Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Pearl of Africa INDEED

Three days after we flew down to south Uganda for a break, we started a 6-day long holiday with some American friends, Travis & Kelsey Harris. Travis is a pilot with AIM Air who is stationed in Entebbe for the next three months. We headed out at 8am, driving west towards a town called Fort Portal. The roads were some of the best we've seen in Uganda, rivaling an American highway. Five hours later we set our eyes on Fort Portal for the first time. The first night we stayed at a campground called CVK Resort. It is located on one of the crater lakes in the area, Lake Nyabikere. Although a beautiful setting, the resort boasted more in the advertisements than it could really offer. The owners of the resort told us to watch out for a hippo that liked to roam around the crater lakes. While taking a walk that evening, we learned from some locals that the hippo had not been spotted in five years. It was a good story though. We slept well that night. The one thing we remembered distinctly of our experience there was that the frogs & crickets were making almost deafening music all evening.

The next morning after the continental breakfast (stale bread with yummy marmelade, egg of our choice, banana, and coffee/tea), we took a bumpy road to another area of Fort Portal. The day was gray and mists covered the lake. We were planning on spending the day in Fort Portal after we had dropped our bags off at the next hotel. We arrived at Mountains of the Moon hotel to find that we didn't want to leave. The hotel was a cozy and posh environment with lots of activities to choose from on the grounds. We relaxed by the pool, tried out a steam room, and drank tea while reading and watching the Rwenzori Mountains in the distance.

The next morning we were headed south towards a town called Kasese. Before reaching our next lodge we wanted to hike some in the Rwenzori Mountains. You can see them in the above picture. They actually have snowy peaks that were named by the Italians back in the day. After thirty minutes on another bumpy road and many staring Ugandans, we found a forestry office that could offer us a guided tour. They usually offer seven-day tours to tourists who want to reach the peak of Mt. Stanley (peak is called Margharita). We opted to hike three hours that day through a rain forest filled with fertile plants, exotic flowers, and just a few monkeys. The ground was wet and slippery as we were hiking near a rushing river. The guide told us that this particular area got about 250 cm of rain a year. I learned that our park guide, Solomon, has moved far away from his home village & family in order to keep his job and send money home. Sadly, this is the story of many Ugandans.

After leaving the Rwenzori's, we headed towards the Kingfisher Lodge. Before reaching it, we spotted a typical tourist trap....the equator sign. :)

The next two days would be spent at Queen Elizabeth National Park. It's a game park where birds and animals can be seen roaming freely. We drove for hours, spotting herds of cape buffalo, elephants, kob, warthogs around every corner, guinea fowl in the road, water buck & the spotted bush buck, one baboon staring at us from his tree perch, and a forest hog who was almost our dinner. He ran in front of our vehicle at top speed. We also enjoyed scenic views of crater lakes & valleys. After a dusty game drive, we decided to spend our afternoon on a river boat exploring the channel where some of the animals relaxed. The highlight of this trip was watching buffalo and hippos play together. We even spotted a baby hippo learning to swim. We passed a fishing village while on this tour and the villagers stared back at us as if we were the show. A boat full of burned muzungus in floppy hats with big cameras was probably a sight to behold.

The last two days of our trip were spent at Lake Bunyonyi, even farther south near the Rwandan border. I was tired of riding in a car by this time. We stayed at Bunyonyi Overland Resort which was located right on the lake. Our lodging was in tents, seated on platforms, elevated on stilts overlooking the lake. The view was spectacular from our tent and the weather was nice and crisp as we had drove up in elevation to get to the resort. The chilly nights reminded us all of Christmas weather. It was hard to get out of our warm beds at night to use the outdoor restrooms. We tried canoeing without success. The canoes were homeade dug-outs and ours kept turning in 360 degree circles. It was quite frustrating. It was even more frustrating to see the fishermen going out successfully in these canoes. A treat that we enjoyed at this resort was crayfish at dinner. They caught it fresh in the lake. We did have some unfortunate encounters at this campsite. The employees kept trying to overcharge us. We had to continually ask for receipts so we could see they were being honest. When we went canoeing, the guy informed us it would cost about $5. We agreed and went out and paid him when we came back. We then asked our friends if they had paid the same and they informed us it was only $2. We immediately went to the guy and asked for change, which he gave with a smirk. Terrill tried to talk with the manager of the campsite soon after the incident and the manager just shrugged off Terrill's concerns. This also happened to us quite frequently at meal times. The waiters claimed that they couldn't add right. They even asked for our help in adding the bill. We had a feeling that all the employees were in on some kind of scam. Needless to say, we probably won't return to that particular campsite for that particular reason.

So, this concludes our holiday. We had a long drive back to Entebbe but were excited to arrive home on the 24th and rest from travelling.


Nick said...

That sounds like a great trip. Sorry I've been away from your blog lately. With everything going on it has kind of slipped my mind to check in. In the future I plan to do a better job because I enjoy your updates a lot.

Jennie said...

Love your pictures!!!!