Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A short note about guides

It seems that nearly everyone else on holiday has a guide to drive them around.  This has some plus points  -

- no problems with navigation
- no stress with driving
- having everything organised for you
- no worries about the vehicle
- getting to the right places at the right time
etc etc

but there are some serious negatives

- cost
- going at someone else's pace
- worrying about someone else's driving
- having to make conversation with a complete stranger for 2-3 weeks
- what if you don't get a good guide?

On the whole we prefer to be totally independent, but everyone to their own.


Murchison Falls NP

The Red Chilli rest camp is only a few hundred meters from the Paraa ferry over the Nile, which you need to cross to get into the "safari" area of the NP.  You buy a ticket from the park office at the top of the slope down to the river.  A Ugandan Wildlife Authority security guard also checks that your park permit (bought at the park entrance 70km back down the road) is valid and waves you through the lifting gate.

The ferries run regularly throughout daylight hours, and even if there are too many vehicles at the timetabled hour they will go back and forward until everyone is across.

We spent our first afternoon on a gentle safari drive - not going too far as we couldn't find a map to purchase.  Possibly could have got one at the park gate 70km back down the road!)

The wildlife viewing is very good - elephants, giraffe, plenty of antelope, hippos in the river and a small croc lying beside the ferry landing spot.

The landscape at first look is typical African savanna until you notice all the palm trees - apparently the elephants spread the palm nuts in their droppings making this landscape unique. It is spectacular as the sun starts to go down.


While we waited for the last ferry back over the river (7.00pm) we chatted to a man with a very big camera who appeared to be travelling on his own (with a guide) - he was remarkably annoyed that we had seen elephants which his guide had managed to miss.  Ha ha.

Paraa Ferry

Red Chilli Rest Camp on the Nile


We arrived for our 3 nights at the Red Chilli Restcamp in a bit of a fluster following the encounters with the tsetse flies - but were quickly assured by the bar man that the flies are sterile and don't carry any bugs.  As soon as we got out the vehicle the flies just disappeared.  Whew.

We are staying in a banda again - twin beds, en-suite shower and electricity from 7pm to 11pm.  No hot water though - but this again doesn't feel like a problem as it is so hot.  Both beds have good mosquito nets.

It's a short walk to the bar/restaurant which has view over the treetops to the Nile.  That's the River Nile - arguably the longest river in the world.  Wow!!!  And the bar sells Nile Special beer which is very tasty and very cold.

It's a lively place - there is a campsite, safari tents and bandas so it is popular with the overlander/backpacker crowd.  But there are others here too - and the place has a lovely atmosphere.  The staff are very relaxed and friendly and the food is plentiful, tasty and cheap.  Two choices of main for the meat eaters and a single veggie option.  This turns out to be fairly normal throughout our travels.

Red Chilli bar and restaurant

The bar turns out to be a great place to watch the thunderstorms that roll in from South Sudan away to the North. It has a noticeboard with useful information and strips of electric plugs (2 pin European and 3 pin UK) for charging phones, cameras etc.  Again this turns out to be fairly normal at the places where we stayed.

Try the toasted sandwiches (not toasted but fried in butter - yum).

Meet the tsetse flies

We headed north from Ziwa and almost immediately took a wrong turning, well actually we stayed on the main road when we should have turned off towards the small town Masindi. Luckily there are another couple of turnings and we got there in the end.  Murchison Falls NP is quite well sign posted - if nowhere else is.

It takes about an hour to reach the park gate from Masindi, but another 2 hours from there to the Paraa ferry   crossing over the Nile.  The first hour or so passed through some very dense tropical forest with spider webs high above the road, with massive spiders hanging like bats above the car.  As the forest opens up a bit the car becomes a tsetse fly magnet - at times there are up to 20 flies clinging to the bonnet of the car.

Because it is so hot we had been travelling with the car windows down, which means the vehicle is soon full of madly buzzing and biting insects.  They are attracted to moving vehicles and dark colours.  We're both dressed in dark blue, in a dark green car. Great.  We closed the windows up to try to prevent the flies getting in, but we were soon cooking, eventually we worked out that having the windows right down helped get them back out again.  Plus a wee squirt of doom every now and then to get our own back



The further we go into the park the worse the roads become - it is obvious that there has been some seriously heavy rain and the murram roads simply wash away.  We are regularly passed by other vehicles which seem to be impervious to the damage they must be doing to their suspensions and their spines.

Tsetse flies have to be taken seriously - they transmit the disease trypanosomiasis or sleeping sickness which can be fatal if untreated.  Our insect repellent which is DEET based doesn't seem to ward against them. Apparently pyrethrum works better - you can buy clothes specially impregnated with this from Craghoppers.

Swotting the flies is very hard - they are incredibly fast and we only manage to squash one in an hour of trying- much more effective is sweeping them out the open windows using the map.  All in all it is a fairly stressful hour as the driving is pretty difficult, the temp is going up and up and the fly bites are pretty painful.

They are easy identify - look a bit like a large house fly, very like a Scottish cleg and they are the only things that attack a vehicle moving at 50mph.

Rhinotastic

video


The road map had Ziwa rhino sanctuary as being off the main road and onto a side road - also this appeared to be to the north of the main Kampal Gulu highway.  This of course is rubbish.  Stay on the main road, and the sanctuary is well signposted as you reach the village of Nakitoma and is south of the main road.

Once you come off the main road it is rough murram (clay/mud) tracks to the gate and then the park headquarters.

We are made very welcome by the staff, who are very friendly if a little disorganised.  I had made booking for camping here, but I'm not sure they were really expecting us.  We are shown to the campsite, which looks suspiciously like a corral for holding rhinos in.  But Winnie, the campsite manager, assures us that the steel barred fencing is to keep the rhinos out - they were fighting here last night.

We unpacked our new table and chairs, opened a bottle of wine, set up the tent and relaxed in the cacophony of birdsong, frog squawking and insect buzzing.  

Ziwa's rhino proof campsite
There is a basic shower block- no hot water, but it is very hot so no need really.  

We ate in the restaurant - tasty basic food, and nice cold beer.  Electricity is not always on, but paraffin lamps are put out if required.  The noise of the cicadas is almost deafening.

Our first night in the tent is enlivened by a two hour thunder storm that passed right over head.  Very loud, very bright and some very heavy rain.  My guidebooks say that September is the dry season, but the locals disagree.

Up at 6.15 - made own toast on camp frying pan, with peanut butter (yes you can buy it here - local brand, tastes like wholemeal) and white bread.  Instant coffee and orange juice.  We were still late for 8.00am start to our rhino trek.

Our guide is Fred, and we are the only 2 going out with him.  A larger group has just arrived at the park, but they are trekking after us.   Fred suggests we take our car - but as we had  left it at the campsite a decision is   made to walk to where the rhinos are.  This turns out to be about 15 mins along a track and then through some marshy forest.

You are given rubber boots to wear as it is very wet in places,  but it is easy walking and not too hot.  It is also very easy to find the rhinos as they are accompanied by armed rangers 24/7 to ensure their safety.  Our guide contacted the rangers and guided us to meet a mature female called Bella and her young daughter called Donna (9 months).  Bella is a relaxed kind of rhino, and seems completely unconcerned by our presence.  The white rhino is much more placid than the black.  You wouldn't stand 20m away from a black rhino and not expect to be chased.

Bella and Donna were shortly joined by Bella's older calve Augustu (3 years).  We watched amazed as these 3 grazed happily on the new green grass that the rain had provided. Every now and then Donna would peer at us and start heading our way, we would then just walk quietly away until she became more interested in the grass again.

Fred explained that we were very lucky to see them up and about, as usually by this time in the morning they are sleeping in the shade.  But with the weather being a little cooler we were seeing them in feeding mode.  Most visitors only see the rhinos sleeping away the day in the bushes.  He then asked us if we would like to see more rhino - of course we said yes.  And over the next couple of hours we were introduced to Taleo the dominant bull, his two other wives and the rest of his children.  Meaning that we saw 10 out of the 12 rhinos in Uganda.  Only the two lower ranked males were no-where to be seen.  Taleo obviously likes to keep the ladies to himself.




Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tackling Kampala

We filled up at one of the estimated 4000 filling stations on the road between Entebbe and Kampala.  The car is right hand drive and the Ugandans drive on the left.  That's the Ugandans who aren't driving bicycles, motor bike, scooters, taxis, minibuses, lorries and coaches that is.  Those guys drive wherever they want to, and its up to you in your stupid little/big (delete as appropriate) car to get out of their way.

So it is with a cheerful acceptance of our fate that we head into Kampala to try to a) do our necessary shopping, b) get on the right road out the other side and c) survive.

Initially it's fine, the traffic flows well and the road from Entebbe is smooth tarmac.  However on the outskirts of the city it starts to get a lot busier, and the lack of any road signs make it tough going.  You also have to watch for vehicles approaching from all angles, and learn how to force yourself into a small gaps when getting to a junction.

My printed off googlemap of the streets helped a little, but only in a vague "it must be that kind of direction" way.  But a kindly traffic policewoman told us where to go and by hook and by crook we reached the Nakumatt Oasis shopping mall.

This shop did seem to have pretty much everything we wanted, and we could easily have picked up camping gear if we had needed it.  But be warned it is not cheap.  We spent over $100us on supplies - I reckoned it was at least twice as expensive as at home.  The shop is obviously there for the expat community - pringles and skippy peanut butter and the likes.

The car park had an armed guard watching the vehicles, so it seems pretty safe. (edit 2014 - in the light of what happened to an almost identical mall in Nairobi I have revised my opinion on the safety aspect of one man with a rifle).

There is Western Union in the supermarket for changing money - in fact there are other banks in the mall too.  There was also a nice looking cafe, but we had just not long had breakfast.

We headed North from the mall, following major roads out the city to the Northern by pass.  Unfortunately when we reached our turning, it was closed for repairs with no apparent alternative.  We executed a tricky U-turn and headed back, again passing the junction - closed this way too.  So Karen bravely suggested we try a left left right manoeuvre through some of Kampala's more "traditional" neighbourhoods.  This worked remarkably well, and if you could ignore the slums, rubbish heaps, open sewers and filthy street kids would have been a pleasant detour on our route through the city.

Actually it wasn't too bad, and was probably the worst deprivation we saw in the whole time in Africa.  The only thing to worry us was that the air conditioning stopped working, never to work again.

The road North turned out to be pretty good - the tarmac was rough around the edges, but the pot holes were manageable.  The traffic soon disappears, and the road becomes more of a footpath than a highway.  Lots of bicycles, and people walking along the verge.  Every now and again we'd be reminded of the dangers as we passed a couple of really nasty accident scenes.  At one of them the locals were busy hacking a huge overturned lorry to pieces with axes and hand saws.  I imagine the same thing would happen if the lorry had crashed in Falkirk.

Our hire car

Our hire car was delivered to us at UWEC for 9am.  The boss man himself (Kizito) and Moses delivered it in person.  It turns out that Kizito whom I had been dealing with all this time actually lives in London and just by coincidence was in Uganda on business.

The car - a 4wd 2litre V6 Mazda Levante, looks like a total pile of crap.  Which was kind of what we had been hoping for, as we don't like to stand out too much.  It's done 160,000km and has some weird looking japanese stickers on it.

But it has just been serviced, the oil is clean, and all the various fluids are topped up.  The paint is peeling off, but the engine sounds fine.  I just wish I'd checked the tyres......

The fuel gauge reads empty, and Moses says this is because the fuel tank is empty.   This is the first time I've ever had a hire car that hasn't been full to the brim.  Also the first time a car hire company has not been the slightest bit interested in our licences or passports.  Paperwork seems to be too much hassle in the heat of the morning.

The air conditioning works and cools us down nicely as we head up the road to Kampala.


A troubled first night

We had booked a banda for our night at UWEC.  What we hadn't bargained on was it being close to a night club, which was intent on keeping the loud music going til 5 in the morning.

Our banda


Also hadn't bargained on there being a mouse (and or bat) squeaking loudly and pissing on my leg in the middle of the night.  There was also the steady pitter patter of poops landing on the floor from a great height.

My pillow also had a very funny smell.

On the plus side there was hot water in the shower room (not sure if we knew how much of luxury this was.......) and box with approximately 500 condoms sitting on top of the loo.

After the night club finally gave up on the music, the chimps in the enclosure nearby started their morning chorus of screaming and yelling.  So we gave up trying to sleep and got up to see the dawn over Lake Victoria.

It's hard to say whether I would recommend staying here - maybe on any other night of the week ie not a Friday, it may be quiet and peaceful, but not getting much sleep certainly clouded our view of the place.

We headed for breakfast, passing various animals in the sanctuary - including some giraffes.

Our first wildlife (ie actually wild) turned out to have arrived in Africa even later than us.  A just born vervet monkey, with its mother licking the afterbirth from its head was sitting just beside the path from our banda to the cafe.

Tiny baby vervet monkey and mum
This improved our mood no end, and after oohing and aahing over the tiny infant we headed for breakfast.  The cafe at UWEC looks out over Lake Victoria, where you can watch both humans and birds fishing. The cafe is the perfect play ground for the young vervet monkeys who seem to enjoy pushing the patience of the cafe staff as far as they can; knocking over chairs and stealing breakfasts from under the noses of unsuspecting and sleep deprived customers (eg me). Karen had a very nice omlette, we shared some crappy Nescafe coffee, and I had sausages, toast and some fresh fruit.  The monkey had some of my fresh fruit - didn't seem keen on the toast.

Entebbe airport arrival

First impressions of the airport - well it looks pretty much like an airport anywhere else in the world.

It's not huge, and there aren't that many planes on the ground.  Disembarking, it feels warm and humid but not oppressively so.  Lucky as we're wearing jeans and fleeces as Edinburgh was baltic this morning.

Immigration is fairly simple - they take your money for the visas, no need for passport photo as they take your picture with a camera on the desk.  They also take your fingerprint using an electronic machine - never had that before.

Immediately after immigration is a money changing place, so I got $100 worth so that we had some cash if required.  

Straight through customs with our bags - no-one interested at all. And out into the public arrivals hall.

I was expecting this to be a little difficult, but there was a nice man with a sign which had my name spelled correctly waiting to give us a lift to our accommodation.  There were one or two money changers wandering about, but no-one hassling at all.  Turns out the airport is very secure, and quite hard to get to.

The car park is a bit chaotic, due to the lack of lights and the number of drivers picking up clients.  Safari tours, taxis etc.  But we get onto the road within 40 minutes of landing.  Our driver stopped at a small shop, to allow us to buy some bottles of water - nicely chilled in a big fridge - then took us to the Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre.  

A security man made us fill out a book with our details - name, passport number, country, occupation, DOB,     mothers maiden name, inside leg measurment, favourite film star etc.  Then we were finally allowed to go to our banda, and head for bed. 

We were now starting to feel the humidity/heat.

Flights

Apart from the taxi arriving at 3.45 am to take us to the airport, everything with KLM was fine.  I had checked in on line so already had the boarding cards, they happily accepted our 3 piece of luggage including the case with all the camping equipment at 22.7kg. Allowance was for 4 pieces.  We were through the Edinburgh security system with about an hour and half to spare.

Coffee was had - not bad, but so expensive.  Captive market should not mean being completely ripped off.

Arriving at Amsterdam we found we had only a 2 minute walk to our next gate (remembering the last time we went through Gatwick - 2 and half hours to get from one flight to the next .. argh.)  So we wandered around the cheese and tulip shops til boarding time.

Then we found out something that may have been handy - our flight to Uganda was routed on a triangular route via Kigali, a city we are going to be visiting in a couple of weeks time.  Had we known this we might have been able to organise a holiday flying into Entebbe and out of Kigali, saving the long drive back to Entebbe.  Even our hire car company would have been happy for this as they operate in both countries.  At no point in my booking of flights was this mentioned.

Flying during the day gave me an opportunity to do something which I really enjoy - staring out of aeroplane windows at mountains (the Alps),seas (the Med), deserts (the Sahara), rivers (the Rhine, the Danube, and the Nile!!!).  Unfortunately it was dark by the time we landed in Kigali, so no views of Rwanda yet. Although after the very short - 45mins- flight from Kigali to Entebbe it was possible to see the lights reflecting  off the surface of Lake Victoria.



Been there done that

Got home to find that our estate agent had sold our house will we were in Africa, so we've a lot to sort out before I can spend much time on this blog.

Other than to say both Uganda and Rwanda are fantastic in their own ways.  And we have a few tales to tell, plus hopefully lots of useful information for anyone going there on holiday.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Last minute things

I printed off all the e-mails from places we have booked.  Printed google maps to help locate all the places we have booked! 

Printed a map on how to get to the Nakumatt supermarket in Kampala, to ensure supplies are bought.

Packed our stuff - you should see the drug cabinet - we could open a little pharmacy.

ThunderstormsChecked the weather forecast - bugger - looks like wet and wild.  Why does the wet seem 
to follow me around?  I once spent 4 months in New Zealand and it rained 74 days.  I went to Namibia and it rained for the first time in 18 months as I got off the plane.  I even travelled in the Atacama desert and it rained there - officially the driest place on earth - the bus driver didn't know how to operate the windscreen wipers as he hadn't driven in the rain before.


Rain falling in the pool in the Atacama



I seriously hope the roads are going to be ok.  And that we don't have to camp in the mud.

Checked in on line, so boarding passes are printed.

Taxi arrives at 3.45am.  Oh my, oh my.


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Nearly time to go

Less than a week to go - still haven't had a reply from the Ugandan high commission regarding crossing the border at Kagitumba.

Luckily however the people at Mihingo lodge have said we will be able to get across there and also be able to buy our visa as well.  However I have been told that we might be able to buy multi entry visas at Entebbe when we arrive - just hope we won't be too tired to remember to ask for them.

Car hire company will deliver our car to us around 9.00 am on Saturday morning, can't wait to see the old battered jeep they've arranged for us.

Last minute preparations include getting a first aid kit from a medic friend - including sutures, syringes, pick line(?) dressings etc.  Fingers crossed.

Charging batteries - spare batteries bought from ebay didn't arrive, paypal dispute going on to try to get the money back.  Lesson learned - don't buy batteries from Singapore and expect them to deliver within 2 months of purchase.  So we are going to have to cope with only one battery for camera and video.

Trial pack went well - managed to get all camping equipment into one large suitcase at 22.1 kg.  KLM baggage allowance is very generous - 4 bags at a max of 23kg each.  So loads of space left over - Karen may actually be able to take the 23 pairs of knickers she wants.

Questions remaining unanswered  - can you buy peanut butter in Uganda/Rwanda?

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Camping equipment

We've had a few camping trips this year, yet still seem unable to go away for a weekend without filling the car with equipment.  So we have to try to pare it down to the absolute minimum.

Tent - North Face Rock - tiny and lightweight.  Hopefully lion/hyena proof :-).

Stove - MSR whisperlite - multi fuel, as it appears gas is not readily available.



Already been to New Zealand, Argentina, Chile, Namibia, Botswana, Scotland! - bombproof

Pots and pans - aluminium - from an old Trangia set

Plates/cups - Orikaso fold flat - absolutely fantastic stuff.  Folding cups are great, and easy to wash and carry.

Torches - Petzl headtorches - only the best will do

Sleeping mats - Thermarest - again simply the best money can buy.

Sleeping bags - not sure on this one, whether to take full bags or just sleeping liners - keeping an eye on night time temperatures, currently around 18-20C.  This would be warm enough for me to sleep in a liner, but probably not for Karen.

Chairs/table - getting the car hire people to purchase these for us in Kampala, simply couldn't get them on a plane.  They do make camp life much more comfortable than trying to do everything on the ground - especially with my dodgy back  

Cameras

I'm not going to bore you with camera choices - but I did buy a video camera especially for this trip.

Don't know how to use it properly or how to edit the results, but it would not be good to visit gorillas without    at least getting some moving pictures.

Will take stills with my SLR - taken a lot of memory, and hoping to get the battery charged easily enough in hotels/bandas.

Got a cool little tripod? that attaches to an open car window - for those long lens shots on safari.  Also taking a full tripod to get over the shakes.

Monday, 20 August 2012

FCO & Ebola

I've registered with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office - never done this before, but as there has been a small outbreak of Ebola in the Kibale area of Uganda, I thought it best to be safe than sorry.

I doubt that the Ebola outbreak will have any impact on us whatsoever, but there have been stories in the UK press saying that people have cancelled their holidays because of it. Which probably means that the Kibale area is going to be a bit quieter than normal - good for us - not so good for the Ugandans.

Electricity

It looks like Rwanda a two pin 230v type



and Uganda a square 3 pin 230v like the UK




Back to Uganda

From Akagera we want to head directly North back to Uganada.

This is where we might meet our biggest obstacle, as I have not been able to find out if we can cross the border at the Kakitumba (Kagitumba?) and get new visas there.  An e-mail has gone to the Ugandan High Commission in London, but no response yet.

I don't want to have to head across country, only to travel all the way back again - but who knows we might.

Our last night is going to be at Lake Mburo - maybe a chance to have a night drive, or even a horse or bike ride.  Who knows - we might just want sundowners and a long nights sleep.

Then it's off to Entebbe and the flight back to Amsterdam and then home.

Akagera NP

Our last few days in Rwanda are going to be spent under canvas - taking our little tent into the Akagera National Park.  This was at one time one of Africa's great safari destinations - but the genocide forced refugees into the park, with a consequently devastating effect on the wildlife in the area.

However it is now starting to be regenerated, and with a bit of luck we may get a bit of a more traditional type safari - with the added bonus of having no-one else around.  It seems that you can wild camp in the park, but I'm not sure Karen is going to be up for that!  Not after we found lion tracks beside our tent in the Central Kalahari.



Still it has rave reviews from other visitors, mainly for the peace and quiet rather than the lions.

Kigali

I'm of an age when you mention the name Kigali I have images in my head that would keep you awake at night.  I can remember watching the scenes from the 1994 Genocide and being numbed by the horror of it all.

I never in my wildest moments thought that I would ever go to Kigali, and certainly never thought that less than 20 years on would be one of the safest cities in Africa.  So this will be a surreal experience, and one I'm looking forward to with excitement and trepidation.

Maybe it will just be a boring city, or maybe it will be vibrant and exciting.  I don't really know what to expect and having been out in the countryside for a while may take a little getting used to .

I've booked a room in The Guest Lux guest house - according to trip advisor it should be good.  Ahhhh trip advisor, what did we do without you.

I guess we will have to visit the genocide memorial - situated on the graves of 250,000 people.  That's more than the population of Aberdeen.  Having visited Auschwitz last year, this I'm sure will be equally traumatic, but you can't ignore it.

Nyungwe Forest

From the excitement of the Gorilla trekking we are heading for some peace and quiet and luxury and hopefully wine.

I'm not sure I've mentioned it before, but this is actually our honeymoon, although we did get married before last xmas.

So we thought this looked like a nice spot for a few days.



Nyungwe Forest Lodge is situated, funnily enough,in the Nyungwe Forest; which has been described as one of the most important areas of bio-diversity left in Africa.  There are more types of primate here than you could shake a stick at (and perhaps have one shaken back at you) and so many birds you'll need bigger binoculars.

So it looks like a great place to hang around the hotel pool and have a massage.


Gorilla trekking

The main reason for heading to this part of Africa is of course to see the mountain gorillas.



And who could resist?

This part of the trip had the possibility of being the hardest bit to organise.  I had read many tales of nightmares dealing with the park authorities in order to get permits and how to pay the fees etc.  So I followed the advice in my guidebook Lonely Planet East Africa - and contacted a tour company based in Rwanda.

This turned out to be pretty simple  - I e-mailed them, they e-mailed me back with a suggested itinerary and price, I sent them some money, and they did everything else.

Amahoro tours are their name - I've been dealing with Anne.  They have been pretty good, despite one small hiccup.  They put together the following schedule for us-

2 nights B&B accommodation in their Guest House in Musanze
Gorilla trekking for two people
Basket weaving and banana beer making in a local village
Transport to and from the trail head

Total cost of $790 per person.  Ouch.  Ohhh that hurts. But at least we got in there before the Rwandan govt increased the cost of the trekking permits from $500 to $750.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Over the border

I've never crossed a border from a country that drives on the left to one that drives on the right, and for some reason this excites me greatly.  I just cannot wait to see how the logistics work, and how many chances there are for disaster to strike.

Are the roads like a scalextric crossover?



Glad we've taken the full cover insurance.

My limited experience of African border crossings is very positive, in fact the nicest border personnel I have ever met were in Namibia and Botswana.  I have never had a border official in Europe ask me if I enjoyed their country, or tell me to come back soon - all with the biggest smiles you can imagine.  This at a place the guide book told me could take all day to transit through - total time for the complete crossing was about ten minutes.

So with this in mind I don't have any real concerns about this crossing - in fact I'm looking forward to it immensely.  As we are to visiting Rwanda, despite all the horrors of its recent history.



We will be crossing over the border using the Cyanika crossing - and heading the few miles further south to Musanze (also known as Ruhengeri)

Kibale Forest and the Queen Elizabeth National Park

After seeing the Nile at Murchison Falls we are heading south to the Kibale Forest - 800 sq km of prime African rainforest packed full of chimpanzees.  Or so we hope.

We have booked to stay at Primate Lodge Kibale - which is right next to the park visitor centre, so should be good for the various treks that can be done.  The people here seem very helpful, despite them apparently losing my deposit - they provided me with two bank account numbers to transfer money to.  The one I should have used has letters in the number - and my bank just refuse to deal with this, so I transferred to the other number which didn't have any letters.  But that seemed to be the wrong one - but in the end they found it just before I got my bank to try and recoup the loss.  Luckily it wasn't for a huge sum - it should be quite simple to do this kind of thing but banks seem to have a habit of making it as hard as they can.

I have tried to contact the Ugandan Wildlife authority to book a chimp tracking trek, but none of the e-mail addresses on their website seems to work, and the phone doesn't get answered. Hopefully we can sort stuff out when we arrive in the park.


After a few days in the forest we drive the short distance to the Queen Elizabeth National Park where we intend camping - nothing booked as I haven't found anywhere on the web to make bookings.  This should be the most "safari-like" part of our trip - lots of large mammals to see with the chance of catching the famous tree climbing lions of Ishasha.  


The Ishasha area of the park is very close to the DRC, and is not currently open to visitors due to the generally lively state of affairs across the border.  I'm hoping things may have calmed down to just "general mayhem" by the time we visit so that we may be able to camp in the area.  Probably have to take an armed guard if we do and I cannot see my wife liking that.....

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Entebbe to Murchison

We arrive late into Entebbe airport so we wanted somewhere close by to stay, that would also come and pick us up from the airport.  We are going to tired, and probably nervous about the whole arriving in Africa thing - although we've done it before it is still a bit of a culture shock when getting off the plane.

Luckily there are plenty places in Entebbe to stay, and one in particular ticked all our boxes - the Entebbe Zoo!
Well it's not a zoo anymore, but is actually the Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre, which has a good reputation for education and wildlife conservation.  They also house and rehabilitate injured or orphaned animals - so from our point of view this seemed like an ideal place to spend our first night.  http://www.uwec.ug/  $50 for a night in a banda and an airport pickup.  Breakfast extra, but can be taken in their restuarant.



We get our hire car delivered here to us the next morning and we drive north to Kampala - hopefully finding a supermarket on route as we don't really fancy the Kampala traffic.

After Kampala we head further north to the Ziwa rhino sanctuary.  http://www.rhinofund.org/index.htm  Here we plan to camp for a couple of nights - 25,000 Ugandan shillings pppn, plus a park fee of 20,000 UGs.  So about £10 a night pp.  Here are the only wild rhino in Uganda, having recently been re-introduced. You can go on tracking trips (about £20 pp).



After Ziwa it should be a nice short drive to Murchison Falls National Park.  I think by this stage the tarmac will have run out and we'll be onto the murram :-) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murram#Laterite_and_murram_roads



Hopefully the grader will have been along just before we get there.

Murchison Falls is where the river Nile forces it's way through a narrow gorge, but there is much more to the park than just the river.  To the north is savannah like grassland, and to the south is more forest like.  Here we have booked into the Red Chili rest camp  http://redchillihideaway.com/paraa.htm I'm a bit worried that this might be an overlander kind of place, but it is very close to the park gate so getting into the park in the early morning should be nice and easy.

The guidebooks and Ugandan Wildlife Authority website say that the park is good for spotting lions, so maybe that will make up for only spotting one in Nam/Bots a few years ago.  And that was a really poor spot as the lion in question was lying under a bush, 200m away, fast asleep.  Although we did get a very good view of his knackers....

Where to stay

We would love to do the whole "luxury" safari, but we're not overpaid and underworked bankers, so we are looking to mostly camp, or stay in fairly modest accommodation.  However as this is actually our honeymoon, we have added a few nicer hotels into the mix.

There is an enormous range in the price of where to stay at night - some places I have booked are $10-15 per night and others are $500 per night.  I still can't quite understand how the economics work, I would imagine that the person who will clean our room at the $500 pn hotel probably doesn't get paid that much in a year.  But should you not go to these places because of that, or should you go because the hotel is providing much needed employment?

It's a dilemma and one that we've tried to balance by staying in places that have a reputation of being good employers - at least that is the impression we have got from them, and from the guide books.

We decided to book and pay for as many of the places as possible - again to avoid having to carry too much cash with us, and to take away the "where are we going to stay tonight" worries.

The honeymoon suite?


There are some places where we are just going to turn up and try to find a campsite - I'm hoping this won't lead to this-