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Archive for August, 2009

Africa Day 11 – Gorilla Trek

August 31st, 2009 No comments

Today was the day we had all been waiting for when we would finally see the rare Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park. I woke at 5am before getting ready and making sure that everybody who had upgraded to a room were awake and having a quick breakfast. We had to be ready for 6.15 to get into minibuses that would take us to the Park HQ which was a big task for me due to not being a morning person.

Arriving at Park HQ

Arriving at Park HQ

Our Trek Group

Our Trek Group

After arriving we all signed in and sorted ourselves into groups. I didn’t mind which group I was in except I didn’t want to be in the group that would trek the most difficult routes and I ended up in the easy group that would trek to see the Amahoro group of Gorillas.

The Amahoro Group

The Amahoro Group

Map of the area

Map of the area

It took around 45 minutes to drive from the Park HQ to the location where we would enter the park for our trek, via the guides home where he got supplies for the day. During our time outside his house we saw a bunch of kids eating raw sugar cane which seems a popular snack but not something I wish to try. For the final 20 minutes our journey was up a really bumpy track with kids waving at us and showing us art and our driver described the drive as “An African Massage”. After last minute preparations we met our soldier guides and entered the park at around 9am.

The track to the start of our Gorilla Trek

The track to the start of our Gorilla Trek

Start of the Trek

Start of the Trek

The Bisoke Volcano

The Bisoke Volcano

The start of the trek was fairly steep but it soon evened out and the trek was evenly matched throughout between climbing up hills and walking along flat paths. We took things easy as some members of the group needed to take regular breaks however it took almost as much effort to avoid the stinging nettles in the park as it did to walk up the hills.

Me after enterring the park

Me after enterring the park

Starting to trek to the Gorillas

Starting to trek to the Gorillas

Me posing after about an hour of trekking

Me posing after about an hour of trekking

Scenery in the park looking towwards the DRC

Scenery in the park looking towwards the DRC

Around 1 hour 40 minutes after entering the park we caught up with the trackers that spend a week at a time in the park with each family of gorillas and left our bags with them so we could spend our hour with the Gorillas with ease and without interfering with them too much. After leaving the trackers it was a short walk down to where the Amahoro group were located.

Our Guide talking to the trackers

Our Guide talking to the trackers

Almost there

Almost there

We knew we were getting close to the Gorillas when we started hearing grunting noises and seeing moving bushes. I was taken aback when I saw the first Gorilla as it was so close to us but didn’t seem to mind us being there at all. There was a huge feeling of relief among the group that we had made it and had not been unlucky by missing the Gorillas entirely. The first few Gorillas we saw were fairly close up but we also saw a baby and the silverback sleeping in the distance before moving on to see more of the family, plus a better view of the silverback.

My first Gorilla Photo

My first Gorilla Photo

A Gorilla having lunch

A Gorilla having lunch

Trip and a Gorilla

Trip and a Gorilla

Another Gorilla having lunch

Another Gorilla having lunch

A few minutes later after leaving the silverback the bush next to me started rustling. Our guide encouraged us to move quicker but a Gorilla called Gahinga appeared out of the bush right next to me. He seemed to think we were new play things and grunted loudly before running past us and interacting with us in startling ways. I was grabbed on the knee as he ran past, Barry was prodded on the knee where he had a support bandage, Betty was poked and Trip was grabbed on the arm before being made to stand up straight by Gahinga because he was slouching. After being ushered away by our guide Gahinga got upset and ran back past us. Most of us got out the way but Leon wasn’t quick enough and was knocked onto his back in the middle of a bush.

If you think some things you’ve seen while travelling can get the adrenaline going there’s nothing like having a Gorilla touch you on the leg shortly before charging down a path towards you. He was only playing, and you could tell how intelligent he was with acts such as making Trip stand up straight and realizing that Barry had a problem with his knee, but he is still a wild animal and the encounter got my heart beating fast.

A Gorilla looking for the best food

A Gorilla looking for the best food

A Gorilla being as curious about us as we were about them

A Gorilla being as curious about us as we were about them

Me and a Gorilla

Me and a Gorilla

A few Gorillas

A few Gorillas

We stayed in that area for a while before discovering the majority of the family were relaxing in an area that was undercover and surrounded by bamboo just around the corner. We saw a few babies, young gorillas and adults playing and more came along in time – including Gahinga who decided to show off by punching the ground a few times, hitting his chest a few times then running away. This was the final place that we saw the Gorillas as we were only allowed to stay with them for an hour. I got some really good videos and photos though and had the time of my life.

Another Gorilla having lunch

Another Gorilla having lunch

We found the main family group in the Amahor Gorillas

We found the main family group in the Amahoro Gorillas

This baby Gorilla was so cute

This baby Gorilla was so cute

The Silverback watching us

The Silverback watching us

Another photo of the baby Gorilla

Another photo of the baby Gorilla

A close up view of a Gorilla

A close up view of a Gorilla

We met up with the porters, collected our bags and started going downhill. It wasn’t as hard going downhill but the stinging nettles got me this time while I wasn’t paying attention and trying to clean off some Gorilla deposits that I had stepped in. Wow what a smell… beats most things Ive smelt before!

After arriving back at the park boundary we thanked the soldiers and our guide before making our way back to the road to wait for our minibus. We picked up some souvenirs that the locals were selling while waiting before driving back to the park HQ to pick up some overpriced souvenirs and our certificates. On the way a kid started running behind us showing us some art he had drawn – I took a picture to see what it was and it turned out to be two Gorillas mating. I showed our driver and he burst out laughing, stopped the minibus and called the kid over before asking if anybody wanted to buy the drawing for $1. Leon bought that one and I bought another one of two Gorillas – one of which is showing off so I decided this one must be Gahinga. During our journey back we also saw a group of soldiers surrounded by some locals – our guide explained these were rangers embarking on a weeks mission into the National Park to protect the Gorillas and the locals were wishing them well.

The kid that sold us his Gorilla porn drawings

The kid that sold us his Gorilla porn drawings

We got back the convent and not only had everybody already arrived back but most people had already eaten lunch. Some had been back over 3 hours as their family groups were close to the boundary so they thought we were lost, in hospital or dead or something as we were supposed to be the group with the easiest trek. Maybe we were out the longest but we definitely had the best experience on the mountain after talking to the other groups. They got really close and got better photos than us but we had the Gahinga incident to talk about.

After showering, washing etc I went to the bar for some drinks with Al, Jono and Leon to talk about the day. Others arrived from town and we all talked some more before dinner which was a traditional African meal that Den had cooked for us consisting of some weird maize potato looking thing with different stews. We ate it in the traditional way without cutlery and it was very nice, just very filling.

We all went to the bar again after dinner to relax and talk some more about the day, show each other our photos and everybody agreed we definitely had the best experience in our group. I think everybody had an amazing time and will have so many good memories and stories to tell from just this day alone!

Talking about our day with the Gorillas in the bar

Talking about our day with the Gorillas in the bar

I’ve been up since 5am so I’m planning to have an early night tonight but there’s a loud TV in reception which is stopping me from relaxing at the moment so I’ll probably just have one of my usual nights but at least my back won’t hurt as much.

[I found out later from Jono that they were watching a soft porn video!! A convent that watches porn, has a bar serving alcohol, in the middle of Rwanda with all sorts of birds flying overhead is definitely a surreal place.]

Definitely my favourite photo of me from the day!!!

Definitely my favourite photo of me from the day!!!

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Africa Day 10 – Kigali Genocide Memorial

August 30th, 2009 No comments

Today was a very long day but one that would show us so many things and be memorable for good and bad reasons.

I woke up really early in an attempt to have a nice shower before everybody used the hot water but fell down a ditch that ran across the campsite in the process. Luckily I didn’t injure myself and I was treated to a lovely hot shower, albeit in the dark. By 6am breakfast was ready and we left just after 7am so that we wouldn’t arrive in Rwanda too late and would have enough time to stop at the viewpoints along the way. The first viewpoint was at the top of the hill overlooking Lake Bunyonyi where we took some good photos and talked to a little kid who was reluctant to come close until I said hi in his local language.

Me at Lake Bunyonyi

Me at Lake Bunyonyi

The reluctant kid

The reluctant kid

On the way down the hill into Kabale the leg snapped on one of our seats at the back of the truck but luckily as we were driving through the town one of our group saw somebody welding something outside their house and we stopped to ask for their help. He agreed and spent 45 minutes helping us in exchange for a token payment – before 8am on a Sunday which was incredibly good service. We talked to some local kids for a while before making our way to the Rwandan border, arriving just after 9 and finally getting into Rwanda just before 11. Luckily the time was an hour behind in Rwanda so it was really 10am.

At the welders fixing Oscar

At the welders fixing Oscar

Me and the kids while Oscar is fixed

Me and the kids while Oscar is fixed

Rwandan Border Controls

Rwandan Border Controls

We arrived in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, at 1130 and made our way to the Genocide memorial. To start with we were given a brief tour of the gardens containing mass graves of over 258,000 people before being shown and a wall which has been started containing the names of all the people buried so far. After looking around the gardens we were taken to the main building for a self-guided tour of the exhibits.

The exhibits inside the memorial centre told the story of Rwanda in history, before occupation, the colonialisation by Belgium, the first genocide of 1959, the problems before the 1994 genocide, the role of the UN, experiences during the genocide and then the aftermath. It also showcased photos of people that were killed, their stories and finally showed the bones of some people that had been killed which was an incredibly moving experience. Upstairs there were further exhibits of other genocides such as Namibia, Germany, Armenia, Serbia etc which we browsed for a while before going to the gift shop in the courtyard where I managed to spend 15000 of the 19800 Rwandan Francs that I changed at the border on everything from charity wristbands and t-shirts.

Rwandan Scenery

Rwandan Scenery

Kigali city

Kigali city

Name wall at the Genocide Memorial

Name wall at the Genocide Memorial

Mass Graves at the Genocide Memorial

Mass Graves at the Genocide Memorial

Around 2 hours after arriving at the centre members of our group started congregating in the memorial centre car park for lunch, being attacked by flies in the process, before seeing people leaving a memorial service that had been taking place at the centre for somebody that was killed in the genocide but had only recently been identified.

Lunch at the memorial centre

Lunch at the memorial centre

Me in Kigali

Me in Kigali

We left Kigali and drove towards Ruhengeri, taking lots of good photos on the way. There are so many hills in this country which is how Rwanda earned its nickname – The land of 1000 hills – and in fact I didn’t see a piece of flat land during the entire journey. After arriving in Ruhengeri fairly late we made our way to Fatimas which is the accommodation attached to the convent that we are staying in for the next 3 nights. I have decided to upgrade to a private room as it was only $14 a night extra which was very reasonable and a few private nights in bed will probably do me the world of good as I haven’t slept much recently.

We had a nice meal of chilli and rice and drinks in the bar to talk about tomorrow’s gorilla trek before heading off our separate ways for an early night. We need to be awake at 5am tomorrow so all of the people in the rooms have agreed to wake each other at around 530 to ensure we are ready in time.

Mountains of Rwanda

Mountains of Rwanda

A Volcano close to Ruhengeri

A Volcano close to Ruhengeri

My room at Fatimas

My room at Fatimas

I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hope we’re lucky enough to see Gorillas. We’ve been warned that although it is virtually guaranteed that we will see Gorillas there are some days where nobody sees any.

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Africa Day 9 – Lake Bunyonyi

August 29th, 2009 No comments

I had to set my alarm for 530am today which, combined with all of the noises both in and outside the tent, meant I hardly got any sleep last night. We did have a nice breakfast as the sun rose which helped to make up for it a bit, before heading on a short game drive to the edge of the national park. On the way we saw Elephant, Buffalo, Impala, Uganda Kob and all sorts of birds as well as varied scenery and some crater lakes. We were hoping to see Lion as this was the most likely time we would see them but we weren’t that lucky, unlike another group we talked to while on the game drive.

The only Hippo we saw out of water

The only Hippo we saw out of water

Baby Elephant

Baby Elephant

Buffalo watching us

Buffalo watching us

Scenery in the other section of the park

Scenery in the other section of the park

Uganda Kob giving us a strange look

Uganda Kob giving us a strange look

We headed into the countryside, passing through Rutoko and waving at lots of kids as we went. The countryside really started changing today from savannah to something that’s definitely more mountainous and this afternoon we headed up a mountain pass on the way to our next stop, Kabale.

Scenery over the plantations

Scenery over the plantations

Oscar and the group

Oscar and the group

Stopping for Lunch

Stopping for Lunch

Really heading uphill now

Really heading uphill now

Kabale Town Centre

Kabale Town Centre

We walked around Kabale for an hour or so while Den got supplies. There wasn’t too much to see or do but we took some photos, bought a few snacks and talked to Jennifer the banana selling girl until it was time to get back on the truck to head to our next stop at Bunyonyi Overland Resort. Unfortunately we enoucntered our first major mechanical problem of the tour when our truck stalled on the way up the hill due to an air pocket in the Diesel so Al and Jono spent 40 minutes or so fixing the problem. They were efficient in getting things fixed but it did mean we arrived at the camp after dark.

Jennifer the banana girl

Jennifer the banana girl

Janneke the Banana girl

Janneke the Banana girl

Fixing Oscar

Fixing Oscar

The camp itself seems lovely and I’ve seen multiple levels of camping, a nice bar and great views despite the darkness and if you’re here early enough there is the chance to hire canoes. I set up our tent right next to the pier while Leon helped cook the Sausage casserole that we had for late dinner as I think this will be a great place to wake up tomorrow.

A couple of us sat around talking to Al about the petty complaints that some people make about Dragoman and the tour and some of the things people have apparently said were unbelievable. People will complain about anything and make up all sorts of things it seems. I don’t see the problem with anything – I’ve had no complaints about anything so far. Sure we’ve had some long days and missed opportunities but this is Africa and things happen.

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Africa Day 8 – Queen Elizabeth NP

August 28th, 2009 No comments

It was a fairly leisurely start today as we didn’t expect it to be a very long day… we were wrong. The day started with us heading into the nearby town of Fort Portal for supplies. I was on cook duty today so helped Den with shopping in the local supermarket and also bought a few things myself such as snacks and Vodka. The shopping didn’t take long as we found everything except ice in one store so we soon found ourselves walking back to the truck which had been driven to a nearby petrol station to get its tyres checked. Den headed off to find some ice while we talked to the locals at the petrol station and some police with big guns that were stationed there about our time in the country so far. In the middle of the conversation the police had to break up a fight by hitting somebody with a big stick, but were more than happy to continue talking to us after this – TIA.

We were about an hour late leaving Fort Portal as it took Den a while to find some ice but it was nice to talk to the locals and they did give us some useful facts – for example the palace on the hill was owned by the local king, part of the Portal family, after whom the town is named. Our 1 hour drive to the Queen Elizabeth National Park ended up taking almost 4, but we did get a chance to stop on the equator for a quick photo, however we were told there would be better opportunities for photos at the equator on the way back so we only stayed long enough to stretch our legs.

Fort Portal

Fort Portal

Starting to get mountainous now

Starting to get mountainous now

Me at the Equator - part 1

Me at the Equator – part 1

After the equator we floored it to the National Park and used the side gate to save time which surprised the guards who told us that almost everybody uses the main gate. After a very fast “Ferrari safari” seeing Buffalo, Elephant and a few others we had a quick lunch before checking in for our boat cruise on the Kazinga channel.

The Young Bull Elephant

The Young Bull Elephant

The cruise was one of the highlights of the tour so far and despite the storm that brewed half way through causing rough water and reduced visibility we managed to see lots of hippo, buffalo, birds and one lone crocodile. The majority of the buffalo were described as rejects by the guide – they had been kicked out of their herds and were sticking together for safety. Today was also the start of a running joke within the team. The guide pointed out a Palm Nut Buzzard but some of us thought it was called a Permanent Buzzard… which doesn’t sound too funny on it’s own but you had to be there to get it.

Loser / Reject Buffalo

Loser / Reject Buffalo

The only Croc we saw all trip

The only Croc we saw all trip

Fishing Village

Fishing Village

Fishermen leaving the Village

Fishermen leaving the Village

Hippo on the Kazinga Channel

Hippo on the Kazinga Channel

On the way back to the port we saw some fishermen setting off for a night on the lake and also saw the mountains that were just over the border in the Democratic Republic of Congo which I took photos of for my collection.

Fishermen and mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Fishermen and mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Fishermen setting off for the night

Fishermen setting off for the night

After the cruise we headed up to the campsite overlooking the channel where we were greeted by a few warthogs and a Water Buck with her baby. We also ran into some rangers who were trying to track mongoose without any success – we had better success when they walked through our campsite 2 minutes after they left.

Roast beef and potatoes followed by banana and custard for dinner filled a gap after our rushed lunch trying to get to the baot cruise on time and it was also really nice to sit around the camp fire in a lovely setting chatting with the group before heading to bed just after 10pm.

A waterbuck watching me

A waterbuck watching me

Me and a Warthog

Me and a Warthog

Sunset over the Kazinga Channel

Sunset over the Kazinga Channel

The photo above is my favourite photo of the trip so far!

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Africa Day 7 – Chimp Trek

August 27th, 2009 No comments

I didn’t have a good nights sleep last night as I hoped so wish I could have had a lay-in today but I was on bag duty this morning so had to get up on time to open up the truck for people who were trekking to see the chimps in the morning. Once I’m awake I can’t usually get back to sleep so I relaxed and enjoyed the scenery while waiting for breakfast before going on a walk through the tea plantation with the rest of the group.

The walk through the tea plantation was really informative. The guide worked at the campsite and started by telling us all about the process of growing tea before taking us to meet some tea workers and explaining what they do every day. We were then taught some phrases in the local language before taking us through a small village on the way to the lake. The phrases such as “how are you?” came in quite handy as all the kids knew in English was “what is your name? My name is…“ and “we know English”. They were really friendly and we were able to get some really good photos and interact with them a lot.

Tea Plantation Walk

Tea Plantation Walk

A few of us in the tea plantation

A few of us in the tea plantation

This kid was adorable

This kid was adorable

Kids and Amanda

Kids and Amanda

We visited the shores of the lake and saw the boats that are used for fishing before saying bye (kalee kalee) to the kids and setting off back up the hill and into the plantation again. The last stop on the walk was a tea nursery where they grow all of the baby tea plants before planting them in the fields and we were explained the processes involved before returning to the camp site.

At the lake

At the lake

At the tea Nursery

At the tea Nursery

Me relaxing at the chimp guesthouse

Me relaxing at the chimp guesthouse

This afternoon the majority of us, except for the 4 early birds, went into the national park to visit the chimps. We were given a short introductory talk before being taken to our starting point where we had to battle to get into the woodland for a little while. While trekking we saw all sorts of animals, from hornbills to red tailed monkeys before finally seeing some chimps. Unfortunately in the afternoon they decided not to come down to the ground like they did in the morning, so if you have a choice make sure you trek in the morning. We did see a few of them including babies though, and they were eating figs, throwing them at us and then trying to pee on us which meant we all had to play an interesting game of dodge.

Trekking for Chimps

Trekking for Chimps

A chimp and her baby

A chimp and her baby

Another Chimp

Another Chimp

A lovely view over the plantation

A lovely view over the plantation

We returned to the campsite after about 3 hours in the forest, collected our laundry and then relaxed with a nice dinner of chops, veg, beans, sausages and chapatti before heading to bed.

The wood-fuelled boiler for the showers

The wood-fuelled boiler for the showers

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Africa Day 6 – Kampala to Chimps

August 26th, 2009 No comments

A fairly leisurely start this morning as we all had a rough nights sleep – there were a few dogs that decided they didn’t like each other in the night and kept fighting near our tents. Den cooked ueggs for breakfast which was a nice change although it was quite worrying to see vultures on the roof of the bar looking at us while we ate!!

Vultures watching us eat

Vultures watching us eat

After finishing breakfast quickly so as not to attract more vultures we headed into Kampala to a shopping centre to get supplies for the tour and buy anything we wanted to have personally. I bought some coffee beans, steers seasoning and batteries before going with Trip, our token American, to the coffee shop on the corner for some “Good African Cffee”. It was actually rather nice – I had an iced coffee and Trip had a hot chocolate but we both agreed that the setting combined with the fresh produce did make it good experience.

Good Africa Coffee

Good Africa Coffee

Good African... er... Hot Chocolate

Good African… er… Hot Chocolate

Shopping Centre

Shopping Centre

We passed out through Kampala and had lunch at the side of the road somewhere. The kids didn’t seem to come as close today but probably just as well as one of them was waving a machete. They did seem friendly enough however and cheered at us, as did a car full of businessmen when they saw our Tokoloshe when we drove through Kainjojo. I was in the front of the truck for this part of the journey as Jono was in the back fixing the window where I was sitting which allowed me to get some great photos.

We saw this on the way!

We saw this on the way!

Kids watching us have lunch

Kids watching us have lunch

Portrait shot

Portrait shot

We’re staying at the Chimpanzee Guest House for a couple of nights and the scenery on the way here was amazing. It was so lush and covered with so much tea which resulted in good photo opportunities. Another good photo opportunity was about 10km from the guest house when a whole herd of longhorn cattle came walking down the road towards us and went all around the truck on their way to wherever they were going.

These were in the way

These were in the way

It was raining when we got to the campsite but the setting here is amazing. The camp consists of lovely grounds on a hill, overlooking a lake and next to a tea plantation. The service was also great – the owners came straight out to greet us, followed shortly by a group of women who offered to do our washing for us for the equivalent of $7 a bag and a lot of us decided to make use of the offer.

Before dinner, which was a chicken curry of some description, I got on top of the truck with Al and Trip for some photos and to look at the scenery and I wasn’t disappointed!

Dog!

Dog!

2 Dogs

2 Dogs

Chimpanzee Guesthouse

Chimpanzee Guesthouse

Me and the scenery

Me and the scenery

I’ll try to get a good nights sleep tonight as I’m on truck lockup duty tomorrow and there are a few people that have decided to do the morning trek to see the chimps so I’ll need to get up early.

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Africa Day 5 – Into Uganda

August 25th, 2009 No comments

Another early start today, with breakfast at 530, in an attempt to make it to the border early. It wasn’t far to the border but we expected it to take some time due to all the processes that needed to be undertaken. We made a quick stop at Webuye, near Bungoma, to refuel the truck on the way to the border where just as I predicted the Tokoloshe got us quite a lot of attention from the locals. They weren’t quite sure if his attachment was his belly button or his penis and spent some time rubbing it trying to find out!!

Stopping for fuel at Webuye

Stopping for fuel at Webuye

Kenyan side of the border

Kenyan side of the border

It’s quite a surreal experience crossing a land border in Africa. In Europe we don’t have any proper land borders but this border had the Kenyan departure section, then customs control, then the border itself, then Ugandan medical control, then Ugandan Arrivals and then finally Ugandan customs. All of the time you have people trying to sell you everything from meat samosas to Ugandan passport covers and everything in between.

Changing money is also a new experience. On both sides of the border there lots of people wearing what look like rain coats and holding big bundles of money- these are the official, licensed, money exchangers. Even though they’re licensed you have to be careful. When I tried to change USD to Ugandan Shillings he offered 1800 despite the exchange rate being 2030. We negotiated him up to 1950 which was the best we were going to get but then he conveniently miscounted so after arguing the case and getting the correct number of shillings from him I was happy and got back on the truck.

Uganda seems more built up than Kenya and as soon as we crossed the borders there were more houses, factories, hotels and bigger farms. It also seems a lot greener even just after crossing a river. We stopped for lunch at Kakira, near Jinja, and of course were the centre of attention to the kids again.

Ugandan Scenery

Ugandan Scenery

Adorable

Adorable

Centre of attention again

Centre of attention again

Lunch time

Lunch time

We arrived at the Red Chilli campsite in Kampala this afternoon, after making a brief stop at a petrol station near Mukono, and set up camp. Dinner was a nice large amount of Spaghetti Bolognese and afterwards we all met for drinks in the bar. The bar was basic but the drinks were cheap and the surroundings were really nice. I really like this camp site and wish we were able to stay here an extra day as we’ve been told we won’t have any time to explore Kampala and this would give us an opportunity to do so.

At the petrol station in Mukono

At the petrol station in Mukono

I love this pic

I love this pic

Red Chilli Campsite, Kampala

Red Chilli Campsite, Kampala

Bar at the Red Chilli

Bar at the Red Chilli

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Africa Day 4 – Gilgil to Eldoret

August 24th, 2009 No comments

This morning we got up early and started getting breakfast together when, on time, the baboons arrived. Den decided to scare them away by running at them waving cooking utensils above his head and somehow I got volunteered to join in to stop them stealing food, raiding the bins etc which they continued to do anyway. It was quite an experience chasing them away but I would have been in trouble if they decided they wanted to confront me – plastic plates would have been no match for teeth!

Baboons guarding the toilet

Baboons guarding the toilet

Me and Baboons

Me and Baboons

After breakfast we went for a game drive and managed to get some good photos but saw mainly the same animals, with the exception of Hyena which we saw for the first time. The drive took us back along the lake to the park entrance and after leaving the park we travelled to the town of Gilgil to visit the Ngumo Primary School which is part of the Kariandusi School Trust Project that Dragoman sponsor.

Hyena

Hyena

It took a while to find the school – Den had to ask the locals for directions several times but eventually somebody knew where it was. The final road up to the school was rather steep and rocky and Oscar really worked hard to get there but we were rewarded with an amazing view from the top. While waiting for a teacher to greet us we relaxed and took in the view.

A senior teacher met us and took us on a tool of the school, showing us the old classrooms that were in a horrible state of disrepair, then onto the new rooms, the staff room and the new ground before we were given an opportunity to meet some of the kids. I talked to two of them that were sitting next to each other and they were asking very intelligent questions. It was the same day as the Kenyan Census so a lot of the questions were census themed but they were so inquisitive and well thought out that it made me feel really sorry for them. Maxwell wants to be an engineer and Dorothy wants to be a nurse and they have so much enthiusiasm I really hope they are able to achieve all of their dreams. We spent some time compareing our countries and I gave them some photos of my hometown before we had to leave.

Old classroom at the school

Old classroom at the school

Me, Maxwell and Dorothy

Me, Maxwell and Dorothy

New Classroom at Ngumo

New Classroom at Ngumo

Me painting at Ngumo

Me painting at Ngumo

The others

The others

I had a good signal on my mobile phone so decided to call home at this point while the others played football when, to my surprise, I saw a tornado going along the valley floor. It was only small and wouldn’t have caused any damage but seeing one was on my travel bucket list so it saves me a trip to Tornado Alley.

I’m not much of a sports person but I decided to join in with the football game while lunch was prepared s I wasn’t ready to finish interacting yet. Lunch consisted of mainly sandwiches but it filled a gap and was quick as it was soon time to drive back down the hill and head the town of Eldoret. On the way the scenery changed from dry to a lush rainforest-like area with thatched huts instead of corrugated iron and we also passed into the northern hemisphere.

Oscar and scenery

Oscar and scenery

A view towards Gilgil

A view towards Gilgil

A tornado outside Gilgil

A tornado outside Gilgil

Change of scenery

Change of scenery

In Eldoret we’re staying at the Naiberi Overland Stop and it seems really really nice although it was already almost dark by the time we arrived. We just enough time to set up the tents, refresh ourselves and relax in the bar for a few minutes before dinner. Dinner tonight was a group Indian meal, as the owners are Indian, and it was really nice. During the meal the owner let his dogs out into the building but even though they were really friendly there were 13 of them so they did get in the way occasionally.

Indian Food at Eldoret

Indian Food at Eldoret

Who let the dogs out?

Who let the dogs out?

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Africa Day 3 – Nakuru

August 23rd, 2009 No comments

I got up early today and got ready before going down for breakfast at 630. It was a really nice buffet breakfast with pretty much anything you could want including sausages, weird potato things, fruit, cereal and also a chef that would cook eggs or omelette for you.

After getting my bags from the room we checked out and headed to the truck for about 7am. We loaded the bags into the truck as Den arrived with shopping and started chatting to each other. Our truck is called Oscar and has an African God statue called a Tokoloshe on the front of it – I can see it causing many laughs over the next few weeks.

Traffic through Nairobi was pretty bad, but got better as we started making our way out of the city. The scenery changed from city, to outskirts, to slums, to little stalls selling things at the side of the road and soon after to lovely countryside. We also passed several police check points at regular intervals with vicious looking spike strips which would destroy any car that drove over them.

Stalls near Nairobi

Stalls near Nairobi

Spike Strips

Spike Strips

We drove past Hells Gate National Park before arriving at the town of Nakuru where we spent a while shopping for souvenirs, getting money from the cash point etc. It was a nice town but while getting into the truck this guy tried to sell me a hat and nothing I said would make him back down. He started at $30 and came down to $5 but I still didn’t want it as I have a good hat – I showed it to him and he tried to just swap but I said no and he worked out I wasn’t interested. People that won’t take no for an answer tend to frustrate me but they’re all part of the African shopping experience.

Scenery on the way to Nakuru

Scenery on the way to Nakuru

Zebra

Zebra

Nakuru Town

Nakuru Town

After Nakuru we drove to Lake Nakuru NP and went for a short game drive to Baboon Cliffs where we had lunch overlooking the lake – seeing Zebra, Flamingo, Rhino, Baboon, Warthog, Rock Dassie and many more animals on the way. While at the cliffs a baboon stole some food from somebody and ate it on the edge of the cliff, which seems quite normal for them, although it was surreal to see it sitting down eating a sandwich.

Warthog at Nakuru

Warthog at Nakuru

Impala at Nakuru

Impala at Nakuru

Nakuru NP

Nakuru NP

Me at Baboon Cliffs

Me at Baboon Cliffs

Rock Dassie at Nakuru NP

Rock Dassie at Nakuru NP

Baboon stealing food at Nakuru NP

Baboon stealing food at Nakuru NP

After lunch we had another short time game driving but it was soon time to head on to the camp site. The camp was a bush camp in the park itself and Amanda said that last time she was in the park they stayed at the same place and a Lion killed and ate an animal right behind their tent. This made us all nervous but we all relaxed after tasting Dens cooking for the first time – steak, chicken and salad. LOVELY FOOD!!

Rhino at Nakuru NP

Rhino at Nakuru NP

Setting up camp

Setting up camp

Camp at Nakuru

Camp at Nakuru

Dens dinner was legendary

Dens dinner was legendary

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Africa Day 2 – Nairobi

August 22nd, 2009 No comments

After arriving at Nairobi I changed some money before taking a taxi to our starting poing, the Kivi Milimani Hotel, which cost around 2000 KSh. When I arrived at the hotel it was still only 730am but there was already somebody else from my tour checking in. She had travelled on the same flight so it’s a shame we didn’t car-share to save money. There was a problem with check-in and the names were mixed up – they had me on the list as Scotte Bernadette, which caused a few delays, but we were all eventually able to check in.

I had a quick shower and a quick nap before being woken up by Leon, who had been assigned as my room mate. After chatting for a bit we decided to head into town so got a taxi from the hotel into the city which cost 400KSh.

Nairobi - KCC

Nairobi – KCC

We wandered around the city for a while seeing the Kenyatta Conference Centre, Maasai Market with all the touts and various shops but didn’t really see anything we wanted to buy. We looked for somewhere to eat or find a coffee and found a branch of Steers, which is like the holy grail for me. I had my usual chips with special seasoning as well as a coffee before getting a taxi back to the hotel with Leon. Nairobi seems a good city to wander around but you need a taxi to explore most places unless they’re in the city centre or you’ll get lots of people begging or touting for business.

Nairobi

Nairobi

This evening we met in the hotel lobby for the group welcome meeting before being taken to a small meeting room in the hotel where we met one of our drivers and introduced ourselves to the rest of the group. We weren’t able to meet the other staff members as Jono was fixing the truck and Den was shopping for supplies so after paying our $1120 kitty contribution we went back to the bar for drinks. It’ll be an early night tonight as we need to be up at 5am to meet at our truck at 6.

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Categories: 2009 East Africa Tags: , , ,