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Published: January 1st 2018
On the road to Kibale National Park
While driving on the country road from Queen Elizabeth NP to Kibale NP, this elephant was standing next to it. I don't know what elephant the chimp guide was talking about, but this is the only one I saw, and it was the day before!
Using Fort Portal as my home base, today I was off to another national park: Kibale. The draw here are the chimps. Like gorilla trekking, if you don't check in at the ranger station by a certain time, you can't make the trek, and we barely made it. I'm still not sure why we were so late. We got there just as they were dividing the groups up and assigning them their rangers. I was assigned to a group of four women who were traveling together. When they were told they were being assigned a woman ranger, they stood up, clapped and cheered, and told the lead ranger they were glad they were being assigned a woman. They even made their way to the ranger to hug her. Oh dear.
Our ranger had to be the worst one ever in the entire country and history of Uganda! Make that all of Africa. No, the world!!!!
Like the gorilla trek, you follow your guide into the forest, while the guide uses a machete to clear a path. For Kibale, the terrain is basically flat with a few small hills, and the forest isn't as thick as
Bwindi, making it easy to work your way thru it. But the mud -- there was so much of it. And my wet, smelly boots were not enjoyable to be in, but there were the chimps to think about.
All groups headed down the same muddy road before splitting off into different directions. However, before we split up, one female ranger started swinging her machete like mad, working her way into a clearing. She spotted a chimp, so had her group follow. All but one other group did the same -- my group. Our ranger had us wait on the side of the road while she went to check things out. I complained to our group that we were left on the side of the road while the others were seeing a chimp, which wasn't fair, and that's what we had come for. They came to her defense. She must have her reasons, they argued. About 15 minutes later, the guide came to get us to join the rest of the groups who had been enjoying the views of a chimp all this time. We, on the other hand, had to deal with all the baboons, who
congregated near us on the side of the road. I don't like baboons, and you see them everywhere in Africa, so it's not like it's exciting. When we finally joined the rest of the groups, the chimp decided to leave -- shades of the gorillas. That same first ranger was on a mission, she was after it. I abandoned my group and joined her. At one point, the chimp climbed up a small tree, then sat there, posing for pictures. My ranger, who was at the back of the pack, came up to me and told me I needed to stay with her group. I ignored her. I was there to see chimps, not to hang out with her. After spending about 30 minutes taking our pictures, our ranger decided to head in a different direction. I wanted to stay with the other female ranger, who was radioed that more chimps could be seen in a different direction. My idiot ranger took us back to the main road, where she then proceeded to point out chimps in the trees. We were like, those aren't chimps, those are baboons. She would insist otherwise. When we pulled out the binoculars to prove
her wrong, she insisted that they were baboons, not
chimps. This same scenario played out over and over again. At one point, we heard the trees rustle. Likely from baboons. That dumb guide, thinking we were even dumber than her, insisted it was an elephant making its way near us. We never saw an elephant, and the elephant wouldn't have gone silent so quickly or for so long after that initial noise as it did in that moment. And, besides, due to the weight and size of an elephant, it wouldn't be able to go silent either.
For the next two hours, she had us walking thru the forest where the only thing we saw were mud and trees. It felt like she was taking us on a walk to kill time, not to look for chimpanzees. Even she gave up trying to convince us the baboons high up in the trees were chimpanzees. I guess she knew she couldn't compete against binoculars. At one point, one of the women had to take a bathroom break. When she was done, the ranger let her have it, telling her she could have gotten lost, and no one would
have been able to find her; a backup guide was with the tourist. The woman said she had no choice but to go. About 15 minutes later, another had to do the same. The ranger reprimanded her like the first one. Then, after the ranger went off on the group about taking time out for bathroom breaks, she left our group to take one herself! The women in the group were no longer supporting her. When we finally made our way back to the ranger station at the end of the three hour hike, she sure worked hard for those tips, even asked me point blank for one, then proceeded to tell me all she did. I told her no, because she didn't do anything. She tried to convince me otherwise. Thank goodness for that first ranger -- the group assigned to her really got lucky -- and the cooperating chimp.
The chimp trekking guides in Uganda also carry rifles like the gorilla trekking guides. It's supposedly for protection from animals. When I was doing the gorilla trek, one girl in our group said that she was on another trek where the ranger tripped while running with
And yet another baboon
his gun. When he fell, the barrel was pointed right at his head, his hand on the trigger. They were just waiting for it to go off, which it luckily didn't. This dimwit that we had for the chimp trek was reckless with her rifle, so I stayed clear from her. These guns are old, falling apart, and look like they could easily go off without any one touching any part of them. At one point, the nut case was using her rifle as a walking stick -- alternating the barrel upward and downward! Then, at times, she would clean the mud from the barrel with her fingers -- while the rifle is supposedly loaded. Nature + animals + (crazy) people = unpredictable.
My driver then took me to the Bigodi Swamp for the afternoon. As the name implies, it is a swamp that attracts all kinds of animals, with a foot bridge built around a good portion of it. The only problem about the bridge is that big portions are underwater due to it being broken. Since my boots were already soaked, I just walked thru these parts of the swamp, mid-ankle deep. While we didn't
A real live chimp
see many animals, what a big difference this guide made. Relatively new to his position, he really went out of his way to make the visit as enjoyable as possible, and you could tell he loved what he was doing. He got so excited when he saw an animal that he's probably seen many times over. He tried to coax animals out of their hiding, was patient with me as I took my pictures, even suggesting certain angles to get better shots, and would insist on me taking breaks to rest and drink water, as it was hot as hell, and the humidity was stifling. The hike itself takes between two to three hours, depending on what you see, how often you stop, and how fast you walk it.
Seeing a family of chimps would have been great, but seeing one chimp was good enough for me. As long as I saw at least one animal that is the main attraction at each destination, I was satisfied. I couldn't wait for tomorrow to come, and to see what it would bring me.
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