative or mocking the kings in Uganda. The Buganda King, based in Kampala, has the largest Kingdom, was given the crown at 16 years old. It is passed on to the son of the Royal families chosing, and can not be given to the first son, unlike your usual royal line.

    Each Ugandan identifies to a tribe and a clan. The clans are all represented by animals or insects and such. It's interesting to hear them introduce themselves - I'm from the Buganda tribe, and the elephant clan. To this day, even the youth, are proud of their clans and follow the tradition (mostly) of never marrying someone from your clan, yet marrying within your tribe. They ask about Canadian clans and tribes. It's hard to justify that I know so little about our First Nations that I can't really contribute to that conversation.

    The visit at Mengo Palace also led us to this old underground torture chamber used by Idi Amin during his time as general commander. They say in the 6 years he used it, over 15000 people were killed here, mostly by the use of electricity run through the body of water kept along the corridor... It was marking.

    We made our afternoon into an art gallery one, quite like in Kigali. Free art galleries, why not. Again, having the money and space for these things, my apartment would look so eclectic and wonderful...

    Topped the night off with a movie - DeadPool! I was so excited! I've been talking about seeing a movie for a while, it's a way of letting go and really relaxing. My mind, which never usually stops working throughout that day, can finally stop and enjoy the movie. I laughed the entire time, loved it. I was probably in an extra good mood since I got to chat my sister thanks to the great Wi-Fi in the mall. It's was therapy of its own to get to hear her voice.

    Last day in Kampala before heading to Jinja for some River rafting... Wish me luck!

    FYI - I didn't elaborate yesterday, but the national mosque was beautiful! It had contributors from around the world, chandeliers from Egypt, carvings from Marrocco, stained glass from Italy... We even got to climb the minaret and had incredible views of the city. Only down side is the coverings they give - made me feel incredibly awkward to have to cover up into a hijjab and skirt... Like Halloween.
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  • Day38

    Still keen on keeping active, we decided we had seen what we needed on Baggala Island, and wanted to move on! While getting my new favourite quick breakfast Rolex, our friend Abraham came to see us and offered us a free ride to the town from which we could get a shard taxi over to the ferry. We are now heading to Masaka which was west, so getting the ferry from a different town on the island. The shared taxi was an experience of its own!

    The driver very casually tried to point as to who goes where, but really we just followed suit. I was pointed to go in along with the other boys. I didn't make anything of it at the time but eventually I noticed all the women were on top of the boys - I of course being on the bottom (there's a first! wink wink). So the back seat consisted of 4 boys (that's including me) on the seats with Jack and another lady shared amongst our laps. Funny part is, boy or not, I'm small and don't weigh much. They lady sitting on the guy next to me was relatively large and heavy. I just remember telling Jack the second time we got into the car to make sure she was on top of me because I don't think I could support that lady for the hour long ride! There was another 4 people in front, leaving just enough room for the driver to drive while squeezed against the door, head bent sideways. We added in a 10ish year old boy once back in the car after the ferry. In case you're not following, this taxi brought us to a ferry, on which we sat on benches, then we sat back in the car and it continued onto the town we wanted, Masaka.

    11 people total in a 5 seat passenger car. And let's not forget the 3 lives chickens in a box in the front seat. Even the driver had trouble closing his door once seated because of the 2 women and child next to him. I couldn't feel my right leg for most of the trip. Jack being on top had her head pined against the ceiling of the car, sitting half on my lap and half on the guy next to us. Funny how all ideas of a personal bubbles and space melts away in these countries. Even when your sitting on a boda boda, you hold onto the guys waist in hills or press your thighs against his to hold on. You become friends very quickly!

    The ferry ride, being just under an hour, was a welcomed, open and breezy moment of freedom before getting back into that car. As for Masaka, and once the feeling returned to my leg, we walked around with our backpacks and found our lunch spot. We had Greek! Legit and wonderful Greek! Fresh Greek salad. Actual feta cheese. Tzaziki! We even allowed ourselves to go all out and order desert - ice cream! I was in heaven. After ordering it, we noticed it had been 1 month since our departure from Ottawa. Desert for a celebration!

    The rest of the day was just spent walking through this wonderful, busy, small shops kind of town, eventually stumbling upon what became our accommodation for the night. According to the travel book, there was not much to do but wonder around in this town, and it was right. But we both loved it! It's hard to explain why one town hits you in a really positive way, more then another. Especially when you don't have reference points to compare. I can't say the museum was nicer, or the restaurant better, or the parks nicer, just the feeling of the place was great. Still, Ugandans are impressing me. No one bothering us, everyone actually giving us real pricing for things like accommodation and transportation. We walked by a minibus station and were approached by two men, I automatically though they would sell me something but they just wanted to help - gave us the information we needed for tomorrow's bus to Kabale.

    The evening was spent having a drink on a patio, people watching, and eating food from the street vendors around. It's cool, here - you can sit in any restaurant or coffee shop, buy something or not, doesn't matter, bring in something from outside, anything goes. Food with the vendors was cheaper and more interesting, do that's what we ate at the bar! A slight miscommunication - Jack wanted to try a different bier, so she asked the waiting if she could have his favourite beer. He got so excited, thanked us both and walked away. Maybe 10 minutes later, no beer, I call him over again and say "the beer, she wanted to try your favourite beer". And he goes "oh! She wants to try?" and again very happily walks away, eventually to return with Bell beer. Once the bill was in, turns out I had bought him a beer! Lol oops. He seemed so happy about it, I guess it's one good deed.

    I've actually noticed - Ugandans drink... A lot... Well men do. I've seen an incredible amount of men drinking straight from these tiny mickeys of vodka. Even our spiritual medium from yesterday was drinking from his mickey while he was telling us about his religion. According to them, if you drink and have a job, no problem. If you drink and don't have a job, that's an issue. More often then I probably should, I find myself wondering "is that guy off or waisted?"

    Side note - traveling is surprisingly tiring. We thought jet-lag was the reason we were in bed so early at first. I think at this point, it's safe to say we're just old! In bed by 8-9pm. Up by 630-7am. Going out for those drinks, we thought we would have a night on the town! 9pm, we're in bed, lights out. Party!

    Second side note - check out the big ugly birds we keep spotting everywhere! They're literally everywhere. They're balding, long necked and about 3-4 feet tall... Creepy.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Uganda, Uganda, ዩጋንዳ, اوغندا, Uqanda, Уганда, উগান্ডা, ཡུ་གན་ཌ།, Ouganda, Uganda nutome, Ουγκάντα, Ugando, اوگاندا, Unganndaa, Oganda, Úganda, યુગાંડા, Yuganda, אוגנדה, यूगांडा, Ուգանդա, ウガンダ共和国, უგანდა, អ៊ូហ្កង់ដា, ಉಗಾಂಡಾ, 우간다, ئوگاندا, ອູການດາ, യുഗാണ്ട, युगांडा, ယူဂန္ဒာ, युगाण्डा, Oeganda, ଉଗାଣ୍ଡା, يوګانډا, Ubugande, Ugandäa, Ugaanda, உகாண்டா, యుగాండా, ยูกันดา, ʻIukanitā, ئۇگاندا, Уґанда, یوگانڈا, Lugandayän, Orílẹ́ède Uganda, 乌干达, i-Uganda

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