The rain in Uganda falls mainly on the.. well it just falls everywhere

Days 327/328, Monday/Tuesday 26 and 27 November 2012 – Lake Bunyoni, Uganda

It was a very noisy night with the uber-loud music from somewhere down in the valley below us going until 2:30, I ended up reading in the night as there was no way I was going to be able to sleep. We had an early start planned, but I was up earlier at 5:15; as soon as I heard some claps of thunder, I wanted to get packed down before any rain came. Driver Will wanted to get out early as the traffic in Kampala is notoriously bad so we were on the road for 6:00, it was a tight squeeze out the camp ground and at one point I wasn’t sure we were going to make it !

We made it out of the campground just before rain started, quite lucky I guess as the driveway was steep and dirt and would have been impossible to get up in the wet. We managed to escape the city without too many dramas and stopped at a charity cafe on the equator for breakfast, we had barely got out of the truck and under the cafes awning before the heavens really opened and I experienced a real African down pour.P1020446



I was the only who braved the rain to run up the road to get a quick picture of the equator sign, and no one wanted to pose next to it!


The rain slowed and finally stopped as we drove but it got quite cold, at one stop I put my polypro, beanie and some socks on in an attempt to keep warm.

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As seems to be the norm in Eastern Africa there were a lot of road works happening, in some cases the roads were just dug up for miles and mile, I loved the hand painted sign !



I also really like the long horn cows, I haven’t really seen many of them before, and have never seen them close enough to take pictures of, but the horns on some of them are massive. This is a heavily cropped shot taken out the window, so hardly a classic, but you can see the horns !


We stopped for lunch at a cafe and found they had no power, but they did let us use their tables and chairs and have our own lunch, which was nice – we gave them the left-over food when we had finished. The road started to climb soon after lunch and just seemed to go on and on, through road work after road work, through mud and over speed bumps. Outside it all looked very tropical, in reality it was wet and cold !IMG 5897

We turned off to Lake Bunyani at the town of Kimable.


The sign said 8km, which seems such a short distance until you see the road ! it is very narrow, very rough, muddy and after a section of flat – climbed yet further into the hills.

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I was surprised we made it to the top! We stopped to take photos down towards the lake.

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It was 2.5kms from the top down to the lake, after about 100 metres it was deemed to unsafe for us passengers to continue and we were advised to get out the truck. The road was quite slippery and steep and a 16ton truck steers like a stone on ice. You can see in the first photo where it had been sliding down the hill, Will was a brave man…

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Our truck was passed by a Nomad Adventures truck on the way down, it was a lot lighter than ours and had no problem managing the track, however it was a different story at the bottom when we found it stuck trying to get a narrow road in town… Once it was out, Will had a chat with some of local guys and then just blasted our truck up and through! We weren’t in it BTW, having stuck trucks was a source of great amusement to most of the village who out offering advice, and cheering once we were all back on the way.

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The campground we were staying was not much further and was very muddy and wet, luckily only half of us wanted to put tents up as there wasn’t much room. We had a good dinner and a couple of drinks around a very nice fire, I didn’t stay up late. I am loving my gumboots !

I slept well Monday night, I have started to read a bit before sleeping and this seems to be making a bit of a difference, temporarily I am sure! We have all day here at the lake, we had a discussion with one of the local guides about doing a tour around the place but he didn’t turn up again. It was sunny so I got a load of washing done – always take the chance when I can!

The power is really sporadic here and for a short time it was on, which meant the internet was on so I had a good Skype with my mum and my boys. My eldest son has not worked for a while and had been doing some door knocking (pun not intended) and had got himself a job trial at a local door maker, which he had passed and now has a few hours a week till Christmas and a full time job in January. I was very proud of him for getting out there and finding himself a job – awesome Dom !!!

The power did die soon after which turned out to be a problem as I had no camera batteries and even my phone was flat!

A few of us went for a walk into the hills before lunch, we managed to pick up a guide, well he just sort of attached himself to us! It was probably good thing as there were loads of trails in the hills and while we not have gotten lost we would have surely taken some wrong turns. Maria took this photo of me. The lake is quite stunning, with numerous islands all with different stories – including Punishment Island, where they used to put the unwed pregant girls; effectively to die as there is no water or food on the island. Though it was suggested that more often than not the father used to go out and rescue them, not sure how true that be was though. As I have said before, it is a tough place.

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We got most of the way to the top before it hammered down with rain and everyone got soaked. As did my almost dry washing back at camp, oh well. After lunch I did nothing much; dozed and read, there was no power so I couldn’t even walk and take photos or write blog posts. We had a few pre-dinner drinks and I managed to clear out all the accumulated booze in my locker – there wasn’t a lot left. After dinner I sat in the bar talking to the guys from the Nomad truck with Brett and Martina until I wobbled off to bed about midnight.

Almost to the gorillas !!!

Meeting some of the cousins.

Day 326, Sunday 25 November 2012 – Kampala, Uganda

Today was supposed to begin at 6:00 am, but thankfully last night this was delayed until 9:00, and thankfully again I was told before I had gone to sleep; I removed the alarm I had set on my phone. I was up before breakfast at 8:00 and managed to get a hot shower in before the power went off. I was feeling pretty good considering a lack of sleep – and the vodka tonics we were drinking were not exactly made with top class vodka.

I went for a quick walk out of the camp and got a photo of the guys making the rolleggs that some had for breakfast and I had for a late snack last night. They are pretty damn good.


I also loved this tree right outside the campground gate.


As we left the village we all spotted this sign on one of the buildings, I hadn’t seen it before. Apparently it is to remind people to get to work on time !


We were on the road on time and made good progress into Kampala – the capital city of Uganda. We were expecting congestion but had not counted on the Kampala Marathon being run that day and the main streets were clogged solid. It was a long wait in fairly humid conditions – luckily there was just enough breeze to make it not too uncomfortable.



We only just made it through the city to the shore of Lake Victoria at Entebbe. The last boat to Ngamba Chimpanzee Sanctuary, an island in the lake, left at 1:30 and we arrived at 1:25. It was a fairly rough ride on the way out, there was a bit of a swell and we were heading into it and the wind. Everyone got pretty soaked. Luckily this is Africa and not England so we were all fairly dry not long after we arrived.

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The sanctuary has been set up to look after rescued chimpanzees, most of them are young when they arrive and they do not get released back into the wild as they would not survive. They live in a fairly large section of bush and are protected from the human predators that caused them to be there in the first. Though they are not aggressive, they are immensely strong so we were given a safety briefing on arrival and pointed to the emergency point near the lake, chimpanzees do not like water.

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We were there to watch the afternoon feeding session, the chimp’s are all behind electric fences so photography was not simple. I wanted to get some ground level shots as I like them more than shooting from above, but we were not allowed down there.

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This was my favourite.


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The keepers throw fruit over the fence for the chimps to collect, there was a little squabbling but they all know they will get fed so it was pretty tame. I love how they put their hands up – so human.

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And this one sits just like I do when I am sitting on the ground eating fruit!

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Once the feeding was over some of the smarter chimps got sticks to get the food that was caught under the electric fence, amazing to watch !

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It was one of those experiences that I really enjoyed but was a bit like a zoo. Unlike at the cheetah rehabilitation place in Namibia the people here talked about the chimpanzees, their plight in the wild and what the sanctuary was doing. I guess for these chimps the only other option was death.

We had an enjoyable, late, lunch on the island before heading back to the boat for a fast and smooth ride back to the mainland and on to the truck. There were quite a few water monitors here as well.

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We stayed at the Backpackers Camp on the outskirts of Kampala. It is the guys least favourite campsite in all of Africa ! It was not the worst place in its self, but the music from nearby was seriously loud, it was like being at a gig and it went on to 2:30 am… I was not amused. It also had the most amazingly tight driveway, I was really surprised we got the truck through the gate and down the hill. Great driving!

Adrift !

Day 324 and 325, Friday/Saturday 23/24 November 2012 – Eden Rock Camp, Jinja, Uganda

Wow ! A mega sleep, and then once awake I did stuff all after that as well – a small amount of washing and a load of time in bed reading my book. Luxury! Other people did other things but I could not be stuffed and enjoyed half a day mostly on my own. I meandered out of my room at lunch time to find it had just stopped raining. There were not many people around so Simon, a Kiwi on the trip and I decided to get the lunch things out and prepare some food, and of course eat! I was standing on a wet mains power line running into the back of the truck leaning over the metal fridge to open it and got two massive electric shocks – I screamed ( a bad word) both times and managed to let go and jump off the truck before the next shock hit. I had a wee sit down after that, my heart was racing and my shoulder ached from the spasm of the shock. All a bit frightening, for Simon as well as me. I unplugged the truck from the mains.

After lunch a bunch of us did a boat ride on the White Nile. Jinja is very close to the source of the Nile at Lake Victoria. Not that long ago the section of river here was full of white water and small water falls. The NRE and Adrift campsites were home to large rafting operations and the source of a lot of local tourist revenue. However the river was dammed a few years ago and the last of the rapids disappeared last year. There is still rafting to be done, but punters have to be driven below the dam to access the water. The dam is used for power generation and all the power is sold to neighbouring countries. As our boat guide said “it was bullshit”. I had to agree – a lot of the community lost jobs and far less tourists now come to Jinja.

Our boat (not this one – I just liked it) was a ten minute walk from the camp site and naturally we disturbed someone doing his washing when we arrived.

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We cruised up and down the river for a couple of hours, down as close to the dam as we were allowed, apparently if you cross a certain line you get shot… The river is surrounded primarily, by farm land, but there was some small patches of bush.

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We came across a small group of red tail monkeys in one of the bush patches, and they were incredibly hard to shoot, I meant with a camera !

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There were an incredibly large amount of pied kingfishers here, as well as some of the brighter kingfishers. I have never seen so many in one place ever, the pied variety live in holes in the river bank and the bank was riddled with them, and man they move fast !

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We also saw a fish eagle pair, but they too were quite flighty.

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The fish eagles live on the half drowned trees in the lake

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There were a number of monitor lizards around the side of the lake as well, sadly I missed the big one, but got this guy sitting on a tree.

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One of the good things about the lake that has formed behind the dam is that the fish population has increased, these are drying mats covered in the small fish that are filling the lake.

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It was an enjoyable trip around the lake, I must admit I do like being in boats!

I did get a bit grumpy in the afternoon so retired to my room for a bit before coming out for dinner a bit later and a couple of drinks in the evening at NRE. Trying to get a decent sunset on my phone.

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On Saturday morning Brett (tour leader) had organised a local village walk. This is something he has been trying to encourage the local village people to organise as a supplement source of income. The tour is based around the orphanage, so we would get to meet some of the kids as well as their teachers, the people who look after the kids and some of their extended family.

I decided not to go, I will keep the main reason to myself, but part of it was that I was (and still am) deeply conflicted around the “human zoo” aspect of these tours, though feedback suggests I was wrong in this case as it was far more interactive than I expected. Anyways, I didn’t go.

Once everyone had left I wandered over to the NRE campsite for a coffee and to use their wifi, driver Will was there so I chatted to him for while before heading back to my room and doing some writing in my notebook. It looks like I was worrying about getting a job, losing my photographic mojo and being alone for ever. I must have been miserable company !

Will popped in after lunch and asked if I wanted to head up the road to the Adrift campsite  –  have a drink and see what was happening, I hummed and hahed as I wasn’t really in a party mood, but I really like Will, so said yeah.

It was probably the best afternoon of the two months I was in Africa – excluding game reserves : )

Adrift was about 10 minutes away by buda buda (motorcycle taxi) so we grabbed a couple from outside NRE and headed off. Fortunately they do not go that fast…. It was blast – do you like the new sunnies ?




For most of the afternoon we were almost the only people at the bar at Adrift, we ate pizza drank some local concoction that was supposed to be similar to Smirnoff Ice, watched weird crap on Youtube and had a good laugh. Once the bar started to attract other customers we shifted to vodka tonics and moved over to a couple of couches and lounged, talked rubbish and watched the sun drop.

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We finally grabbed buda budas back to our camp site when a large group of American guys turned up in the early evening. We stopped for a rolleggs when we were dropped off outside NRE. I am not sure how it is spelt, but basically it is a thin omelete rolled in one or two chipattis. They are also really, really nice !

It was all great fun and what I needed to drag me out of a funk that was growing by the day.

Cruel to be kind ?

Days 323, Thursday 22 November 2012 – Eden Rock Camp, Jinja, Uganda

It was whisky induced but I finally managed a good nights sleep, not waking until 5:00 AM, though were minor hints of a hangover but nothing as bad as the sleep deprivation head aches I had been having in the mornings. I was up at 5:30 for the 6:00 breakfast and we were on the road again for 7:00. The day is cool and clear, a perfect day for driving and crossing the border from Kenya into Uganda. We spent a long time driving on the drough temporary roads, looking at the new highway to the border, which seems to just be used to move the occasional cow!


Or the ever popular wood.


The border crossing was surprisingly painless, we were warned that it can sometimes be dreadfully slow to get across. I am not sure what the donkey was doing, apart from almost becoming a hood ornament of our truck.


The worst part was the traffic congestion in no-mans land.

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I managed to have a good Bookface message conversation with Dom, my oldest son while we waited between formalities. I was a bit miffed when Ugandan immigration placed the stamp in the middle of my Asian stamps, instead of at the back with all my other African stamps. I have now visited over fifty countries in all my travels – awesome 🙂

Uganda is an amazingly lush country, it is all at least 900 metres above sea level so there is plenty of moisture in the air and a lot of crop holdings were seen from the road.


And of course the kids waved at the truck as we drove past 🙂


In Tanzania and Kenya, and now Uganda, there are far less opportunities to stop for lunch, the roadsides have more villages and towns than in southern Africa. It even takes a while to find a place for a loo stop, you cannot really go weeing in some ones front yard – though the local people seem to have little issue with it at times. We finally stopped for lunch at 2:30 at a small roadside clearing, though just behind the bushes surrounding the corn fields were some small houses and soon enough we had ten children out to see us, with their parents watching from afar. The children were lovely and friendly and like all children loved to have their photos taken – and laughed hysterically when shown the pictures.

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It was very hard to eat in front of the obviously poor and hungry people without wanting to give them food to eat. But we don’t, once finished eating we clear everything, load it back on the truck and drive off. Sadly giving out food – and other goodies, has led to begging cultures in other places and this has long term negative consequences on the population. It was fairly obvious were it had – as soon as a muzungu arrives there is an expectation of a hand out, and some get miffed when it doesn’t happen.

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From lunch we took a quick break in the large local town of Jinja before heading up an incredibly dusty side road to the Eden Rock camp site. Everything on the side of the road is covered in red dust, it was quite surreal.


It is the first time the guys have stayed at Eden Rock, normally using the NRE or Adrift campsite – both notorious party sites, given we were an older crowd and there were rooms available at Eden we stayed there and I took a room – we are here for three nights.

NRE was sort of over the road so we went there for after dinner drinks, but I wasn’t feeling it so went back to Eden and went to bed, tough the music from NRE and one of the local bars went on to 6 am…