Hippos and warthogs

Trip Start Aug 31, 2005
Trip End Aug 25, 2006

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Flag of Uganda  ,
Thursday, December 1, 2005

After a brief stopover in Kampala (a lovely city by the way!) we headed to our first national park, Queen Elizabeth National Park in the west of the country. In Kampala there was once again political unrest as the leader of the opposition was arrested and court martialled for rape and citing civil unrest - once again riots are following us around the continent!

It was an effort to get to the park as no there was no public transport and everyone told us we'd have to hire a car. No way we were going to do that, and several minibuses later, we eventually made it into the park. The park costs $20 per day for park entry... a small fortune to us on light budgets, so we decided to stay only one night.

We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the fenced off area of the park looking for cheap accomodation, to no avail (though we were offered the floor of the camp director's room to sleep on!). The area we were allowed to walk was limited, but we had plenty of chance to see mongeese, storks and warthog, wandering around to their hearts content. We tried to eat cheaply, but it was a disaster, so ended up heading up to the posh safari lodge for our second meal that night! The lodge had fantastic views overlooking the main river of the park.

We were up bright and early the next morning for our "Walking tour" - the cheapest of the options available to us. We met our guide Bernard at 7am and headed off over the plains. Bernard was very friendly and knowledgeable, pointing out water buck, kobs and numerous birds and other animals along the way. The tour took us along a plateau and down to Lake Albert (the otherside was Congo!!), along the lake, then back up the other side. We were on a very tight schedule - we had a 9am appointment with some Christian missionaries and a boat!

At 8.59.58 (I kid you not), running most of the way, arrived at the boat, ready for our river cruise. We had met a bunch of 6 missionaries (Sports Ministry - so they say!) the day before when we were trying to find the best and cheapest way to see the most wildlife. They had to leave at lunchtime and so had to book (and pay for) the boat exclusively that morning, and invited us along to share some of the cost. The boat ride was 2 hours, and took us up the river, past countless crocs, hippos, water buffalo, lizards, and even the odd fishing village. We had a great time spotting all the wildlife we could through my binoculars.

We expected leaving the park to be a difficult task - there was no public transport, our boat cruise finished at 11am and our park permit expired at 1pm. We had asked around the night before looking for people leaving the park that lunchtime who could give us a lift to no avail. So at 11am, we lept off the boat and up to the exit barrier. The guardman let us sit in a tree near the exit, and we jumped up at the sound of any approaching vehicle to beg a lift. The first vehicle, a dozer, came along in minutes. The driver wanted to give us a lift but was heading in the opposite direction. 2 minutes later, a 4WD came along and before we could even ask, offered us a lift of most of the way we wanted to go! Bonus! We jumped onto the back of the 4wd and escaped the park.... We got dropped at a village town and from there had to catch a 'taxi' to Mbarara. It was the first of our Ugandan taxi experiences - 9 people crammed into a Toyota Corolla! 5 in the back (us included), 1 in the passenger seat, one on the handbrake, another in the drivers seat, and the driver squeezed by the door! Another interesting African experience!!
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