On Safari

Trip Start Nov 01, 2005
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Trip End Apr 14, 2006


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Flag of Uganda  ,
Friday, January 20, 2006

On Saturday all really did was go on the internet in town,and then go to a bookshop nearby which sells a surprising amount of good books, despite them being about the same price as in England. I brought another book here (and had finished it by Monday afternoon)- it was really good! The others were meant to be goingto see Narnia at the cinema, but as I'd already seen it, I went home with Liz. They came back later and it turned out only Harry Potter was on instead- which i still havent seen- and then they went to Nandos for dinner afterwards! Gutted. All me and Liz had was more pasta (although it was very nice, a pizza would have been better).

Sunday was pretty uneventful too- I was going to do some washing,but a girl from the huts opposite us came and asked ifshe could do it for us. She knows how to wash,so they got a lot cleaner than my feeble attempts.We hung it up onthe wall outside to dry while we went off to church(by theway sorry for the lackof spaces the space button onthis pc isa bit tempremental). Liz,Emily and I were running Sunday school today- I used the puppets thatI got for Christmas quite a lot,and we did Jesus heals a sick man.Unfortunately the translator didnt turn up,so since many of the kids are too poor to go to school,they didnt understand much of what we were saying. We ended up singing songs and playing Simon says (or really just a copy me game) until the sermon was over. I dont think they minded too much though- they seemed to enjoy themselves. Unfortunately just as we were about to leave, the heavens opened, and by the time we got home,we were soaked to the skin. We were convinced we'd have to do all the washing again,but Moses, one of the builders brought it all in for us. All I really did for the rest of the day was read my book and pack- going on safari tomorrow!

Monday morning we got picked up in a 6-seater 4WD (I sat in the front) by Asio, our guide for the next 3 days. He was 40 minutes late (to be expected) so we stood in the rain. I read my book. Had my umbrella though, which was lucky. It was a long 7 hour drive to Queen Elizabeth, driving through maize fields, with people cutting down bits at the roadside with scythes. Yet again it reminded me of Fiji. Before we knew it, we were at the equator- just a random line across the road, with 2 posts saying 'Uganda Equator'. We stopped for the obligitary photos and brought a postcard. Something really cool though- there were 3 identical basins, one on either side of the line, and one on the line, filled with water. You put a flower in and watch which way it spins- and it really works! The flower spun in opposite directions on either side of the equator- and on the line itself it didnt spin at all and went straight down- no joke! Its because its not being pulled towards either of the poles (which is what makes it spin in the first place). Cool huh?

As we were just driving along, we spied a zebra far in the distant plains, some Ugandan kob (very common- kind of like gazelles) and a group of Baboons sitting on the road, who proceeded to jump on the car in search of food! They look a bit scary, we were very glad we were safely inside the car. We stopped for lunch in Mbarara, in a hotel and then continued our journey through enormous tea fields (which looked like grass until he pointed out the tiny dots that were people's hats poking up between the plants) and past some great scenery over Queen Elizabeth National Park. THere were some kids who noticed my camera when we stopped for photos and said 'you give me camera' of course I refused, so they then continued to demand money, the newspaper, biscuits- anything they thought we had! I just laughed- they werent really asking, rather telling me to give it to them, so we got back in the car and drove off, while they grinned and waved madly.

We drove to Kasisi, the town where we would be staying for the next 2 nights, and checked into our hotel. It was quite nice, by African standards- double beds and nets (albeit with holes) and our own bathroom that attempted to give a hot shower but somewhat failed. Still- a showers a shower, and luke warm is infinetly better than a cold bucket, so we loved it! It was strange staying in a room on my own again. We went for a wander around Kasisi, but it really isnt that big, so we ended up playing cards most of the evening, before having our (whole) fish and chips and retiring to our seperate rooms. :)

We had an early start on Tuesday to go for a game drive- unfortunately we didnt see the sunrise because it was so cloudy, but the sun came out for a bit in the afternoon while we were on the boat which was good. We saw so so many animals, it was great- we hardly had five minutes go before seeing more animals. I sat on the windowsill of the car, so got good views all around. The most common animals we saw were the Ugandan kobs, who seemed to be everywhere, Waterbucks, warthogs and buffalos, and tons and tons of birds. Unfortunately I didnt really know what half the birds were and whether they were rare of anything, but we wrote a list of everything we saw so I'll just write that up! Half way through the morning we went to order lunch from this restaurant so it would be ready when we returned, and had pancakes overlooking the Kazinga channel (that links the 2 lakes in the park). We then went off on an elephant drive into this crater where you can apparently spot elephants quite often. We got a bit excited at the prospect, but as the hours passed, we lost more and more hope of ever seeing one. I was straining into the trees so hard to see this big grey blob I think I actually started imagining them- and when I looked back, they'd gone. I'm not crazy, honest! There were tons of acacia trees, the tree that to me symbolises Africa, and the typical grassy savannas. Great views, but you dont go on safari for the views, and 2 hours later we returned to the restaurant rather disappointed at not having seen anything . Then, just as we were driving into the restaurant, there was an elephant who had wandered into the area, and was just standing there eating a tree! We were all amazed and spent the next 5 minutes just watching it- its so big and impressive, you really dont want to be in front of it if it starts to charge. It wasnt quite the same as seeing it in the wild becuase although it was a wild elephant, it had come into the area where lots of people were so it must have been quite tame. Nevertheless, we'd seen our first elephant!

Lunch was nice- we had to wait another half our despite arriving half an hour after they said it would be ready anyway, but you get used to it after a while. There were lots of bright yellow birds about- I think they were beeeaters? and a warthog family with 2 cute little ones (well- cuter than their parents at least. Warthogs are ugly.) We drove down the Kazinga Channel for our boat trip. Others had said it was the highlight of their visit, so we were quite looking forward to it. It was really good. The roads in the park only go so far, but lots of animals come down to the river banks to drink, so we saw heaps of hippos, billions of buffalos and even elephants! Even more birds too- lots of birdwatchers on the boat, with their binoculars... I thought of dad. We did see a baby croc, but it was nothing compared to Cairns really.

Here's the list of all the animals we saw in the game drive and on the boat trip- are you ready?! Ugandan kob, waterbuck, warthog, buffalo, bee eaters, black shouldered kites, snake eagle, giant forest hog (apparently very rare- looks like a warthog but hairier), fish eagles, vulture, mongoose (mongeese?), a monitor lizard, long claw shrike, black headed shrike, grey backed shrike, yellow wagtail, red fire finch, pelicans, hippos, bison, a bird that looked like yazoo from the lion king, great white egret, african chookana, palman vulture, goliath heron (the biggest in the world apparently), red spotted bee eagle, batwing eagle, baby crocoldile, great cormorants and of course the elephants! Whoo reminds me of my list of food at the Bellagio! There were lots of other birds too that I didnt bother to write down- as they say, there are lots and lots of birds in Uganda!

Anyway this boat trip lasted about 2 hours or so, during which we drifted past hippos, coming within about 2m of some of them, watched the bufallos cool off, and saw a flock of great cormorants all standing with their wings out in the same direction- exactly the same direction! Apparently they all stand like that to cool off, but it was really strange to see over 100 birds all standing in the same direction! There were pelicans and another cool bird that I still dont know the name off stalking about on their long lengs too. We went past a fishing village that existed before the area was made into a National park, so the locals are allowed to keep living there. There were about 20 boats out in the channel trying to catch lots of fish. The sun had come out by this point, so was glistning off the water and it looked quite nice. I noticed how hippos stop water flooding in their noses too- they can close their nostrils! Looked a bit strange, but I guess it works. We saw 3 elephants during the boat trip, which was great, especially since they were in a more natural environment, hanging out with the hippos and buffalos. They dont mind being together since they're all veggies. Its the lions that they have to worry about, and unfortunately we didnt see any lions during the whole three days.

We all sat on the roof in the sun, and got talking to an American, who talked a lot about politics, so most of us just smiled and nodded to whatever he said. THere were germans on the boat too, who really reminded me of a couple of the germans in NZ. No comment about why. We got off the boat and drove back to our hotel, on the way spotting a hippo that had wandered all the way up the hill and was just in the grasslands- probably got a bit lost we reckoned.

Yet another early start on Wednesday- and I had the old dilemma about whether to use the earplugs or not. I decided I would, and as a result, slept through my alarm, waking up one minute after we were meant to leave. Doh. Reminds me of a certain Grand Canyon trip... Luckily all I had to do was chuck stuff in a bag, so I was outside in 5 minutes. We were going Chimpanzee tracking today! Despite asking repeatedly for NO EGG in our sandwiches, having seen how undercooked they were the day before, we all picked up our packed breakfasts to find a fried egg sandwich and a bag (yes, a bag) of juice. I put up with the sandwich until I found some shell, and I poured my juice into a bottle to take tracking since we had no water given to us. We missed the sunrise because of the clouds yet again, but when we arrived at the Chambura Gorge the sky was making pretty colours at least. We waited half an hour for our guide to be ready, before driving to the starting point with our walking sticks we had been given (literally sticks). The Gorge is 100m deep at 50m wide at its deepest and widest, and we climbed down a very steep slope to get to the bottom! It wasnt exactly muddy, but the soil was quite easy to slip in, so I was glad I had my walking boots. Anyway we walked through this rainforest that looked quite similar to the rainforest in Cairns, with big tall trees and thick undergrowth (kind of wished I hadnt worn a skirt), clambering over tree roots and ducking under vines. We saw 2 Black headed colombus monkeys sitting high up in the trees- the same one Ross has in friends I think. It was cool to see them in the wild- they were just happily sitting up there, watching us.

After about a 10 mnute walk we came to this river, with a tree trunk that had fallen over it. We heard lots of chimp noises from the other side, and our guide looked at us and said 'we cross quickly'. Normally I would have been fine crossing it, but my balance isnt that great, and I was slightly disconcerted by the fact that there were 3 hippos nearby watching us, and our guide had just loaded his rifle... I went first, and wobbled my way across this tree trunk, almost falling off, but managing to stay firmly on the log, and was very relieved when my feet touched dry ground again on the other side! I know hippos are vegetarians, but I've heard all sorts of stuff about how sharp their teeth are and how you can get killed in their jaws or something. Anyway we all crossed safely, but by that time the chimps had moved on. We spent about 10 minutes trying to decide which direction they'd gone in, before moving off quickly- apparently they were on the move so we had to be fast. 5 minutes later, and quite out of breath, we all gasp as we see this enormous male chimp lope across the forest floor about 5m in front of us. On all fours, he'd probably come up to my waist. He's screeching and watching us carefully, but continues on his way, and as we look up into the tall trees, we see another chimp, carrying a baby on her back, swinging from tree to tree. We continue off the path into the forest, and probably see about 5 chimps sitting up high, getting their fruit for breakfast from the canopy of the tall rainforest trees. It was amazing! We attempted to take photos, but most of them came out as black blurs in green. We got some video of it though. It seemed like we were only there for about 10 minutes, but by the time we left, 40 minutes had passed. We didnt see any other primates on our way back up out of the gorge, but having seen the chimps was enough- it was a great experience to be in what is essentially their territory. They were very loud but didnt bother us or try and eat us or anything (which is what I assume the gun was for). We clambered back up the sides of the gorge, and started the long 7 1/2 hour drive home, stopping briefly for lunch. We slept most of the way, and didnt even mind too much when we had a powercut that evening as we we all went to bed so early.

I didnt really do that much on Thursday other than read my book, recover, and go to the supermarket in Nansana. On the boda boda coming back he asked where I wanted to go- and the only place I can say is 'our house'! There isnt really a name for where we were going, but most drivers know where it is. Mine didnt, but he managed to follow the others so all was OK. We did have one big event of the day though *vegitarians look away now*: we brought a chicken for dinner. Chicken here doesnt come in a nice package in the supermarket, you buy them live in the market, and do everything yourself. I was quite looking forward to having a chicken running around our back yard until we decided to eat it (!) but unfortunately Karen was holding it rather tight on the boda boda back up to the house, and she thinks she might have strangled it by accident. It apparently breathed its last breath just by the gate to the house- so I never got to meet Sammy in person. Very upsetting. Anyway Emily and Phona proceeded to take it out the back, chop its head off, pluck it, gut it and wash it. Eugh. I couldnt bring myself to watch- I dont mind looking at fish etc but I see chickens as proper animals and I'd much rather buy it in a supermarket and not have to think about what it once was! I did watch the video the made of them doing it, but I wish I hadnt seen bits of it- it was all a bit grusome. Poor Sammy. Emily and Esther seemed to quite enjoy it. Becca and I steered well clear. Still It'll be nice to have a whole chicken sometime this week- I'm looking forward to it! You really cant recognise Sammy anymore, so hopefully I'll forget I'm eating him... mmm cant wait.
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