LAKE BARINGO TO LAKE NAKURU

 

Lake Nakuru, the national park, about five minutes away from town was the next stop and before long we had our first experience of the parks entry system which is ridiculously long- winded and complicated , whist M ichael was dealing with the paperwork, taking the best part of an hour, I had an unfortunate encounter with a rather large Baboon, who jumped straight through the car window, onto my lap, swipe a bag of nuts and jump back out, it just sat beside the car until it had eaten the lot, charming!

He sat on Emmas lap and stole her nuts

He sat on Emmas lap and stole her nuts

The small park surrounding the Lake, like Baringo has water levels at record highs and this has all happened within a couple of years, therefore many of the roads have disappeared and the park is considerably smaller than it’s supposed to be.

Still plenty of birds, Buffalo everywhere and four White Rhino wallowing by the lakeshore, plus Gazelles, waterbuck etc, kept us entertained for a few hours. The park is very varied and beautiful, though somewhat strange to see the town and farmland surrounding the park from the high points. Not cheap at $200 per day , the “campsite” a couple of run-down toilets with no doors and no water and thats it for $25, -they really are taking the piss, we prefer the bush toilet anyway, having had no real choice in the matter!

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Pelicans

Pelicans

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn, never hard when your’e in bed at 8:00 pm, we searched the forest for Black Rhino and failed, lot’s of Waterbuck, very dark and pretty here, came across some rare Rothschild Giraffes (white legs) at close quarters this time. The roads were a bit of a nightmare, as there’s no signage and half the roads havedisappeared under the lake. Lot’s of butch Buffalo everywhere, big family herds,

big boys here

big boys here

finally we stumbled across Rhino central, various groups, pairs etc, a grand total of 18, this really must be the easiest place to see Rhino, given the relatively small numbers compared with say Umfolozi in South Africa. Always such a thrill to see them them!

more

more

saw 18 of these

saw 18 of these

Left the park, stocked up our supplies in Nakuru and headed south for Lake Elmenteita, this is the main road through Kenya, linking Mombassa and Nairobi with the interior. Without doubt, wev’e already witnessed some of the worst driving wev’e seen, made worse because the roads are so good, therefore the speeds are higher. Kamikazi pilots are girls blouses compared with the drivers here, it is simply unbelieveable, no wonder the death rate is the worst in the world. This is not just an occasional looney, it’s each and everyone.

Rothschilds giraffe - white belly and legsdark variant

Rothschilds giraffe – white belly and legsdark variant

Grants gazelle

Grants gazelle

 

KENYA BORDER TO LAKE BARINGO

 Carried on out of town, passed through the small village of Iten, this is where all the Kenyan runners train and there were many, plus cyclists, as it’s 2,300 m and a chilly 20 degrees for us, however as you the drop down the escarpment to the Rift valley floor to about a 1,000 m and 32 degrees, it becomes much more satisfactory. Continued on to Lake Baringo, unusually a freshwater Lake, for rift valleys.

All Kenyan atheletes come from here

All Kenyan atheletes come from here

 

Rift valley going into Kenya

Rift valley going into Kenya

Stayed at “Roberts camp” which was very nice, the best, cold showers we’d had in ages, so we finally got nice and clean. Plenty of strange birds around. Unusually the lake was at record levels, even though there’s been no exceptional rain. No-one seemed to know why and the neighbouring lodge was up to roof level!

Shrike

Shrike

red paradise flycatcher

red paradise flycatcher

 

 

Next morning fiddled with the car, did some washing, I’d seen a Monitor Lizard going into a hole in the wall and were just commenting on how it was a shame we’d never got a good picture of one, when out came an absolute monster about four foot long, a proper mini dragon, so we managed to get our photo after all, we then saw several others including one chewing it’s way through a fish carcuss.

about 4ft long

about 4ft long

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Alot of Crocs and Hippo’s right up to the camp. The bird-life here is extraordinary, you don’t have to move anywhere, it all comes to you, Michael saw all three Paradise fly-catcher’s including the rare white morph, in one bush!

 

Took a small boat trip out to the islands on Lake Baringo with Sam who acts on behalf of the local community, to see the rare Rothschilds Giraffe, that have been relocated to Ruko Island to protect them from poachers and see them we did, rather strangely, looking down on them rather than up as they grazed amongst the Acacia bushes, a lovely trip if ever you are in the area.

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Crossed the Equator once more and headed for Nakuru,we were told Nakuru wasn’t very exciting , but we actually found it rather pleasant, well spread out, clean with a huge modern, Nakumatt (supermarket)

 

UGANDA TO KENYA

 

The mechanic finally showed up with an assistant and got to work pronto, after several hours he declared the car fit, once again. He and Michael took it for a test drive and yes, all seemed to be well, until he wanted more payment. Michael was obviously happy to pay for all the parts Mugisha brought, but not for anything else, as it was due to his incompetence that had caused us all the hassle, waiting around and the extra costs this incurred, so, for another hour neither would budge. The assistant and myself sat around twiddling our thumbs, until a deal was struck, although Mugisha definately got the better part of the deal. Michael wasn’t happy paying for 3 litres of oil that had never been put in or the state of the brakes, which he was supposed to have fixed……..won’t be reccomending him then. No we bloody well won’t says M

Left Masindi the following morning, judder-free.

A long, hot day on the road,Kenya bound, driving through the towns of Lira and Soroti, until reaching Mbale quite late. Arrived at The Landmark Inn, as we’d read this is where the Indian Ambassador comes to dine when out East, as the curries are simply the best. The building itself, a vast collonial style house, that obviously hasn’t ever been updated in any shape or form, for obvious reasons this is good and bad thing! The lady of the house kindly let us camp in the grounds,which were deliously fragrant and after settling in and attempting a shower in one of the three rooms,the fact there was no water to speak of hardly mattered, as the overwhelming urge for a good curry took over!

Seated in the rather bizarrely decorated restaurant, whilst the boss watched “Slumdog millionaire” on the huge TV and having probably ordered far too much, as you do, piles of crispy Chicken tikka, perfectly cooked, melt in the mouth butter naan, Jalfrezi and a mountain of spiced pilau vegetable rice arrived, we had died and gone to heaven and managed to pig the whole lot,total gluttony, but so good we couldn’t stop eating! This had to be the best tip wev’e had the pleasure of reading in one of the guide books and would throughly recommend it to anyone else with a love of Indian food.

You might want to choose some other form of accomodation however, because although the guide book states it’s” nicely shabby”, we would like to add that it’s in fact NOT very nicely shabby at al its terrible from the room we saw, but it was great for camping in the grounds under the enormous Mahogany trees, with several Ross’s Turacao to admire(such a name dropper) and believe you me, after all that curry it was the best place for us to be!!

Next day crossed the border from Uganda into Western Kenya. Would have been an easy and relaxed crossing had it not been for the enormous queue at the immigration office, which went around the block. This wasn’t helped either by a young corrupt policeman taking bribes from people trying to jump the queue Good news was the lady behind the counter was not happy and refused to deal with them then another guy  on thats side told them to bugger off and join the queue like everyone else . We sweltered in the heat patiently, until our turn came, had our fingerprints done, paid our $50 each for visa’s got the car stamped in……..sorted.

Made our way to Eldoret, it was a Saturday afternoon when we arrived and fairly manic, the crazy driving hasn’t improved in Kenya, if anything slightly worse. At the bank, the machine claimed it gave us some money, but didn’t actually spit any out, the bank typically had shut. we moved on to the garage, where they had no power, which meant the pumps weren’t working,we gave up there too. Managed to buy a new Sim card for the phone and stocked up in the rather nice Nakumatt supermarket (fresh milk and proper cheese)

Camped outside town at the pleasant Naiberi camp next to a fast flowing stream, everyone extremely friendly to us and interested in our journey. Fred bought us charcoal so we could have a little brai. Very cold at night as nearly as high as on Nyika in Malawi,but we got out the thick Tanzanian rug we’d bought and all was quite cosy.

Monday morning went back to Eldoret and Barclays bank to sort out money issue, only to be told, “number one always does this” that’s handy then, anyway they told us it should be back in our account. Then another half hour session with the Forex girl who simply couldn’t count, drove Michael nuts.

MURCHISON FALLS NP

 

Next day, we took a slow leisurely drive to Murchison Falls. Hadn’t been travelling long, when the Landy, started to judder violently, our hearts sank, but we drove on to the campsite site, regardless, as not alot could be done at this point, tried in vain to make contact with Mugisha, our mechanic from Kampala that had been doing repairs on the vehicle for a week,so decided to wait until morning, in the hopes of finding somewhere with reception.

 

Popped in for a delicious meal at Nile Safari Camp, fish (Nile Perch) with rice and veg, cooked to perfection , something of a treat here and helped ease the pain of yet more problems with the motor.

 

Despite the car shaking like a wet dog,we drove to the top of the falls next morning, the viewpoint at the waterfall’s head was an impressive sight, it’s here that you can truly appreciate the power with which the Nile crashes through the narrow gap in the escarpment, not to mention the deafening roar and mighty spray, we got absolutely soaked and with no fence and slippery underfoot, it’s all a bit treacherous really, So much for health and safety, the UK would love it!!

 

Later in the day we abandoned the car for The Nile launch trip, basically a boat trip from Paraa to the base of the falls. Following a stretch of the Nile, banks lined with Papyrus and borassus palms and a fair ammount of game lots of birdlife, including fish eagles, pied kingfisher and red-throated bee-eater’s. We had been hoping to catch a sight of the little seen shoebill, but failed miserably.

Nile below the falls

Nile below the falls

The gap is tiny fall about 45m

The gap is tiny fall about 45m

Below the falls

Below the falls

 

Plenty of Crocs, Hippo’s etc, all very scenic, until the sky turned black, the heavens opened and once again we took a soaking!

Red Throated bee Eater - amazing colours

Red Throated bee Eater – amazing colours

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The torrential downpour was shortlived though and after a couple of hours we arrived at the base of the falls. We were slightly dissapointed not to get a little closer, but not as much as the rather eccentric old German lady whom Michael had befriended, she wanted the boat to go right up to the falls and couldn’t understand why this wasn’t possible and why we were’nt going faster, and also why we couldnt go past!! Michael tried his best to explain. But she was obviously barking.

African Darter

African Darter

 

Very hot, humid and sticky, but nice to be on the water instead of on the road.

 

Finally made contact with the Mechanic …..(Michael not a happy bunny) he agreed to find parts in Kampala and come and meet us to repair whatever needs repairing (the Panhard rod and bushes are totally buggered, plus front crankshaft oil seal, which he supposedly replaced is leaking badly ) this means that when we drive on a smooth road the vehicle shakes like a crazy beast and we have to drive with the left wheels down the verge which frightens the locals somewhat…….. the.only problem being, Mugisha was currently about 300 km away when we contacted him and he would have to order the parts etc, etc, this was going to take some time!

Bloody huge spider about 150 mm across

Bloody huge spider about 150 mm across

 

Decided to leave Murchison, stopped for breakfast at Kanyiyo Pabidi site for breakfast, within the Budongo forest reserve,this place is supported by the Jane Goodall institute and here you can organise chimp related activities. Very pleasant, although we had to supply the eggs for breakfast as they had run out! Saw a few big spiders here some with enormous thick webs, this pleased Michael no end.

 

Headed on to Masindi, where we await the arrival of the mechanic, camping just outside town, at New court view hotel on a busy main road so quite noisy, though a pleasant enough place to be stuck and I can certainly think of worse……..our roof-tent seems to be keeping everyone highly amused here,we are quite surprised to find they haven’t seen one before.

PS- experienced the dreaded Boda-Boda this morning, have to say I was nicely surprised, though the streets here aren’t as busy as in Kampala……and I did insist he went slowly, he kindly obliged and I had the pleasure of another man’s company!

 

Kampala to Ziwa Rhino sanctuary

Whilst we endured, rather than enjoyed Urban life in Kampala waiting for the car, a week spent there was more than enough and with the beast declared fit for the next leg, we were raring to go.

We’d spent our time staying in a fairly run-down but popular back-packers hostel, run by an Aussie for the last few years. Our room,although basic, had recently been painted, although why they had to include the mirror, basin and taps is anyone’s guess! Reasonably comfy bed, with a not too holey mosquito net insured a few good nights kip, although we always felt a bit itchy, probably a combination of damp and bed-bugs……. give me my roof-tent any day of the week!

Traffic chaos was something else. When not totally grid-locked, everyone drives like complete nutters. No-one stops at red lights, gives way,takes any notice of traffic police and we’ve encountered some crazy manoveres,not to mention the lunatics on roller- skates weavng their way in and out of all the traffic. The most common form of transport are The Boda-Boda- motobike/bicycle taxi’s, these come in all shapes and sizes and come in their thousands. Michael had a nerve racking experience travelling on few of these, when visiting the car in garage, but assured me it wasn’t for the faint-hearted and that I would have loathed it, I wasn’t about to argue, preferring to stick to a normal cab!

Michael – boda bodas are a new world – no rules, sides of road, traffic lights or other rules of the road apply. Thankfully they are only 12 HP engines. At night even worse given smog, pedestrians etc. Pavements bach u turns against traffic ti find gaps in traffic all part of the game and there are hundreds all jostling for right of way. feet and knees tucked in and hang on trying not to yelp too much is the only way.alternative takes hours.

I made a visit to the opticians- for much needed new glasses, the five pairs I started off with are either broken or scratched beyond repair. The service was surprisingly good, a free eye-test and new specs, being marginally cheaper than the UK, so one happy customer, plus I can see again, which helps, I’ve no excuse for bad map reading now!

 

Next it was off to the dentist to tackle my tooth-ache which has been bugging me for the last month,this visit somehow didn’t seem quite so appealing.

Luckily (or not) Dr Biren N. Yajnik seemed full of confidence, I on the other hand was not. I made Michael sit in the waiting room, in case an extraction without anathesetic occurred and he could run in and save me. Luckily this was not needed and the reasonably sensitive dentist, (who probably thought I was a complete baby) just shaved off the cusp of my, tooth and gave it a filing down. According to Michael I gnash and grind my teeth every night in my sleep, which has caused bruising, pain and jaw ache. Some say it’s stress, but I think it’s simply from watching too many Croccodiles!

 He also gave them a much needed clean,with what,I can only describe as lemon juice or possisbly battery acid, anyway,something that makes everything curl up!

PS- It has improved things slightly and I’m hoping I can hold out until we get back,otherwise I’m worried M will send me to The Witch- Doctor.

Left Kampala and drove to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary (last one shot here in 1983 this is a project to reintroduce although not north african sub species), here they protect the re-introduced White Rhino ( from Kenya & S Africa) and just happen to have a camp-site. we just wanted to break up the long journey to Murchison Falls, so decided to spend a night.Surrounded by a substantial green metal fence, obviously to keep us in and the Rhino out, I jokingly commented to the girl in charge” I bet they don’t come anywhere near the campsite” (they have 7,000 hectares in which to roam) to which she replied “oh but they do sometimes.”

Enjoying a drink sometime later and Michael taking a shower, I looked up from my book,only to find five massive Rhino a few metres away. Thankful for the metal fence, I reached for the camera, hoping Michael would make an appearance soon and not miss out on this incredible sight. Sure enough, he was soon done, just as another group appeared, this was fantastic! However, it felt like we were the ones caged in, with them looking in on us……which of course we were.

Inside the cage about 7m from our table

Inside the cage about 7m from our table

 The guides in the area told us not to take photo’s, as a new group of people were on their way and as we hadn’t paid for Rhino tracking as such, so we were’nt to disturb them and cause them to leave. The so-called new group turned out to be the technical director of this project, though his main job is based at Solio in Kenya ( big rhino rehab/ sanctuary/ v.v expensive game lodge $1400/perso/night if you are interested)  . We got chatting and he was fine with us snapping away, in fact he was doing some research and trying to get photo’s of their wrinkles!

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most are Bellas offspring they stay as a family group

most are Bellas offspring they stay as a family group

Another group

Another group

 

 

Finally, a third and final group showed up,complete with Mum and 5 month old baby, apparently these two are seldom seen anywhere. By this time “Bella” from the first group who is pregnant, was grazing right up to the fence, generally unconcerned., whilst some of the other’s were not quite so friendly.

We watched them for three hours, until it got dark and considered ourselves extremely lucky to have seen so many in one hit, as most people spend lots of time and money trying to see them with guides and we’d managed to see 12 of the 14 currently there, just enjoying the camp-site for the night. The only ones missing were the big boss and his rival. Fantastic stuff

KIBALE NP & CHIMPS

 

Headed north next day as the park was very muddy and not much fun and as I say we have been spoilt. Also, while park fees are OK $30 Each a day, they hit you for $150 for a foreign vehicle so ends up very pricey – a shame but while it may help local tour companies it must mean they miss out with the likes of us who spend much more time and money in local shops etc etc which fly in safari types don’t.

Passed the equator, so back in Northern hemisphere again – first time for about a year.

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Went to Fort Portal, nice town came across a brilliant find, a small hotel with a pizza restaurant/bread and cheese shop, called “The Duchess” where things like toilets and showers actually worked !! Oh the joy and the pizzas would easily compare with those anywhere in the world. If you are near here, go, you will not regret it! So pleasantly stuffed, we headed to Kibale NP, stayed in the campsite by the vistor centre – very quiet, facilities are basic, at least showers tepid, but very open-air!! $10 each still.

Again lots of birds including the Great BlueTuraco which only lives around these parts – very noisy, large and attractive. Got some piccies but it’s all very tricky in the forest because of light, branches etc.

Great Blue Turacoa

Great Blue Turacoa

Red breasted sunbirds

Red breasted sunbird

Did a walk next morning around Bigodi swamp run by a local community, very interesting our guide seemed to know his stuff. There are 8 types of monkeys here, we saw 6, missed the vervet (common everywhere in Africa so no great loss) and Blue monkeys which we have seen, but they are very rare and quite shy so no surprise there.

We did see the rare and seldom seen L’ Hoests monkey ( quite big with white beard)

L'Hoests Monkey - rare &shy

L’Hoests Monkey – rare &shy

these are red tailed monkeys which get pissed all the time and fight with all the others, sometimes they even try it on with humans, they also have little fear of Chimps we were later told (see blog below). Plenty of the Black & White Colubus’ also Grey cheeked Mangeby’s again a big beasty, also Red colubus who chimps like to hunt and eat, simply masses of Olive baboons with lots of babies, mostly visiting our camp ,sitting in our washing bowls and trying to eat the cloths.

Lots of birds, see photo’s – but difficult/impossible to get good ones without a serious lens.

Shiny Kingfisher

Shiny Kingfisher

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For once the project is very succesful they have managed to build a big secondary school, hospital and police station and we were one of several groups visiting that day, so they are clearly doing something right. All the guides know their stuff and can spout off birds names from a small glimpse or tweet in the bushes.

Next day and Chimp Tracking, off we went in the pouring rain with Harriet and Eddie our guides and a honeymoon couple from UK!

Started at a slow pace, thankfully as legs still weak from the Gorrilla’s and no rush, as it was raining and Chimps stay in their nests high up in the forest, as they don’t like the rain, all the various groups went in different directions and after an hour or so we got the message that they had been spotted in exactly the opposite direction to the one we were heading,so we back-tracked at a furious pace with Harriet charging through the swamp,mud and rain. Finally came across a juvenile at low level and a few others, but the majority were still up trees in the surrounding forest, but we stood watching them for a good while.

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Harriet, who has been following them for 13 years and is writing a book had some good tales to tell.

She explained that these chimps were actually in another groups territory,there had been a war two years ago in which our group lost 5 of it’s best fighters, after which the Alpha male was depressed for over a year, but the other group generally keep away, especially when humans are around, as they seem to regard us as mercineries assisting in the war. She also explained about their attacks and hunts of other monkeys which they do occasionally icluding how the drunken red tailed monkeys sometimes get the better of the chimps by calling up reinforcements. All very interesting stuff.

We eventually finished about lunchtime and headed back to Fort Portal where we stayed in “The Duchess” lovely room out of the rain. More pizzas – a vegetable calzone in Emmas case Nice breakfast, bought a whole Gouda owners are Dutch) and fresh bread – its ridiculous how exciting such things can be but trust us this was a special occasion.

Kampala – traffic nightmare – sat nav threw a wobbly as it always does in cities, so our search for Embassies was very slow and frustrating. Ethiopian Embassy said no way, so we have to go to Nairobi for that one, but Sudanese system is much easier than what we understand to be the case in Kenya, so will get that one here hopefully.

One thing that did make us laugh when lost, was a huge bill board advertising the forthcoming “Taxpayers Appreciation Awards Ceremony……. who are the members? Cant imagine there’s going to be a big turn out!!!

Went in search of the Red Chilli hideaway camp only to find it had moved much further out of town, so more traffic. New travel in style set up, on arrival, not our cup of tea, but as everything was soaking wet we got a room which was fine.

Back into Kampala to find parts – Landy leaking oil from front drive shafts (Probably buggered by guys fitting swivel hub seals in Tanzania) plus front spring are knackered, not surprising afterabout 40000k, they lasted better than the original UK heavy duty set though. Finally tracked down a mechanic recommended by the owners of the Duchess hotel – MJshinga julias of MJ Landrover tel- 0773 348437 we have made a plan to strip it tomorrow (sunday) get parts next day and hopefully be on our way. We were told he will get parts and travel anywhere in Uganda if needs be. Michael was impressed by his quick diagnosis of problems, will report later on results.

Queen Elizebeth NP

 We headed north spent the night in Agip motel camp – not recommended if you like sleeping, with noise from roads, discos,dogs and parties continuing all night long. Emma slept like a baby as she was knackered ….. I did not!!

 Left next morning for Queen Elizabeth NP – camped at Jacana camp in the park, saw red tailed and black and white colubus monkeys who kept us entertained.

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Did a tour of the loops in the afternoon and saw the Uganda kob – lots &lots – they are a bit like Puku, but only live here.

Ugandan Kob

Ugandan Kob

Many other beasts as well but as we are spoilt in this regard we just trundled round. Main road through the park is pot holed tar so back to swerving like a drunken looney again something I have not done since West Africa – pleased to find the old skills still there! Equatorial Africa found us a few local only specials of birds as there are throughout Uganda – bird people would love it here as many are really West African species living here at the Eastern extreme of the tropical rainforest, with that covered.

 

Rainforest camping is certainly different…. i.e. Wet!! Uganda is so green and lush after the more Southern countries its hard to describe, everything just grows like crazy, but our tent is starting to smell like a hamster’s cage and bedding constantly damp.

 

Kisoro & Gorillas

 

Got the permits at a reduced rate of $350 from the normal $500 as it was the 1st of November. The problem was, they were half-way up the huge volcano we had seen as we came along the road from Lake Bunyonyi.

There are only 700 or so Mountain Gorilla’s left in the world, 300 of which live in Bwindi NP about 30 k to the North, which lies entirely within Uganda and are well protected with several habituated groups which are used to tourists. The ones we were assigned to consist of only one habituated group of eleven, comprising, 5 silverbacks,2 females, one with a six month old baby and some juveniles. This group flits between Rwanda, Uganda and the DRC, as The Virunga Volcano range is at the junction of the three countries. The DRC is off-limits due to rebels and the on-going wars, shelling was heard by some people we had met and had just climbed one of the volcanoes, there are several refugee camps in the area as a result of the on-going strife just across the border.

We stayed at Virunga campsite, which was fine, got up early to pick up our guide to take us to the start of the trail to where they actually were, as advised. Climbed up to the local base camp, only to find that two of the eight of us had not listened to what they were told and had gone to the main HQ and after waiting for an hour our guide decided to carry on regardless and they would have to catch us up, which they eventually did.

Off we went up the huge volcano we’d only just been admiring,extremely hard work for the first haf-hour, but it turned out we were not the unfitest, despite being twice the age of the others!

yup they lived up the volcano

yup they lived up the volcano

Two hours later we emerged from the rainforest into the Bamboo belt at about 3,000 metres, our ranger/guide had made contact with the trackers and we stopped for a few minutes to get camera’s at the ready.

With everybody puffing, panting and filled with anticipation and expecting another hike, we were amazed as we turned the corner and there was Mark (aged 41) the Bwana of the group, a mighty silverback of 250 kg,s sitting down having a rest, which apparentlty they do from 10-12 every day!

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MARK AGED 41

We were the regulation seven metres away, while he picked his nose and did what Gorilla’s do………fucking amazing!!! An absolute monster of a beast in his element, The trackers went off to find the others in the thick forest, we went on and found a juvenile who’d made a nest on top of a small tree, indulging in some delightful showing-off, until he got bored and piled off into the forest somewhere.

Next we came across one of the surbordinate silverbacks, again enormous, doing a King- Kong impression, except this was for real, there were various other noises and rumblings in the bushes, including one of the females whom we didn’t actually see but came across our juvenile with his mate wrestling and play-fighting, we watched for a while. Whilst you can clearly see all this, it’s so dark and extremely difficult to photograph , they simply hate flash photogrphy and we were’nt about to argue. There are none of these in captivity and any Gorilla’s you may have seen in Zoo’s etc are wimps by comparison!

We then stumbled across another silverback, who we named Mr Grumpy, leaning against a bank, who reacted, shall we say a bit forcibly, as the guides tried to find a way around him through the thick vegetation, we were the closest at this point,which was quite stimulating to say the least,only about 5 metres away!

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That was the end of our allotted hour which is the rule to avoid stressing them.

Off we went, sadly leaving them behind, with us, established as the fitest (not)albeit the silverbacks of the group now leading the group downwards, following the guide , there was a rustling in the bushes and Mark (aged 41) was crossing our path and charged from a few metres away barking, grunting and generally being rather terrifying, instructions that had been carefully explained to cower or stay still were ignored by everybody who leapt backwards uphill into a yelping heap, except Michael,” teachers pet” who did as he was told, and stayed still – the guides reacted instantly jumping forward ( shrugging off clinging bodies), grunting and generally doing” Gorilla” stuff, all turned out fine in the end and although we both hate the much over used word ” awesome” this was it …….250 kgs of assertive muscle doing its business is the definition!!.

Downhill, arguably worse than going up, as our knees started to buckle!

Worth the money? And some. I f anyone ever gets the chance, just do it, in fact make it a main goal, which coming from us is as high as we can rate it – an unforgettable experience and one we never shall forget.

UGANDA LAKE BUNYONI

 

From Kigali we left for Uganda, along a road that climbs up to over 2,400 metres, terraced hill farming all the way which is simply amazing, driving through tea plantations and climbing some enormous hills on the way, stunning scenery in all shades of green with beautful views at the top.

Another easy border crossing, very nice immigration officers, interested in our journey,then continued to Kabale. Here hillsides are’nt steep, they are vertical. The Lake is at about 1,800 metres, being old volcanic craters now filled with water and the surrounding hills are another 400 metres above that (1,000 ft) so quite a drive. Camped at Lake Bunyonyi overland camp, which was beautiful, but we were warned of a huge overland truck arriving right next to us, so decided to leave.

Overland camp

Overland camp

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Took the “scenic” route ( Read well dodgy) to the North of the Lake, about 20 k away, a very rough narrow road, with the most incredible scenery-see photo’s, it’s beyond description.

Spent the night in a camp at north of lake being renovated which was fine by us the managers name was “Powerman”on the flatest bit of ground wev’e come across so far in Uganda, this is obviously on the overlanders route, but thankfully they’re not here !He let us use his chalet for showers etc

This is definately not the place for overheating and hand-brake issues……which of course we have!!

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Off to Kisoro tomorrow to sort out Gorilla tracking permits!

Mwanza to Rwanda

 

Left Mwanza,taking a ferry to Kamanga,met an interesting Dutch guy, whose family owned the ferry and a ship building business, explaining that they had just had one stolen,with the conivence of the local police (bribed) and courts (bribed)…..one thing that is quite clear here is that corruption is rife and mentioned by nearly everyone we’ve met.

mwanza port

mwanza port

A long drive at the other end through fertile and productive countryside to Biharamulo. Camped at the “Old German Boma”,an old fort built in 1902, on the edge of Burigi game reserve. Rather run down,with no water to speak of and we camped in the car-park.

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Next day crossed the border into Rwanda,very easy crossing, us and lots of huge lorries, nothing to pay for once, as you don’t need a visa, however the skies turned black and as we climbed the massive hills, the heavens opened. It chucked it down all the way. Luckily we found out quite soon, we were meant to be driving on the other side of the road, we haven’t done this since West Africa, so all a bit strange really! Generally,although slow and rainy the scenery was very interesting,mainly banana plantations,with rice fields on some of the valley bottoms, highly populated with people everywhere. The children shouting Muzungu as you pass them by ,but all very friendly with a rather french feel to things which increased the nearer we got to the capital Kigali.

Nicely surprised by Kigali, very European, modern, with shops (strangely) and good roads, place names in French,whilst English and French is spoken. ( Our frainglais to be precise seems to be used by all.

We are staying in the rather bizarrely named “One love” camp. This is run by The Japanese, raising funds to help the disabled victims of the Genocide, a strange place,but a very worthwhile cause.

Just met a Swiss guy called BJ who was intending to travel down through East Africa, but he was arrested and imprisoned on the Libian/Eygptian border for a week as he had a remote controlled helicopter with a camera fitted for animal photography, which they took exception to. He was deported, theyv’e still got his car, which he’s now written off, he flew to Kenya, bought a small dog of a Suzuki jeep and has spent the past three weeks rebuilding various parts of it whilst trying to head south. Just waved him off ,heading for the Tanzanian border,at 5:00pm (it gets dark at 6:00) a jouney which took us several hours and given that he can only get up hills in reverse and he’s got some beauties on the way, I think it’s going to be fun, fun, fun!! Good Luck BJ.

We liked Kigali alot, I had the best Apricot muffin I’ve ever tasted and Michael a freshly baked baguette filled with such delights as cheese and ham, washed down with the nicest coffee we’ve had in some time (I wish we could stay longer, but Mr anti-shopping center, feels we must press on.)

Any form of plastic bags have been banned here, which goes some way to explaining why it’s the cleanest,tidiest African city wev’e been to, no rubbish whatsoever, which is new to us. Apparently bare-feet are not acceptable either and you only just get away with flip-flops.

Had rear springs fitted to the Landy, a small workshop, that shared it’s courtyard with a very loud and vocal church, much ranting, raving and singing kept us entertained for the morning.

Decided to visit The Genocide Memorial, but sadly it was only open to VIP’s when we arrived. Over one million people were killed in a week or so and a more unlikely candidate for this sort of behaviour is hard to imagine, as everyone seems so nice, horrific and not that long ago.

The whole Capital is so strange with excellent tar roads (for the most part) plenty of new cars, buildings, banks etc and all the people we met, extremely helpful and friendly, a model African city, despite it’s recent past thats dictatorship for you………anyone remember the guy with the funny moustache in Germany ? wonder what happens now?