Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Uganda into Kenya

We left Ruhengeri around 9am and drove the 25kms to the Uganda border.  At the border we were quite surprised when the policeman welcomed us to the border and explained which buildings we needed to go to and in which order.  So helpful to have someone explain these things.  While filling in our cards to exit the country, we chatted to a money changer who was so surprised to learn that we were from South Africa as he had thought there were no Mzungus (white people) in South Africa!! A very easy border crossing and we were in Uganda after paying US$50 for a tourist visa and US$20 for a temporary license for the motorbike. 
Happy to be driving on the left again we headed into Uganda.  After the first town, Kisoro, the road changed into dirt.  Uganda is currently doing a lot of road maintenance and the dirt road had a number of construction vehicles travelling up and down creating a lot of dust.

Uganda countryside

The road currently under construction
Only 15km and we were back on tar and descending down towards Lake Bunyonyi, our destination for the day.  As we reached the lake we saw a lodge and stopped in for a drink.  The receptionist told us that the road adjacent to the lake was in good condition and suggested we take that route to the campsite. As we left the lodge Nick got a bit confused and only realised he was driving on the right when he saw a coming towards him – woops that’s what happens when you jump back and forth!

Lake Bunyonyi - northern tip

The road along the lake was beautiful and so much fun with lots of locals smiling and waving us along.  We arrived at Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort and Campsite in the early afternoon and set up camp before heading for our first Nile Special Ugandan beer.

View from the lakeshore road

Lakeshore road next to Lake Bunyonyi

Wildlife around the Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort

Such a great spot at the Overland Resort!! Cheers!

Playing cards...again :)

Yummy! Chipata and chicken!
Posho (like putu) with fish

Had an elephant right next to our tent in the morning!!

The next morning we drove to Kabale to get some money and have a look at the town.  We stopped in at the tourist information office and were entertained by the guy there telling us that the tar road towards Kampala is the same line drawn on the map to indicate the boundaries of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest…hmmm! Figuring we could read a map better, we thanked him and left.  We travelled on the tar for a bit before taking the turn off onto dirt through the villages surrounding the national park.  Kids were running after us trying to touch the bikes and shouting pen, money, MZUNGU! As we started nearing Bwindi Impenetrable Forest there was a distinct line that was visible indicating where the agriculture stopped and the forest started.  The friendly game warden welcomed us to the forest and said we should keep our eyes peeled for the wildlife in the park.  We drove the 13km through the dense, dark green forest and exited at the Ruhiji gate on the other side. Unfortunately we didn’t see any game this ride. 

Distinct line showing the start of the Bwindi Impenetrable forest

There is a lot of rock mining around Uganda

There were a number of places to stay outside the gate, however they were quite pricey working mostly in dollars due to the great birding and gorilla and chimpanzee trekking that can be done in the area.  The last lodge, Gorilla Mist Lodge offered us a deal we couldn’t resist so we camped there looking out onto the incredible forest in the distance.  Pauline, the very friendly receptionist explained a route we should drive through to Fort Portal, which would take us along the main raod through Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Sunset at Gorilla Mist Lodge

Gorilla Mist Lodge

So we were up early the next day and packed ready for the 150km dirt road before hitting the main road to Fort Portal.  The drive took us through the northern section of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and parallel to the DRC border onto Queen Elizabeth National Park.  We spotted 2 species of primates along this route (baboon and we think collobus monkeys) as well as various buck.  There is so much to see and do in each of the national parks, but once again the high dollar prices and our tight budget has meant we have skipped these opportunities.  

Being able to drive through the parks along the main road and at least see the landscape was great though.  On the other side of Queen Elizabeth National Park we passed Lake George, a RAMSAR (world heritage wetland) site where Teeny is convinced she spotted a herd of elephants in the distance.  Suddenly the equator was upon us! We had reached the northern hemisphere! Woohoo!!

Couldn't believe this - driving along and a bird and Teeny collide, landing on her lap - poor thing!!

First time we cross the equator, we will be doing it 3 times on our trip!

We passed towns, a cement factory and lots of cows with HUGE horns and arrived in Fort Portal early afternoon.  We had a bit of a fright riding in because as Nick passed an 18 wheeler truck a kid ran out from behind the truck in front of him. He was so close to hitting the boy that he could have touched his head as he drove past.  The boy was scolded by the older man on the side of the road, a scolding we hope will remind him never to do that again! We searched for accommodation and found Youth Educational Services (YES) campsite with very affordable camping and set up home for the evening.

YES Hostel and campsite

As Teeny was not feeling well we decided to rest day the next day.  In the morning we walked through Fort Portal buying a few items for lunch and dinner then spent the rest of the afternoon playing table tennis, scrabble and cards. Then early to bed for some good rest!

Fort Portal

A little chilly in the morning we headed out towards Kampala, the capital of Uganda.  As we left Fort Portal we passed large tea plantations and factories.  The 290km to Kampala was smooth with no problems and beautiful landscape.  When we arrived in Kampala we were once again greeted with chaotic town traffic and after 30min to ride a mere 6km and negotiating about 5 traffic circles we finally arrived at Red Chilly Hideaway.

Red Chilly Hideaway

It was at this point that we both started to feel quite sick, Teeny with her head cold and Nick with symptoms we thought could have been close to Malaria. So he did a Malaria test but thank goodness it came back negative, but feeling horrible still he started taking the antibiotics we had brought along. We spent the next two days relaxing at Red Chilly Hideaway trying to get ourselves better before heading into town to explore.  On Monday we decided to go look for the American Recreational Centre, a spot where Teeny’s parents used to visit when they lived in Kampala. Apparently the house was just up the road but neither of us felt particularly well and so we headed back to Red Chilly.  On the drive back we realised how important it is to drink lots of water…Teeny started feeling awful and nauseous so Nick pulled the bike over for her to jump off! Suddenly her hands started cramping and as she sat there on the side of the road the locals were so great pointing us in the direction of the clinic nearby and directing us to shade to sit and recover.  After 5min Teeny was well again to ride the rest of the way home. We got there and downed so much water…a good lesson to learn now before we hit the really hot sections of our trip!    

Red Chilly Hideaway is a great spot if you want well run facilities, but the staff are not particularly friendly – in some cases outright rude! So after a bit of a fight about not being able to charge our laptop because we have a South African adapter we left and went to the other backpackers in Kampala hoping to find better company.  Although much friendlier we hit another problem – no water or electricity – another black out in Africa!! Frustrated and feeling a little better we went into town in search of the Ethiopian embassy in Kampala. Very unhelpfully they told us we would only be able to get a tourist visa when we fly into the country – not any help at all. So we are back to square one having to contact the Pretorian embassy, fly our passports home and apply for the visa there!

Outside the American Recreational Association, facing towards the direction our house was

Having the rest of the afternoon to kill we walked the city enjoying the busyness of the city while not being on our bikes. We had some delicious freshly squeezed juice – watermelon and mango – super yummy, before jumping on the back of the moped to head back to the backpackers. Being around 5pm the traffic had built up and these little mopeds weave in and out and do lots of illegal moves. At one stage Nick said to Teeny “could you please remove your nails from my leg!” – quite a feat considering Teeny is still chewing her nails!!

Kampala Road, Kampala with the moped you ride on coming past

We left for Jinja the next morning, feeling that if we were going to courier our stuff from Uganda we may as well find a place where we felt more comfortable to sit and wait.  It was a short 80kms to Jinja through lots of busy towns opening up now and again to beautiful green forest.  We crossed the great White Nile and turned up towards our campsite.  The Nile Explorers Campsite was lovely, with excellent views over the Nile, hot water and electricity!  Jinja is known as the adventure capital and has many activities such as white water rafting, kayaking, bungee jumping etc.  Deciding we should focus on our visa application we didn’t take part in any of the activities.

Jinja, source of the White Nile
Nile Explorers Campsite

The beach at the Nile River Explorers

When we eventually got hold of the Ethiopian Embassy, after much help from Lorna (Nick’s mom in SA), we realised that it would be more practical to get to Nairobi where we can work on the bikes and other visa applications simultaneously. Having decided we would leave the next day we took a walk to see the Bujagali falls near to the camp. There were lots of school children running around and some locals braving the falls riding in a kayak and another hugging a 10l plastic jerry can jumped in!! A great afternoon feeling less irritated and enjoying the surrounds was exactly what we needed before leaving the next day.

Yummy Chipati - most popular banana and nutella!
Bujagali Falls - we thought it was more of a rapid than a waterfall!?

The school children on an outing

The sign says you shouldn't cross that point - ummmm ok!
 After moving through the Busia border into Kenya we realised that the travelling was going to be more intense!  Kenya officially has the worst drivers out of the part we have ridden in Africa. If they are not riding up your ass, they are overtaking on blind corners or straight into oncoming traffic that is flashing wildly at them, before squeezing back into the lane which has no place for them! So it’s a constant slam on breaks, weave, dodge and pretty much be prepared for anything!  Our first stop was at a place called Kisumu Beach Camp, a great spot right on Lake Victoria. We met some interesting overlanders there and heard some interesting news about a possible way to get our carnet paperwork for Egypt.  We also got some contacts for an interesting excursion in Ethiopia, as well as other shipping opportunities from Port Sudan.  Excited with the new information we left the next day for Nairobi – or as we have been told over and over again Nairobbery.

Welcome to Kenya - thundershower!
Storm in the distance
Lake Victoria and Kisumu Town

Kisumu Beach Camp
Local Kenyan Brew
Delicious chicken dinner!
 As we drove out of the Kisumu, a Kenyan driver proved to us again that their driving is terrible. As we were moving through a turning circle he decided that he wouldn’t stop and give way and Nick had to slam on breaks skidding to a stop millimetres from his car! And that was the start of our intense drive to Nairobi.  We passed some fantastic scenery, took a great detour (not intended) through tea plantations, and climbed up to 2700m above sea level where it was so cold that there was even ice on the sides of the road! On our right we saw Lake Nurkava, Lake Naivasha as well as the viewpoint of the Great Rift Valley. Unfortunately needing to stay in the traffic and with there being no curbs to go off the road as well as the cloudy and missy weather with occasional bursts of rain we don’t have many pictures of the drive.  We arrived in Nairobi around 6pm and found Jungle Junction, a place we have heard so much about. It is a very comfortable spot with free wifi and there are so many other travellers here and most of them on bikes.  We hope that from here we will be able to do all the paperwork and research we need to do for the next leg of our journey.  Needing to send our passports back to SA we know we will definitely be here for 2 weeks.  

Back tyre puncture on our way to Nairobi