A Travellerspoint blog

Safari - day 8-10: Gorillas and back home

sunny 29 °C

Day 8
This was probably the most exciting day of the whole safari and such an incredible experience. We left at 5:45 from the island and met Jasper on the mainland. He drove us and another couple to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, which took us 2 1/2 hours. Bwindi is home to half the worlds population of mountain gorillas; there are only 880 mountain gorillas left worldwide. There must have been almost 30 tourists there to track the gorillas and this is low season. All tourists were divided into groups of maximally 8. Our group consisted of 7 relatively young and fit people. As there were also several older, fatter Americans I was very happy with this group. Each group of tourists would track a different gorilla group. The group we were tracking was a group that consisted of 10 gorillas, one silver back, some males, females and two young gorillas. Each gorilla group has a leader, usually the oldest silverback in the group. A male gorilla becomes a silverback at 15 years. Three years ago this had been a group of 36 gorillas. The previous leader of the group and the father of the current leader of our group, had become old and three younger silverbacks within this group lost their respect for him. He got annoyed with their behaviour and left. The three younger silverbacks could not come to an agreement who would be the new leader, so the group split up into three separate groups. The trackers know the old silverback is still within the forest, alone and waiting to die. There are 12 groups that have been habituated, or are used to human presence in Bwindi. This is approximately 1/3 of the total gorilla groups in the forest.
Each gorilla group is followed by two trackers. They leave at 7 and do not leave the group until they are sure they will not move much further so they can find them the next day. When we started the walk the trackers were already in the forest. We had one guide and two armed men walking with us. We walked to the point where the gorillas were last seen, this took about an hour and a half. By then the trackers had found a fresh trail and were following it. However it seemed they had crossed another group and they needed to find out which trail led to our group. We waited until the trackers had found the right trail and had found the gorillas, this took half an hour. We were radioed their location and went to find the trackers. They were waiting a few minutes away from the gorillas. Here we left our bags with food. Then we moved in closer. New paths were cut by the trackers to be able to reach the gorillas that were hidden. We first saw the silverback. He was sitting down eating some leaves. The trackers cut their way up to a few meters distance. We watched him for a few minutes after which they motioned for me to come closer and kneel down. There was only 3 meters between this massive gorilla and me, and he was so large!! But is was so.amazing to be so close to this large animal, I could have stayed and watched him all day. After some time he moved away. We followed and found some others gorillas of his group. We saw two females, a young male and a young female. The young male was still tiny, much smaller than I had expected from a 1,5 year old gorilla. At one time he sat in a tree, beating on his chest like a proper grownup gorilla. The young female was 3,5 years old. We spent almost an hour with the gorillas before leaving them again and heading back. We were lucky that the group had been so close, sometimes people walk for 4/5 hours before seeing the gorillas. (At the end of the day our score was 5 of the 880 wild mountain gorillas - 0.6% of the world population, amazing, how often can you say that about wildlife? Luckily the numbers are rising.)
On the way back Herbert explained how they habituate the gorilla groups. This is an amazing and ridiculous process which takes 2-3 years. Two trackers are assigned a group of gorillas to habituate. From this point on the visit the group every single day. It starts with the trackers pretending to be gorillas. The silverback obviously does not like strangers approaching his group, so he will try to fight them off. This will take about six months with rangers sometimes returning with broken bones, to establish that they are not scared of the silverback. The next six months the gorillas will try to flee from the rangers, so they have to keep following them. When the gorillas get tired of running, they will hide from the rangers. This is the period when the rangers need to pretend to be gorillas even if they cannot see the gorillas - the gorillas need to be convinced that they are similar. Then when the gorillas get tired of hiding they have pretty much reached their goal, the group of gorillas will accept the presence of humans. This is tested first with local people, before bringing tourists to the group (unethical, but at least this gives the locals a chance to visit the gorillas for free).
It was a long car ride back to the lake and then the boat ride back to our island. We did not arrive very late so we could enjoy a warm! shower in the sunshine. Did I mention how awesome this shower is and how nice it is to have a shower in the sunshine?

Day 9
Finally a day when we could sleep in, no appointment until 10 am. After breakfast we went for a canoe trip with a guide. On the lake main method of transportation are canoes. These are dug out from an ecalyptus tree. We went to the largest island on the lake, there are between 26 and 39 depending on who you ask, for a walk. This island has a primary and secondary school, a church and a health clinic III. We walked past the school which seemed oddly abandoned. Many of the classrooms were empty but the school boards still has sums on them. We were told that in the weekends the benches are moved to a place for prayer and then are moved back for class on Monday. The entire school seemed to fall apart, doors were missing, window shades were broken and there were large cracks in the walls. Inside one of the old classrooms there was a fire burning where someone was cooking a large pot of water, though no one seemed to be around. The church was is pretty much the same state. We only saw the health clinic from a distance, but it seemed newer and they are building a maternity ward. There were plenty of birds around and the guide seemed to know most of them by name, but was not very interested in them.
We spent annother hour or so in the canoe. Me with my binoculars and Mattijs helping the guide out with the rowing. For lunch we visited a local family. There was an old lady who had cooked for us and her husband joined. Both were unable to speak English so we had little conversation. We were treated to a local drink made with sorgum, which they also use for porrige. The food was very nice. Next to beans and sweet potatoes, it included some dodo (spinach) and pumpkin. The couple turned out to be parents of Jasper, but we did not hear this untill the next day.
In the afternoon we enjoyed the sunshine and had a very quick dip in the freezing lake. After this we packed our bags and enjoyed dinner and a beer.

Day 10
Together with six other people that we had met at the lodge we headed to the nearest big city to catch a bus to Kampala. It ofcourse arrived late and was already full, but luckily we had reserved some seats, so we were able to sit down during the trip. The trip took us about 8 hours and we had one stop for lunch on the way, and one more stop to adjust some parts of the bus. We drove from the West to the centre of Uganda, allong the most southern highway. This was a part of the country that we had not seen before, so I spent most of the trip looking out of the window. We got treaded to some zebras that must have been in one of the national parks. It was the first time we saw zebras in Uganda. They were the proper black and white ones, not the ones with the brown stripes that I had seen in Botswana. From Kampala we shared a taxi with one other couple to Entebbe. We were ofcourse in the middle of rush hour so it took us annother 2 hours. We went back to the backpackers, had dinner at a restaurant nearby and had a shower and a short sleep before heading of to the airport to catch our flight at 4am.
The flights were on time, we had a nice stopover in Istanbul and arrived safely in NL the afternoon of the 27th.

Posted by Elisebuiter 01:26 Archived in Uganda Tagged animals safari gorillas lake_bunyoni Comments (0)

Safari day 5-7: leopards and elephants

sunny 31 °C

Day 5
In the morning we had the transfer to Queen Elisabeth National Park, which meant a few hours in the car. I was wearing my shorts since we were not planning on doing any walks that day and it becomes very hot in the car. We stopped at a gas station and I took the opportunity to use the toilet. I was getting a lot of attention while waiting for the bathroom. One of the gas attendants asked me why I was not all the same color. It took me a while to figure out what he meant. He had noticed my knees were darker than the rest of my legs, pretty observant fellow! During the drive the surroundings changed quite a bit. The area where Queen Elisabeth NP is seems drier than Murchison Falls was. It looks more like the pictures you see of an African savannah. We had lunch at a restaurant inside the park. A beautiful place overlooking the channel. During lunch we could hear the hippos in the channel. When I asked for a chicken stew with a mixture matoke, chapati and Irish, local food, the waitress asked how long I had been in Uganda. Probably not many tourists appreciate matoke. All these experiences make me realise how much more you learn about a country when you spend more time in one place and take or have the time to integrate with the locals.

After lunch we went down to the dock for our Kazinga Channel boat trip. Mainly a birding trip, but with the promise of some animals. The trip was almost two hours and took us along one side of the channel to one of the two lakes the channel connects. We saw many birds, shall not bore you with the details, but not much that I had not seen before. We saw a ton of hippos, lots of buffalo and even some elephants along the way. At the very end of the trip we found two elephants in the water, one fully submerged, bathing and drinking. So beautiful. We also went past a small village. There were people bathing in the channel, with visible hippos no more than 30 meters away! Also there was a buffalo lying in the fields, close to some of the walking paths the people were using to get down to the river. Buffalo and hippos are know to be very aggressive and when angry are very capable if killing humans. Either these people know when to get out of the way or these animals, or they are very stupid.

After the trip we went to our lodge. This one was also along the river and once again we were sleeping in a tent. The dining room was a large tent open at the front with a view of the campfire and the channel. The food was a set menu and very good. After dinner we walked back to our tent with our escort. And this time we realised why we had to be escorted. During our short walk from dinner to our tent, we saw two hippos walking along the edge of the grass. They can not have been more than 10 meters away! So awesome! Our tent is a bit further away from the edge than others, so I do not think the hippos will pass by so closely. Too bad. If we would have had a tent closer to the waters edge, I would probably have stayed up all night with my flash light ready to catch the hippos in action at the slightest sound.

Day 6
We left at 6:30 am for another game drive in a different part of QENP; Kasenyi. Here we were looking specifically for lions. Firstly we went to a salt lake where the locals had seen lions the night before, but we did not see any and the locals had not seen any either. They were asked to call us if the spotted one, just as the guides all call each other when they spot something. Unfortunately we did not see any, nor were there many other animals in this part of the park. But we saw buffalo, Uganda Kops, Water buck, some vultures and other birds. And, which was incredible, we saw a leopard in a tree. About 15 meters from the road there was a group of trees and in one of them lying on the bottom branch was a leopard. We briefly saw her cub climb down from the tree, but the cub stayed on the ground in the shrubs mostly. Up higher in the tree was a dead Kops, their kill. From the road we were able to see it with the binoculars, but they were a bit to far for our cameras. Going off-road in the park will give you a $150 fee. So what we did to get amazingly close to the leopard and get some fantastic pictures I will not discuss, but it involved calling a friend at the gate to check if there were any rangers in the park. After this we went back to the lake to check up with the locals. They had no news, but we had a drink and bought a souvenir. For lunch we went to another local restaurant. I think Jasper got to know our wishes by then.

After lunch we went to the Kyambura Gorge for a forest trek. As it turned out this was a chimpanzee tracking activity. We had already done this once before, but they always include the gorge into the program because it is so amazing. The gorge was formed 7 million years ago and it runs right through the savanna. The gorge itself is completely green, which is an amazing sight in the middle of endless fields of yellow grass. Within the gorge a few chimps can be found and we were going to track these. We took the car and went down into the gorge at a position close ti where the chimps were last seen the day before. We had 2 guides, one who explained things to us and cleared the way with a machete and the second one walked behind us looking nervous with an AK. There was one other couple that came along on the tracking. We had been walking through the forest for about 2 hours. We had seen some chimp tracks, but they were hard to find. We had also seen 2 hour old elephant poo and its footprints. Inside one of the footprints was a lions footprint, scary. We were walking on a small trail on the slope of the gorge. I was walking behind the guide and suddenly at a distance of 4 meter ahead I saw a large elephant in the bushes. I grabbed the guide and told him he was walking into an elephant. We backed away from the elephant. The guide took the rifle from the second guide and started hitting it. This made quite some noise and scared the elephant enough to make him back up a few meters. But this elephant was a very stubborn lone bull. Finally when the tapping of the gun did not work, the guide shot the gun into the air. This made a very loud noise which scared the elephant off. While this all was happening the second guide was urging us to move back and away from the elephant. The other women and me took this advice and were slowly backing away, the two guys were still stuck in place taking pictures and trying to film the massive charging bull. (After this Mattijs says I have nothing more to say about him chickening out when the lion passed. I say when the guide is still laughing you're fine. When he looks scared, you'd better listen to the guide.) The gunshot had probably scared of the chimps so we walked on the find a trail leading out of the gorge. Unfortunately the bull had formed the same plan of trying to get out of the gorge. We saw him again a few minutes later as he was heading towards us and we were cutting off his exit path. This time we hurried along and left the bull behind us, well, after we gave the guys a push that they really should walk away from a charging bull. Apart from after the gun shot, there is an amazing amount of noise in these forests. There are birds, which are very hard to spot through the dense trees. In this forest you can also hear the hippos in the small river in the bottom of the gorge. Then there are other animals that can be heard, such as monkeys and other undefined noises. And most loudly there are the cycades. These insects make a ridiculous loud noise. It seriously sounds like someone is using a saw to cut through massive amounts of boards. It is so load! After this adventure we went back to lodge. It was a clear and warm evening and the tables at the dining area were moved outside around the camp fire. We had another lovely dinner.

Day 7
Today we were leaving for Lake Bunyoni which is a bit further south. On the way we drove past some beautiful crater lakes. If I ever come back that is something that I must go and visit. Once again we passed more tea estates. We arrived at Bunyoni Lake around 3 pm. From the main land we had to get a boat that took us to the island where we would be staying. It was a backpackers belonging to the company that had organised our tour. We had a private room, called the geodome deluxe. It had no door and looked out over the lake. The water is solar heated, but it had been a cloudy day so we had a cold shower. We had dinner, which was very good. No meat on the menu, but lots of crayfish that are caught in the lake. Knowing we would have an early start we headed to bed early.

Posted by Elisebuiter 01:23 Archived in Uganda Tagged elephant safari leopard Comments (0)

Wildlife adventures - safari day 1-4

sunny 33 °C

Day 1
On the morning of 17 May, after 3 hours of sleep and quite hungover we packed our bags and took a boda to the main road where our driver/guide would pick us up. Perfectly on time he showed up with our 4x4 minibus. Our drivers name is Jasper and he works for the touring company Amagara Tours. (I have had contact with Jason and John from Amagara Tours, do I see a pattern here?) That first morning we drove towards Murchison Falls NP. We slept for the first hour, got some breakfast at a gas station and enjoyed the views. Just before the we reached the park we stopped at Boomu women's group for lunch. This is a place where the local women can earn a living by having them cook for tourists, making and selling souvenirs and running some small guest houses. And though they were not informed quite on time that we were coming for lunch, they did a great job and it was better than other local lunches I have had. On the way into the park we spotted some baboons, they were chilling on the road. They were very used to cars and did not move until the last moment.
We stopped at Budungo forest for chimp tracking. This is basically walking through the forest trying to find the chimps by listening for their calls or any signs of where they had gone, starting at the point where they were previously seen. The forest was very dense and had lots of beautiful and very large trees. Our guide explained about the chimps, their habits, how to find then, what trees they like etc. Unfortunately the chimps were having a troubled day and kept on moving instead of settling down after feeding as they usually do. When chimps move, they walk over the ground so it becomes hard to spot them. We walked around for 3 hours and had encountered one young chimp (you can tell by the color of their faces) sitting in a tree and a few moving around on the ground. We were having difficulties finding the larger group and had just decided to head back because of the threat of rain when we heard a chimp call. We followed the sound and finally found a group of about 6 chimps in the trees. We were able to get pretty close, 5 meters, to some of them before they started moving off again. Several of the females in the group were "in heat" so we even had the privilege of watching a part of their reproduction process. After a while we left them alone and headed back.
From here we drove through a part of the park to get to the lodge. While driving we saw more baboons and a pair of Albessinian ground hornbills, male and female. They look very prehistoric and are at least a meter high. We also saw one bush bock crossing the road. We stayed at the Murchison River Lodge which was really were nice and seemed expensive. Luckily all food was included so we have no idea how much this cost us. We slept in a tent with two permanent beds. It was really comfortable. Unfortunately the water was heated by solar so by the time we showered there was no hot water. The restaurant was at the other side of the grounds and had a gorgeous view of the Nile. Hippos could be heard the entire evening. Dinner was a delicious set menu. After dinner we were escorted back to our tent. This was because of the chance of encountering monkeys or hippos, but we got to our tent without any excitement.

Day 2
We got up early for a game drive leaving at 6:30 to be able to catch the first ferry to cross the Nile at 7 am. While waiting we saw lots of hippos. They were all along the edges of the river, cooling down in the water. For the drive we used our own car and Jasper was our guide. Our car has a sun roof that can open and we can stand on our seats to get a great view. As soon as we entered the park QENP started seeing wildlife, however Jasper insisted on moving quickly further into the park to have a chance to see some lions and promised we would see the rest after that. We did take a short detour for a group of 10 elephants, the first we had seen in Uganda. After that we saw loads of antelopes (hartebeest, water buck, oribi, Ugandan kob), buffalo, birds and giraffes. We came across two spotted hyenas that crossed the road. These were really cool to see, even if they are very ugly creatures. As Mattijs said, the Lion King really captured them spot on. It is apparently rare to see these, so we were quite lucky. And all of this was within the first hour of the drive. Later we drove into a side track but saw that on another track cars had stopped so we turned around and headed in that direction. They were watching a lioness. She walked towards the road, crossed it and then decided to change direction. She walked back to the road and walked down it. This brought her to our car which she calmly walked past at 1.5 m distance. At this point Mattijs dove back into the car (to take some better pictures from the window as he says...). I was making a movie with the Go Pro standing on the seats and it felt so awesome to be so close to such a beautiful creature. She was definitely well fed and was very broad and muscular. Jasper said that she has 4 cubs, but these were not with her. After this QENP headed foe a lake which was filled with hippos (like big sardines). We were able to get close to the lake and to the hippos and there were a lot of water birds around. I got to go to the toilet with a view of the hippos. We continued our drive and sea some banded mongoos, Ugandans national bird the grey crowned cranes, pattas monkeys and many other birds. We drove around until 12 when we went to a lodge close to the ferry for a drink and to eat our packed lunch.
The park is named after the Murchison Falls. After lunch we took a boat cruise down the Nile towards these falls. During the cruise we saw once again many hippos, buffalo and two Nile crocodiles. From a large distance we saw some elephants. There were many water birds; king fishers, egrets and storks. We reached the falls and here we got off the boat. We were going to hike to the top of the falls. The Murchison fall is at its narrowest part only 7 meters wise and it is estimated that 3000 m3 of water passes through this every second. You can imagine that the falls are quite a sight. In '62 there had been heavy rains and so much water was passing through that a second fall was created. Due to the independence of Uganda obtained in that year these falls are now named the freedom falls. During the walk we had beautiful views of both falls.
We spent another night at the River Lodge. There was an information page next to the bed describing the local wildlife. It said that if you hear a man walking by in rubber boots than it is probably a hippo and it is best to leave it alone. I woke up once during the night and heard a hippo, but it sounded so much like a man walking by in boots which the staff wear, that I am not so sure if it was not really a man walking by in boots. That description was a bit to accurate to tell the difference.

Day 3
We had had a small disagreement with Jasper about the program for that morning. We thought we would have a game walk, while Jasper said it was not possible. It turned out we did, but by then it was a bit to late for any animals or birds. We decided a walk was better than a whole day in the car so we crossed the ferry for our late game walk along the Nile shore. Our guide was Sam, who carried an AK. Just in case we would meet any angry animals. We saw some water buck from far off and more hippos from close by. A Nile croc went into the water as we approached. We saw just a few birds and by the end of the walk it was becoming pretty warm. But it was a nice walk.
After the walk we got into the car for the drive up Kibale. When we reached Kibale Forest Lodge Mattijs was wearing an orange t-shirt while I could have sworn he had put on a white one that morning. The dust on the road was so bad and this is the wet season! I cannot imagine how bad the dust must be in the dry season. During all the transfers between the activities and the National Parks we drove through smaller villages. On these drives I really got an idea about how different the lives in these small villages are from what I experienced. I tried to take a lot of pictures from the car and will write a separate post about what I saw. During.the drive we also passed several large tea estates. Tea apparently grows very well here and the only tea you can get in the local supermarkets is Ugandan Tea.
Due to the morning walk we arrived around dinner time. I asked to eat at a local restaurant instead of at the lodge at which the guide burst out in laughter. Not a question he had got before. But I convinced him I was serious and we had dinner in a local restaurant in the village near the lodge. Simple beans with matoke and rice, it was a perfect meal. The lodge was once again in a beautiful location. It was situated along a small stream in the forest. And here we also slept in a tent, but without the hippos to wake us.

Day 4
The following morning Dorothy took us on a forest walk through Kibale forest. The forest was to dense to see many birds, but we saw a dusky long-tailed cuckoo and we saw 3 different species of monkeys: red tailed monkey, the black and white collabus and the grey checked goliath. We learnt a bit more about the plants and trees in the forest. There were hardwood trees of 200 years old. We saw several tracks of elephants in the forest. I could not really imagine such a large animal walking through this dense forest. But this was one of the reasons that Dorothy was carrying an AK47. (In Mokolodi Game Reserve in Botswana they did not have any elephants because it was too dangerous to do walks when they are around. Here they just take a gun...)
After the walk we had some hours before our next activity. We asked to be dropped of in the village to grab a Rolex for lunch and then walk back to the lodge, which cannot have been more than 1.5 km away. This surprised Jasper very much, and also everyone at the lodge. Apparently we were once again the first to do this. Jasper said that he had had tourist that had lived in Uganda for a while before but that even they had not asked for this. We had a good Rolex, bought an avocado as desert and had a nice walk back to the lodge. We saw many birds and once again the black and white colobus and the red-tailed monkey. The locals living along the road were very surprised to see us, first mzungos to walk this road?
For our afternoon activity we went for a walk with our guide Jason in the Bigodi wetlands. This was a local start-up, whereby 5 farmers stopped using there land and turned it into a swamp. Now 150 farmers participate in the project and it is a beautiful area with many birds and some small mammals. They have more plans such as starting a campsite and a snake farm and this entrepreneurial mindset really charmed Mattijs. (If anyone wants to help donate a pair of snakes, contact Mattijs.) It was a nice walk and a very different surrounding from what we had seen before. We saw the blue turaco, a colored sunbird and two flycatchers. There was a very small green tree snake on one of the bushes and I am still surprised that the guide spotted it. It looked exactly like a new green branch. Half way through the walk it started to rain. The nice thing about this was that the monkeys climbed up into the trees to shelter from the rain which made them more easy to see. We saw 5 monkey species during the walk including the Red Colobus and the L'Hoests Monkey's which we had not seen before.
We went back to the lodge, had a warm (!) shower and had dinner. It gets dark around 7 and there is not much more room in the tents than for the two beds. At this lodge the generator turns off at 10 pm. Plus we are usually pretty tired after the days activities, so we have been having early night's.

Posted by Elisebuiter 07:06 Archived in Uganda Tagged nile safari kibale murchison_falls chimpansees Comments (0)

Last week in Mukono and first week of travelling

Sunday morning very early (or Saturday middle of the night) I got up to go pick up Mattijs. But his flight had been delayed, so back to bed for another hour before going. He arrived in one piece and it was so weird, but nice, to see him again after so long. We went back to the backpackers and had some more sleep. After breakfast we visited the botanical gardens in Entebbe which I really wanted to see. And it was beautiful. Many very large and old trees and the grounds were well kept, but not too artificial. We saw the first monkeys within 10 minutes of entering the gardens and the second kind not much later. There were of course many birds and we saw several pairs of beautiful and large hornbills. A part of the garden borders with the lake, so we also spotted a lot of kingfishers, storks and herrons. To top it all up we also saw the recording of a local music video. After lunch and a rest at the backpackers we went to one of Entebbe's beaches. We were the only mzungos and also one of the few who could swim, so we got lots of attention. I have almost gotten used to this by now, but Mattijs was not so comfortable. We drank one Nile (local beer, 'straight from the source') but decided we would drink our second at the backpackers. We had another bad dinner at the backpacker, but were able to catch up one some sleep.

I really had to get used to having Mattijs around again and having someone depend on me. I had been taking care of just myself for so long and now I suddenly had to think of someone else again, in a nice way ;) And it is so fun having someone with you for who everything is new. Though I still appreciate everything that I see and am still surprised by this crazy country at times a fresh view allows you to see how special somethings are. For example, when we were at the beach Mattijs said whispering: I have never been around this many black people before! I did not even realise how different this is from home, having come from South Africa and Botswana. I hope I was able to introduce mattijs to this country the same way that I was introduced in my first weekend. Showing how things are done and how nice things are and trying to make this country seem not so scary.

Monday morning it was raining so we waited a few hours for it to dry up a bit before heading back to Mukono. This was a challenge with one backpack, two bags and a box of surgical gloves. Luckily we only had to change taxis once, at the old taxi station in Kampala. Because of the rains the taxi station was covered in a thick layer of mud and we had to cross it, luckily we did not slip. Mattijs enjoyed the views and the method of transport and I enjoyed pointing everything out to him. We arrived in Mukono in time to get a Rolex for lunch, which he loved. I showed Mattijs the house, explained how the toilet worked, which was quite a shock, and introduced him to my housemates. Chris offered to cook some local food for dinner, rice, matoke and thick G'nut sauce, which was once again lovely! I really will miss the local food. Hopefully I will find a place to get some Matoke. In the evening we played some cards before going to bed.

On Tuesday we got up early to travel to Sipi, which is in the east of the country. It was a long trip; we left at 9:45 and arrived at half past 4. We were able to catch a taxi going to Mbale from Mukono. Somewhere along the way the taxi started getting empty, which is bad for business. So the taxi stopped in a town to fill it up, and they filled it up until no extra chicken would fit. (I was once in a taxi and when the guy next to me left, he picked up a live chicken from the ground. I had not even noticed that it was there!) By the time they had filled the taxi, we were on the back row, with four adults on three seats. Mattijs had our two bags on his lap, my neighbor and me each had one of her kids on our laps and the last guy had his suitcase. The other rows were filled similarly, there was a kid's bike in the back and some stuff tied on the backdoor. It still took us quite some time to reach Mbale and the ride was very cozy and warm. I love it how here everyone helps each other out and that the kids are fine with sitting on a stranger's (even mzungo) lap if it is necessary. The kids all seem very well raised here. Probably because you commonly hear 'I will smack you!' In Mbale we got a private taxi, a 5 seater which was also filled with 7 people and 2 kids. This finally took us to Sipi. On the way we were stopped by a police officer because we had too many people. But the driver and a passenger had a conversation with her, probably gave her a bribe and we continued. We were dropped at our hostel, Twilight, and we were the only guests. There was one treehouse available, which of course we took. From our 'balcony' we had the most amazing view of the falls. We arranged for a tour of the falls with the guy from the lodge for the next morning. The clouds started gathering so we went into town early for dinner to be back before the rains. We had matoke, rice and beef in a local very simple restaurant with milk tea. It was fantastic, I think it was the best I have had until now. We took a beer home with us from the local shop and enjoyed it on our balcony. When we went to bed it started raining and we had a nice view of the lightning. Until it became very close and we started wondering if sleeping up in a tree was the best idea during a thunderstorm.

Luckily we woke up alive on Wednesday morning, once again amazed by the gorgeous view. We headed into town to find a Rolex for breakfast, which we managed, though it was definitely not one of the best I have had. We were picked up by the guide to start our trip. There are three falls of which the Sipi falls are composed. We walked a part through the.village to catch a boda that would take us close to the top of the first fall. Then we hiked down to the second one where we had an ice cold shower under the waterfall. Due to the rains the night before the trail was very slippery and neither of us had our hiking shoes with us. Therefore our guide decided it was not wise for us to head down to the bottom of the third fall and took us to a view point instead. I still hope that it really was a bad idea and that he was not just tired. But it was very hot and clouds were gathering so I do not think Mattijs or me minded very much. After a quick shower back at the hostel we packed our things. There were no private taxis around so we had to figure out something else. Here our guide was really helpful. He borrowed a boda, drove us a long way down and made sure we got onto the right taxi to Mbale. He even made sure we did not pay more than we had on the way up to Sipi. It was an easy trip and we got an easy connection to Jinja. We even got the mzungo seats in the front of the taxi. When we got closer to Jinja we were thrown out if the taxi and put into a local, big, bus without any explanation. It seemed the taxi driver did not want to enter Jinja so we were transferred to a bus that was heading for town. This was even a new experience for me. But the bus was ok and it stopped in the centre of town. We got a snack, Rolex and samosa, and had to bargain hard with a driver for an overpriced boda trip to the Nile Explorers Backpackers. We used some Wi-Fi, had a sandwich with good cheese and a very nice cheese burger. We even got a fruit cocktail. We had warm shower and then a good night sleep, the best one I had had in a week, in our empty dorm.

Thursday morning we got up for the rafting trip. We drank some coffee waiting for all participants to arrive. Then we were taken to the dropoff point in an open vehicle. We drove through some smaller villages, a lot poorer than around Mukono and Jinja, which was I guess a good experience to see. We were really exited about using the Go Pro, but had forgotten the battery. Argh... luckily there was another guy with a Go Pro. I was able to borrow him some of my attachments and straps, in exchange for his pictures. We had a safety briefing at the starting point, no hippos in this part of the river, the crocs are vegetarian and listen to what the guide/boat captain says. Then we went onto the Nile for some practice before heading towards the first rapid. Our captain had been a kayaker for the Ugandan national team and enjoyed being on the river. We were in a raft with two other couples that we had spoken to that morning. All of us had rafted before and we had told our captain. Wrong choice... This meant that every rapid he would choose the most difficult path. And this meant that at the end of the day, while most rafts had flipped over once at most, we had flipped on 5 out of 8 rapids. After the initial shock of having to swim down a grade 5 rapid, or flipping and ending up under the raft or under your neighbor, it was very fun! And the water was a nice temperature so swimming was a good way to cool down. I was saved by one of the other rafts once, who had also lost a passenger and was able to complete the second part of the rapids with them before getting back in my own boat. I also caught a lift once with one if the kayakers that came with us for this reason. Those kayakers were amazing, doing tricks on the rapids and two of them going down a grade 6 (our captain said he used to be crazy enough to go down them in his kayak, but not anymore). They really made me feel more safe. The first rapid contained a 8 foot drop. Only half the size of our raft, but it seemed much higher going down! (As you can see from my face on the photos that were taken.) Between the rapids there were longer parts where we could relax and the scenery was beautiful. At the end point we were able to change and have a very nice early dinner complete with some well deserved beers. Our guide was drinking a Nile with the label upside down. Someone commented on this and he answered: this is how we go down the Nile, upside down! We got a ride back to Mukono with the rafting company and arrived back before dark.

Friday I had the time to show Mattijs a bit of Mukono. After a late breakfast and doing my laundry (last time. Next time I have a washing machine. Whoop!) we went to the health centre. I hoped to say goodbye to the people I had worked with. Also, mama had given Mattijs a big box of surgical gloves, which were intended for the maternity ward, since they do not even have enough for emergencies, which I had to give to them. We first went to the maternity ward, but they had an emergency. It looked like someone was having a miscarriage, was in a lot of pain and was receiving fluids and medication. So we left them to tend to her and went to the surgery. Here they were just finishing a c-section, but the woman had gone into shock and urgently needed blood. (They have some blood in the lab, but last time I was there the temperature of the fridge was 22 degrees Celsius and they had no idea how long the temperature had been up.) So Mattijs got a good idea of the choas that sometimes occurs at the health centre. We visited the lab, the pharmacy and went back to the maternity ward where they were very happy to receive the gloves. Lots of thanks to mama from the nurses there! We went for lunch at a local restaurant where we had posho, matoke, rice and sweet potatoes with beans. Just to allow Mattijs to enjoy the local food as much as I do, even if most of it is a bit boring. The rest of the afternoon we were at the house. Relaxing, photographing the kids that come to the gate to watch the mzungos and just enjoying my last afternoon at the house. For dinner we went down in a local restaurant, I had chapati and beans (boring, but so nice!) and Mattijs had simply rice and beef because his stomach was having a bit of trouble with the amount of Nile he had drunk in the raft. On the way back to the house we picked up some packets of whiskey (for us), wodka (for Praise) and a bottle of coke. Mattijs and I played some cards, had some drinks, gave the others some drinks and at 10 we headed off to the hive with Praise, Chris and Daphine. As usual it was still a bit empty when we arrived, but it filled up quickly. Murray was bartending so I got to chat with him ans say goodbye to him before it became to busy. We ran into Orthega and Friday (Chris's friends). I had been wondering how Mattijs would like the local bar, the music was not really his type, the dancing is very different from his signature moves and of course there is the interest in mzungos. But he really seemed to enjoy himself. I got to demonstrate my Ugandan dance moves and had a great last night with my friends. We left then in the bar at 2:30 and went home to get a few hours of sleep before we had to leave on our tour.

P.s. I managed to upload some photos to the site, but not yet to get them in the proper blog posts. But you can get an idea of my house and the hospital by looking at the photos. I will add them to the correct posts later on!

Posted by Elisebuiter 02:01 Archived in Uganda Tagged nile rafting jinja entebbe mukono health_clinic_iv sipi_falls Comments (0)

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