Kenya & Uganda
Lake Naivasha, Hell’s Gate and Masai Mara
Birds, birds everywhere! Birding around the lake was awesome. We planned to spend a couple of days exploring the area by bicycle and hiking. All plans were foiled when Ross contracted malaria. Everything came to grinding halt whilst he recovered. Once he was stronger we went for a slow walk around Hells Gate hoping to see bubbling hot springs as the area is still volcanically active. The area is quite spectacular and reminded us of the Karoo.
After our initial visit to the Masai Mara we decided to return in the hope of seeing the legendary National Geographic infamous wildebeest river crossings. We did our homework and arrived at the recommended location wondering if we would get lucky. Things were very tense as we scouted the banks of the Mara River for wildebeest getting ready to cross. Nothing!!! We drove up and down the river and later in the day we saw a crossing. It was good but nothing like our expectations. However, the following day we were blown away with what we witnessed. We sat waiting with flask of coffee in hand just waiting and watching. The atmosphere was tense as we saw some wildebeest preparing to cross. The river was full, as it had rained the previous night. There was a strong current. Crossing the river is serious business for the wildebeest and they do not cross if there is anything that disturbs them. Sadly the previous day we witnessed several crossings being disturbed by wealthy tourists trying to get up close and personal at the crossings. We sat quietly, luckily the only vehicle in the area, and just waited. The herd began to cross. Wildebeest leapt into the water whilst many streamed in behind them. Dust sprayed up off the bank as hundreds followed the leaders. Crocodiles lay in the water snapping at those that went astray. We sat holding our breath as the herd struggled for survival. Success at last! The majority of the herd crossed safely and we just sat quite blown away with the natural phenomenon we had just witnessed.
Welcome to Mango country (Uganda in 21 days)! Mango country is wet, green, muddy and awesome!!!! It is covered in huge forests, swamps, marrum (mud) roads, wild vegetation, para-military guides at all national parks and many community campsites (always an adventure). Important words are dala-dala (bicycle taxi), matatu (taxi), poshu (mealie pap) and matooke (green banana).
Jinja was our starting point and we were soon off to organize permits to see the gorillas at Bwindi National Park.
Kasese and Ruwenzori National Park. We enjoyed local cuisine of matooke, beef stew, rice and potato and stayed in a local hotel, the Saad. The night was full of adventure!
The Crater lakes, Busingiro and Khanya Phabidi were filled with adventures of community campsites and chimp tracking. In many ways chimp tracking was more fun than tracking gorillas. We went out with a guide and we anxiously waited to hear to the chimps call. The morning we went out they were silent. We walked this way then that way waiting for a call to give us a hint as to their location. At last there was raucous chatter from the chimps and we were hot on their trail. The guide broke out in a grin and altered our direction. Our pace picked up and we moved quickly and silently searching the tree tops. Great excitement – we saw them. They are wonderful to watch.
Murchison National Park was filled with contrasts. We passed through a mahogany forest, then woodland and savanna. Tse-tsi flies bombarded our car on entry to the woodland area. Regular intervals were filled with panic as flies managed to enter the car. The little bastards don’t die easily and we would only consider a hit successful if the little cretin was thrown out the window!!!! Merely striking the fly hard did very little to deactivate it!!! We arrived at the campsite traumatized and wondered if we had made a mistake. However, we got to see a top and bottom view of Murchison falls. They are spectacular. The Nile River above the falls is huge, full and has many rapids. We were blown away by the size of the river and how it pounds over the falls. Water sprays everywhere. We viewed the bottom of the falls by boat. The Nile below the falls is full of crocodiles and hippos that give one the beady eye as one passes by. After much debate we ferried across the river and went for a game drive in the eastern part of the park. Wow, we were really glad we did. We caught glimpses of the Congo and got to view all sorts of game we have never seen before! We got a bit of a shock when we saw a military tank armed and ready to go in the middle of the park. We later learnt that the northern area is very unstable due to rebel activity so there is a military base in the park.
Just outside Murchison Park is a small town called Masindi. We camped at the wonderfully colonial hotel in its immaculate gardens. The hotel was established in 1923 and has just been renovated. As an added treat the hotel has its own bakery. For breakfast we tucked into donuts and coffee. The bakery bakes 800 loaves of bread daily and delivers them to the town and its surrounds by bicycle.
The journey from the east to west of Uganda proved rather challenging. We hoped to go direct from Murchison to Mt Elgon via the northern part of the country. This we were told was impossible due to rebel activity in the area. We first had to head south and then go across the country. On route we saw several military camps and at times saw armed army chaps sitting at the side of the road. Mmmm a bit of a strange experience!
We spent the better part of 5 days hiking in the Mt Elgon National Park. We had 2 guides and Caron had a porter to carry her bag (luxury!!!!!). The park encompasses spectacular scenery. Wild flowers were in bloom everywhere. The hike at times was rather challenging. We climbed to an altitude of 4320m and often walked in rain (not gentle rain but huge deluges that left water bubbling at the surface where the water table intersected the surface).
Now our journey has taken us back to Jinja. The rain continues and roads in Uganda are now becoming quite challenging. We had to take a detour to get to Jinja due to a sinkhole. The sinkhole was on a major trucking route so there is currently chaos on the roads.