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East Africa 2019 General

East Africa Day Thirteen – Nairobi to London.

Up early again at 5am to allow time taking the luggage down in the unpredictable lift to meet the manically cheerful Smiley (the clue was in the name) at 6am for the half hour transfer to the airport. 

We were glad of the early arrival as presumably like us, most of their passengers had been unable to check in online due to the Kenya Air website not functioning the previous afternoon. So the queue was pretty long and also interestingly multi cultural.  

It moved quite quickly though and after passport control (there was a security check just before the airport entrance, another one inside and a third in the departure gate area) we were sitting down to a shared light breakfast and mango smoothie using up the last of our shillings. 

On board the Dreamliner we reflected on our trip agreeing that it had been fantastic. 

We felt no urge to rush back to Kenya however Tanzania seemed a destination that we would relish in future if we got the chance.

We enjoyed the whole trip, the company of our travelling companions and the excellent guiding that Arthur provided, with his good humour and keen intellect throughout. I once again counted my blessings as to how lucky I am to have these wonderful travel experiences. 

Tucan gave us a great trip and represent excellent value for the more adventurous and basic comfort accepting traveller.

Thanks Emma, for recommending it to us, you were spot on when you said we would enjoy it. 

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East Africa 2019 General

East Africa Day Twelve – Masai Mara to Nairobi

An early start at 5am to run the tap for the ten minutes necessary to get hot water to shower in and we were soon packing the van after breakfast and heading off by 6.30am.

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We stopped to refuel the vehicle and then again for a coffee and curio shop break mid morning before an early lunch at Mai Mahui and the expected mini deluge of emails on being reconnected.

Nothing too serious and we were soon in the outskirts of the large and sprawling city of Nairobi. We got to the Comfort hotel by about 2pm, which although compact, was better than we had expected and we could hear the street performer interpreting Ed Sheeran from our fourth flour window. We had a drink in the downstairs bar, showered and changed and walked the half mile or so to the Stanley Hotel, an iconic colonial location founded in 1902 where Hemingway had stayed for a number of weeks recovering from amoebic dysentery and coming up with the word safari (apparently). 

Slices of history and shakers of cocktails in Nairobi’s oldest hotel don’t come cheap. It was however a brilliant way to spend a few hours people watching on the busy streets outside through the privacy of our net curtains and from the comfort of our green leather studded armchairs, the leaf fans lightly wafting overhead. 

Passing the market reminded us that meat and tropical conditions don’t go all that well together and despite repeat attempts to lure us into the Masai market we made our way back to the hotel to meet the others for dinner at 7pm at the nearby CJs. En route we admired the entrepreneurial rubber stamp shops – just boxes on the street – no problem with the rising cost of rates then!

Despite Arthur’s description of the food being English, it was more international than that with Heather choosing a Mexican vegetable burrito and me a blend of beef madras and mild chicken curry with Mexican rice. All delicious and being a non alcohol restaurant we had some nohitos (geddit?) and enjoyed an excellent meal in what is the number one restaurant in Nairobi according to TripAdvisor. 

Back at the hotel having been sprinkled with light rain we hugged our farewells and headed for bed. After a short wrestle with the mosquito netting and a contortionistic approach to getting a device into the wall socket we slept soundly in the gentle city hum and humidity of the warmest day of our trip. 

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East Africa 2019 General

East Africa Day Eleven – Masai Mara

Day Eleven – Masai Mara

An amazing day starts with an early alarm at 5am for 5.45 breakfast and 6.30 departure. Probably best to let the pictures do the talking…

Elephants both drinking water and heading up to the mountains. Arthur remarked that as the density of the wildebeest increases, so do the number of big cats, but elephants find it too crowded and noisy so they slope off to quieter parts. 

We saw a hippo heading back to the water after a night grazing grass.

Just after 8am we saw our first lions of the day.

By 10.15 am we were helping tow another van out of the mud. 

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By 10.30 we were stuck ourselves.

By 11am we were free.

We then saw our first ever leopard in the wild. Shy but incredible. 

We headed down to the Tanzania border, passing storks and vultures cleaning a carcass on the way.

We saw the tragic sight of some of those wildebeest that hadn’t been successful crossing the Nara river two days ago. Their bloated bodies were now stork, vulture and crocodile fodder.  Apparently 4000 died that Monday. About 250000 die each year out of the 3.5 million that make the crossing. 

After a packed lunch enough for a small army, we took a walk along with Mike the ranger who we asked to “please show us a large crocodile and make it snappy” and he duly obliged, plus a large troop? of hippos, both in and out of the water. 

We saw more lions on the way driving back as well as close ups with vultures, more buffalo and antelope.

By this time some insects were getting in on the act and getting in the vehicle, so we did our best to speedily catch and eject them. 

It rained on and off but not for long so Richard lowered the roof only to put it back up again shortly thereafter. 

More lions, zebra and antelope later, we headed for the camp. 

Just near the exit we saw a number of giraffe. They were apparently elders teaching the younger ones how to use their necks and heads to fight with, by going through some gentle motions. 

Back in camp after a special day we had a quick cup of tea before William the local Masai chiefs number one son came to pick us up and take us back to their village.

We danced with the young men, saw fire being created from running two sticks together and then were split into three groups of two and each pair taken into one of their houses where we were given tea by William’s mum while William sold us jewellery. 

We bought two copper bangles and one necklace and paid over the odds at $50 for the three pieces, discounted from $85. It is understandable that the locals will try and benefit from extracting cash from the visitors although the circle of sales ladies as we left the hut all selling curios in a kraal like arena was a bit intimidating. I did buy some salad servers at 400 shillings then ran for it. 

However unlike the school in Uganda we had something tangible to remember our donation by…

William asked how much it would be to buy my Apple Watch from me and didn’t look at all concerned at my asking price of 3 cows, but the transaction failed when we realised I couldn’t get the three cows back in my luggage, dead or alive. 

Back at the camp we had another tasty dinner and I sat up afterwards in the dark outside our tent and chatted to the security guard and enjoyed a glass (well plastic cup) of wine whilst watching the smoke rise from the nearby camp fire and the bats doing their aerobatics in search of their evening meal.

Another peaceful and bite free night and another early start for the journey back to Nairobi. No internet connection for these last few days meant I might face a small barrage the following day, so best to get a full night’s sleep, which I did. 

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East Africa 2019 General Other Travel

East Africa Day Ten – Naivasha to Masai Mara

After breakfast of omelette for me and toast for Heather we set off to Mai Mahui where we said goodbye to Timan and the land cruiser and hello to Richard and the mini bus, along with the rest of the group we were joining up with.  While waiting we have tea – in my case black ginger tea that would have blown my socks off had I been wearing any.

The others in the group consisted of father and son from Singapore Madhav and Neil, Madhav born in India and a big cricket fan and Neil born in Hong Kong but living in Los Angeles. They have 40 days travelling time together and have just been in SA and Namibia. 

Betty and Judith are silver surfers from San Francisco who have just done the flight via Paris but look surprisingly awake. Their first time in Africa so it should be a fabulous sensory experience for them. 

They have traveled the hour and a half from Nairobi and will be going back there after our safari adventure.

We all pile into the minibus and head off to the Masai Mara. 

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We were promised a free massage by the state of the dirt road and after a short 20km section of tar road, it delivered. After an enjoyably but bumpy hour or so, it was clear that Richard was a much faster driver than the more cautious Timan and there were some benefits to having a more restrictive view of the road from our seats at the back of the mini bus. 

We stopped in Naruk for lunch, at a restaurant adjoining guess what? A curio shop which we were made to walk through on the way to the bathrooms and prepared meal. We looked at curios but with batiks an eye watering $65 we opted for a map of Kenya fridge magnet where we negotiated the price down from $5 to $2 – not their best customer ever! 

After lunch the van wouldn’t start, despite being pushed by Arthur and a group of locals. The engine was opened up under the front passenger seat and after some prodding and tweaking, it did finally start to huge cheers. A relieved Richard and Arthur took us equally relieved passengers on to a visit to the nearby supermarket for water and snacks and then a second stop at a wine and spirit shop to purchase some what Arthur calls “holy water”.  In our case we were allowed into the heavily barred and screened store to look at the merchandise close up. We bought two bottles of wine, a Cederberg Rose and an Italian Soave. And a small bottle of clear spirits that looked like gin and some bitter lemon to go with it. It turned out to be delicious, made in Tanzania and quite citrusy. Shame I forgot to keep a note of the name of it as we didn’t see any again, and it didn’t last long! 

An hour or so before we got to our destination we saw our first animals, giraffes, zebras, various antelope, baboons and monkeys. We were all excited to see them and the enthusiasm of both the American ladies, Judith in particular who was bouncing up and down with excitement, was infectious and lovely to witness.

 

By about 4pm we had arrived at the camp site that was sandwiched between the local Masai village and the reserve and were checked in to our large and comfortable military tent 6c. 

A quick cup of tea later and we were off to the reserve with our passports to do our evening game drive. The roads were significantly better inside the reserve than out and we were soon realising how lucky we were that the migration had started early this year due to global warming’s impact on the amount of rain in the Serengeti as we were seeing thousands of wildebeest in all directions. 

We saw Cape Buffalo, lots of different antelope, including Impala, Thompson Gazelle and Topai. 

Soon we came across our first lion, lying prostrate in the grass. Then two more, similarly snoozing in the grass. 

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Amazingly we then heard news of cheetahs nearby and rushed over to see two, mother and daughter, feasting on their recent antelope kill. 

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A spectacular sight which we watched unfold as the evening light faded and eventually their stomachs full, both cheetahs left the carcass and lay down nearby. Sadly my camera battery died and I didn’t get any close up shots of the mother cleaning the daughters face by licking it clean of the blood from the kill.  Reluctantly we left the scene and on the way back to the gate saw a giraffe silhouetted against the deep blue of the sky. 

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fullsizeoutput_2d73Back at camp we had a gin and bitter lemon or two, dinner which was delicious lentils and a choice of beef or fish, with rice and vegetables and then back to our tent where we enjoyed the bottle of rose before an early night. It had been a full day but an enjoyable one with the prospects of good viewing tomorrow. The twin double beds with good mosquito netting and peaceful darkness gave me the best night’s rest of the trip so far. 

Categories
East Africa 2019 General

East Africa Day Nine – Naivasha, Crater Lake, Hells Gate

 

At 6.30 I walked down to the lake, having been thwarted the night before by the post 6pm hippo curfew. 

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I worked out that ctric ence was a truncated sign for electric fence and gingerly stepped over the wires. 

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I could see the pelicans drifting across the lake like avian sailing vessels powered by the breeze. 

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No sign of any hippos, just as well.  Two young local dogs spotted me from the nearby resort owners house and care out to play. A little too lively as it happened so I beat a hasty retreat back to the resort followed by the hounds who were joined by their mother. 

Back at the resort I ordered wheetabix, tea and an omelette for us both. The tea was milky and hot milk was served with the cereal. My choice didn’t agree with Heathers tum unfortunately. 

We set off after paying $210 for the excursions meeting Chris our guide for the day, with Gerald doing the driving. Chris is a gentle academic soul and we soon warmed to him.

We drove to the Crater Lake Game Sanctuary which we reached despite a deep puddle section which had already taken a victim of the local bakery delivery van, abandoned as stuck. 

We got out of the vehicle and went by foot once a fair way inside the park. A brilliant experience walking in the bush, seeing tracks of a variety of animals, hearing the birds and identifying the vegetation.

 

Thinking how spoiled we were we spotted our first giraffe – mother and child. Then a host of impala, as well as warthogs – Heather’s favourite. We saw and heard the African booboo bird and then saw our first Fish Eagles- a beautiful sight and we saw them land in trees near their nests and call each other loudly. 

 

We turned back at the abandoned aardvark burrow and soon came across a herd of healthy looking zebra.

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What a morning! More impala including a herd where the lead male normally alone was being targeted by two other males joining the group. A fight was predicted  by Chris although we didn’t see it. 

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We got back in the vehicle and were driven up towards the crater rim viewpoint where we walked the last 800-900 meters uphill to enjoy the stunning views over the salt water lake that the reserve was named after. 

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Rain had threatened all morning but not arrived and as we looked down in to the crater we could see the resort and restaurant which we were booked in for lunch ($5 each included as an option on our excursion). 

 

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We drove down to the gate and walked down the long set of steps to arrive at around 11.45, being greeted enthusiastically with details of our four course meal. Tusker time although Heather settles for Diet Coke to help settle her stomach. 

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This resort was everything that Crayfish Camp wasn’t. Although we did hear that it would be $180 for the two of us a night, full board. The food was delicious, with an avocado salad to start followed by leek and potato soup and then grilled tilapia with roast potatoes and vegetables. A fruit salad was available but we passed on that and just had tea as we had already enjoyed a plentiful feast. 

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Spotting that there was a geocache on site placed by Sawa Sawa, we found it easily despite our lack of practice while making our way back to the van. 

We drove the short distance to the entrance of the Hells Gate National Park where we left the vehicle and walked along the road through the baboon lined entrance. We had been offered the chance to hire bikes but opted for the safer shanks’ pony instead. 

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We walked to the site of the two volcanic plugs, one of which was rigged with climbing lines. Helmets and carabiners etc were all available although it looked tricky.  The attendant hyrax (dassies to us) were showing us by example the preferred option of staying on terra firma. 

We took the van further into the park to the centre just at  the start of the Hells Gate canyon. Closed briefly 3 years ago when flash floods killed 6 schoolchildren out of a group of 30 who were caught in the gorge after a few days of solid rain. Chris assured us that we were at no risk although it has been raining, not enough for floods. 

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A small black faced vervet monkey harassed me, I think planning on stealing my phone, unless it was offering to take my photo with it. I escaped unharmed but with a lot of arm waving and shooing noises. 

We hiked downhill to the riverbed and floor of the canyon walking along it in single file and occasionally on very narrow stretches which challenged both our balance and our footwear. (Our boots were still wet from the gorilla trek). 

Near the end of our exploration we were overtaken by a bunch of schoolchildren all smartly dressed in red or blue uniforms. The terrain had no challenge for them even in sandals. 

We turned back and went with the flow of the human stampede, resolving to watch the various movies filmed here or inspired by it, like the Lion King, Tomb Raider Two, etc. 

Once out of the canyon we purchased a small soapstone elephant and hippo to celebrate at the princely sum of $5 for the two. I added a small drum Christmas decoration for a further dollar. 

Our adventure over we thanked and tipped Chris and Gerald back at camp, where I showered and changed before drinks and dinner. Spaghetti bolognaise and macaroni carbonara and we treated ourselves to a bottle of wine after dinner before an early night. The nine miles walked helping to reduce the daily deficit on my target average that has been growing steadily all trip with the amount of driving involved. 

The Boot man appeared with much drier boots that we exchanged for $4 in shillings. 

A wonderful day that I shall remember for a long time. 

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East Africa 2019

East Africa Day Eight – Jinja to Naivasha

Up early in light rain with Arthur taking a stint at the wheel after he and Timan had spent part of yesterday trying to waterproof the Land Cruiser by sealing some of the leaks. 

Unsuccessfully as it turns out. Each time they go over one of many sleeping policemen a few drops of moisture land on me – keeping me fresh as a daisy. 

Heather sleeps for the first few hours and at around 7am we get to the Uganda Kenya border. IMG_8950

The river is the natural border and it is flowing fast and furiously with brown water.  An agent arrives to help us with the paperwork which was relatively painless and the single border office which allows the exit procedure from Uganda and the entry into Kenya saw the two officials sitting in the same building almost side by side. After taking our pictures and all our finger and thumb prints the Ugandan asked if I would offer him a job as he saw my profession listed as Company Director. As soon as we need more staff I promised to laughter all round. A very happy congenial border crossing – making us feel very welcome. Trucks and lorries everywhere despite it being Sunday and Arthur relayed how it is mostly a 8 km queue of vehicles waiting to get through. We were lucky and it made the early start even more sensible. After another hour or so we stopped and got fuel for the jeep and for ourselves in the form of coffee and a samosa. Heather had ginger and honey tea which was surprisingly spicy and delicious. We watched a very dramatically over acted soap opera on the rural affairs of one of the tribes being acted on in English on the TV. 

On the road again with it continuing to rain and Timon in the driving seat this time. 

The infrastructure seems slightly more sophisticated with more plaster and brick shops and houses and the road well tarred. If a measure of wealth is the amount of livestock then the average person is wealthier here than in Uganda and we saw donkeys and turkeys for the first time on this trip. 

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Eldoret – rhymes with Wet. We went through it.

We stopped at Nakuru – Arthur’s home city, for an outside lunch of bbq chicken/ugali and fries with a tusker lager for me and a cider for Heather. 

Back in the land cruiser and the three more hours until we arrived at Naivasha, with plenty of rain along the way. 

We checked in to the disappointing Crayfish Camp which seemed frankly, a bit of a neglected and faded resort. We showered with hot water, damp floor with the previous incumbents bath mat and flip flops still there and dried ourselves with damp towels. 

We handed our boots over to a local man to see if he could dry them out at all, as they were still sopping wet and rather smelly.  I went to go and have a look at the lake, but with the warning signs and it being after 6pm, I guess it can wait until tomorrow. Hippos probably…

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We made our way to the bar to have gin and bitter lemon, there being no tonic. We had been asked to pre-order dinner and meet the others at 7pm so we got a menu (the menu) from the restaurant and later the manager came over to tell us what they had. Beef and chicken were fine, and eggs. So Heather ordered an omelette and chips and I ordered tandoori chicken. 

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We made our way over at 7pm and after half an hour or so the meals were served. Mine was fine but Heathers had too much chilli for her taste. They gave us deserts which neither of us fancied so we gave them to Timan and Arthur. Gerald joined us to talk through the optional excursions for the following day.  Given we didn’t fancy spending any more time in the resort than necessary and although it looked like rain again, we plumped for the morning nature walk and the afternoon exploring Hells Gate, omitting the boat tour on the lake. 

After dinner and another drink at the bar (no alcoholic drinks allowed in the dining room) we made our way back to the room which was at the farthest end of the rows of rooms. 

I had spent some time earlier rigging up the slightly aged mosquito netting so it was a shame when woken by the tell tale buzzing in the early hours of the morning. Head torch on I danced all over the bed swatting the beasties. Not sure whether Heather was all that impressed by my head torch wearing antics but at least we shouldn’t be bitten….

The long night passed and I jumped up at 6am ready to seize the day. 

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East Africa 2019 General

East Africa Day Seven – Jinja

Mohammed the local taxi man took us into Jinja after a splendid breakfast of a tropical fruit smoothie and a Spanish omelette. On arrival in town we headed straight for the Igad cafe for coffee and fast Wi-fi. We then walked the mile or so to the two friends guesthouse and Restuarant for a geocache. We were helped to find it by the management. Well I was a bit out of practice! 

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We admired what we called the Jinja ninja ladies all dressed up in their finery (for a wedding?) with their big shoulder pads and wide sumo wrestler style sashes around very colourful full length dresses.

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We the walked back to the centre of town and up and down the main part of the Main Street a few times. The coffee shop that Mohammed recommended we meet in didn’t sell alcohol being part of a church. We went down the road to the deli where they made us a halloumi salad and sold us a bottle of SA wine from Paarl for a fiver. 

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I rang Mohammed and told him where we were and asked him to pick us up at 2.30. He didn’t understand me and when I called him at 2.45 to find out where he was, he was waiting for us in front of the other coffee shop. He took us back to the Nile Explorers Camp and we settled up with 54k shillings, which might help pay for the door handle Heather wrenched off its fixings as she was getting in. 

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Back at the resort we watched the cricket (England vs Bangladesh) and the rugby (Stormers vs Sunbirds) over a generous glass of wine and later had chicken fingers with fries and a honey and mustard dressing. Delicious. Early to bed as we were up early the next day to depart at 4am.  Woken at 12.50am by an inconsiderate neighbour taking loudly to his daughter on his mobile. So loudly he didn’t really need a mobile. I went and shone my torch on his tent and he eventually rang off. I wonder if we will wake him when we leave at 4am – we will try not to. 

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Heavy rain followed with a procession of mango throwing monkeys across the roof, so we endured a restless night with the alarm going off at 3am. Not our most talkative hour! 

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East Africa 2019 General

East Africa Day Six – Kampala to Jinja

We won’t be rushing back to Kampala anytime soon. It’s nudging up there near the top of the list of our least favourite cities along with Juliaca and San Jose. The persistent rain didn’t help our impressions. It was so grim that we didn’t take a single photo apart from our hotel.

After a brush with a large spider in the room which Heather was happy to delegate, we had a breakfast of Spanish omelet and coffee in my case and fruit salad and tea in Heather’s.  Red Chilli resort gets our thumbs up. 

We set off in the rain after drawing some cash and settling up for the night before. We drew money from the convenient ATM at reception – not sure what the charge will be but it can’t beat the 38k shilling charge for drawing 300k from the Barclays machine a few days ago surely? We paid 150k shillings (£28) for the G&Ts wines, pizzas and the Smirnoff ices for Timan. (Only two – driving tomorrow). 

We passed the massive Mandela football stadium on our way out of the city, which despite being in the eastern suburbs and heading east outside of rush hour, still took us an hour. Plenty to see though and to wake up the senses, but also a pleasant relief when we emerged back in to the countryside. 

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We haven’t seen much street food on offer but have seen what looks like a quarter of a bbq’d chicken on a stick being waved enthusiastically by vendors at the passengers on the temporarily stationary but normally hi-speed public buses. 

We passed the Mabira forest which preserves the indigenous forest briefly before surrendering to become a sugar cane plantation. 

We were soon in the outskirts of Jinja and crossed the old bridge across the White Nile which was the main link between west and east Uganda. There is a newer bridge and a railway bridge all of which we were forbidden from photographing as they are vulnerable to terrorist attacks and posting images to social media sites can contain valuable gps location data which would give an advantage to the terrorist (although I have to believe that any terrorist would be able to visit the location themselves and take their gps with them…).

About 5 miles out of town we arrived at the Nile Explorer Camp where we checked in with John and got upgraded to a room with en suite as the tents we were booked into didn’t have a better view and were very small.

We lunched on cheese and tomato toasted sandwiches and decided on a quiet afternoon which was a good call as it started to rain heavily. I explored the grounds once the rain had stopped and tried in vain several times to help Timan change his google docs settings to allow him to access his files offline.

It was the slowest internet connection since the dial up data of yesteryear. I did some work and managed with patience to email those files back to the office. We read, had a drink or two (including some coconut flavoured local gin) and then had an early dinner of beef lasagna and bean nachos. We played word trip until dark and watched the monkeys systematically strip the tree in front of the river fronted dining area. 

The cricket was on but showing both England and SA losing so didn’t watch much of that. 

A restful day but with only 2 miles walked, not great for the annual average. 

The mosquitos arrived at dusk and we retreated to our room and the safety of our mosquito net and fan. 

Lovely to hear an owl in the night and we slept well until the onslaught on us by the red tailed monkeys who were eating the mangos on the tree overhead and then pelting our corrugated tin roof with the stones. It sounded like we were under attack. I went outside and gave them my best Paddington stare which worked until I went inside again at which point the barrage started again.  I’m sure they were doing it just for fun. 

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Our boots are still wet and outside creating a nice damp and smelly home for mosquitoes to lurk in but hopefully they will dry out today as we will need them again soon.

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East Africa 2019 General

East Africa Day Five – The Road to Kampala

fullsizeoutput_2ce1Banana bikes. Pineapple bikes. 

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Man on motorcycle three up holding a goat whilst steering. 

fullsizeoutput_2ce8Storks stalking the meat stall. Pelicans, long horned cows. Termite mounds and potato and tomato balancing. Look stylish with shiny hair – not. Waving kids and flashing headlights. Black tubers and piles of bricks. Betting shops look prosperous, health clinics less so. Bananas for Africa. Cows hooves. Kittens in ash.

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Mangoes and acacia and avocados. Ladies in colourful headdresses and bright fabrics. Raptors on telegraph poles, goats in the road. And cows. And chickens. Half finished houses. Corrugated rooves. Manic buses. Poor in mud and wooden staved buildings – slightly less poor in brick. Sleeping policemen and policemen with guns.

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Water being carried everywhere. The smart on bicycles hitching a lift by hanging on to the back of trucks. Timan and Arthur taking non stop for almost the entire trip. What about? Brick kilns and deforestation. A single mosque. Orphanages and churches aplenty. Barefoot kids and gaudy trainered teens. Barbecued plantain after a bathroom and fuel stop. Toyota Corollas aplenty.

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Landscape changing from thick mountainous vegetation to more sparsely tree studded plains punctuated by telegraph poles. Gradually getting hotter. By mid day we still hadn’t seen another white face.

Equator stop. Rolex, sweet potato fries, pickled cucumber, carrot, onion and tomato salad and avocado salsa smash for lunch. Religious trance next door. 4 girls and a guy (Adam) from Cape Town University travelling Cairo to Cape Town by bicycle. Q: Have you had any adventures? A: Yes, plenty but all good. Q: Have you felt and been safe? A: Yes, safer than South Africa. Sad, but true. Place mats and fridge magnets. Plug hole experiment not worth 10000 shillings.fullsizeoutput_2ce9IMG_8877

Traffic in Kampala. Huge sprawling noisy dirty city. Driving bonkers. Red Chilli – great shower and fast internet and upgrade to private bathroom for $20. Pizza (good) and wine (impossible) – coffee sales person. Mosquito nets and big spiders. Early morning hadeda ibis. Rain, American encounter overland girls – are they actually having fun? 

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East Africa 2019 General

East Africa Day Four – Saint Francis of Lake Bunyonyi. 

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We woke after another night of animal noises, this time from just outside our tent with what sounded like a dog snuffling around before some ear piercing screams followed. I rescued the bananas left over from yesterday. 

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Breakfast and then we met Francis at 9.30. He had told us the day before that plan a which was a visit to a Pygmy village and school had to be abandoned due to the death of one of the teachers father and ensuing funeral planned for today. 

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So we went for a village walk instead around the local neighbourhood to make the most of the available views. Easy to see why they call this area Switzerland in Africa. The paths and roads were badly affected by the previous days rain although Francis had prayed for a dry day today and his prayers had been answered. 

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So with only sandals that had the grip of ball bearings and were muddy in minutes and Heather in equally grip free trainers we skated our way along the paths that Francis took us on. At one point on a challenging downhill section Heather went into an impressive slide and in front of her you could see the fear in Francis’s eyes as Heather careered towards him. Luckily stronger than he looks, he managed to retain his balance and hold Heather upright rather than disappearing into the wild flowers below the path. It could have been a nasty international incident.

Hard to tell how old Francis is with his black and white beard, traditionally dressed in sports jacket and formal shoes with a slim build and wisdom in his eyes.

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He manoeuvred us around the village and told us a bit about the displaced pygmies who used to make their living hunting and gathering in the Bwindi Forest but who had been forced out by the government protecting the gorillas without compensation or skills to deploy in their new world. So a lot of them took to begging while living in abject poverty. Francis has visited all the areas they now live and taken a census of numbers with over 1300 now living in 13 locations some still near the edge of the forest including one group in a cave.IMG_8819IMG_8820

We were taken to a part of the village where a family are making a living from crafts – particularly papyrus placemats and bowls and given the chance to try that ourselves as well as watch the mother grinding the grain that goes into their local beer and bread.

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The grandfather watched on impassively, while we negotiated a rate for a couple of hand made place mats.

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The project that Francis started back in 2012 assisted by two visitors on a Tucan tour was to buy some land and house a group of pygmies near the lake as well as starting both a primary and secondary school within the compound to get them the education they need to survive and prosper in an integrated Ugandan society. Clearly that needs money and over a local lunch in the centre of the village of beans, Irish potatoes, plantain and rice and groundnut sauce, Francis was not shy in asking for donations. fullsizeoutput_2cb9

We paid for the lunch and beers and gave him the change from the US bill which was enough to pay for at least four of the remaining twelve roofing sheets he needs to complete the last of the school buildings. IMG_8818

Completely full and unable to finish our generous portions, we headed back to the hotel for 10 minutes before jumping in an outboard powered dugout canoe for a tour of the lake and some of the islands. A modern twist on a traditional form of local transport. 

We saw punishment island where unwed mothers were left to die (although most of not all were rescued by men in search of a wife) and then made our way ashore on Bwama island also known as the Leper Colony island where the Scottish Dr Sharp started a leper colony to reduce the incidence ashore and it was successful in treating and housing huge numbers until the invention of leprosy curing medicines made the need redundant.

After the last remaining ex-leper died on the island, (Sing along… Leprosy, I’m not half the man I used to be…) the hospital was converted to the secondary school it is today.

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Isaac was all over us like a biblical swarm and successfully lightened our wallet after pressing the donation book into our hands and looking at us impleachingly. He then lost interest in us as another group of tourists were on their way up to be sacrificed on the alter of donations, but a colleague took us to a classroom of about 30 of the supposedly 1200 students who were mid geography lesson. I was substituted for the teacher and resorted to the old favourite of asking the children if they knew any names of English football teams, which they did, including the somewhat obscure Wigan Athletic (sorry Wigan fans).

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Leaving them happy and slightly hyper, we went back to the boat (that’s Shallot) and headed to Chauje Island where we were greeted by the bizarre sight of a number of antelope and two zebras that had been imported by the owner of the island, the obviously wealthy governor of the bank of Uganda. Who knew there was so much money in banking? He had built a luxury hotel and restaurant and we were due to have a buffet dinner there at 6pm included in our trip. It was 3.30. So we brought the dinner forward to 5.30 (given we had only just eaten that was the earliest we thought we could manage) and set about the local gin with intent. The buffet was sensibly changed to a choice of a dish from the menu, given a buffet for two would have been nutty. We chose the fresh water crayfish masala, with the minimal amount of rice and it was still too much and although tasty enough, a little bland. 

The lake is 900 metres deep and the second deepest in Africa after Lake Victoria I think.

 We got the boat at 6pm after a scuffle with the bill eventually paying £20 including a healthy tip (no change for $50 and no working card machine)and were treated with a clear sighting of an otter, to go with the kingfisher we saw  on the way there. 

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On our way back to base camp we realised how enormous our resort was, stretching all the way along a peninsula of the lake. 

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Francis came ashore and we gave him the notebooks and pens we had brought with us for his school – he was delighted and I was pleased with the release of much needed space in my luggage.

We had a quick drink at the bar (no such thing as enough gin and tonic) joined by the abstaining Arthur and caught up with emails before off to bed with an early start at 5am the following morning being the plan.