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Tanzania

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Our last night in Nairobi was also our last night with 7 of the group. We went out for a meal at carnivore’s  restaurant. The restaurant has been voted one of the top 50 in the world. It is famous for serving game meat. After a soup starter, we were served as much chicken, beef, pork, lamb, turkey crocodile and ostrich as we could eat. The meat is served by waiters walking round with skewer from which meat was either carved or slid directly onto our plates. The food was awesome and we had a really great night. Drinks were expensive, but the food cost only $30 each.

The next day we crossed the border to Tanzania which took quite a long time. That night we stayed in the Snake Park campsite near Arusha. The campsite had an area with cages for about 30 different species of snakes along with crocodiles and some birds. Some of the snakes had live chickens inside their enclosures. After a lot of waiting Adrian and I saw a snake catch, constrict and start to swallow one of the chickens.

The next two nights were spent away from the truck. We visited the Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, traveling in Landcruisers, each with 7 people plus a driver. It was nice to be away from the truck for a while. Doing game drives in the smaller vehicles was quite a different experience. Being so much smaller, they are more maneuverable, can get closer to the animals and are faster. We were also able to stick our heads out of the roof which meant we got a much better view of the animals.

The Serengeti is vast. The approach to the national park was very flat, and there was just nothing at for miles. Further on it got a bit hillier, which is where we saw most of the animals. There were also some rocky outcrops, one of which, we thought was probably the inspiration for pride rock in The Lion King. While we were there we saw several animals much closer than we had seen before. Our driver, Frank, was very good at getting us up close. We saw a leopard walking within a few meters of the Landcruiser, and a male lion about the same distance away. There were however a lot of other vehicles, and I think this photo demonstrates what the view can be like some of the time.

Serengeti Lion

After 2 game drives and an overnight stay in the Serengeti, we drove back to the Ngorongoro Crater where we camped at the crater ring for the night. We were advised to remove all toothpaste from our tents, because a few nights earlier, 3 tents had been trampled by bush pigs looking for this. That night was very cold, but we had a campfire in the middle of our ring of tents which kept us was in the evening.

For the last few days, another absolute Africa truck had been doing the same route as us and staying at some of the same campsites. They also did the same trip away to Serengeti and it was during the trip that we met most of that group. During the evening at Ngorongoro Crater we let them sit round our campfire, as they had arrived too late to collect wood for their own. Six of these people will be joining our truck after Zanzibar.

On the final day, we drove down into the crater to do a morning game drive before heading back to Arusha to meet the truck. The day started well with my first sighting of a cheetah. Other highlights included a large family of lion, including cubs, two lions stalking a herd of 100s of zebras.

After the game drive, we went back to the campsite to pack up our tents. Just as we were were leaving, an elephant appeared only a few meters away from where our tents were. We got out of the Landcruisers to take photos before leaving. The elephant just stood there.

Last night (Wednesday 20th), we stayed at a campsite called Masai Camp near Arusha. The best part of the campsite was the bar. During the evening we were entertained by some Masai acrobats. They did all sorts of acrobatics, fire tricks and balancing tricks with glass bottles. At the end they took 3 people from the audience to limbo under a flaming bar – I was one of them! Although I can’t limbo at all, it was good to give it a go.

Tonight we are camping at Tembo campsite, part way between Arusha and Dar Es Salaam on the coast. Tomorrow night we will camp on the beach before catching a ferry to Zanzibar where we will spend 4 nights.

Nairobi

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Today is our last night in Kenya and second night at a campsite near Nairobi. This morning we went to two animal sanctuaries. One for Baby elephants and a blind rhino and the other one for giraffes. It was interesting to learn about elephants at the first one. The elephants are only young, so eventually they will be released in the wild in Tsavo national park in Tanzania. At the giraffe sanctuary we were able to feed the giraffes.

Giraffe

This afternoon we went to a shopping centre to stock up on supplies and then later on i came to this internet cafe where I have been uploading all of those previous posts and writing this one!

Tonight we are going to a restaurant called carnivores in Nairobi which serves all you can eat game meat. Tomorrow we will drive to Arusha in Tanzania where we will stay for a night before heading to the Serengeti.

Masai Mara

Saturday, August 16th, 2008

Early on Thursday morning we left Naivasha and set off for the Masai Mara. Just before we arrived at the national park we stopped at a traditional Masai village. The danced for us and told us about how the live. They are a nomadic tribe who eat only meat, milk and blood from cattle. They do not grow nay crops. The village we visited consisted of 72 people all from the same family who lived in a ring of mud huts. The huts are almost completely dark inside and very small. The Masai allegedly reject all modern technology, however it seemed that this may not be entirely true. For example the villager who showed us around was wearing a digital watch. They clearly make a lot of money from tourists which is used to send their children to school.

Jumping with Masai

A few minutes drive from the village and we were in the national park. The Masai Mara is huge, and it is joined to the Serengeti in Tanzania which is even bigger. We visited at the time that the migration of wilder beast and zebra was in the Masai Mara. There are something like 1.4 million of these animals which migrate around the Masai Mara and Serengeti in a yearly cycle. We saw 1000s of them in the park. Sometimes they were just grazing in herds and sometimes they were running in single file lines of hundreds.

We also saw many other animals in the parks, some which we had already seen in Lake Nakuru and others which were new. The new ones included lions, elephants and crocodiles. At times we were only a few meters from them. We saw a lioness chasing wilder beast and 2 lions mating.

Lioness

We camped in the park again last night but this time we were in a campsite and we had some Masai guards. Apparently hyena entered the campsite during the night!

The last 6 days

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

Its been 6 days since I have written anything about what we have been up to. We have been very busy though, so there is a lot to write about!

From Entebbe, we went to visit the chimpanzee sanctuary on Ngamba Island in Lake Victoria. The boat ride to get there was an hour and a half each way, but it was very nice to see the chimps at feeding time. The whole experience seemed a bit artificial when compared to the gorillas, but we got a clear view of about 40 chimps playing and feeding. Chimps share 98.7% of our DNA and we could see many human characteristics in their behaviour.

That night we stayed in Red Chilis Hostel in Kampala. It was a very lively place, and I bumped into some people from Warwick there who had been in Uganda for a month on an engineering field trip. I was very surprised to see people I recognised there.

A very early start took us to Jinja in time to meet the people who were taking 19 of us for a full day of white water rafting on the Nile. In total, there were 100 people rafting, a guide for each boat of 7-8 and safety boats and kayaks. After the included breakfast, we were taken to the river were we got onto the water almost straight away. Safety briefings and instructions were given as we floated along the river towards the first gentle rapid section. We rafted along a 32km stretch of the river with some flat sections and many different rapids. The rapids ranged from grade 1 to 5 and included a 4m waterfall. I fell out once and the boat whole boat capsized only once on the last rapid – more successful than many other boats! We had lunch on the boat and were able to swim in the gentle sections. When we arrived back at the campsite there was a huge bbq waiting for us. That campsite had a very lively bar. Lots of people rafting and it was also the birthday party of one of the guides! An awesome day overall!

The next day, Sunday, was a free day. In the morning some of us went to explore Jinja town centre. It was nice to have a bit of spare time to just chill out and catch up on washing and other things. The campsite bar had a balcony with stunning views over the river. In the evening we ate at the campsite restaurant where I had a very nice fillet steak for not much money at all.

Nile View

The next day we crossed the border from Uganda to Kenya! After buying supplies in Eldoret, we stayed at a campsite nearby which was definitely the nicest campsite so far! It was all very nicely landscaped, with great facilities, an awesome bar and a swimming pool!

From Eldoret we set off early for Lake Nakuru National Park. In the afternoon we did our first game drive and saw loads of animals! Including a second drive the following morning, the animals we saw included water buck, impala, thompson’s gazelle, eland, zebra, giraffe, baboons, hippo, both white and black rhino, a leopard, black backed jackal, hyena, flamingo, pelicans, vultures, ostrich, vervet monkeys, black faced velvet monkeys, buffalo, warthog, a colourful lizard of which I have forgotten the name, and probably plenty of others which I have forgotten too!

The reason we did 2 drives over 2 days was because we stayed inside the national park that night. We had to put our tents in a “D-formation” around the truck and lit a camp fire to scare off animals. Once it got dark, we were strongly advised not to venture too far from the tents. We were also warned about the sounds we may hear including the possibility of buffalo munching grass outside our tent during the night. In the evening we could see zebra the opposite side of the clearing and 2 pairs of eyes watching them!

That brings this log almost up to date. This evening, Wednesday, we are staying near Lake Naivasha. Earlier we made a second stop at a craft market in Nakuru where there was lots of bargaining and many souvenirs were bought very cheaply. I am going to wait until a bit later in the trip before I started loading up my bags with souvenirs. After arriving early to this campsite, which is another good one, we went to Elsamere to to learn about the life and work of Joy Adamson of “born free” fame.

Over the next few days we have more exciting activities coming up, including visiting a Masai village, a game drive in the Masai Mara during the migration and carnivores restaurant in Nairobi. In Nairobi we lose some people from the tour and pick some more.

Gorillas

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

On Monday we set off from Kisoro to Rwanda for the gorillas. The towns we saw in Rwanda appeared noticeably better off than those in Uganda. The roads were surfaced and the buildings seemed in much better condition. Apparently this is due to money from gorilla tracking permits and unconditional aid donated after the genocide.

We arrived in Rwanda mid afternoon and went to explore. There was a huge market in town, but unfortunately no one had any Rwandan Francs. On the way back to the hotel, we went back to a football ground which we had visited earlier. There was a kids football match there and the coach let 6 of us join in with the game. I even played!

That night we had food cooked for us and slept in a dormitory with real beds! Luxury! After and early night and a very early start, we finally set off for the gorillas.

There are only 700 mountain gorillas left in the world. They are split between 4 national parks in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. There are 7 families which live in the Park des Volcans in Rwanda and my group of 8 saw the family called (something beginning with K) which consisted of 13 gorillas.

It took about 1 and a half hours walking to reach the gorillas, through some very boggy ground. As we were putting down our bags I saw a huge gorilla walk past behind some bushes. We spent one hour with the gorillas, while they were eating, playing, sitting and walking around. They moved around quite a lot while we were watching, so we had to follow them a bit, but we were never more than a few meters from them. The whole experience was amazing!

The most exciting moment was when one of the silver backs started walking towards 4 of us. To start with, our guide was pushing us back with his arms, telling us to keep calm. When it got within a meter of us, he told us to sit down. At this point, I could have easily reached out and touched it. The gorilla then turned round, to pull over a small tree which it proceeded to eat from.  After ducking out of the way of the falling tree, we all posed for photos with the same gorilla who was happy just sitting there.

Gorrillas

Since the gorillas, we have been heading back East. After another night in Kisoro, and another night in Mbarara, Tonight we are in the same campsite in Entebbe which we stayed at on the first night.

The only  thing of particular interest during this journey back was crossing the equator. We stopped for lunch and when it stopped raining we took photos at the concrete circles which mark the line.
Equator

Kisoro

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008

After another driving day yesterday, we arrived in Kisoro in the afternoon. The town is quite small, but its only 11-12km to both the DRC and Rwanda borders. On the way we reached altitudes of 8000ft through very picturesque mountains.

Last night we had a few beers at the campsite and then a big group of us went to a bar recommended by a guy called Joseph who works at the campsite. The bar was vary small but had a pool table. We met lots of locals there and played a few games of pool. After the bar, 6 of us and a couple of locals continued to a club. The club was almost empty when we arrived, but soon filled up. I had a more beers, met more locals, had a great time and didn’t get back to the campsite until 4am!

Feeling slightly hungover this morning, I didn’t do much more than hang around the campsite and have a short wander into town. In the afternoon I took a walk up to the top of a nearby hill with Rick and Robin. The views were really good, despite being an unusually misty day.

Some people went to see the gorillas today. They got back while I was writing this post. They said it was awesome, but will save showing photos until after we have seen them. I can’t wait!

First day with the truck

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Last night I met up with my tour group for the rest of my trip. They all seem like nice friendly people. 14 guys and 14 girls. Lots of Aussies and Kiwis, a few Brits and a couple of Irish, including Cian, with whom I am sharing my tent. I am one of the youngest on the tour, which I am slightly surprised about because I thought there would be more pre-uni gap year travelers. Almost everyone here is traveling as a career break.

We met at the campsite in Entebbe, stayed there for the night and then drove to Kampala to pick up supplies. As Jez expected, we did this at Lugogo shopping mall which is 5 mins from his house. The same place I had been to earlier in the week.

We are now camping in Mbarara on our way down to see the gorillas in Rwanda. It was a long day of driving, but there was lots to see along the way, including zebra not far from the road.

Comments

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 🙂