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  • Day34

    @ The River

    October 19, 2019 in Uganda ⋅ 🌧 19 °C

    It's our final day in Queen Elizabeth NP, but today we're not going so far- just across the road. We're staying at a lodge that Bas and Vera stayed at last night. They had checked yesterday and loved it so much that they texted us, telling us to come over and stay there. Unfortunately, we had received the message just after checking in at Enjojo, so had no choice but to promise them we'd join tomorrow.

    Since it's just across the road, we arrive early, and we're warmly- rapturously- received by the owners. Unfortunately, they explain, they have to head to the nearby city of Fort Portal. Their kids are there, watching the England Australia Rugby World Cup match with the expat community. They explain that they should have left a little earlier, but had a heavy night. So they're dashing between welcoming us, sending off the last guests, and packing up their stuff.

    At around 11, just before kick-off, they still haven't left, and Fort Portal is a good two-hour drive away. They insist that they can still make if they leave now, but they still don't leave. Instead, they crack open beers and invite us to join them. And so begins a day-long unplanned drinking session in the middle of the Ugandan bush.

    Across the day, they tell us stories about expat life in East Africa. She's Zimbabwean, and hes English, and they met in Kenya, at a club. They would play tennis before tucking into a Sunday roast with all the trimmings, and would reliably get terribly drunk.

    Later, Bas and Vera return from their game drive. They had an inauspicious start to the morning, with a burst tyre, but later managed to see the famous tree-climbing lions, which we're told again are the only ones in the world. We're slightly jealous, but remember the entrance fee to get into the park itself.

    Later still, we're joined by an Argentinian couple who cycled in. They had cycled across East-Africa, and had just been in Bwindi- the home of the gorillas. We ask them if they saw the gorillas, and of course they had. And did they say it was worth it? Of course. We begin to rue our decision not to get permits. Nevertheless, we jot down the name of a great lodge there, and decide to head over, if only to see the forest.
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  • Day33


    October 18, 2019 in Uganda ⋅ 🌧 25 °C

    Today, we're heading further into Queen Elizabeth National Park. Before we go, it's time to pay Peter for the previous night's camping. We expect to pay 17,000 Ugandan Shillings, but he charges us 18,000. It's no big deal- 1000 shilling is about 25 Euro cents, so I add a tip on top to make it an even 20,000. As we pack away our tents, I speak to Bas who tells me that he was asked to pay 17,000, but gave 18,000 to include a tip. It seems that Peter might be inflating his prices. I feel slightly annoyed, but looking round at the dilapidated, half-built lodge, I figure they need all the help they can get.

    Onwards! Today we're heading to Enjojo Lodge, which comes highly recommended by the guide book. Being a western-owned lodge, the prices are much higher- whack an extra zero onto the Kisenyi price and you'll get close to what we paid. And that's for camping. Still, the lodge is nice, with a pleasant bar area overlooking a small section of the park with a waterhole a hundred metres away. Once again, we're promised elephants.

    Unfortunately, it turns out that we can't enjoy the bar, as they need to do renovations, so we're ushered away. We explain that we'd like to do our laundry- we're getting pretty smelly and this is a fancy place- and we're invited to the staff quarters, tucked away out of sight from the main lodge.

    After hanging up the laundry, it's time for us to make a big decision: to gorilla or not to gorilla. The main issue we have is our budget- we're on a $50 p/d backpacking budget, and the gorilla permits are $600. EACH. On the other hand, when else will we see gorillas? We're unlikely to return to Uganda, and even if we do, the permits increase in price every year. We decide to go for it, justifying it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

    Finding a number for the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, we call it. Honestly, we're expecting them to say that they've run out of permits, since the guidebooks all tell you to book months in advance. However, the man on the phone tells us that we can get permits! But- only in Kampala, about 2 days drive from here. We only have the car for a few more days, so it just isn't possible. Dejected, we take it as a sign that it's not meant to be, and opt against the gorillas.

    That evening, we settle down for a nice lodge meal. It always feels a bit decadent eating western food, especially since Ugandan food is generally good and cheap (Rolexes are still Chris' favourite food). But, sometimes it's nice to treat ourselves. We enjoy the meal, unlike an older Kiwi woman next to us. When the waiter comes to take away her mostly-untouched plate- he asks if everything was alright. She explains to him that she "wasn't particularly excited by it". We wince, and make an extra effort to tell the staff how mcuh we enjoyed our food.

    Our post-dinner drinks are cut short by a huge swarm of bugs that descends upon in an instant. From nowhere, the air turns thick with flying insects, so dense that it's impossible to bat them away from your face, as more will just take their place. It's taken as a queue for bedtime, and the staff call the guests' escorts in. They are Ugandan military, armed with AK-47s and dressed in camouflage. It's a little strange to be taken back to our tent by machine-gun-wielding soldiers, whilst trying to keep our mouths (and noses, and eyes, and ears) free of bugs.
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