Saturday, July 10, 2010

Photo's from Uganda - Fiona

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9th July Fiona's Perspective

After leaving Ndali lodge it was a 5 hour trek back to Kampala and then eventually Entebbe. The roads were great for about 3 hours after which they deteriorated back into dirt and potholes. It was heavy going as there were lots of trucks and buses on the road. I think this is the first country I have been to where buses overtake cars at high speed. Being stuck behind a fast moving bus means that you are driving in a red dust storm and cannot see a thing, including the road!!!

We passed through lots of villages en route and took in some weird and wonderful sights at the same time. Pool tables on the roadside covered by a thatch or tin roof advertising 'Pool table, Bar and fresh Dube'

Produce markets abound and can be found in every village. Grown around the country, Bananas, Avo's, Watermelon and Pineapples are in abundant supply and can be bought everywhere.

There are also butchers dotted around the village. These consist of a hut with meat hanging up outside, often the carcasses still have the tail attached, so that you can identify your meat of choice. The 'butcher' then hacks off some meat with a Panga or something closely resembling one. It's enough to put you off meat if you don't have a strong stomach.

The sale of Coffins is also common, painted in hues of Pink and Purple and stacked up along the road.

There are also stalls selling food, most common being Chicken on a stick (Kebabs) and Chapatti's (mix of Roti and Pancakes). We stopped at lunchtime to buy a Chapatti and Jess negotiated the Vendor down from 2 000shillings, which was the Mzungu's (white man) price to the local price of 200 shillings. Go girl.
The villagers clamber around you as you walk down the road, seeing an opportunity to sell something to the Mzungu's. I also had numerous requests to take a photo of them with Jess and then to view it afterwards. This caused fits of laughter from their freinds upon viewing the pics.

Police can also be seen intermittently standing alongside the road, their uniforms are white! Strange colour for such a dusty country.

Once we arrived in Kampala, we went in search of the local Craft market.
Jess and I bought a few knickknacks whilst Alan ate his Nando's which we had bought a few minutes earlier.
Jess and Alan, starved of Nandos for 6 weeks jumped at the opportunity to get take aways. Sadly, it did not live up to SA standards.

After a fish braai of delicious Talapia, we retired to bed as the next day was going to be a long day of traveling and also an early start as Jess flew back to JHB on a 7.30am flight.
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Thursday, July 8, 2010

6th - 8th July. Fiona's perspective

We arrived at Ishasha Wilderness Camp, nestled on the banks of the Ishasha River in the Queen Elizabeth National Park. Unfortunately a massive fire had swept through the area a few days earlier and so most of the area was black.

Ishasha Wilderness Camp is a fully tented Camp with 10 tents and a tented lounge and dining area.
The tents had double beds, shower and portable loo. I was relieved to find that they did have 2 flushing toilets, for the 3 tents that our group had at the far side of the camp. The shower was a plastic Jerry can filled with warm water outside the tent, strung up and attached to a pipe with a shower head. So when you wanted to shower you had to request one from the staff.

Lunch enabled me to finally taste Chapati's with a wonderful Avo salad. Afterwards G&T's were had by all whilst sitting down at the deck next to the river.

Our American freind Elizabeth happened to also transfer to Ishasha Wilderness Camp, so we touched base again and she offered Jess to join her and her Driver/Safari guide on a late afternoon game drive as Alan and I chose to stay in camp and chill.

Bad decision!! Jess, Elizabeth, Gavin and Jen all saw the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha!!! And they have pictures to prove it.

The following morning we set off for a game drive through the Queen Elizabeth National Park determined to see the Tree Climbing Lions! But we saw Herds of Buffalo, Topi, Ugandan Cob, Vultures, but no Lion. Defeated we returned to camp for breakfast and to say goodbye to Elizabeth and exchange numbers. I did the normal Fiona thing and offered to help her organise an SA holiday when her and her boyfreind decided to visit SA.

Determined to try again we made a date for a game drive in the late afternoon.

The late afternoon proved more fruitful after Gavin & Jen came across a Leopard sitting alongside the road. Lovely sighting. We then drove down to the river running between Uganda and the Congo and had some Sundowners whilst viewing the Hippos lying on an island in the middle of the river, no mans land!
We spent the last few daylight hours, sipping Whiskey out of crystal glasses feeling ever so colonial. Jess has learnt to drink Whiskey due to the lack of decent wine in some areas. Box wine just won't do!

Back to the lodge for a shower (by request) and dinner, which was followed by Ugandan coffee in front of a fire next to the river.

Breakfast was a leisurely affair and we finally left deciding on a game drive before exiting the park. Imagine our excitement at spotting the Lioness in a tree, 100m from the previous sighting. So finally, we had seen the Tree Climbing Lions of Ishasha!!!

We arrived in Fort Portal 4hrs later and finally at our new destination an hour later.

Ndali lodge is situated overlooking a Volcanic lake from which their water is sourced. What a magnificent view.
It is owned by Aubrey, apparently it has been in the family for many years. Aubrey is newly married to Claire, a native Ugandan who speaks the queens English.

We all had a long bath before dinner.
I think the first time anyone has had the chance to bath and not shower in weeks. When Alan and I visited Jess's room before dinner, I was asked to kill a 'tarantula' sized spider. I missed and it jumped at me, and in the dark we could not find it.

An early dinner and then bed.
But not before a quick detour to find the spider again and dispose of it! What would they do without me!

Tomorrow we are off to Kampala and then back to Jane & Paul's house.
Gavin & Jen are Chimp trekking and then overnighting en route to our rendezvous point at Murchison Falls, where we will be camping for 2 nights with Jane,Paul. Gareth and the twins.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

4th - 6th July. Fiona's perspective.

Well, it was a really long drive to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forests. The normal bad roads etc. Driving is tiring as you have to have even more concentration than normal as driving in a straight line is not possible. Potholes and ruts are the norm. But going over 20km/hr is not possible for long stretches of road, which is mostly dirt. Oncoming buses flash their lights to tell you to move over when they are straddling the middle of a single lane road!!! Lots of fun!!!

The country side becomes really picturesque at times with Tea plantations, banana plantations and rolling hills. It reminds me a bit of the Hazyview area.

We reached Bwindi and Buhoma lodge at 4PM. Richard, our Ugandan host was most pleasant and the staff were most accommodating and nothing was too much trouble.

We met an American lady also staying at the lodge, from LA. She is a Dentist and had just spent 10days in rural Uganda with a group of medical volunteers giving medical attention to Ugandans who have probably never seen a Dr of any kind, and probably will never again.
Elizabeth (the American Dentist) ended up joining us for all meals and drinks as she was traveling alone and really good company too.

The next morning we set off for the briefing before the Gorilla trekking. The group of habituated Gorillas that we would be seeing consisted of 18 females, males, babies and the great Silverback. The drive to the drop off point at the beginning of the hike was an hour into the mountains. Halfway down the road, the Belgium tourist and his driver had engine trouble, so we made space and had him, his guide, our guide and us all in the Cruiser, with one in the boot! I felt sorry for the poor bugger in the boot!

It seemed wherever you are in Africa, even the remotest parts, there were people walking, sitting, living....

The hike was 2 hours of intense hills, tracks through the forest, with high levels of humidity and narrow paths on the side of the very steep embankments. Thank goodness it did not rain as it would have been treacherous. Rain is common in this part of the world and can happen at a moments notice. The reward was an hour spent with the most awesome animals. The eyes are the windows to the soul and I think theirs are sweet and gentle. We sat amongst them without fear. The only time we smelt them was when the Silverback lifted his arms, and boy was that a ripe smell!!!!

The hike back was exhausting and tough on Alan's knee and Jen's Asthmatic chest, but perseverance and a strong will to overcome anything got us all back in one piece.
We discovered that evening that our group of Gorillas (there are about 4 groups) is by far the furtherest.

After a shower, Jess and Jen had a massage (hell in Africa again...) and we settled into a comfortable chair on the verandah waiting for supper so that we could all get to bed and rest the weary bodies.

The next morning we had a relaxed breakfast and set off for a short 3 hour drive to Ishasha Wilderness Camp in the Queen Elizabeth National Park....

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1st - 3rd July / Fiona's perspective...

The 4 hour flight to Uganda was uneventful and accompanied by Paul, who was flying back from a week of attending Soccer matches all over the country.

I was met by Alan and Jess, Jane, Sian, Amy and Gareth. It was so great to see them all again and to see Alan & Jess looking so clean... I think they wore the last clean outfit they had, because the next day was spent doing copious amounts of washing at Jane's.

Alan organised for us to be booked into a hotel for the two nights in Entebbe for a bit of alone time, whilst Jess stayed in Jane's spare room and Gav & Jen stayed in a luxurious tent set up in their garden, with double bed, shower and bush loo, as well as some solar lights!!!

Dinner at Jane's was preceded by Waragi Gin (Ugandan Gin) & tonic (to keep the mosquitoes away). When in Rome....
It was a great evening and was awesome to see Jane and Paul again.

After a day in Entebbe, luxuriating at the pool, Colonial style, we set off in Paul & Jane's car (as our vehicle has only the two front seats and there are now 3 Austin's on tour) for Lake Mburo.

It was a long 5 hour drive over roads that were treacherous due to oncoming buses, who straddle the middle of the road and cattle, goats and roadworks, which meant the main road suddenly became a gravel road or plain dirt road full of ruts and stones for kilometers....

We crossed the Equator at some point and stopped for the obligatory photos and a bit of retail therapy.

After that stop we were not on the road for very long when Jess and Alan decided that they were hungry and started to look for a road side stall making Chapati's. Not sure whether I was glad or not, but wherever we stopped, we were told that they were sold out! It was a Saturday morning after all!

We arrived at Mihingo Lodge in Lake Mburo National Park in time for lunch.
Food is always important when you spend hours on the road with no Engen Quick stop stores to be found!

The accommodation was great, with us getting the tent/chalet with a view and Jess, Gavin and Jen getting rooms down near the water hole, which meant climbing 101 steps for dinner and back. Jen commented in the morning that she had gotten her Gorilla trekking training all in one day!

Jess and I were soon lying at the pool with G&T's when Alan joined us for a swim and the news that he had organised us each a massage later.
It's hell in Africa!

After a wonderful massage, dinner and a sighting of Bushbaby's close up, we retired to bed for a good nights sleep.

Tomorrow we would be off to Bwindi to see the Gorillas!!!!! A 7 hour drive...

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