12 October 2009

Uganda Roundup

Bwindi Bird Walk - 09

When we worked out our route we had planned to travel from Tanzania North to Rwanda and Uganda, looping round Lake Victoria to enter Kenya from the west, but problems with the suspension prevented us from doing this. Instead we spent a few days in Kenya, heading up to the Lake and Uganda for a slow meandering arc returning us back to Nairobi after a couple of weeks. The result was that travelling in Uganda felt a bit aimless, being without a northward goal. The place still managed to get into my new top 3 country list (with Malawi and Namibia), for the amazing rain forest, the chilled people and the very funky monkeys (red-tailed, blue-tailed and black and white Colobus). We had no trouble to speak of, despite ongoing problems in the DRC next door and recent riots in Kampala related to changes in government.


Uganda also provided us with two new top ten campsites, a fab birthday treat for me and the fulfillment of one of Stuart's life ambitions, to see the mountain gorillas. We started to call Uganda the land of surprises, as it was so different from our expectations, and just when we thought we had worked out what kind of place it was, a new and unexpected vista opened in front of us.

Mpenga Forest Reserve - 14

Uganda was hills after hills after hills of green fertile farms, growing bananas, coffee, plantain and potatoes all mixed up together; it was riding our horses through the sugar cane fields and saying Jambo to every single child along the way, including stopping business at the local primary school; it was the perfect camp site and the wettest, a fabulous lake location where we got stuck due to the beauty and great company for far too long; it was also the frustration with badly-maintained sites that had so much going for them if someone just bloody well fixed the plumbing!; it was our first encounter with real rain forest, a green and dense mass of leaves, mushrooms and monkeys, being chased by the most evil mosquitos, struggling for air in the damp, cloying, hot, wet air; it was intense downpours which broke our awning and my patience, giving us clammy clothes and shoes for days and a great excuse for watching movies for a few days.

Mpenga to Ruhanga Uganda Lodge - 018

And then, after we decided that Uganda was pretty much a big lake and a lot of forest, we arrived at Queen Elizabeth National Park and discovered the Western Rift Valley, with its volcanos and crater lakes, great big hollows where we could watch elephants crossing the high grass way below us, where herds of Topi grazed among Uganda Kob, where water buffalo wallowed in grey damp patches until the layer of mud cracked off their hide, where pools of blue water shimmered against the salty edge separating wet from green, where we could see the next rain storm coming from an hour away across the acacia plains, a grey mass swallowing up the ground and the horizon.

Lake Bunyoni - 09

Either we are getting more sociable or Uganda just has more interesting people, but we made some real cool new friends: a particularly good source was the Rwenzori guesthouse in Fort Portal, where we chatted with Donna the gorilla marketing lady from VSO, an auditor working on anti-corruption campaigns for USAid, some chimp researchers, an Israeli couple on holiday who entertained us with their horror story of getting Malaria on the second day of their trip, and the host himself, an opinionated Brit with fourteen years in Uganda and he was not holding back. We learnt a lot. Mustn't forget to mention the other overlanders, Trev and Jan, Anja and Jörg and Ben and Kate, fantastic company and deep wells of information, GPS tracks and ripped DVDs.

Lake Bunyoni to Bwindi - 01

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