Published: July 29th 2012May 31st 2012
The road to Kidepo!
Moses and Hugh up front...
We’d spent the last couple of weeks in Gulu trying our best to support Hugh, Becky and George’s work at St Jude’s (http://www.stjudechildrenshome.org/english/
) and in the local communities (see my previous entries and Hugh and Becky’s blog http://outreachuganda.blogspot.co.nz/
). This had deeply affected us all. It’s hard to come to terms with the lives these people lead in comparison to ours and the emotions you feel seeing some of these people struggling are almost unbearable.
We’d done what we could in our time there and to help balance our time here out we were heading to Kidepo Valley National Park; in the north eastern Karamojong district of Uganda, to do some wildlife spotting. We were going on safari! There are many national parks in Uganda where you can see African wildlife (gorillas, lions, elephants, giraffes and hippos to name just a few - many who have also been on safari in Kenya say the Ugandan national parks are equal to if not better than those in Kenya). Kidepo has a reputation as being the best and most unspoilt of all of the Ugandan parks. It’s perhaps unspoilt because of its location within a former conflict zone, and the
challenges in reaching it affordably even now. The British Foreign Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to the Karamojong district (because it’s still considered a volatile area) with the exception of Kidepo Valley National Park (they say you should travel by air). The Karamojong cattle raiders are armed, have a reputation for being violent and are still operating in the area. The drive is considered dangerous because of the risk of banditry and you’re also not helped by the poor condition of the roads.
However, we were planning to go. George had done the journey a couple of times and was able to give us directions, and the FCO do also advise people to take reliable local advice which we had. And the advice was that as long as we don’t take a wrong turn, we won’t end up in the no go area. So, we talked it through with George, Hugh and Becky’s doctor friend Moses (who’d travelled up from Kampala overnight to make the journey with us and decided to go for it). I must be clear that I’m in no way recommending or advocating that anyone makes the trip, I was a nervous wreck for
most of it! Tuesday 29th
May – GULU to KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
We were up bright and early and all met (Drew, Hugh, Becky, Moses and I) for breakfast to discuss the trip ahead. We got our directions from George and everyone was absolutely comfortable (the agreement was if we weren’t sure where we were at 3pm – i.e. had lost the signs - we’d head back) except me who was typically nervous. I don’t like not following advice, if the FCO says don’t go, I don’t go but in the end after a non-reassuring call to the High Commission in Uganda I decided to. I knew a lot of people make the journey from Gulu and that the FCO have to be over cautious. I just ensured I had some calming tablets at the ready.
So we packed up, re-checked the truck, stocked up on supplies and cash in Gulu and set out. We knew the first part of the journey as we’d taken it to one of the outreach clinics. We made good time to Alcholi Bo, from there we were in new territory on the road to Kitgum. The road was good and
I started enjoying myself. George’s directions sounded a bit random (e.g. ‘turn left at the town that looks like Alcholi Bo then look for a turning on your right’) but they were excellent. It was like being on a treasure hunt! We’d follow each step of the clues then be rewarded (if we were lucky!) with a formal sign pointing the right way (there weren’t always signs!). We turned off the Kitgum road about 3 hours into the journey. It started to get more remote and we didn’t see many other vehicles, just people walking along the road. We only stopped a couple of times for the toilet (typical me!) and to get Orange phone credit (just in case…it was the only network we didn’t yet have between us…we couldn’t find it and when Drew had returned from the shop he’d said he was looking for sandals?!!!). The roads were still good and we were happy we were on the right track, but did have a confused moment at the ‘turn left at the town that looked like Alcholi Bo’ because the trading posts all look pretty similar! We kept our nerve (all the people coming towards us must have
been coming from somewhere surely?!) and came to Orom, a nice big town with a fantastic market (any other time we’d have stopped). We were helped out by a sign and when we saw the turning George was absolutely right, the town did look like Alcholi Bo! We then took the right and the road conditions changed. It wasn’t the nice smooth road anymore. We’d made excellent progress and were about 5/6 of the way. We’d been lucky so far, if the good roads had continued we’d have been at Kidepo in an hour. This one was terrible; a single track road with awkward big pot holes, even when you went over them incredibly slowly it was a huge jolt on the truck and us. I was getting more nervous, especially as I’d noticed that we were seeing fewer cows! We were in the hills and the scenery was wildly beautiful, barren with sparse vegetation.
We opened out onto a big plane and faced our first big challenge. The road was completely muddy for about 30 metres with deep tracks where previous vehicles had passed through. We had to use 4 wheel drive for the first time and once
we’d figured out how to put it on we had to negotiate our path through it. Hugh did a great job! The road wound round the mountains and was getting in worse condition. It was so bumpy! We were being thrown about everywhere but it was quite a good workout for me, sat in the middle trying hard not to land on someone’s lap! The reaction of the locals to us was a little unsettling, not all waves were friendly and some shouted odd words at us. Moses couldn’t understand as the language is so different in this part of Uganda. The ups and downs were so steep and that combined with the potholes and deep ruts in the road made the journey even more hair-raising. It was nothing like 4 wheel driving at one of those ‘experience’ activities you can do! At one point we were in a narrow pass between two big mountains with the road steeply turning down and with a drop off to one side. I think it was at that point that Drew decided I should have a calming tablet. I was just winding myself up and had spent a lot of time with my
eyes closed (not being able to see anything or anyone helped!). I didn’t want to upset the others, especially Hugh who had enough on his plate with the driving! I started enjoying myself after that, it was certainly an adventure and what could we really do but continue. The boys made a good team. Hugh stayed completely calm and in control no matter what he was up against. Moses in the front provided guidance on how to tackle each obstacle and Drew provided balance to ensure all options had been considered. Becky provided the voice of reason, and vocalised all my nervous thoughts! I think the ‘how bad does it have to get before we turn back?’ question was raised but we persevered! We made it to Karenga, a pretty trading post with a nice warm feeling about it, the people seemed much friendlier.We were only about 10kms from Kidepo now and it all felt a lot better. After a short drive in the sunshine on a comparatively smooth road we came across the park gates – I’ve never been so relieved!
The guard was friendly and opened the gates - it was really exciting, we were going on
safari! I’d always thought I’d do it with a tour company, but doing it independently felt so exciting. The first couple of kilometres inside the park was along a track big with high bushes either side of us. We had our first run in with the horrible Tsetse flies there. They are horrible – big, huge black flies with long pointy things on their front. They’re insistent and attracted to black (mainly the blacked out car windows, but guess who had a black top on…) and if they got inside they were an absolute pain in the arse because they wouldn’t leave you alone. And not only do they carry diseases like Human Sleeping Sickness they REALLY hurt when the get you! We soon learned to close the windows and if needed get out the mosquito bat. Anyway, the track soon opened out into a savannah valley, the kind I’ve only seen before on wildlife programs. It was so vast! We could immediately see animals in the distance; herds of Impalas and Water Buffalo in small groups. We drove through towards the buildings in the distance (assumed that was our accommodation) exclaiming at everything we saw. We got very close
to some Water Buffalo wallowing the water and there were some really interesting looking birds. We all got VERY excited when in the distance under a tree we saw three big shapes that looked suspiciously like lions! We really needed binoculars but as we didn’t have them we used my camera zoon and although it wasn’t inconclusive we were pretty sure they were lions (we were told later that lions had been in that area!). It was so peaceful and felt nice driving through in the evening sun.
We were having a lovely time and feeling very happy and relieved to have arrived safely when we came face to face with our biggest challenge so far…! We could see our accommodation at the Apoka Rest Camp 100 metres away but between us and it there was a big raging river! We could see it’s normally crossed using a ford but the water was too deep and fast and dropped off the of the ford in a waterfall. It must have been raining up in the hills. We were so near and yet so far! On the other side another land rover with guides and a tourist were waiting and
surveying the situation. They could at least head home if needed; we were stuck out in the open with lions about! They waited for about 10 minutes before they went for it and crossed amidst a big splash. They reluctantly stopped to tell us there was no other way round…and that we had a flat tyre. We hadn’t noticed, the bumpy road had disguised it. We were hoping for some help but they just drove off. I was pretty peed off to be honest, the tourist didn’t even acknowledge us. I’d like to think I’d have insisted on helping another tourist in need (it turned out he was the only other tourist in the park during our time there, he was looking for a rare bird that our guide had only seen once in 5 years so good luck to him!). Anyway… We had to change the tyre ASAP if we were going to stand any chance of crossing the river before it got dark. That was the boy’s job and Becky got stuck in and helped. I was put on lion watch (seriously, the grass was so long it could have happened, we were in their territory). The tyre
A quick tyre change...
...I was on lion watch...
was changed after 15 minutes and we needed to reassess the ford. It still looked pretty fast from a distance and nobody was keen but Hugh suggested we all got back in the truck and drove closer for a better look. The next thing I knew Hugh and gone for it and we were flying over! It was crazy! I think we all closed our eyes (I assume Hugh had his open) and held our breath! And we made it – phew! We were keen to get to our accommodation before it got REALLY dark but after the ford we got a massive reward… a really really big herd of elephants grazing with some zebras (Drew and I had seen plenty of these by now but they were new to Hugh and Becky). They were awesome, so big and powerful and yet so graceful and peaceful, we’d occasionally hear their distinctive deep low sound. We watched them for a long time absolutely fascinated. I remember feeling just how lucky I am to be there, then, seeing African Elephants in the wild.
We eventually tore ourselves away and drove the short distance to the Apoka Rest Camp and their lovely
bandas. We were the only tourist residents, the other residents were Ugandan Wildlife Authority (UWA) Park Rangers and employees, so we got a choice of any free banda. The bandas themselves are small huts with two mosquito covered beds, some were ensuite, and they were so lovely – nicely decorated and very clean. We all got ensuites, didn’t fancy walking out to the toilet in the dark with goodness knows what about! The plan was to get settled and start cooking dinner (well, for Drew to start cooking the dinner!). The main buildings had a kitchen for self-catering, a big dining room and a bar. Drew and I were getting sorted when we heard noises outside; we took a quick peek out the door and saw several Zebras quietly trotting past! It was absolutely amazing! We were in stunned silence. I could believe there were wild Zebras running past my bedroom door! They eventually passed by but as Drew went to leave for the kitchen he froze because he saw what he thought was a lion a little way away. We could see the flash of the eyes and the shape of the body and even I thought Oh. My.
God what they hell do we do now?!!! We stressed for a while (Hugh and Becky had joined us) and in the end decided it wasn’t a lion (in the light of day it became a collection of bushes) and made a run for it to the buildings, phew! The noises we’d thought were the lions must have been the nearby elephants. We spent a nice half hour chilling out, helping Drew cook and chatting to the Park Rangers that were looking after us. We also had to deal with the MASSIVE insects that were coming from all corners. They were awful! Anyway the dinner was lovely, we ate well had a good chat, got organised for the night and headed for bed. We could see Water Buffalos grazing in the moonlight – they were so close. I felt nice and warm and cosy in my comfy banda bed but as I was dropping off I heard a roar – WTF!!!! Wednesday 30th
May – KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Well, we made it through the night! We heard some elephant noises but slept well. I woke up feeling really really sick but had to push on as we
were going on safari! We’d organised a guide, one of the UWA park rangers (you can drive around on your own but we figured we’d see and learn more with someone who knew what they were talking about). After a quick bit of breakfast we set out.
Kidepo Valley National Park was created in 1962 and established as a national park in 1972. It’s the third largest national park in Uganda covering 1442 sq km and consisting of the Kidepo Valley (Kidepo means ‘To pick’ in Karamojong) and the Narus Valley (which include the Kidepo and Narus rivers respectively). We were not going into the Narus Valley because it’s barely accessible in the wet season (shame, could have popped over to South Sudan). There are 83 mammal species in the park, plus plenty of birds, insects and different vegetation. It’s full of endemic species (i.e. species only found in this particular part of the world) and many of the animals are (or have recently been) at threat of extinction. Our first animal spotting was a big herd of Water Buffalos, just lazing around in the morning sun. Dennis (our fantastic guide) explained how the females are dominant (there are
usual several in charge of a herd) and that once males are useless they become outcasts and join the ‘retired generals’ group. Bless them. We drove on and saw plenty of birds including a Hammerkop and some big vultures. Hugh was doing some impressive off road driving, the track was so wet it was like we were in a hovercraft! Dennis saw what he thought were lion tracks, so he asked us to stop whilst he got out to take a closer look. We waited with baited breath whilst he shifted around for a few minutes before he turned back to us with this brilliant knowing grin on his face. He didn’t say anything when get got in so we were like ‘WELL?!!!’ So we said ‘there are lions, just ahead, you can just see them above the tall grass’. Wow, how exciting, we’d hoped but hadn’t really expected to see lions! We couldn’t see them ‘above the tall grass’ so drove on and came across a terrible stench that turned out to be a dead Water Buffalo (at least the lions had recently made a kill so might not be so interested in us!).
And then, we saw
one in the distance – its head up over the cover of the grass. And then another, and then another (two young males and a young female) sat casually with their tails swishing and their beautiful faces watching us. We stopped close by to sit and look, they seemed a little nervous but curious and Dennis told us they’d only recently arrived in the park (migrated from further out in the wilds of South Sudan or Kenya) so were wary of the vehicles. The female moved off to a distance and one of the males went to follow until his head suddenly shot up and looked away in the distance…he’d spotted something. The vultures had flown over to rest in a tree between him and the Water Buffalo carcass. He stride-ed off towards the carcass with his head high and his ears alert, the lions were all of a sudden much more interested in protecting the carcass than us. Dennis told us they’d defend it at all costs because once a vulture has touched it they have to leave it (it affects the taste of the meat). We sat with the lions for about 10 minutes, they came very close
at times and seemed to relax in our company. They were absolute stunners and the males had the beginnings of their manes coming. In the end we moved on and left them to their day, it had been a real privilege and we were so lucky to have seen lions in the wild.
Next we came across a lone male African elephant walking purposely along to the side of our track. He was HUGE!!! Dennis said that males often move around on their own; his massive legs and feet thundered on the ground with each step, he was totally not interested in us. We were completely in awe of his size; African elephants are so much bigger than Indian elephants (I was reminded of a school geography lesson, where they told us the continents of Africa and India look like the faces of their respective elephants…have a look, it’s true!). Anyway, he stomped off in the opposite direction and we moved on. We were close to the buildings on the side of a mountain that we’d seen on the way in, which I’d assumed were a luxury hotel. It turned out that Idi Amin had started to build it
as a luxury home for himself but was removed from power before it became established. It’s seen some trouble since then, include a big fire that badly damaged it. It’s now owned and being restored by someone who wants to develop it as a hotel but there are issues over planning permission. It would be a perfect location for a hotel, such amazing views! There is minimal accommodation in the park at the moment; at the high end the privately owned Apoka Lodge (with a restaurant, swimming pool and other luxuries) and the Ugandan Wildlife Authority owned Apoka bandas, where we were staying. I’m perfectly happy with them, think they’re pretty luxurious especially considering their location and the price (about 20th
of that of the lodge).
We drove on and saw pretty Guinea Fowl, Male Black Half Crested Bustards (Dennis can tell the type and sex of bird from the sound it makes), Water Buffalo, plenty of Tsetse flies (the b*s**r**), Warthogs (such funny little thins!), more elephants and more lions! The absolutely brilliant Dennis had seen them from a distance but didn’t tell us until we were close enough to see for ourselves. They were on a big
rock lazily enjoying the sun, a mother and her two daughters, watching us pass with lazy barely interested eyes. Dennis told us there are also a group of males in the park, a father and his sons but they haven’t been seen for a while, they might have moved outside of the park into Kenya or South Sudan. We came to a nice camping area with campfire, shelter, toilet and shower. There’s an option to spend the night there in tents, costing 15000UGS (About $6USD) per person per night. We drove up to the top of a big hill to see if we could spot some giraffes, but we weren’t lucky. We could see out to Kenya and South Sudan and saw plenty of Jackson Hartebeests with their funny little faces and distinctive bouncing movement. Dennis told us that in any group you’ll always find one sat up on a termite mound keeping watch (he was right!). We headed back to base and came across some Water Bucks grazing near the Apoka Lodge, the dominant male was keeping charge and putting the younger ones in the place, rounding them up. The carnivorous animals and poachers don’t like Jackson Hartebeests because
they have a gland in their next that releases poison when they die. If poachers catch them they have to quickly cut of their head to avoid poisoning the meat. They started mating so we moved on!
On our return to the bandas I went for a lie down because I felt so so sick and wanted to be ok in time for our evening game drive. When I woke up a few hours later Drew and Hugh had a horrible story to tell. They’d gone for a walk and were observing a herd of Zebras and Water Bucks and could see one of the Zebras picking on a young Water Buck. The abuse got worse and worse and the Zebra started attacking the Water Buck viciously; kicking it repeatedly, sitting on it and it was clearly trying to kill it. They said the young Water Buck was making terrible noises, as were the mum and dad Water Bucks who were trying their best to defend their baby. But the Zebra was too strong and killed the young Water Buck. It then actually started tearing out its intestines. It was the stuff of horror movies and I mean really,
we thought Zebras were nice! Drew and Hugh were traumatised, I’m not surprised, it sounded horrific. They said the Zebra and Water Buck group went back to normal soon afterwards except for the mother and father Water Bucks who stood watching over the lifeless body of their baby. The mother kept prodding it, presumably to try and get him up. She was still there the next day watching over despite the rest of the herd having moved on. We asked Dennis and he’d never witnessed it or even heard of anything like it happening. He came back later after doing some research and told us that it’s a rare event where the Zebras decide they need to show their dominance over the Water Bucks. It’s nature I guess.
Anyway, the evening safari! We were on the look-out for giraffes! There are many in the park but they’d been deeper into the valley and the road hadn’t been passable. Dennis had been told by one of the park drivers that’d come from the other side where the giraffes were and that the roads were now passable. So we headed out in their general direction. We saw Patus Monkeys up in
a tree, a family of Warthogs and plenty of birds. We liked the Abyssinian Ground Hornbill. Dennis told us you’ll always see them in 2s, 3s or 4s. The female always lays 2 eggs, 1 male and 1 female, and they’ll remain together until the parents die. The remaining parent stays loyal to their partner and doesn’t look for another mate, staying with their babies who will continue the line, with the female laying another 2 eggs.
And then we saw a lone male Giraffe, way off into the distance! It was brilliant, especially as Giraffes were one animal Drew had really wanted to see. They are such amazing animals, so tall and bright, their necks are so long! As we got closer he just stood there watching us drive the road round him, turning his head to follow us. There are now 37-43 Giraffes in the park, most die due to old age and snake bites. There were only 3 in 1999 with poachers active during Kony's time being responsible for killing many of them. We drove on and saw a big herd of Elephants off into the distance, these savannah elephants each weight around 65-70 tonnes! And
then we saw some ‘Babette’ monkeys (not sure I’ve got this right, it sounded like Babette’) messing about in a tree. And then we got stuck. The track had been getting soggier and soggier and the track past the ‘Babette’ monkeys tree was completely water logged although it was hard to see that until you were in the middle of it (it had looked like a puddle). We went forward and back several times and thanks to Hugh’s patience and perseverance and Moses and Drew’s direction we made it out after a few minutes, only to find an even bigger pool 20 or so metres on. We stopped to assess the situation. It would be a challenge to get through it but the giraffes were only 200m or so away (we later realised we should have just walked it!) and we wanted to see them. It had to be thought through very carefully so we got out (well the boys did!) to have a look. Drew, Hugh, Moses and Dennis spent a good 15 minutes looking at and treading the ground, discussing options etc. Becky and I were a bit concerned by the herd of elephants we could see not
too far away because one was trumpeting and paying a lot of interest in us (we later realised there was a river between us and them but we didn’t know that at the time and elephants don’t have the best reputation). The boys were between wanting to give it a go for the sense of adventure and to see the Giraffes and not wanting us completely stuck so we couldn’t get back. One minute we were going, then we weren’t. In the end it was decided too risky so Hugh had to reverse backwards for a good 30 metres, no small task when it’s narrow, water logged, you have to go back through the massive puddle you’d already got stuck in and there are deep water filled crevices to either side of you. Anyway, we got clear and turned round and headed towards home. Only to get completely and utterly stuck in another massive mud patch that was about 20 metres long.
We’d got through it on the way because Hugh had taken a side route, but that wasn’t so obvious from the opposite direction so we went straight through. We were completely jammed in; the crevice was covering
over half of the wheels and the mud was so thick. We tried everything; people pushing (most got absolutely covered in mud), people pulling, grass under the tyres, rocks under the tyres, anything under the tyres, digging mud away from the wheels, me driving so Hugh could add muscle to the push. Dennis got stuck right in to help us but eventually decided he needed to ring for help (I don’t want to sound melodramatic but it was getting dark and we were sitting ducks out there!) and called the UWA office. The people that could come and pull us out weren’t there! So Dennis left the office to try and get hold of them whilst we kept trying. After about 30 minutes we were still stuck and getting more nervous… there was a beautiful sunset but all that meant was that darkness was fast approaching. I think we all had visions of having to spend the night out there sleeping in the car. Eventually Dennis’ phone came to life when his ringtone rang out “As I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death…” I kid you not!!! How apt is that?! Thankfully it was the UWA office
...once we could finally relax and enjoy it.
telling him they still couldn’t get hold of the rescuers but that they knew they were at the campsite. Dennis told us it was a 15 minute walk away so we reluctantly decided to let him go for it. We didn’t want to be on our own without a gun and we didn’t want Dennis to be on his own without the protection of a vehicle. But we didn’t have much choice so we swapped numbers, he reassured us that the shape off into the distance wasn’t a lion or a leopard, and ran off. Drew dished out various weapons from the vehicle and Becky and I were put on lion watch whilst the boys kept trying to get the truck moving. I wasn’t too worried about lions, we have the car for protection and we knew they’re not fans of humans but it was a bit disconcerting with the long grass all around us. I was worried about elephants who wouldn’t think anything of walking over a car. I was starting to get a little concerned about Dennis until after 20 minutes we saw a land rover flying along the track towards us! It was Dennis and the rescuers!
Moses, Becky, Hugh, Drew and I.
Phew. The rescue was very ‘local style’. Nobody had a rope and we didn’t have a tow bar. We had to fashion a rope out of an old tarpaulin in the back of the land rover that the men twisted up and attached to the bull bars (not ideal). The men were amazing, they dug us out whilst we could at last enjoy the beautiful sunset. It was time to give the pulling out a go and it seemed we weren’t getting anywhere for a while, there was diesel smoke everywhere until all of a sudden Hugh was clear! Phew. We said a MASSIVE thank you and set off on our way, following the land rover guys closely… just in case. It was incredibly bumpy and more hovercrafty than usual, we nearly tipped over once but Hugh’s driving saved us time and time again. I would never have been able to drive in those conditions.
We got back and said the most MASSIVE thank you to Dennis who basically rescued us. He’s so lovely he said he’d share the extra tip we gave him as a thank you with the two guys who helped pull us out, but we’d
already tipped them so we told him not to worry. On the way to the banda to get organised for dinner we saw a massive Owl swoop past. And there were a family of Warthogs shuffling about in the near dark (mum, dad and baby). They’re actually quite cool little animals. Drew did the cooking again; I attempted to help but was put off by the smell of burning insects, don’t ask! We saw a Jackal outside in the dark, it was apparently waiting for our food scraps. They’re creepy little things! Dinner was lovely pasta. We were all so knackered we went to bed very early! Thursday 31st
May – KIDEPO VALLEY NATIONAL PARK to GULU
We were woken up by the sound of swooshing outside – the Zebras were back. Kidepo is such an amazing place that we’d considered staying another night but in the end decided it was too risky. It hadn’t rained for 2 days so we knew the road back would be better today, if we waited another night and it rained the road would become treacherous. So we reluctantly decided to leave and not partake in another morning game drive. We packed
up and paid our bill which I thought was amazingly reasonable - the 2 day stay worked out at $80USD which is amazing considering it included 2 guided game drives, 2 nights en suite accommodation and the national park fees (which were the biggest bulk of it). How much would you pay for a package safari somewhere if you booked with an international company? We said bye to Dennis and Innocence (the ‘housekeeper’). I was sad for Dennis as I think he enjoyed being busy with us (he did tell us they were booked up over the next couple of months which is great)! We drove out and crossed the stream (had been the raging river when we’d arrived the night before last!). We washed the car in another stream and on the way out of the park say Jackson Hartebeests, Ugandan Cob, Water Buffalo, Abyssinian Ground Hornbills and many Elephants in the distance. We arrived at the park gate and used the toilet before the friendly guard waved us on our way. We passed back through Karenga, the pretty town that’d made me feel better on the way and received mostly friendly waves on the way home. We saw
plenty of Mercy Corps vehicles with big ‘ No Gun’ signs plastered on the side and even some muzungos in the most unlikely town. They seemed quite happy despite the local woman who was obviously shouting at them. I was much more at ease on the drive home, especially once we’d started to see cows. As soon as we reached Orom there were more cars on the road and beautiful butterflies all along the verges. And a lot of signs cautioning people about the dangers of landmines.
The drive felt like being in a film. There we were, driving along listening to African music, surrounded by red dust, the children were waving and shouting ‘mazungo, mazungo’. It was one of those times when your heart soars, like it has so many times in Uganda. We arrived back at Alcholi Bo where the roads randomly got worse (it had been the good bit on the way); heavily corrugated and full of hidden bumps. The lack of rain around Kidepo had helped us but the rain closer to Gulu had worsened the conditions of the road. It was so uncomfortable and bumpy and a LONG drive back to Gulu. Our only stop was for a bush pee!
We were happy though, what an amazing adventure. I’ve always wanted to go on safari, and now I have! Uganda is an excellent place to do it, especially if you want to avoid other tourists. The Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks are much more accessible and next time I definitely want go to one of those because they have hippos! But Kidepo is special, mainly due to its remoteness and the adventure to get there! Hugh, Becky and Moses said they’ve not been to another park where the animals come so close to your accommodation. It was an absolutely privilege to have been there with 4 lovely friends (and only grumpy tourist!).
Next up… saying bye to Uganda.
Miss you all.
ODD BITS OF INFORMATION I'VE READ AND OBSERVATIONS I'VE MADE
· For more information and an alternative view on the Karamojong cattle raiders this Guardian article is quite interesting http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/2009/feb/17/karamojong-background
· So many of the buildings throughout Uganda are painted brightly in the colours of different companies, mainly phone or internet companies. Their paid to do so as it’s a form of advertising for the companies concerned.
NOTE: I use these updates to capture my memories and share what I'm doing on my travels with friends, family and anyone who’s interested enough to read. The views are my own and I try my best to ensure any information I share is fair and accurate but I do sometimes get things wrong. I welcome any feedback so I can make improvements and corrections for future readers. Thank you.