Rachel - Queen Elizabeth National Park
15/12/2010 - 16/12/2010
Today was a day of ups and downs. We’d wanted to hire a driver to take us from Bwindi, 60km to Queen Elizabeth National Park, via the area of the park where the tree climbing lions are for an hour or so.
Down = worried about my rash in the hospital waiting area
Up = turns out nothing to worry about
Down = battle with a cab driver who was late, was trying to overcharge us because there aren’t many drivers in this part of town, and then his car broke down
Up = managed to find a new cab driver who was being a little bit more reasonable and promised us it wasn’t too late to drive round the national park
Down = we get to the gate and the driver tells us actually the lions probably have come down from the trees by now so we shouldn’t bother going and by the way he wasn’t going to deduct the price of the game drive from our agreed price, and he also wanted to push on so he could get out of the park by dark
Up = the man on the gate said we could go into the park, for free, for half an hour or so and chance our luck
Up = we were lucky! We saw a real life, male lion - Up. A. Tree! It’s the strangest thing and slightly surreal. It made me think the lion had been picked up by a giant bird and dropped there. The park is really beautiful as well, sunny, green grassy savanna land and the first I’d seen properly in Africa. I loved it and wished we could have spent longer there – it was magical in that evening light.
Down = we arrived at our hotel/campsite, as recommended by the guidebook, to find that they haven’t had a campsite area for two years
Up = The manager kindly let us put up our tent in the very posh hotel grounds.
Up = We had a nice chat with a German family who were also planning to visit the chimps the next day.
Up = Woke up to a beautiful sunrise over the park, the hotel being perched on the edge of an overlooking escarpment we had views of the savanna for miles. I could imagine that doing a balloon ride over the parks would be like this.
Down = The guide for the chimp tracking would not go without a taxi to take them to the edge so we had to call a cab and delay
Up = The walk in the forest was very pretty, with a hairy river crossing over a tree trunk where I didn’t fall in! But…
Down = We didn’t see the chimps because tracking evidence showed that they’d left the national park boundary and there’s no refund of your $50 We did manage to bump into the german group to warn them but they were going to give it a try anyway.
From then on though it was all “Up”s. We were camping for the night within the park and planned to go on a river trip. While we were waiting for the trip to begin we stopped in a local pub which had it’s own pub warthog sleeping on the porch, and a humongous stork swooped in for a potter about as well, while we sat in the garden and watched the crocodiles in the river far below.
The river trip was very relaxing, as river trips always are, and we saw some buffalo, monitor lizards, elephants, crocodiles, hippos (including some squeal inducing baby hippos), pelicans and lots and lots of different birds - some of them really pretty which we’d have missed if we didn’t have the guide on board. I think we might be evolving into birdwatchers due to an enthusiastic guide. The guides also managed to pick out a lion lurking under a bush which we could just about make out with binoculars, so heaven knows how they spotted it.
We fortunately had an uneventful night in the campsite, uneventful in the sense that we heard lions calling in the night and there were reports of them in the campsite in the night. Thank heavens we didn’t need the toilet! When we woke up there were dozens of warthogs snuffling in the grass outside our tent and some antelope things. We love warthogs. Particularly how they run – they trot in a way that makes me think that they’ve just called out in a camp voice – “I’m coming!”
Our final “up” is that we managed to hitch out of the park with an overland truck from the campsite which saved us lots of bother and cash. I’ve not been in a touring overland truck before. They have quite an impressive set up with all the cooking equipment and tents and comfy seats. But their schedule sounds relentless. Nice group though and we had a nice hour together in the bus…and they even gave us some pancakes and a cup of tea for breakfast. Good to finish on an “up”.