Uganda

Uganda

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  • Day114

    We were sure that nothing could be better than our gorilla experience in Rwanda – we were wrong! Seeing the gorillas for the second time in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in Uganda (BEST name for a park, ever) was even more incredible…we feel beyond lucky.
    The weather was clear and it was a short hike to where the gorilla family we were tracking had decided to hang out for the day. It took the forward trackers some time to find them as they kept changing direction and we had to wait for about an hour before they knew for sure where they were settling in for breakfast. Again, like Rwanda, we knew we were close when the forward trackers appeared out of the dense undergrowth and our guide told us to leave everything with a couple of the porters, except cameras.
    We approached the family, with a female and young baby appearing first. Next, the massive alpha silverback appeared and sat on the edge of a small clearing. This silverback was huge, but calm, which somehow made him more imposing than the silverbacks we encountered in Rwanda. The group was made up of 3 silverbacks (2 did not appear as they are older and tend hang out on the outskirts of the group), several females and juveniles, and a few little ones -including a 6-month old. Slowly, most of the group appeared in the small clearing and started to feed, climb and play fight. The silverback quietly sat in the background observing and occasionally trying to nap, but also making periodic, low pitched rumbles to make sure we knew he was there and to communicate with the family. From the photos and video you get a sense of how close we got to the gorillas. Officially, you are supposed to only get within 7 meters of them, but it is impossible to maintain that distance because of the tight, dense undergrowth, but also because the gorillas often approach you, sometimes quickly, and decide to sit and do their thing just a few feet from you. After a quick hour, we started to reluctantly retreat back up the mountain and leave the gorillas behind.
    No one leaves this experience unhappy. When you are with the gorillas you occasionally look around at your fellow trekkers to observe their reactions and everyone has smiles, sometimes tears. What we also noticed with this encounter was the reaction of the porters, guide, trackers and researcher that was present. They were as excited as the paying guests even though they probably see gorillas most days. They were all taking pictures, laughing at the young gorilla antics and talking excitedly with each other about the behavior. What an amazing job!!
    When we returned from trekking, we were told by our guide that a chameleon had been located in the nearby village (we’d mentioned wanting to see one), so off we went in our LR with one of the porters to see a chameleon. We climbed through the village into a back garden and were able to see 3 (a male, female and young one) in a tree. What an incredible day!
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  • Day112

    We made a quick stop in Kabale to use the ATM and buy some more wine and bread, before driving a short distance to the edge of the forest. We have permits to go gorilla trekking in a few days, but thought we’d spend a few nights on one side of the park, then backtrack to the other side where our gorilla trek begins.
    We turned off the paved road onto a steep and windy dirt road for the 20km drive to our lodge. Almost immediately, the afternoon downpour started and the road turned into a slippery river. At several spots, the torrential rains had washed large rocks onto the road and we (John) had to get out to clear some of them, with the help of local villagers, in order to get through. At one stage we thought about turning around, but decided to carry on, check into a dry room, and hang out until the rain let up. The location of the lodge was great and we spent a few hours sitting out on the verandah, with drink in hand, watching the mist roll in and out of the valleys of the rain forest in front of us.
    We've had a few interesting experiences here.
    First, we found ourselves in bed bundled up under several warm blankets at 7:30 pm, drinking boxed-red wine from our plastic glasses, listening to an NPR podcast (radio show for non-US readers). We had a good laugh about whether this was a preview of our twilight years.
    Another interesting moment happened as soon as we turned out the light. We both felt something hit the middle of the bed – something with weight. John kicked whatever it was and we both are sure we heard it hit the wall on the other side of the room. We turned on the light, but could not find anything. A very restless night of sleep followed with our thinking every noise was some 4-legged rodent, big six-legged bug, 100-legged centipede or legless snake creeping up to get us. We are in the middle of a rainforest and nature can easily get into the rustic cabins, huts, and what not. However, we opted to spend our second night in our tent, which felt much safer and better sealed. Rain be damned!!
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  • Day109

    It was with some sadness that we left Rwanda and headed into Uganda. Visiting Rwanda has been a bit like visiting Singapore as a break from SE Asia’s chaos. It’s safe, clean, orderly, and seems to work. It has also been educational, emotional, and inspiring given how resilient, hopeful and hard working the people here are.
    The border crossing into Uganda was reasonably straightforward, but not as well organized as it was coming into Rwanda. Fortunately, we are now experienced enough that we can usually make sense of the disorganized group of unconnected sheds and find our way through with minimum stress. As soon as we crossed into Uganda, the road instantly turned to potholed dirt and was crammed with trucks. We also noticed trash/rubbish on the side of the road, which is non-existent in Rwanda.
    We only drove a few hours to Lake Bunyoni, a very picturesque lake, dotted with multiple islands. While here, we took a boat trip and learned about one of the most interesting islands - Punishment Island, where unwed, pregnant girls were sent as ‘punishment’. We gather that many died here, as it’s a tiny island with no shelter, no fresh water and no food. This practice apparently continued up until the 1950s.
    We have definitely hit rainy season. We were hoping we would miss it, but apparently it has come early this year. This means we are likely to experience torrential rain most days – not fun when camping. This also means we will be adjusting our plans in Uganda and Kenya (basically we’re planning to stay in an airbnb for a week or so). A friend of John’s texted him saying she had just spent a month in Japan on a food tour. As we were sitting in our tent in the middle of the afternoon, with deafening rain lashing the tent for hours on end, imagining and looking for leaks, we had to ask ourselves, “what the hell are we doing sitting in the tent in the middle of Africa during rainy season when we could be sitting in some Onsen in the Japanese mountains eating great food and sleeping on dry tatami??!!” Oh well, it’s all part of the adventure!
    You may have noticed over the last couple of posts, that we are tending to stay in guest houses more often and stopping to take a few days off from driving and camping. We’ve definitely had an amazing time and great experiences over the last 4 months, and are looking forward to the next 3-4 weeks, but we’re also looking forward to not driving ourselves, and not camping – especially now that the rains have arrived.
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  • Day115

    Because we’d finished trekking by 2pm, we decided to head towards our next destination to break-up a long drive, planning to find a hotel along the way. Jackpot! A new hotel/conference center/spa had been built in a smallish town at the crossroads between Entebbe, Queen Elizabeth NP and Bwindi. We stopped to have a look, and three days later, here we are! It’s just so nice, quiet and reasonably priced that we haven’t been able to tear ourselves away just yet. We’re the only overnight guests, which is a shame. We’ll have to write some great reviews to get the word out about this wonderful place.Read more

  • Day122

    Jinja will be our final destination in Uganda. It’s a very charming, somewhat dilapidated colonial city with loads of very interesting art deco architecture.
    We are staying outside of town on the banks of the Nile River. It’s an absolutely beautiful campsite – one of the best of our trip so far. It has an amazing view of the Nile, good shade, grass, spotless showers and a beautiful restaurant/bar overlooking the rapids. The best part is that at night you can only hear the roar of the rapids, frogs and crickets. It’s incredibly peaceful.
    While here, we’ve visited the town a few times, spent lots of time admiring the beautiful river and bird life from our camp, and Christy went horseback riding. A fun fact: apparently there are only 100 horses in all of Uganda and the stables where Christy went riding had ¼ of the country’s horses there. It’s owned by some expats that are very serious about competing in events around Africa. Christy loved her experience and has vowed to get back in the saddle more often.
    While John was waiting for Christy at the stables, he was able to enjoy watching some red tailed monkeys playing in the nearby trees. A very pleasant visit all around!
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  • Day118

    Stayed the night at a campsite/lodge just outside the park boundaries, which used to be a tea estate. The views out over the tea plantations, the lush gardens in full bloom, and the many resident birds made for a very pleasant stay and reminded us that camping can be absolutely fantastic.
    During the drive here, we crossed the equator into the northern hemisphere (John was super excited, Christy felt a bit indifferent). John hoped for some sign to mark our official crossing, but as we were not on a main road, we saw nothing. For those of you who care, we will cross the equator again on our way to Kenya, so John will be on high alert for an official sign, then.
    We visited Kibale NP to see chimpanzees. The day before our trek, we stopped at the info center to ask some questions. Arriving at the security gate, we asked the ranger if this was where the chimpanzee treks left from. With a wry smile, he pointed to the gate and said ‘read the sign’ (see the photo). We felt very excited to do an all day hike to track and hang out with wild chimps in the rainforest. It started out great after being assigned to a small group of 5 (park information indicates a maximum group size of 6) and getting an early start (6:30am) as we headed off into the dense forest. There are 2 options for trekking to see the chimps: 1) the traditional 1 hour chimp trekking or 2) an all day chimp habituation experience. Soon, we realized that the habituation group’s job was to track and locate the chimps so the traditional trekking groups coming later knew exactly where to hike to see the chimps. This became clear when our guide announced after ~3 hours of searching for chimps that another group had found a family and we would be joining them. When we arrived there were ~30 people already there. Fortunately the chimps didn’t seem to mind and the other traditional trekking groups left after ~ 1 hour.
    Once we found the group, we followed them for the rest of the day – until we were exhausted at about 3pm. It was fascinating to see the chimps exhibiting a wide range of behaviors from eating, nest building, play-fighting, and resting. The good was we were able to see the chimps up close and be with them for several hours. The not so good was there were too many people being relatively noisy and getting too close to the chimps. Feeling part of the exploitation, yet enjoying the experience left us conflicted. Of course it’s critical to chimp protection that Uganda reap financial benefit from tourism around them, but it seemed much less regulated and respectful than the gorilla trekking had. However, it was another incredible wildlife experience and our ranger did a great job making sure we were usually away from the occasional large group making it a more personal experience.
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  • Day121

    We broke up the long drive to Jinja by overnighting in a hotel a little over half a day’s drive from Fort Portal. In hindsight, we wish we’d pushed on through as blaring music, drunk people and a loud generator made for a very bad night’s rest.

  • Day1

    Been a busy couple of nights with James on cooking duty, buying and cooking dinner, breakfast and lunch with two others followed by Louisa doing dinner and breakfast with a different cook crew. It was a quite a challenge with 20 meat eaters, 5 vegetarians, a small budget, three coal burners to cook it on as well as the hot water for washing up! We crossed the border yesterday and instantly noticed the difference as it looks quite tropical with fruit trees, rice paddies and many mud round houses in the rural areas. We have had quite a few storms as the wet season has come late (it's now the dry season). We are having a couple of nights on the banks of the River Nile, supposedly the source as it flows out of Lake Victoria. This morning, before the storm, we used a cut out kayak to slide down a ramp that launched us 10 foot in the air! Whilst travelling along we get so many waves from everyone along with massive smiles - such a great reception.Read more

  • Day4

    We went to the the most beautiful lake in Uganda for the day, the main reason was to spend time at an orphanage on one of the 29 islands. The surrounding hillsides are intensively terraced, similar in many ways to Nepal. We spent a couple of hours dancing and singing with many of the 149 children from the day care orphanage. After a beautiful walk across the island we had a swim in the lake, jumping from a rather high platform that could only be reached by climbing up the tree.Read more

  • 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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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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