Trip Start Nov 02, 2003
50Trip End Mar 01, 2005
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We were let into the trip gently, enjoying an afternoon at Elsemere, the previous home of Joy Adamson, the founder of Born Free. We watched a cranky old video and filled up on delicious home made cakes, while spotting Colobus monkeys running around the garden.
Our first night of camping was by the lovely Lake Naivasha, with not too many animal noises to keep us awake all night, except for the rather large hippos that came to shore for a midnight grass feast. They were just a few feet from our tents, with only a thin electric wire between us and one of Africa's most dangerous and heaviest animals.
We spent the first week winding up through lush hills patchworked with crops and being followed by kids on the side of the road, running up, waving, shouting and smiling "Jambo!". We spent our evenings stopping at various campsites along the way, plagued by the rains and cold weather, taking a few days break in a place called Jinja near Kampala to relax. Although most of the group decided to throw themselves into the source of the Nile and try some white water rafting, ranging from little ripples to a full grade five wipeout.
I on the other hand decided to take it easy, and gave a hand to the local organisation called Soft Power. Set up by some overland truckies, they tap into the regular flow of overland trucks to help out at some of the local schools that they support through funding and a bit of practical help, whether teaching, building a new school or brightening up a tired old classroom with some fresh paint.
The first school, a pre-school of 4-6 year olds, was just a quick visit, but if we had stayed much longer half of us would have had to have our body parts surgically re-attached. As soon as we entered the playground we immediatley became human climbing frames, every child was screaming and yelling to be picked up, but soon became a smiley happy circle of dancing and singing children when the teacher came to the rescue.
I ended up returning to the school sooner than expected. This time only a few brave girls (all teachers, apart from me) bulldozed our way through to the classroom. Here we cut out cards and drew some animal shapes and pictures for the children to decorate and turn into Christmas cards. Although most of the paint, felt tip pens, glitter and scrap material ended up stuck to their hands and faces. One boy managed to paint his entire face blue. I gave in and helped to turn one girls face into a glittery Christmas decoration.
The next school we visited, we were greeted by a sea of illuminous pink, which seems to be the National uniform of Uganda for girls and boys. It was our turn to do some painting and joined a small team in the classroom painting parts of the anatomy and various plant diagrams. Now it was our turn to get covered in paint.
We were now only a few days away from our Gorillas and our base; Kisoro on the Congolese/Ugandan border, so filled most of our days with driving and camping at the beautiful Lake Bunyoni. We took the same journey on the way back too, which meant another stop at Jinja, another visit for the school for me, some rafting for Adrian, and some mad quad biking through some local villages for both of us. Great fun! Except the bit when I crashed and fell off, tipping a quad bike on it's side is almost an impossible manouvre I was told afterwards.
A... We must get this sent out - we're not really in Uganda any more at all, but we need to get the map pins to pop up in the right place! The gorillas were very special and deserving of their own entry, but the rafting is definitely worth a mention.
It seems I picked the perfect place for my first go at whitewater rafting - a section of the white Nile close to teh source in Uganda boasting a sucession of about 7 grade 5 rapids. Ok, so before this trip I wouldn't know a grade 5 rapid if it ripped me out oa a raft, half drowned me and then spat me out half a mile down river; but I do now. Apparently rapids are graded one to six, though grade five are the worst that they'll let you pay good money to be hurled down.
They gave us a gentle introduction on some little rapids first, showing us how to paddle, how to be thrown in the water correctly and how to try not to drown when being dragged along by waves. Strangely though this preparation really didn't translate into the blur of rushing water when we hit the biggies. The first three rapids went by in a frenzy of paddling, diving into the bottom of the raft and clinging on through walls of water, but miraculously we came out upright and all still in the raft. The next rapid though was called silverback.
Our guide explained that it was called silverback because being under the waves were a bit like having a fully grown male gorilla jumping up and down your head. I can confirm that if the boat flips at the first of the five waves it feels exactly like having a gorilla jumping on your head. Five times. That was the end of our good run; the next rapid saw us flipped straight over and I found myself 10 feet under water wondering which way was up, until the the feet on top of my head gave me a clue. The last rapid, called 'The Bad Place' gave us another thorough dunking, though hopefully there was a friendly kayaker about to pluck me out before I drifted off to Egypt.
A... As well as seeing the gorillas, we also took a slightly less strenuous boat ride out to a chimpanzee sanctuary on an island in lake Victoria.
Oh, and a drive round the amazing scenery of Nakuru national park in Kenya.