crab, Cook Islands
crab, Cook Islands
  • Uganda 2
    • 04/09/2017
Camping tonight at a place (Red Chillies hostel) with a swimming pool and pandemonium about watching the new episode of game of thrones, not for me!

Next day a bit of a drive to arrive at the town of Kabale, the base for gorilla trekking - which I had decided not to do since it costs $500 for one of the limited daily permits. In retrospect I wish I had gone, especially since Rwanda has already increased the price to $1500 and Uganda will probably follow suit.

Everywhere you see people wearing old western t shirts with faded brand names and band logos, and football shirts from all over the world.... But i did not accept to see a kid in the old "orange" sponsored darlo shirt!

Next day was a visit to a local school/orphanage, involving much dancing and racing games with the children, and then a dip in the nearby lake Lake Bunyonyi, allegedly the second deepest lake in Africa, dotted with small islands with dubious histories.

The landscape of steep hills is intensively cultivated, terraced and furrowed by hand labour.
We also pass many quarries where men are working with pickaxes and hammers to break down the rock.
Brick manufacturing is popular, with numerous stacks of clay bricks built up with fires lit underneath to dry them out.
  • Uganda - Rafting and other stories
    • 28/08/2017
The scenery changes subtly as we round the northern side of lake Victoria, still very green, relatively flat, with groves of banana trees, and the countryside dwellings including more little round huts with mud and stick walls and thatched grass roofs.
A local family gives us a tour of their farm, where they grow enough to be self sufficiency and a surplus to sell and trade for what they don't produce. The many children want to hold hands, stroke arm hair and freckles, take photos and are generally as fascinated with us as we are with them, despite the fact that these tours happen every day! The kids also tug at the strings of white mans guilt, pleading for help with their school fees, a request you really want to help with, but not by giving them cash directly, especially when upon comparing notes it seems they haven't got their stories completely straight. The community we are staying in also contains a foreign sponsored school and clinic, as well as the hostel and rafting companies providing a load of jobs. Interestingly though this creates something of a local divide between those earning a wage and therefore not having time to farm their own food, and the subsistence farmers.

The day rafting on the Nile was fantastic. The river is not miles wide here but not a rocky canyon either, and has a series of grade 5 rapids separated by tranquil stretches, so falling out is not particularly problematic. The guides are all local, have competed internationally, and are genuinely hilarious. Our raft flipped a couple of times, which was almost certainly on purpose, but just adds to the excitement!
The rapids used to extend further, but hydro electric dam projects are changing the character of stretches of the river.
Uganda apparently exports the electricity to Kenya!

When it rains here it rains hard, and submerges parts of the road causing traffic chaos. By which I mean vehicles using the wrong side of the road, pavement etc, but somehow not creating loads of accidents - until this morning when an artic lorry has gone into the barrier and is hanging half off the dam bridge!

The campsite had a bar with sports TV, so was able to see the super hyped mayweather vs McGregor disappointment, and Liverpool spanking arsenal. Also had a massage to ease the rafting aches, and then a sunset booze cruise on the river, watching kingfishers, fish eagles and otters.
So hardly slumming it so far.
Local specialities include the "Rolex" a chipati pancake filled with your choice of meat, veg, or the ever popular banana and chocolate spread.
For our last evening in Jinja, a local lady named Happy cooked us a delicious multi dish meal, including plantain, black beans, cabbage, spinach, banana, and then stopped to chat in the bar which was hugely interesting and illuminating.

Uganda is half Muslim, creating divides between neighbours over the keeping of pigs.
It is common practice for a man to have multiple wives, who then vie for attention. Three is considered a sensible number.
Happy is an independent single mother and runs an orphanage. She mentions the children's excitement and fear of seeing a "proper" toilet for the first time and her embarrassment at being a country girl visiting Kampala for the first time and not knowing how automatic doors work.
Uganda is a Commonwealth country and English is taught in schools from an early age.
Many people have little money, but they are self sufficient and are generally happy, in contrast to our western wage slavery rest race, but the very real lack of clean water and healthcare dispels ideas of this being a utopian existence

Today the road continued to Kampala, through more towns with colourful buildings lining the roadside, hand painted as giant adverts for products, which don't necessarily relate to the businesses operating below, of which many are metal working, carpentry, motorbike parts, and as we reach the city, more frequent electronic stores.
The finished goods on display look fantastic, wrought iron gates, wooden bedsteads, sofas, despite the craftsman visibly working with rudimentary tools.
The motorbikes are exclusively one model of Honda, which I guess makes the maintenance and spare parts industry a lot simpler!
In Kampala we stop at a mall for supplies, a surreal oasis with metal detectors to get into the supermarket, and products imported from everywhere - but certainly not cheap.
Long driving day tomorrow!
  • Kenya onto Uganda - First Big Game of the season
    • 25/08/2017
Last few days have involved game walks and drives, ticking off close encounters with zebra, giraffe, buffalo, monkeys, baboons, impala, flamingo, and from a longer distance, black rhino and lion.
It seems a bit surreal to have all these large beasts wandering around and paying us no attention whatsoever - apart from the baboons, one of which raids the van in front, climbing through the open roof to steal a bag of peanuts, in what was a rather traumatising episode for those involved! No permanent scarring though, and a lesson to heed the signs!
The weather has been pleasant temperatures, sunny/cloudy during the day, with brief and moderately heavy rain late in the afternoon.
So far though have been at fairly high altitude, around 2000m, so we'll see if things change in Uganda.
The truck is great, surprisingly comfy despite the potholed roads, and a fun bunch of people, all professionals with a similar history of wanderlust, between the group probably every corner of the globe has been covered!
The seats on the truck face inward with a big space in the middle so its easy to move about, and the side windows are tarp which roll up out of the way for better visibility.
We have been driving through gorgeous lush green farmland, with the ruddy red soil, interspersed with towns where colourful shops and stalls flank the main road, offering every product and service, with many locals giving a smile and a wave....
In between the towns, people wash clothes in and fetch water from the rivers, carrying tubs on their heads, between fields of corn, rice, and unidentified.
The road is a surprisingly good surface - so far - obviously a few potholes, no markings, and an interesting variety of traffic, including lots of bicycles and tuctucs, and a seemingly random interspersion of actual speedbumps.
Next Uganda, white water rafting etc!


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