Archive for July, 2008

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Thursday, July 31st, 2008

It has come to my attention that it is not possible to add comments to this blog atm. I am looking into this and will try to fix it if I can.

Blog Catch-up

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

Over the last few days, I havent been keepnig up to date even with my offline log. Today is my last day in Kampala before joining the tour group so I though I ought to catch up with my blogging.

 On Friday I caught the bus back from Fort Portal. It took about 4 hours to get to the edge of Kampala where we unfortunately got stuck in traffic which appeared to be gridlocked. After 20 minutes of not moving I got off the bus. Unfortunately I wasnt quite sure where I was in the city, so I had to take a taxi the rest of the way. The taxi across the city cost more than the 300km bus ride! But it was probably worth it as I didnt know where I was at the time, nobody seemed to be able to point out where we were on the map, and I had my big rucksack with me.

Heather was away for the weekend, so it was just Jez, William and me at the house. On Saturday we just relaxed at the house, drank beer, ate good food and played with William. I built a lot of towers for William that day and also a bridge which fascinated him.

On Sunday we went to Entebbe in search of the Botanical Gardens. Unfortunately we could not find them, so we went to the Ugandan Wildlife Education Centre. Although they say it is not a zoo, that’s just what it is. Despite this, it was good to get some clear photos of some of the animals that I will hopefully see later on my tour. One of the most interesting things was the monkeys which just live in the trees between exhibits. William particularly liked the monkeys.

Monday was fairly uneventful. I went on a very long walk round the city in the afternoon, visited a few shops, post office and just explored the city a bit more.

On tuesday, I went into town with Sam who is the son of William’s nanny. He helped me use the minibus taxis which can be very confusing. It was an interesting experience, but I dont think I would rush to use them again. Sam took me to an African craft market which was very much aimed at tourists, but there was lots of interesting items for sale there. I didnt buy anything because I dont want to fill my bag at this stage of the trip. We had lunch at a place called Nandos, but I’m not convinced it was part of the same chain.

Yesterday, I went to the Ugandan National Museum which was more interseting than I was expecting. There were lots of exhibits relating to stone age and iron age artifacts, geology of the country and Ugandan wildlife. There was also a temporary exhibition on the chimpanzees put on by the reserve on Ngamba Island which I will be visiting on Friday! I wasnt quite sure how the Ford Model T and exhibition on the moon landing fitted in witht he rest of the musem.

As last night was my last with Jez and Heather, they took me out for dinner at a restuarant called Khana Khazana, which is apparently one of the best Indian restaurants in Uganda. It was the same restaurant that I met Jez and Heather in on my first night in Uganda. We had some excellent starters and curries so I am sure it deserves its reputation.

This morning I packed up my bags in a much more organised fashion that last time. Only time will tell how long that lasts. Later this afternoon, Jez will drive me to Entebbe to meet my tour group. I am very much looking forward to meeting the group! This left a free afternoon in which I am catching up with this blogging. And amazingly it is now up to date! 😮 (Apart from photos because I forgot to bring my memory card with me 🙁 )

Amabere Caves and Kibale National Park

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

From Thursday 24th July

Last night in the bar, I made plans with Kismat to visit some of the local attractions today. After that, we went to a local restaurant where I ate goat stew and posho. The latter is hard to describe; its made from maize, has a very stodgy texture and isnt very tasty. He also introduced me to a group of Irish volunteers staying in the hotel who were involved with a project called Camara. They take old computers from businesses in Ireland and then distribute them to school and universities in Africa. They also do some teaching.

The first place Kismat took me was Amabere caves. We used boda-bodas to get there which were actually quite fun, and very cheap. The attraction consisted of a waterfall and associated rock formations hidden in dense jungle. There are lots of legends associated with these caves which seem to be centred around the breast of a princess being cut off and thrown into the jungle. The stalagtites and stalagmites which drip white liquid are named after breasts of various animals and the white liquid was once believed to be milk.

After lunch we went to Kibale National park with of spotting cimpanzees. Unfortunately Kismat took us to the wrong part of the park. Nonetheless we met a very helpful guide there who took us on a nature walk round that part of the forest. We saw 4 types of primate, black and white colobus, red colobus, red-tailed monkeys and vervet monkeys. There were also many interesting birds, insects and plants to be seen.

Photos up later this evening if I have time 🙂

Crater Lakes

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

From 23/07/2008

I got up early this morning in time for my hotel breakfast. They served Spanish omelet, toast, fruit, tea, coffee and juice. The Spanish omelet was not a proper Spanish omelet as it did not contain potato, but still tasty. However, the toast was awful!

The other reason for getting up early was to find some people to join for a day out. I was successful in this and found an Italian guy and his Ugandan girlfriend who were happy for me to join them on their trip to the crater lakes. I wasn’t sure about joining a couple, but it actually worked out quite well for them as they got to spend more time together, while i occupied the guide. They also paid less with a third person.

The crater lakes was a short drive from the hotel along a dirt road with lots of things to see along the way. Our guide took us to several lakes and a small village where we got out to have a look around. The main lake at which we stopped was Lake Nkurba. Around this lake were groups of habituated black and white colobus and red colobus. I have some great photos of these primates which add to this post when I can.

Black and White Colubus

Edit:
At the cafe near the lakes I also tried matoke which is a staple food in Uganda. It is made from unripe bananas. It actually doesn’t taste like banana at all, but I still liked it. 🙂

Fort Portal

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

From Tuesday 22nd July

Jez and Heather both left early in the morning for separate 3 day business trips. Rather than stay at the house on my own, I arranged to get a lift with some of Jez’s colleagues out to the west of the country. They were travelling to a town called Kasese and I decided to be dropped off at a town called Fort Portal on the way. It was about 3 and a half hours drive from Kampala. The guys I travelled with were very friendly. In particular Enis, a guy from Kosovo who had worked with Jez in Kosovo and Afganistan previously, was very helpful. Charles was a local from Kasese who pointed out lots of interesting things along the way and had some suggestions of things I might like to do in the area.

The town is a good place to be, because it is in the middle of 3 national parks so there is lots to see in the area. I arrived without any hotel bookings, but I was able to get a room in my prefered hotel, albeit a double which I had to pay slightly more for. After a beer in the hotel bar, the others left. I was slightly disappointed by how quiet the hotel bar was. I was hoping there would be a few more travellers to meet. I did meet a guy there called Kismat who worked in the bar. He offered to take me out to see some to the local attractions later in the week.

The following photo is a view of the sunset over the Rwenzori mountains, as seen from the balcony of my hotel. Suburbs of Fort Portal can be seen in the forground.

Rwenzori Sunset

Sounds of Kampala

Tuesday, July 29th, 2008

 As I said in my first post, I don’t often have reliable internet access here, so I have been writing blog posts offline, so that I can add them here when I get chance.

From Monday 21st July

Today started slowly with waiting at the house to see if I would be able to get a lift to a town in the north of Uganda called Gulu with one of jez’s colleagues. Unfortunately this was not possible, so I went into town for lunch and to expore the city on foot.  Walking into town was fascinating, particularly considering the differences  between Kampala and an English town. There are all sorts of things I could write about, but I think I will write about the things I have heard in Kampala. 

It is impossible to walk very far in Kampala without being offered a taxi. So the first sounds are these offers of taxis and the incesant beeping as a result of chaotic roads and very impatient taxi drivers. Taxis come in 3 forms; special hire, minibus taxis and boda-bodas. Special hire are the most similar to the sort of taxi you would find in Europe. They are also the most expensive.  Minibus taxis follow a set route and are shared by up to 14 people. They stand out for being white with a band of light blue squares horizontally round the middle and are well known for their bad driving. It seems that these taxis account for about 25% of the vehicles on the roads.Finally, the most unusual type of taxi are the boda-bodas. There are hundreds of them in the centre. 10 or more on busy strret corners. They probably account for as much as 50% of all vehicles. They consist of a moped, where the single passenger rides behind the driver. For this reason, they are the cheapest, but also the most dangerous for of transport.

The second sound is the birds. According to my guide book there are 1008 species in Uganda. Some of the at least mae a lot of noise. The are a few near the house which sound more lie monies than birds. There are also some huge birds, 1.5m tall, which circle high above the city and look a bit like pterodactyls.

The final sounds relate to thing people say to me as a white person. Children in particular are fond of waving and saying “how are you?” to passing white people. Often the word muzungu is used to refer to white people. Its possibly best not to wonder what the literal translation might be, but its all completely harmless and everyone here is very friendly!

Ssezibwa Falls

Sunday, July 20th, 2008

Ssezibwa Falls

Today, all 4 of us went on a day trip to Ssezibwa Falls about 35km East of Kampala. (map)  It was a bit of a bumpy drive, but I got to see some slightly more rural areas along the way. There didnt seem to be any other tourists there, but there were quite a lot of locals about, as a wedding was takign place at the falls.  We were shown around by a friendly guide who pointed out various trees planted by important people, and more impressively some interesting wildlife, including more strange birds, butterflies and red-tailed monkies!

Red-tailed monkey at Ssezibwa Falls

Hello from Uganda!

Saturday, July 19th, 2008

I arrived safely in Kampala last night, following a long day of travelling. Managed to sleep quite a lot on the flights though as didnt get any sleep the night before. The most impressive part of the journey was flying over the desert in Northern Africa. I think it was probably Libya specifically. There was just desert as far as I could see, for probably an hour or more, until it got a bit too cloudy to see.

Jez and Heather’s house in Kampala, Uganda

I am staying in the Kololo area of Kampala with my uncle, aunt and cousin, Jez, Heather and William. William is only 18 months old and smiles a lot! The house is very nice (see photo) and I have my own en suite room. The garden is great too, with banana, orange and mango trees, along with other strange looking plants and trees which I dont recognise and some weird birds which I am yet to photograph.

It was dark when I arrived, so I didnt see much, but this morning I went into town with Heather and William to a shopping centre and then for coffee. First impressions of the city are that it is a very busy place with lots going on, and I look forward to exploring properly later on.

Jez has gone to Nairobi for the day for a meeting, but he is going to help me plan some trips to other parts of the country during my stay. Hopefully I will be able to catch a ride with some of his colleagues who will be driving to various places while I am here.

I am going to play with William in the garden now, but I should be able to make some more blog posts over the best 2 weeks, as there is an internet connection at the house 🙂

Friday, July 18th, 2008

Its 3:30am everything is all packed up, my room is almost tidy, and I am about to set of to the airport for my 6:35am flight! Didnt sleep at all last night. Had lots to do, but dont think i could have slept even if i had time! Very excited!

Next post from Uganda!

First Post (Attemt 2!)

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

I wrote a post introducing this blog a couple of days ago, but it appears that wordpress decided to eat it… i wonder what will happen to this one!