Uganda: gorillas in the mist, mzungu* in the mud and the smiles of children about it

Uganda Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 1 › view all entries

I don’t do diaries, but somehow today I have a craving to write. Sitting in a pub, in Nairobi, just finished an outstanding trip through Uganda and Kenya. It was superb, but yet I’m sitting here, drinking a bottle of Tusker, Kenyan lager, and I’m… incredibly sad. Why?

 

“My” waiter greeted me by name, didn’t even have to ask what I need, in 2 seconds bottle is on my table, and that’s how deeply I love my beer (or any other drink for that matter).

 

But coming back to me being sad. Is it because I’m sitting and drinking alone? Nope. Use to doing that, even though that’s the first sign of addiction. However I’ll admit- I do miss plenty two of my best travel mates- Renée and Mary, whom I met here, in Africa, and had the trip with, therefore 3 vodkateers were born.

 

Is it coz the trip is over? And now I have to get back to the rainy Dublin and back to work, and work until my expedition in Ecuador mid of next year. That’s closer, I’d say. However I’ve noticed long ago, that travelling is a cool thing, but only until the trip is over. Don’t know if it’s just me or the others feel that as well, but what I feel is somehow emptiness. Stupid thing really- everyone could say. One should feel everything except emptiness after the trip. But yet again- here I am, finishing my beer, and feeling as empty as the bottle is. Get another one? Oh yeah!!!

 

But since I am planning to put this as my travel blog- enough about my drinking problems!

 

Kenya and Uganda.

Nakuru. White Rhino
Two awesome countries. So close to each other, yet so different. Which one is in my heart? Uganda, no doubt. I know even now, that one day I will come back here.

 

Basically, there were 5 major highlights of the trip. Not gonna talk about the trip day by day, simply coz there were quite a few days of simply driving and nothing special.

 

  1. Uganda, Jinja. Soft Power and White water rafting.
  2. Uganda, Nkuringo. Mountain gorilla track.   
  3. Uganda, Kabale.
    baboons on the way
    Local pub.
  4. Kenya, Eldoret. Hobbit’s hole pub.
  5. Kenya, Nakuru wild life and sleeping in the safari.

 

I could (and I will) mention the number 6, David Sheldrick’s Elephant orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya’s National Park, first of all, coz I love elephants and seconds- it has an interesting story attached to that trip.

 

The style of the trip was all about camping.

We took of early in the morning, of course, I was late, just as I was late to the pre- tour meeting.

Not because I’m always late (which I actually am), but because I just forgot to adjust my clock to the Kenyan time (I was staying in Zurich, Switzerland before arriving to Nairobi, so the time differences between Dublin- Zurich and Nairobi got me confused)(P.S. talking about Switzerland: the most beautiful view that I’ve ever seen in my life- Swiss Alps from the window of the plane.)

 

And so we took off. The day was beautiful until the lunchtime. We actually had to have our lunch on the truck; it was raining as hell. The itinerary of the trip was for us to stay camping in Nakuru Wildlife Park, but the weather forced us to rain check it (literary) for the way back. So we went straight to Eldoret, which was plus yet another couple of hours to the 10-hour ride that we already made trough. Got off in the pouring rain, had to put up the tents, cook the dinner etc. in the dark at one camping site. We were freezing cold, wet, tired of the ride and in a huge need for a drink. We were told there was a bar in the campsite, which to be honest was unbelievable, as the place seemed to be a piece of darkness in the middle of nowhere.

Shocking... :((((
Following the directions we ended up at something, what looked like a tunnel entrance deeper underground. Dim lights led us to a brightly shining “Tusker” sign, which indicated us getting closer to the goal. After that long dark tunnel I held my breath. That was out- standing!!! The Hobbit’s Hole led us to a huge and bright place, with pool table, casino table, rivers and bridges, a huge fireplace in the middle and of course most important- THE BAR!!! Soon we were all happy again- some from fire, some from dinner, some from beer (guess who?)…

 

That bar, and the Nakuru Wildlife camping, which we did do on the last night, we the major highlights for me in Kenya.

 

Uganda however was the country I fell in love with. Of course, the reason of me falling in love with the country might only be the fact that I spent much more time here, that in Kenya.

 

 

The first highlight of the trip in this country, and one of my lifetime experiences- campsite in Jinja with Nile white water rafting or as I call it “Holly fucking shit!!” and then the Soft Power schools and orphanages.

 

I think there’s no need in describing the white water rafting. It’s simply one of THE best and most extreme experiences in my life. Unfortunately, I’ve no pics on my camera (understandably why), however I have a DVD movie, made by a professional photographer and rafter. Pity, I can’t upload it on the blog (copy protected); I can only watch it and relive the thrill again and again…

 

Soft Power.

The Great Rift Valley
Have you ever seen any of those TV ads about children without food, clothes, education etc? Well, I’m telling you- it never gets you until you actually get to visit couple of those places in the real life. Ok, fine- I’m a bit drunk at the moment, so I’m gonna be poor in words (then again this doesn’t really depend on me being drunk), but one thing I know- as soon as I get back to Dublin, I’m gonna make a donation to the Soft Power organisation, and it won’t be the only one.

 

I got to visit one orphanage and then a school. Generally I’m crap with children and I don’t really like them, but that was one of the most emotional moments in my life: seeing children sing to us, then bunch of them attacking us just to hold our hands or touch our skin (which is obviously strange to them), playing… We also got to do some real work: we painted a school!!!

 

Gonna stop my writing now- having the best dinner ever- special African stile rice and asparagus beans! Even though it sounds simple- never had anything better! And you have to trust me how good it is- I hate asparagus, but this just turns my entire world around J

 

And through all the journey the children were the sweetest: they would run out from their homes, wave at us all the time, jump around and smile just seeing us.

That was awesome! That’s why the biggest part of my pictures taken of children.

 

The main reason for me choosing this tour was, of course, maintain gorillas. And it reached beyond my expectations.

 

The night before the track our small group (the whole group was divided into half and went tracking into 2 different places, depending on the gorilla track permit) was staying in Virunga campsite, and then extremely early in the morning went to Nkuringo track site. We went straight into the jungle and had to track gorillas for hours. Well, actually… Only about one hour quite in the open, whereas the other group was tracking for at least 3 ��" 4 hours. (Which was, to be honest, a bit disappointing for me- I was ready for the challenge).

 

Mountain gorillas are beautiful creatures.

Tragically, there are only 706 left of them in the whole world, but despite that people are still not afraid to loose them for good- I’m sure you’ve all heard what’s going on in the republic of Congo lately. And I’m sure the biggest part of you have seen the “Gorillas in the mist”, with Sigourney Weaver playing Diane Fossey and based on the real story about a woman, who left everything to spend her life living with and researching gorillas. If not- trust me, awesome movie. When I was choosing an expedition for the next year, I actually wanted to go for volunteering with gorillas in Virunga jungle at Diane Fossey fund, but one of the major requirements was fluent knowledge of French language, and I was never good in this language of love.     

 

And that’s why another big part of my pics- gorillas.

 

After the track, journey back started.

We stopped in Kebale, little town in Uganda. That night we were staying in the Little Ritz campsite, which was being looked after a 17 years old orphan. The story of the boy got to all of our hearts, coz the poor guy was staying and living in the camp, having food only when someone would give it to him, having 5 pieces of clothing and nothing else, I’m not even sure if he was being paid for looking after the campsite. I think the only “payment” he got was the possibility to live there. Anyway, he was well looked after by us, 3 vodkateers, at least for that night: we gave him smokes and beer (most important things in the western world), money, food. I got rid of half of my backpack of clothes and gave it to him. After the dinner and well couple of drinks, we asked him where any local pubs are. Not one where the tourists (or mzungu) would go, but a very local one. Being sober we’d probably never do that, but since we weren’t- that was the best idea ever. We got back to the campsite at about 2 o’clock in the morning and had to get up at 5am coz a long drive was in front of us. The night was… Well, to be honest, it was the best night of the trip for sure, and in some ways it was one of the best party night of our lives. Hard to explain why though.
Children
Being there and then is what mattered. Playing pool with the local guys, talking about cultural/ economical differences etc. I danced most of the night, a local guy, Dan, was teaching me some African moves. Mary changed her top with another local guy (that’s how drunk we were) It all sounds so crazy simple, but we will never forget that night. I’m actually staying in touch and e-mailing with Dan.

 

And the final highlight of the tour (the elephant orphanage is a highlight as well, but it’s my experience on my own, no longer with the tour) was back in Kenya, at lake Nakuru, where we were game driving, saw plenty of wild animals and the most important thing- slept in the tents, surrounded by buffalos, baboons and some other shining eyes in the darkness of safari. Next morning when we took off-

 

and I have to stop writing now, coz some giant lizard is watching me and I’m not feeling safe… OK, he’s gone-

 

not too far from where we were camping we saw a couple of lions having a sweet early morning loooove, then, behind the Lion Hill, another female lion hunting down a baboon.

It was all awesome and felt like watching National Geographic Channel.

 

And that was it. The trip was has ended for me when I got back to Nairobi. Got back to the hotel, for the record, spent an hour soaking in a hot bath and then the bed. After two weeks of camping, sleeping in a tent during whatsoever weather- the evening of industrial conveniences was a paradise.

 

The next day I had a trip planned. A visit to the David Sheldrick’s elephant orphanage. The tour leader advised the place, since I still had couple of days in the country. She said it should be around 500 Kenyan shillings. We agreed to meet at the place with two girls, who were also doing the tour.

 I hired a taxi to get to the orphanage.

We got there. And then I was told I have to get some sort of smart card, which is like an entrance ticked to the National Park. But the only place where one can get the card was the head office of the Park, which was quite far away. So anyway, we drove to the office with that poor taxi driver, and found out, that it’s gonna cost me 40 US to get into National Park. More than that- I have to pay another 1000 shillings for the taxi (car) and the 50 shillings for the driver, because I’m not allowed to walk in the Park. The driver has to be local, coz they take his details to insure the security. I realized by then that there’s no way those two girls were coming, coz the price that we expected is far not what it really is. However, being an animal lover, and especially elephants, I thought to my self- fine, since that money goes to the orphanage- I don’t care about the price. The poor driver realized by then, that he is stuck with me, will have to drag him self with me, and drive his clean car in the dusty roads of the safari.

 So we got to the orphanage. A girl, not sure where was she from, but definitely somewhere from Europe, greeted me and said that it costs 300 shillings to enter the orphanage.

My patience ended right there and I said there’s gotta be a bloody 6 star orphanage since everyone is paying all that money. She just smiled sadly, understanding me being pissed off. She was a volunteer, as I found out later. We had a nice chat. Apparently, all the money, except the 300 shillings that I paid for the actual entrance, went to the government. It’s a new policy, commenced just couple of weeks ago, so not much people know about it yet. And most probably, it all has to do with the election, which is coming soon. So the poor orphanage doesn’t get anything from the government, and on top of that, has to pay a lot of money for them for the orphanage, plus if any equipment breaks down or whatsoever, they’re the ones who has to pay to fix it. Surviving on those 300 shillings and donations from people. Not a very pleasant story…

 

 After all that, I thought the taxi driver will first of all kill me for dragging him into it, seconds- charge me millions (Have to mention that the National Park is way outside the town; and anywhere else in the world I’d probably pay a divine price for such a ride).

That's a cow, by the way
The guy was smiling though, and even offered me going to another shelter for giraffes. Which I did, of course, after agreeing on the total price for the cab hire, which was only 3500 shillings (that’s 32 EU), so I gave the guy 4000, coz he deserved it.

 

And that’s pretty much it. I’m chilling at the pool, having my last (or one of the) ”Tusker” and the last dose of sunlight, coz I know an exotic thing like this doesn’t exist in Dublin, the Kingdom of Rain.

 

A very emotional trip, I have to resume.

 Screaming and getting the shit scared out of me while rafting. Sadness and compassion while doing the Soft Power. Breathtaking excitement with gorillas.

That's a cow, by the way
Fun and something unexplainable in the local pub.

 

What’s next? Will be home tomorrow afternoon. Moving out on Friday. Changing apartments to pay less, to save more for the next years adventures. And then, work, work, work… Until the 11th of July 2008, when I leave everything and going to the Amazon jungle!!! Unless, of course, I’m not gonna be able just to live a normal and steady life until that and will get out somewhere sooner.

 

***

 

4 hours before departure. Shit this trip was short. Too short. My advice to all of you out there, who are planning a trip to these counties: two weeks visit is just to bloody short! If anything, go for at least a month or even longer.

It is not expensive at all out there, and the people are so happy to see a foreign visitor.  

    

 

***

 

I’m here, at home, but my heart is somewhere back there, in Uganda, with gorillas, or in the local pub, or maybe even in Kenya, in Eldoret, or wildlife safaris, or heading towards Tanzania with my two friends, vodkateers… And it’s gonna be there. A part of it- forever, a part- for another month or so, coz that’s how long it takes for me to get my soul back...

 

I live when I travel.

All the rest is just a play in the theatre. 

 

P.S. Mzungu, swahilli: White ghost (or white person)

michayla25 says:
Good blog! was this independent travel, or did you go with a travel company?
Posted on: Nov 05, 2008
pushirubiano says:
Excellent blog and lovely pictures. Thanks for sharing.
Posted on: Jul 21, 2008
PrissyT says:
Paul! Thank you so much for sharing! You don't even know how loud I laughed when you paused your writing cause a huge lizard was looking at you! That was just to funny! And I'm at work! But great blog overall. That must have been great to experience.
Posted on: Jul 21, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Nakuru. White Rhino
Nakuru. White Rhino
baboons on the way
baboons on the way
Shocking... :((((
Shocking... :((((
The Great Rift Valley
The Great Rift Valley
Children
Children
Thats a cow, by the way
That's a cow, by the way
Thats a cow, by the way
That's a cow, by the way
In the school
In the school
Near Victoria
Near Victoria
The Equator is passing 6 countries…
The Equator is passing 6 countrie…
The crock is not real, by the way …
The crock is not real, by the way…
Tents, tents, tents...
Tents, tents, tents...
Drive to gorilla track
Drive to gorilla track
Virunga hotel/ campsite
Virunga hotel/ campsite
Camp view the night before gorilla…
Camp view the night before gorill…
Camp view the night before gorilla…
Camp view the night before gorill…
The track
The track
The silverback
The silverback
Camp view the night before gorilla…
Camp view the night before gorill…
Camp view the night before gorilla…
Camp view the night before gorill…
Camp view the night before gorilla…
Camp view the night before gorill…
No comments... Cant believe Ive …
No comments... Can't believe I've…
The track team
The track team
The pub in Eldoret
The pub in Eldoret
Nakuru National Park
Nakuru National Park
So much for Do not fead...
So much for "Do not fead"...
Buffalo in the mist
Buffalo in the mist
The white rhino
The white rhino
Flamingos
Flamingos
Early morning looove...
Early morning looove...
Adults only ;)
Adults only ;)
A female lion hunting down a baboon
A female lion hunting down a baboon
A female lion hunting down a baboon
A female lion hunting down a baboon
Love Hyenas
Love Hyenas
The David Sheldrick Elephant orpha…
The David Sheldrick Elephant orph…
The giraffe shelter
The giraffe shelter
Sponsored Links