A Travellerspoint blog

Uganda

A dome from home

Rachel - Lake Bunyoni

After all that hiking up and down steep hills our muscles were sore and our knees were creaking so we headed to Lake Bunyoni for some R&R (and clothes washing). We were told about a place (hi Dean and Layni!) on one of the islands in the middle of the lake which had open fronted “geodomes” (domed structure made of wood beams and covered outside with grass thatch) that looked out onto the lake which sounded ideal. And because we’d be back down at a lower altitude we might have a chance to warm up a little too – Lots of Uganda is at high altitude so it’s actually pretty chilly here. The domes were cool little structures and we woke up with birds fluttering round in our room (where else could you birdwatch from bed) and an uninterrupted view of the dawn.

The scenery around the lake is beautiful with small but steep rounded, tree covered hills all around. We arrived and immediately went for a swim and it’s probably the nicest surrounding view for a swim I’ve ever experienced. Dave went for a walk round the island (and met some children who caught them some fresh crayfish which is abundant in the lake) but I stayed back to stare some more at the water and catch up with my notes for this blog but ended up instead chatting to two visiting Israeli doctors who were working in Uganda. It sounds like a tough job and quite frustrating to put it mildly.

There were quite a few people staying in the same place which was also a lovely change because we’d been starved of company for a few days, so we played games into the night. The food at this place was delicious and interesting (crayfish stuffed artichokes, pizza with actual cheese, goulash and burrito wraps) so much so that we decided to stay an extra day and so made a plan to take out the canoes the next day with some new friends.

Our plan was to paddle out to another one of the other little islands called “Punishment Island”, so called because unmarried pregnant girls would be taken there by their discraced family and left to die (were there no convents in Africa?). Unless they were lucky enough to be rescued by a man looking for a wife and who couldn’t otherwise afford the bride prices. What a fate eh? We passed some really cool dead trees, one which was covered with large menacing looking birds which against the background of gathering storm clouds looked awesome, but unfortunately we had been warned of rain so we hadn’t brought out the camera. Lucky we didn’t really because it absolutely threw it down on the journey back – it felt a bit hairy out in the middle of a passing storm in a little canoe but as soon as we sighted shore the sun came out to congratulate us for making it.

That night was another real treat because they had a little cinema screen and hundreds of films to choose from so we randomly selected African Queen, grabbed some blankets and wine and settled down in the snug. I really miss films actually, especially when you want to do something but you’re too tired to go out. I’m writing this on boxing day and all of us here could do with a nice James Bond or something…instead we’re boozing again.

Anyway, I think we could happily have stayed another day here but now our muscles were rested we heard the call of the INPENATRABLE FOREST which was too hard to resist.

Posted by rachndave 02:48 Archived in Uganda Tagged lodging Comments (0)

Q. How do you fit eleven people in a Ford Escort

Rachel - Ugandan Border

The Tanzania/Uganda border in the south is a small hut by the side of the dirt road with a very friendly man inside. I think it would have been possible to walk straight across because noone checked our passports when we walked round the simple road barrier.

After the usual border rituals of changing money, dodging a very persistent tout and finding out about transport we decided to take a shared taxi to the next town rather than wait for an hour for the bus. Shared taxis here, as in the other countries we’ve been, leave when they’re full and the car already contained one young man so we thought we’d be off pretty soon – we only needed one more person after all. But we sat waiting for about an hour while they crammed person after person, and their luggage, into every nook and cranny of this averagely sized car. To answer the question raised in the title of this entry you fit eleven people in a car by squeezing seven people in the back sitting on each other’s knees, and four side by side in the front with the driver driving at an angle. We thought this was perhaps because we were in at a border but this is actually the norm in Uganda although we haven’t beaten eleven people yet – the average is about eight passengers. I now try to make sure I sit in the front of taxis because there’s usually two or three people in the front but you get a little bit more air.

All the action in Uganda is focused in the south eastern corner so we left the cab in a buzzy shopping town of Masaka. We had read in the guide book that during the rainy season the place is inundated with grasshoppers which the locals catch and eat. The rainy season was over so we thought we’d miss this treat but by the side of the street people were selling de-legged-and-winged grasshoppers by the bucket load. Not knowing whether they were cooked or not we left them be but luckily in the bus station there was a lady frying them and so we managed to taste a few. They’re crunchy and kind of sweet – not bad at all. I was a bit put off because I didn’t realize they were cooked while still alive - they’re sold in the street without wings and legs because they don’t want them to get away but actually they’re still alive and the lady selling them in the station had a fresh batch so she chucked them into the hot oil with legs and all and they were jumping around in the pan…..eesh. :(

We’d been traveling non stop for over 24 hours now: first the ferry, then a taxi, a minibus, taxi, minibus, sitting on the back of a motorcycle taxi and finally the coach. Not a bad set. Long day, but we forced ourselves out for a beer and a game of pool with some Swedes we’d met on the coach to finish the day with something pleasant. Pooped.

Posted by rachndave 02:46 Archived in Uganda Tagged food transportation Comments (0)

Merry Christmas everyone

Today we've been christmas shopping in Kampala but the best present would be to fly you all over here.

We're going rafting and kayaking on the Nile for christmas eve and then in the backpackers for Christmas day where there'll hopefully be some fun people about, and looking for a surrogate family like we will be, for the organised barbeque. I wonder if you can bbq sprouts...

No white christmas for us unfortunately, we're actually pretty jealous of the weather you're getting over there.

You'll be in our thoughts and toasted many times over the day.

Have a fantastic christmas everyone!

Rach abd Dave

Posted by rachndave 10:17 Archived in Uganda Comments (3)

Volcanic Gorillas

In the rainforests of South-West Uganda (Dave)

rain

This is lifted directly from my journal so I hope my ramblings make sense...

We're sitting about 2ft away from a roaring fire in our guest house. Rachel has a blanket over her legs and a towel wrapped around her feet as she's out of dry socks. We just had a hot chocolate with a sachet of cane spirit. We're tired but very happy, having just spent the day in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, tracking the mountain gorillas. We'd been debating for months whether it would be worth the $500 (2,310,000 Ugandan shillings) and made our minds up just yesterday, after talking to our enthusiastic ranger-guide as we were climbing the towering Mt Muhavura Volcano (4127m - more of that later) - part of the National Park and Viruga Volcano chain. which extends across Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. STill not sure it was quite worth the cash but nevertheless an amazing experience, and we won't need to explain to EVERYONE for the next 6 months why we went to Uganda and didnt go gorilla bothering.

We hiked for 4 hours through the steep rainforest and bamboo forests, avoiding huge sloppy pools of buffalo poo, making our way through the undergrowth with our guide chopping a clear path with his machete. ALready tired and acheing from our volcano conquest we hiked up to the saddle between Mt Muhavura and Mt Gahinga for an age, and eventually after crawling through some bushes and across a little stream, we hooked up with 2 rangers who had been tracking them, at a distance, for the whole of the day. This group of gorillas tends to holiday in Rwanda or Congo from time to time, meaning the Nat Parks Authority cannot accept bookings more than 2 weeks in advance, but they have been in Uganda since July 2009 (cant afford the bribes at the congo border?), and luckily for us they had spaces despite the maximum group size of 8 tourists....in fact we were the only people in the group today.

We heard rustling 'somewhere' within the bamboo, and saw a dark hairy blob moving around maybe 10m away, obscured by branches and undergrowth. We made out a little gorilla hand holding a bamboo shoot, and heard lots of munching, before the trees shook as it moved away. We then went round another couple of trees and caught sight of a huge silverback, sitting up watching us, making sure we didn't do anything to threaten his family. The guide beckoned us forward and through the branches we could see a mother and her adorable toddler, the toddler with that slightly vacant, timid, wide eyed look of a human toddler, staring at us.

Then, nothing for about half an hour. The silverback layed down on his front and went to sleep, his pert gorilla buttocks sticking up in the air as he sniffed and yawned. Then a crashing noise from mum and son - what are they doing? - oh, they have layed down and gone to sleep too. We went around and watched a second silverback, an elderly 45 year old, also laying down on his front, yawning, picking his teeth, watching us. We yawned too. I cheekily and lightly tapped my chest 3 times, and with a start it got up into a sitting position and looked at me angrily. I did not repeat this move.

It seemed that all we were going to see was a family of sleeping gorillas. THe guide very kindly decided to extend our time (you only get an hour with them), and we went back around to the dominant male, who got up and started walking off. The guide knew that the others were sure to follow so we waited a few minutes, concealed behind a clump of bamboo. Sure enough, the female emerged right in front of us, with her son clambering on to her back, whimpering away because mum wouldn't give him his milk. They stopped close to us and the dominant silverback came over and joined them, so we had all 3 sitting together like a happy gorilla family, a lovely sight as our extended time ran out and we started back down through the forest.

We got a real taste of rainforest on the way down as the thunder started, the heavens opened, and the rain poured down for the duration of the walk back. Cool.

So here we are in our guesthouse having just eaten a huge guacamole and wedges, listening to The Bends, ready to rest our aching limbs in bed. Oh, Rachel fot ants in her pants, literally, during the trek. Biting ants. I tried not to look amused. Also saw a 2 ft long rain worm.

So on to the previous couple of days. We'd had a frustrating journey getting the 50 or so km from Kabare to Kisoro, involving a 3 hour wait for the minibus fill up with people, punctuated by a quick snack of deep fried grasshopper. We made it to Kisoro after dark. Then yesterday we reached the national park and had an amazing walk up the Mahuvura Volcano, through the rainforest, montane woodland, and up through the 'afro-alpine- zone to the top. We passed gnarly trees in the mist, draped with 'old mans beards' - a kind of stringy green moss, and saw a beautiful bird with a yellow mohican and scarlet wings. We saw strange phallic stalks that looked like 6ft elongated pineapples, got dizzy with the altitude, traversed around a jurassic-looking crag, and eventually puffed and panted our way to the summit, to find a dainty little crater lake, maybe 20m in diameter.

I asked the guide where I should go for a pee and he directed me to the other side of the lake, which is in Rwanda, so I had a piss on Rwanda. Earlier we had also shaken our fists at the view of the Democratic(!) Republic of Congo - we had wanted to visit a volcano across the border that has an actual lava lake, one of only 5 in the world, but were scuppered by civil war worries and thought better of it. Getting blown up with 2 months of our trip left would be a little premature.

We didn't get much of a view from the top of Muhavura as it was cloudy nearly all the time, but we did get glimpses of 4 of the other Viruga volcanoes now and then, draped in atmospheric mist, the outlines of the peaks just emerging through the cloud. 8 Hours after we started, we struggled back to the park gate, tired, aching after the steep muddy slopes, but elated and happy. It's been a great couple of days :o)

Posted by rachndave 08:35 Archived in Uganda Comments (1)

All is well by the lake

Just a quick note to let you know we're alive. we've not really stopped rushing or travelling for a few weeks. We're in Uganda now. We had a lovely few days in gorgeous Zanzibar (it does exist after all), been on a ferry to reach Uganda (it's soooo green here, and rather cold actually), been up a volcano, hiked 4 hours and 4 hours back to see Gorillas (yes we finally decided we couldnt really *not* do it) and now we're chilling out on an a lake island which has cheeeeeese, and aubergines, and goulash - and tonight we're watching an actual film...bliss. it's been so nice we've stayed an extra day but tomorow we're off to try and crack open the IN.PENETR.ABLE forest.

Thinking a lot about Christmas and home. I hear it's all a bit snowy over there. Jealous. We're thinking of hiking some mountains for 6 days and there's snow up the top apparently so i'll try chuck a snowball your way x x x

Hope you're all well. Rach.

Posted by rachndave 10:00 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

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