rest of overlanding and GORILLAS

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Africa » Uganda » Central Region » Kampala
September 3rd 2011
Published: September 19th 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Next morning we were up early again and it was a border crossing day. When we got to the border Amy collected all out passports and the money needed from each of us for the Ugandan visa and went and did it all for us. We waited on the bus and bought drinks etc out the windows. Finally she came back and off we went into Uganda. We had lunch in a carpark of a Chinese restaurant that backed onto a petrol station which was odd, with the tables and chairs up on the grassy bit. Lots of people looked at us funny. There was a big roundabout next to us and there had been an accident earlier in the day or the day before and a huge truck that had been pulling a trailor with a container on it was on its side on the other side of the roundabout. There was a sign for a university there too that we thought was a bit odd, it said that they struggle for excellence, rather than something more inspirational like strive. Anyway, Amy had organized for a guy to come to make special printed t-shirts for those who wanted them, we didn’t so they all did that while we mingled.
We then drove to a Nakumatt in a shopping complex (Nakumatt is a supermarket) so we could use ATMs, get snacks and exchange money. After that we went to the campsite called Red Chilli, it was raining. Unfortunately we had to put up our tents in the rain which kind of sucked, but only 4 or 5 people upgraded so there were a few of us in the same boat. We had a latish dinner and then ate extra as there was a great pizza oven there. Polly and I shared one. We watched in horror at the bar as Arsenal lost 8-2 to Man United before going to bed (after hot hot showers and saying goodnight to the resident dog who is soooo overweight!). Next morning we had to be up early and leaving by 6.30. WE had to pack the tents in the rain too! Not nice. We all piled onto the bus, a bit damp. But all the bus rides were fun, even though they were long, the people we had on the truck were great!
We drove almost all day, stopping for lunch in a field that had a little market off it. There was nowhere to go to the toilet except a small bunch of bushes half way up a hill, so a few of us who were desperate went there lol. It started to rain too so we moved under an empty shelter and ate lunch while a bunch of locals took photos of us!! How ironic is that!
Finally around 4pm we arrived at Lake Bunyoni. It was the same campsite/lodge that I had stayed at previously in 2006, and its just as beautiful the second time round. We were the only people who stayed in a tent, but since it was sunny we didn’t mind. We got a good spot and others set up theirs to dry off from the night before. They all upgraded to cabins or permanent furnished tents. By now I had a horrible chesty cough that I had caught off someone in the truck. We just chilled that afternoon, some of the guys played pool. That night we all had dinner up on the carpark level (that’s where our tables etc were). Amy had organized with a friend of hers to come and speak to us about an orphanage that is nearby. His name was Duncan and the orphanage was called Little Angels. He said people could go with him the next day to visit the kids, no cost, but of course a donation is always nice.
Next morning the first group of Gorilla trekkers left at 5.30am, then a large group of the rest of us went to the orphanage, including Dario, but I stayed behind, my cough was horrible and I didn’t feel up to it. I did all our laundry, it took hours!! I borrowed some rope off Duncan our cook to make a clothes line near our tent and hung everything to dry in the sun. A few hours later Dario returned with the group in canoes from across the lake. He said they started by walking with Duncan through the village, saw the local crazy funny lady who like to touch everyones bum to see how they were  then walked on to the orphanage/school. They went into the classes and the kids sang a greeting. Then they saw the teachers teach the class, lots of teaching by singing. The class was about numbers so they were learning how to count and do sums. Dario wrote questions on the board too and chose kids to come up and write the answers on the board. After class they all went outside, there was a little play by the kids and more singing and then there was a dance with a girl in charge who got almost all the muzungus out to dance. In free time, Dario gave out balloons we had bought in town and got swamped with kids wanting them. Lots of sunglasses went missing then turned up again as they left. The organizer Duncan, asked if anyone wanted to donate or sponsor a child, we donated books and pencils that we had bought in Nakumatt, then they all got fed by the group, then said goodbyes and they returned by canoe.
That afternoon we hung around the pool table and played loads of games and played music on our computer, lots of people added songs to a ´Bunyoni´ playlist. A few hours later the group who had hired a boat and driver to go and visit the Pygmys that live on an island in the lake came back and said it was a bit disappointing. The pygmys are always drunk apparently and most of them are average height now days, they are not pure pygmy anymore.
It started to rain so everyone who had washing out ran to get it in and we hung up what remained wet up near the truck. We had lunch and dinner up near the truck, the Gorilla trekkers came back just as dinner started. They were soaking and covered in mud. Apparently it was a hard slog to get there, but was worth it. We had the same family for the following day. We ate dinner and went to bed as early as we could since we had to eat breakfast at 5am. That night there was a drunk group of individuals from another truck in the bar after it closed who were so loud that everyone could hear them! We were the closest being just below the bar so Dario went to tell them to shutup at around 1am then I went at 2am, and finally they left at 2.30ish. We got up very tired that morning for the Gorillas. We had 6 in our group. Brent, an aussie from Brisbane, 26 years old, but carrying a but more weight than
juvenile gorillajuvenile gorillajuvenile gorilla

no zoom used, so close!
he wanted, Flora a british woman who had joined the truck in Kampala for the 5 days just to see the Gorillas, and an aussie couple from the sunshine coast, Matt and Amanda who were on their honey moon. We drove 2 hours to get to the start of the trek in a minivan. On the way in the mountainous area near the Bwindi national park, we were stopped by some guys whose car had somehow got itself hanging over the edge. Our driver obliged some help by attaching a rope to the back of the van, which snapped twice, the guys just tied a knot and would try again, we knew it was hopeless and eventually left them too it.
Our guide for the trek was named Jimmy, and Brent and Flora got a porter each to carry their bags and help them get there. We were all glad they had one since they each needed one to get up the hills. Dario carried our bag which just had water in it. And we had one of his walking poles each. Everyone else had a wooden walking pole that they gave out at the beginning. We also had a guy with a rifle following us. Jimmy had a radio and kept radioing ahead to the 4 guys who were tracking the gorillas, but it wasn’t until almost 2 hours into our hike that they found them and radioed us to tell us. We had run the gauntlet of fire ants on the way which were scary, we all had our socks over our pants, and lucky thing too, these things are ferocious with massive pincers and you cant just brush them off, you need to grab and pull them off since they hold on even in death!! Never thought id be afraid of ants! We also had some problems with thorns and thistles. Jimmy had a machete and would frequently cut a path for us, but mostly we followed elephant trails, they just clear the forest, it’s amazing!! Lucky their poo isn’t sticky that’s all I have to say about it  Finally we reached the trackers, Brent wasn’t feeling so good, but the 2 trackers said that there were 3 adult male Gorillas close by, but the main family group was another 15 minutes away. We all decided to press on. Finally we left our bags and sticks behind with some trackers and Jimmy took us down to the Bitikura family. We saw the old silverback, not the dominant one that is nicknamed peacemaker, this is an odd group as there are 4 silverbacks in it. The other 2 and another male were the ones further away, to stop clashing with the dominant male they eat separately. We went further down the hill and saw a juvenile male, kind of like a teenager. Then we saw a female with her 5 month old baby!! So cool!! At this age the mum doesn’t let the baby out of arms reach, so the baby was playing happily with sticks and leaves and his mums face and legs, until she got fed up and pushed him gently off her while she lay down for a rest. I was sitting on a log watching with everyone else behind. Then suddenly the juvenile wanted more attention so walked right up to us, waited until I moved to the other side of the log then walked straight past us and sat down to eat only 2 metres or so away!! So cool! Eventually Jimmy said we only had 10 minutes left so we moved on to see the dominant male silverback who was up the hill a bit, he was lying, almost posing for us, once Jimmy had cleared a bush for us to see him. He was between us and a few other babies so was being watchful of us. He farted a lot too which was funny.
Eventually it was time to leave, and Brent said he didn’t want to go up, but it was the only way, and it started to rain too. 2 trackers were helping him one pulling one pushing as we made our way up for the following hour or so. I was surprised at how good I felt, even with my cough, I thought id be at the back needing help too, but I didn’t, though probably it was because we were moving at such a slow pace because of Brent. We stopped at the top of the hill for lunch, though our sandwiches we had made at brekky didn’t look too good so we just ate sultanas and cashews that we brought, Brent ate sour worms and we had a lot of water since we hadn’t really had any yet. Finally we got to the valley and took the long way back to the road to make it easier for Brent as it was less steep. We wandered back to the starting point on the road, but the car went back to pick up Brent and Flora. We all were very muddy, and Matt and Amanda even left their socks and sneakers at the office for the locals to have if they wanted them and could be bothered cleaning them. We gave tips to the guide and helpers, got given certificates to say we had done it and bought a souvenir for Gavin who was supposed to be with us but had a stomach bug so couldn’t make it.
The ride back we all chatted a lot but we were all pretty exhausted. We got back at about 7 or so and had dinner before showering and going to bed.
Next day the last groups went on their treks, including Gavin since Amy had gone beyond the call of duty and managed to get him another permit, he just had to pay extra for transport. Everyone else went to the orphanage or on a trip to Rwanda to the genocide museum for the day except Flora, Polly, Elspeth another aussie and us. They went in the canoes before lunch while I just relaxed. We all had lunch (all 5 of us plus Amy) then went for a swim. I was the first to jump off the 7m high tree that had a platform out over the water, scary but fun!! So then Polly did it and Dario before we had a cold shower and got into warm clothes. One group of trekkers got back early, apparenty they had 2 other couples with them that were uber fit so they just tried to keep up and did the trek really fast, but were buggered by the end. We washed our gorilla clothes that morning but they didn’t dry fully that arvo since it started drizzling again. But it took about 5 washed for Dario´s pants to resemble the original colour, I still think there are mud stains on the bum!
That night we had dinner and went to bed earlyish again, everyone was pretty exhausted. Next morning we left the campsite early, which sucked for us since we had to pack up a tent. We drove to Kampala again, dropped off Flora and went shopping again at Nakumatt, including buying cough medicine for me, exchanging into US dollars the rest of our shillings we didn’t need and trying to find white t-shirts since a few of us were trying to organize a hens party on the truck for Mel, one of the many aussies on the truck who was basically honeymooning before the wedding with Scott, her fiancé, they were heading to Las Vegas to get married. We went to our campsite for the night, where it was pissing down with rain, called Jinja, right on the Nile river. Brent was in one tent, we were in the other and everyone else opted to upgrade. There were so many little tents everywhere it was hard to find a spot, so we set up on some higher ground that wasn’t flooded in between 2 furnished tents. We all had some drinks at the nice bar, tried to use the wifi, but there were so many Americans on ipads and laptops that it was horribly slow, so we have up. After dinner we went to bed, but lots of people stayed up and partied until after closing time which was midnight when drinks finished at the bar. We found out the next morning that all the Americans were there as part of a 10 countries in 10 months evangelical thing, so they all packed up their tents, prayed as a large group then split up into work groups to go and work in Uganda for the month as evangelicals (I don’t know the correct term). After they left there was space in the bar to charge our things and there was ok internet access. It was basically our group plus 4 other people there that night. Most of our group went white water rafting after breakfast for the whole day. Dario went and did a Soft Power Education project where he painted a school with a small group and got lunch included. He came back around 3. The rest of us hung out in the bar and chatted and watched Gavin jump off the bungi tower which is next to the bar, over the river, looked so fun!!
We all went and had lunch, watching the vervet monkeys chase each other and fight over some bread they had stolen, then hung out in the bar some more. Other people decided to set up tents instead of paying for some apparently very crappy dorms another night, since it was sunny too. Eventually the white water rafters came back, I had done it last time and knew it was fun, they all agreed, but were tired. We had another party in the bar after dinner, we stayed half the night before going to bed, my cough wasn’t getting better. (I don’t remember where, but I had bought some antibiotics over the counter, the same ones I use at home, with no script! That’s east Africa for you). Next morning we packed up and left. We drove to the border, but this time we had to get all our stamps ourselves. We only had a few Ugandan shillings left, we used a few at the bathroom, a few buying a paper, buying a drink and some bananas with the final ones. We got our exit stamps then drove on the truck to the Kenyan side and got our entry stamps into Kenya again. We didn’t need a new visa since we had just visited one of the other east African nations in the east African agreement. Some of the guys bought ice-creams off a guy selling them. We piled onto the truck and off we went to Eldoret. We had a shop stop in Eldoret, but as we arrived in town it started raining really hard and we all got wet going to the nakumatt, bank and post office. At the campsite that night, called Kembu which means chameleon, it was raining too, and originally we were going to put up our tent with others who couldn’t upgrade coz there was no more space, in the dining hall. But Brent offered us some floor space in the cottage he had upgraded to. We eventually got charged though since we slept on the floor! We were angry, but the manager the next day gave us a bit of a refund. There was some kind of misunderstanding, but we had a good, warm nights sleep which helped my cough I think. Apparently the dining hall was freezing that night, stone floors. We left there after brekky, and discovering a bunch of dogs lived there, including a great dane which was cool. We drove to Nakuru town and did some shopping for an hour, internet and buying some souvenirs off a little market next to the parking lot we were in in the truck. From there we drove the 20 mins to the park gate of Nakuru national park where we used the bathrooms and watched a big baboon sit on the top of an empty bus which he had just broken into and stolen chocolate bars, as he ate them. He knew exactly how to open them etc too! There were cheeky vervet monkeys trying to steal crumbs. I moved towards one to scare it away from us since it was way too close, but it ran at me with its teeth bared which scared the crap out of me and everyone else, so we got back into the truck. Off we went into the park, Alouis our driver doing some great turns to get us the best views of the lake full of birds, the rhinos and other animals. We saw about 4 rhinos in total, black and white rhinos (they aren’t actually black and white, the white rhinos get their name from a misunderstanind of the original name meaning wide mouth rhinos, they are grazers and are the larger of the two, the black rhinos are browsers and are smaller). After a couple of hours it started to rain so we started to leave the park, via another route, so we passed through the park.
We arrived at our next campsite that afternoon, near lake naivasha. We had 2 nights there and the second night was our last night on the trip and was supposed to be the hens party. We had managed to buy white t-shirts for all the gals including mel, and she never noticed. That night we booked ahead our accommodation in Nairobi, through recommendations of others who had stayed at the parkside hotel. $27 a night, private double room including bathroom and cable tv, not a bad deal. Another couple had booked theirs online and had booked it for $60 so they cancelled and rebooked for $27. Anyway, we had dinner and went to bed after playing with the resident german shepherds. Some of the guys got in trouble, they had a skulling competition in the bar with Smirnoff blacks and had all puked! Eww!! Next day, most people had opted for the bike ride to Hells Gate national park, including (we made sure) Mel. So Kate and I and later Amy, started decorating the white shirts for everyone. We also got Gavin on board with his good drawing skills to draw elephants on the front… though they weren’t your normal ears and trunk if you get what I mean… hens night, had to be African and naughty! It was hilarious because Amy kept asking Duncan and Alouis how to say naughty stuff in Swahili so we could write it on the shirts!
We got it all finished and I did our laundry, Dario had gone on the bike ride. Amy and I strung up a massive clothes line across the campsite and Kate and another girl, Heather took advantage and there were undies hanging up everywhere haha. Halfway through, Raewyn turned up, she had gone on the bike tour, but her bike had broken at the beginning so someone had picked her up and brought her back in a car. Apparently the bikes were all bad, lots of gears didn’t work, there were no helmets and the guide (there were 15 of them and only 1 guide) was crap. When everyone got back they complained, but said the view was nice, but they didn’t get very close to animals, apparently animals in the park are afraid of cyclists. They all had sore bums and legs though. We had lunch and that afternoon was a lazy afternoon in the bar. There were amazing hot showers too, but they had literally run out of water so I borrowed gavins room shower, which runs off a different system and had a great shower! All us gals got dressed up a bit with some makeup as well and then we all had dinner. After dinner the gals all got drinks from the bar and retired to the truck which we had set up as a hens night room, blocking the windows with sarongs. We played some drinking games and other games with the hen, then she wanted to dance, so wewent to the bar. The boys had dressed up scott a bit but were just drinking and playing pool. We all ate some chips and drank a bit more before heading to the nightclub that is 200m away. After half an hour of tooing and froing with the manager etc we finally got let in for free,coz we didn’t want to pay the 200 entry fee. The gals hit the dance floor and the boys did what boys do, they sat at the bar and had a beer. Eventually they came and danced and some locals came too. Dario and I went to bed around 1am, too much dancing for me, Id had a coughing fit and had to leave.


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