Uganda
Bufumbira

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9 travelers at this place:

  • Day9

    Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

    June 17, 2017 in Uganda

    Today we went trekking for gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, it was an early start having to get up at 4:45am to have breakfast and get on the transfer bus. It was about a two hour drive before we got to the starting point where we met our guide for the day.

    They provided us with a briefing and explained that there were five families in the national park, they only take a maximum of eight people to each family, each day and those people are limited to one hour with the family. They then allocated us a guide and two armed guards with AK-49 assault rifles that carried 39 rounds in the magazine. The armed guards were there to protect us from potentially aggressive animals as there are other animals living there as well, they stated that they would fire warning shots first and that shooting an animal was the last resort. In the briefing they told us that we were tracking the M family, which is one of the largest families with approximately twenty gorillas.

    What happens is professional trackers start two hours earlier, return to where the family was last seen and begin tracking the family of gorillas from there as the generally will only move approximately 1km overnight. The trackers then communicate the location of the gorillas to the guide who lead us to them. We had received the same family as the other half of our group saw yesterday so I knew we would be trekking for at least two hours.

    After the briefing we all got back into the bus and drove for another forty minutes on a dirt road and then we all piled into the back of a ute with our guide and armed guards where they drove us for another five minutes to where we would enter the national park. The first forty-five minutes of the trek was all up hill on a relatively cleared path, we continued to trek for another hour were we walked up and down hills before we reached a really dense part where we had to pretty much make our own path down to where we could see the trackers. Once down with the trackers we were briefed again on how to behave and what to do if a gorilla approaches you (crouch down and turn away) and given an opportunity to drink some water before trekking further to see them.

    We all assumed that we would have to walk about ten minutes before seeing a gorilla but they were literally five to ten meters away from where we were sitting. The first one I saw was the silver back and he was barely five meters away from me. I sat down and just watched him, I couldn't take my eyes off of him he was incredible. I then looked up to see several babies playing just above us and then the mother twenty meters away the the tree top plus a couple other family members in nearby bushes, everywhere I looked I could see gorillas surrounding me. It was just breath taking that we were able to see such an amazing creature in its natural habitat, I just sat there and appreciated how beautiful they were and how lucky I was right in that moment.

    The trek was about two and a half hours each way, it wasn't as difficult as I was expecting from talking to the other group so that was good. Don't get me wrong it was still challenging but I think once you see the gorillas it makes it all worth while. I would rank this as one of the best experiences of my life and would recommend it to everyone.
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  • Day47

    Back to Uganda, so happy!

    February 17, 2016 in Uganda

    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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  • Day41

    The whole reason I joined this tour was for the gorilla trek and today was the day!! We woke up at 4:30am to leave the Lake by 5am. It was a 2.5hr drive to the briefing station where we met our guide David and found out we would be trekking a family of 18 gorillas, the second largest family in the park. There are five gorilla families in Bwindi and only 40 permits per day for the park, meaning 8 people per family maximum, and your time with the gorillas is limited to one hour.
    We drove 30mins from the briefing to the other side of the park where we'd be starting out trek. We were accompanied by two police officers with AK-49 rifles in case we encountered aggressive animals, plus two guides. We trekked for an hour on a pretty comfortable path with a few hills and then we went off the path into the bush for the next two hours. The guides had machetes to carve their way through the bush because where we were trekking, humans hadn't been before! After 2hours of trekking, we were told the gorillas had been located!!! Because they only have contact with humans for 1 hour per day, the trackers return to where they were the day before and have to locate their movements in the past 24 hours to help guide the tourists to the right spots. We reached the gorillas and it was the most incredible, unreal and fascinating experience. We met a 30 year old female first who is the most social of the group. I managed to get 1-2m away from her and she was completely unphased by the group of humans surrounding her! At one point she reached out to grab one of the trackers who said she was playing games with him. We then trekked a little higher up and out of nowhere, found the silverback sitting down eating leaves. And then there were 4 or so babies hanging around him as well!! He was absolutely massive but it wasn't until he got up and started moving that you realized how big he was. We observed them in their own habitat which was amazing and I took some time just to sit there without worrying about getting the perfect photo to really appreciate how special the experience was. I've never been a big fan of zoos or seeing animals in captivity and this day has just reinforced that. They're beautiful animals and I'm so thankful to have seen them in their own environment!
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  • Day3

    Gorilla tracking

    February 2 in Uganda

    This was one of the toughest hikes I've ever done. Walking in the rain forest up and down some pretty steep hills, crossing streams on logs and rocks (sometimes), ankle deep in mud, slippery roots and vines in the trail.
    But in the end, it was worth it. Visiting a mountain gorilla family in their natural habitat is beyond words. I am blessed to have been in the prsence of such amazing, beautiful and peaceful creatures.Read more

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