We got to experience some of the beauty and wildness of the country over an extended weekend. Deon had to check out some drilling action so we decided to see some of this land linked up to that.
We started out from Kampala on Friday morning full of expectation and a little hassled. The hassle grew about half way to our first stop – Hamid, the driver, and a pedestrian came a little too close to each other. The pedestrian had run out from behind a truck, stopped, looked like he was going to return and then did not. Hamid was going slowly at the time but in the back of the suv I could feel a thump. I was too scared to climb out when Deon ran over to assist. But the walker sat up, no blood but lots of dust. We saw him to a doctor, got coke for all to treat shock, and then dealt with the hassles. Within 30 seconds there was a crowd of about 50 onlookers, and the Mzungu effect was noticeable. The police were called, and we had to give statements and do a lot of paperwork. All this took 2 hours, and cost our driver 100 000Sh (about R300) to pay to the pedestrian for damages. Yip, the driver had to pay the pedestrian for his stupidity. Aaaai.
We were eventually on the road again and spent the next two pleasantly uneventful nights in Kibale forest area. It was WONDERFUL waking up to rain in a rainforest and feeling the power of trees that have stood forever keeping watch over all. We did a walk with a guide in a wetland and saw an amazing range of birds and primates. We did not see chimps but saw 8 other types of primates! The guide was very knowledgeable and spent great time with us. The community is trying a lot to keep themselves growing, which was great to see.
The bird above is great blue turaco – such a wonderful sight!
Tea plantations after Fort Portal. The red-headed colobus, most commonly found in the area around the Bigodi swamps.
An amazing experience was walking through clouds of butterflies – the photo simply does not capture it. Uganda’s butterflies are the most amazing I have seen ANYWHERE in the world – they will get a blog dedicated to them soon! Next is a black-winged turaco. He gave us a delightful show.
Overall, over 50 bird species seen in one walk, 28 were lifers. This in the middle of the day. Wonderful!
One of the amazing views along the way was of several crater lakes, as this area is full of a volcanic history. These are often so beautiful ,serene and a special sight. This one here was about 400 m across, had a number of banana trees around and looked great for a swim! (we held ourselves in check, though!)
We made our way on to Queen Elizabeth National Park with booking made far too far for our time allowance. We did make a quick stop on the Equator: One just MUST stop at these landmarks and pull a pose!
We were not too sure of where we would stay the night – I had made bookings but it turned out to be rather far so we decided to treat ourselves to a special night at Mweya Lodge, the main larny spot in QENP. What a special place this is! The lodge is set high on a ridge looking over the Kazinga channel, which joins Lake George and Lake Edward. The area is dry, with numerous candelabra ‘trees’ (naboom) and some extensive plains of grassland. The game viewing is not as remarkable as in Kruger Park – the diversity of mammals is not nearly as extensive and the area is substantially smaller. But the mood and ‘wow factor’ of the lodge was truly amazing. The waterways are packed with lazing buffalos, hippos and a good amount of elephant. We took a boat trip along the channel – we saw about 60 bird species on this trip alone! The close-up experiences with hippo (one of whom got very upset with us and tried to fight with the boat-scary!), kingfishers and a range of other life-forms will stay with us forever.
Our welcoming committee, and then a view over the channel from the restaurant. Hippos, buffs and ellies on the opposite bank.
African spoonbills and a gorgeous pair of fish eagles. (there were regular calls from them – ah. Africa!)
Pelicans and cormorants gather in huge flocks. Then below – Ugandans love saddle-billed storks because their bills are the colours of the Ugandan flag. We love the black-headed gonoleks. We are now getting the call right – they sound like an oriole, with an extra sqwh at the end.
After a night at Mweya we headed down to Ishasha. The area is most well-known for tree climbing lions. We did not see the tree-climbers, but did find a lovely spot to do some camping and got a few minutes with this chap and his girlfriend.
They did not stay for long, but I wanted to show you how such big creatures can just disappear in the grass!
The area here is filled with Ugandan cob – family of Puku and Impala. (also the favourite menu item of the lions!)
We also saw topi- family of hartebeest. I think they are so handsome!
We spent a rather bleh night near to Ishasha , and then set out VERY early on Tuesday morning for Deon’s interview. We travelled in the dark on roads that were just AWFUL! Forget sand roads, these were rock roads. At the same time we were descending down the Albertine Rift valley, so there were several steep areas. In retrospect I am glad that it was too dark to see – from the bits I did see the verges were deep, steep and terrifying!
I read and dozed in the gob-spot of a village called Ibanda while Deon went out to see the bore-ing equipment. Then we headed on to the next Game park – Lake Mburo. We LONG to return to this spot! It feels like the bushveld and is so atmospheric. The problem here is that the rich politicians and generals have their own additions to the reserve – these ankole cattle. They are strangely compelling with their huge horns, but the massive numbers they are in do not belong in any kind of nature reserve!
We did see zebra and Defassa waterbuck here too, and slept in a comfortable bush tent overnight. We were blessed with rains on the plains of Africa, both as we were driving in and overnight. If you have never smelt the dust settled after an African rainstorm, you have missed a compelling part of existence!
We had very few things for self-service and had to pull out our survival skills here. The restaurant was hopeless and we eventually left unfed, so pulled out a tin of tuna, and then had a tin of sweetcorn for breakfast. I needed a shower and REALLY struggle with freezing showers. After I had struggled for a while to get the wet firewood to co-operate, dear wonderful Deon came to get the donkey going and we had a wonderful warm shower in the bush. (We did not have towels with us – another survival skill- using dirty T-shirts from previous days for drying! But the shower was SO awesome!)
While I was dressing I heard rooting and grunting outside the tent and all while we were eating we were joined by a trio of warthogs, coming about the closest I have seen them. Ah. Africa.
We would LOVE to spend more time in this park, with a bit more supplies to keep us going.
All in all, we LOVED this time away! We are privileged and blessed to be in Africa, seeing, smelling, feeling her all around us.
I will share some more butterflies, birds and perhaps some others in later blogs.