Murchison Falls by bike, bus and boat.
Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
125Trip End Jun 12, 2006
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All the Ugandans seemed to go for a #1 haircut with the clippers and a nice shirt. I looked like a scruff in comparison with my uncombed hair (it's getting longish now!) and unkempt beard.
For the first hour of the ride we had a traveling salesman stood at the front of the bus trying to see a whole host of products from Aloe Vera malaria medicine to homeopathic toothache and ulcer products. He seemed to do a roaring trade.
Many of the adverts on the side of the road seemed to be for beer and gin products. The slogans for these seemed to go something along the lines of 'Great Night, Great Morning' or 'Number One Gin, No Hangover'. I'm not sure if they would have made it passed the censors in the West.
The scenery was very flat and we went from the green palms and bananas of Kampala to a dry arid bushy scrub to these lush long green expanses of sugar cane that seemed to stretch forever. In the dryer areas were cattle with the longest horns I'd ever seen.
Tall red termite mounds were also scattered everywhere. I thought I spotted these along the road from Entebbe airport but wasn't sure in the dark.
We stopped for a spot of lunch in Masindi and also to give the driver time to complete a quick wielding job under the bus. Nothing too serious I'm sure! The toilets I was pointed towards didn't look like they had been flushed for a whole year - I didn't hang around in there to powder my nose! I think during the whole bus journey and even over lunch I didn't see one person smoking. Uganda must certainly have a very low smoking population.
The afternoon bus ride was superb, we came over a small hill about mid-afternoon and were presented with Lake Albert and it's shores spread out in front of us. The bus took 10 hours altogether to reach Bulisa, about twice as long as my guidebook mentioned. One of the reasons was all the road works. At one point the road crew had placed truckloads of rubble in the middle of the road and left for the day. Our bus being so big had to drive over the edges of the piles. At one point after having a very strong feeling we were going to tip over all the locals screamed at the bus driver to stop the bus where they all proceeded to get off. At this point the driver and some passengers spend about and hour digging through the piles of dirt and flattening them so the bus could make it through!
From Bulisa I took a Boda Boda (back of a small motorbike), backpack and all about the thirty miles over dirt tracks of red clay to Paraa and the Red Chilli Rest Camp.
After paying the Boda Boda, accommodation and speaking to the rest camp owner about the price of safaris etc. I realized everything was about 3 times the price my Lonely Planet guidebook quoted. I'm not sure if this was a consequence of this place making it into the guidebook in the first place. Unfortunately I realized I wouldn't be able to do everything I wanted to do any would probably have to miss the game drive. After consoling myself over a Bells beer I got chatting to Darryl, Alan, Jessie and their driver Robert. They were over from Alaska and Alberta for in between 1 and 3 months to kayak in the town of Jinja, just where the White Nile flows out of Lake Victoria and one of the premier kayak and rafting destinations in the world. As luck would have it they had a spare place in their minibus and graciously offered to take me along with them. Jackpot!
My first full day in the park and it must have been one of highlights of my trip so far. Sara our guide took us out from 7am until 12pm on a game drive. A few of the things we saw include bushbuck, hartebeest, oribi, waterbuck, giraffe, vervet monkeys, lions, elephants, warthogs, hippos, buffalo and a whole host of interesting birds, including the interesting but ugly Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and the national bird, they Grey Crowned Crane - very cool looking. One of the bull elephants we surprised on the game drive decided to charge us in what was a bit of an adrenalin rush moment for us. Luckily our driver managed to hit reverse pretty quickly, although he nearly put us in the ditch at one point! Our guide mentioned if we were a small car we would have probably being overturned by the elephant!
That afternoon we did a boat ride out to the thundering Murchison Falls, described in my book as 'the most spectacular thing to happen on the Nile'. To me the highlight had to be the wildlife. Crocs, hippos bathing, elephants drinking - all close up. We also saw a whole bunch of birds such as herons, egrets, ibis, fish eagles and storks. One of the highlights had to be some clay cliffs where a lot of Northern Carmine Beaeaters and Pied Kingfishers nested. I had watched a BBC documentary on these nesting areas recently so it was good to see them for real.
All this safari business is hard work and after a couple of the local brews I was in bed by 9pm. Returning from the bathroom at 2am I was shocked to see a hippo outside my tent. These animals are considered the most dangerous and the biggest killers in Africa! I quickly went to the reception area where I informed the attendant. I felt sure I had saved the camp from certain carnage and saved plenty of people from the hippos imminent killing spree. I was informed that he was 'Harry the Hippo' and passed through most nights and basically told to stop been such a scaredy cat! The guy escorted me back to my tent but I have to admit it took me a while to get to sleep!
The next day to was down to Kaniyo Pabidi that was popular with people as you could do trekking to see Chimps. The campsite was fantastic, set in the middle of lush green jungle. The bandas (huts) we stayed in were spotless. Much more than I was expecting from a place in the jungle! The tanks for the outdoor showers were filled by hand and around the camp I spotted baboons and also plenty of butterflies.
I'd been told there was food at this place but we arrived to be told there was none. Andreas and Clara who I'd met were happy to borrow some cycles and head to the local village that was 5 miles down the road and pick up some supplies while I caught up on my journal and observed the baboons.
The noises made by the insects, birds and mammals early evening and into the night were deafening!