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  • Day52

    Red beans and a pickup truck

    February 22, 2016 in Uganda ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    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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