This is the continuation of the Uganda trip report. The first part with events of days 1 – 6 is on a separate post.
Day 7: Queen Elizabeth National Park – Craters
After leaving the Queen Elizabeth National Park we drove to Kyambura Gorge, a 150 m deep narrow valley with thick rain forrest. Approaching it from the flat savanna like surroundings seems rather uneventful until the earth opens up and reveals this deep chasm. This is where a group of Chimpanzees live that we tracked. Although, tracking is a bit of a misnomer in this case. Our guide did set up an impressive speed to try to find the chimps. Loaded down with photo gear we struggled along the hot humid rain forrest until we found them. It was worth it, though. While the gorillas are massive and impressive that way, the chimpanzees are impressive by their “humanness”. And we were lucky to get a fairly large group with infants.
After the hike we drove on to the Craters campsite nearby. The campsite gets its name from the many volcanic explosion craters in the area. Even though we were pretty much done from the chimp hike, we decided to hike up the Grasshopper Hill with a local guide. It was a great walk through the fields and with the guide explaining how the different vegetables and fruits are being grown by the locals. The great views from the top more than made up for our fatigue.
Day 8: Craters – Ruwenzori Mountains – Fort Portal
That day did not work out for me at all. I ate something wrong or the boot camp style chimp hike did me in. Either way, I was not a happy camper. Fortunately, this day was mostly just a long drive. We did stop at a village near the Rwenzori mountains and walked for about 1 hr along the road. The mountains themselves are snow covered at the highest peaks, but we since it was overcast we did not get to see that.
Along the way we crossed the Equator for the second time and took the effort to take the tourist group photo we missed the first time around. Our resupply stop a bit later reaffirmed that we were the main attraction to the kids around. The day ended at the Kluge guest farm. It is a great place run by a German ex-pat. Nice pool to relax and very nice food. We then went to bed to a our first real rainy day.
Day 9: Fort Portal – Budongo Forrest
The most excellent ginger pumpkin soup at Kluge’s did wonders and whatever ailed me was gone. That said, we were in for another long day on the road to reach the Budongo Forrest south of the Murchison Falls National Park. We arrived a bit too late to hire a ranger for a forrest walk, unfortunately. So we resorted to take a short walk along the main road in hopes to some animals. Besides the ubiquitous amount of baboons, we had an equally generous number of giant spiders on trees. The photos do not do them justice. Their bodies were about 2 inches long with plenty of baby spiders to boot.
Day 10: Budongo Forrest – Murchinson Falls National Park
This day was African safari at its best. The day started with a visit to Murchinson Falls where the Vitoria Nile falls ferociously through a 10 m gorge. It looks fairly tame on the photos, however it was everything but. A little way downstream the Nile forms a wide slow moving river and we took the ferry to the other side. Remarkably the landscape completely changes on the north side of the Nile. While the south side is essentially a lush rain forrest, the north side is dry african savanna with temperatures to prove it. It was quite uncomfortable.
After setting up camp, we spend the rest of the day with a long leisurely game drive. There were just too many animals to count, but amongst the most memorable were huge herds of giraffes and elephants. Finally, we had almost given up hope, we had a lioness up and close. Words cannot really describe the majestic landscape and the photos barely come close.
This night is the first night without a proper shower and in an area that one would consider more wild. Fortunately, the park service did provide a big drum of river water and so we decided to have an open-air shower (no photos).
This night did bring one more surprise. I could not stand the heat of the campfire and started to wander off a bit. Once my eyes adjusted from the fire and I looked up, the whole Milky Way presented itself. Fortunately for me, my team mate Laura did get curious about me crouching down on the ground with the camera pointing up and came by to check if I finally succumbed to a heat stroke. I always wanted to do some light painting with a human subject and she patiently volunteered herself as model. The result is one of my favorite photos of the trip.
Day 11: Murchinson Falls National Park – Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary
Started the day early with boat ride along the Victoria Nile and beautiful sunrise. The ride was a feast for any bird lover. Besides lots of other birds and the eagles, we got to see a rare Shoebill. It is a somewhat funny looking bird, but our guide was quite excited to spot it. However, along the way came the bad news that our truck had broken down with a defective water pump. Back on shore we had to make due with alternate transport, which turned out to be a standard sedan. So the 4 of us plus luggage squeezed in and drove on. Fortunately, it only took 1.5 hrs to get to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
Once there we got ready for the last trekking of the trip, which luckily was only about 20 mins over flat ground to see two female white rhinos. This was my first rhino and I was surprised as to how calm these huge animals are. The only thing really bothering them was Patti, a tame warthog. Patti lives at the headquarter and had decided to join us on the trek.
We were the only guests at the sanctuary, which also offers a campground and a couple simple rooms. After dinner we stayed up quite late to enjoy our last night out. At about 10 pm a rhino came slowly grazing right up to where we were talking. It was magic seeing the 2 ton animal slowly graze along, completely unfazed by us being only feets away. Later that night I heard a funny sound and when I looked out my window, the two rhinos we trekked earlier decided to also make themselves at home right there.
Day 12: Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary – Jinja
After a late and lazy breakfast we drove to Jinja. Jinja is called the source of the nile as that is where the Victoria Nile flows out of Lake Victoria. On the way there we had to cross over Owen’s Dam, of which you are apparently not allowed to take photos. Well, I tried anyway and promptly ended up being interrogated by police and military. After a couple minutes of “reminding” me that that is not permitted, they let me go. The night was spend at the Adrift camp, which is the base for many tours. For us it was time to relax at the bar with a gorgeous view of the Victoria Nile and reminisce about the last 12 days.
Day 13: Jinja
Since we has some time before heading to the airport, we decided to take Boda-Boda to town. Boda-Boda is a motorcycle taxi and rather an adventure. No helmets, no place to hold on while running over dirt roads. We survived and did some souvenir shopping after trying 3 banks to change some money, which is a lesson in patience all by itself. As a side-note, there is Island time and then there is African time.
Thank you Laura, Yannick, Simon and Takalani for this unforgettable journey with the best travel mates one could imagine. With more than 1500 photos taken and pages of memories, this is a trip of a lifetime.