I have just returned after 6 days on the road, driving a big loop around Western Uganda from Kampala to Fort Portal, the Rwenzori Mountains, Kasese, Queen Elizabeth National Park, over Mbarara, Masaka and the Equator to Kampala. In company with 5 great people; Peter from Argentina, stationed in Yei, Beatriz from Spain stationed in Moyo, Erik from Denmark stationed in Kajo Keji, Kristina from USA stationed in Kajo Keji and her boyfriend Tinga from Kampala. All with a big need for getting away and not discussing work. We succeeded. It went like this:
We stayed the first night in Lake Nkuruba Community and Reserve Camp - a stop on the Kibale Forest Road, where Beatriz and Eric went on a chimpanze trek the next morning.
In spite of the complete darkness and lack of power we still made a 4-5 hour party to the tones of the Ipod. We scared the hell out of the German tourist group, got the askari a little tipsy, and Peter made the maids from kitchen forget about shyness and move on the dancefloor. The two latinos seemed to dominate the choice of music and the dancefloor. I guess it is either the Latino self confidence regarding physical expression or the fact that they are stuck in Yei and Moyo on everydays. When I tried to do it the day after, something went wrong.
We went to Ndali Lodge for lunch and hung out around the newly build pool the rest of the afternoon. The view is breathtaking, the interior and style cosy, and the food good. It was time for a rest - before a night out in Fort Portal. Fortunately, I have no photos from this night out, 'cause I have been told that I drank a lot UG waragi, made strange gestures (which might have been while trying to dance African style), and insisted on driving around Fort Portal on a boda boda. It was my luck that the big Argentinian authomatically switches to big brother behaviour when needed.
I had two sets of breakfast and a coke, and killed my hangover. Then we did the obligatory tourist sightseeing and went to the Toro Kingdom Palace on the hill above Fort Portal. And then the king was 'away in secondary school in Kampala...!' Well, he is only 15! Didn't prevent my fellow travellers to ask a lot of questions as in 'can he decide who he wants to marry?' and 'What does he do when he is home?'
We then drove from Fort Portal to the Rwenzori Mountains, and accommodated at the Ruboni Community Camp Site (bandas on the photos). BEAUTIFUL place! lush green forests, clean, rivers and very friendly people with a pride in the effort they had put into this place. The kitchen cooked great food. They even had power! I will write a special article on this one later.
We went trekking! The route went from an altitude of 1700 m to 2700 m over 6,4 km. Through lush, thick , green forest, along a busy river, with a view to the Rwenzori Peaks. When the guide declared that we have reached half way of the one way up hill - 3,2 km - the three of us decided to stay and wait for the rest to reach the 6,4 km and return. I tell you, it felt as if we had walked the triple amount of km.
We talked for 3 hours, rested at the river, cooled in the mountain water and sunbathed. Amazing - this feeling of being (well only 3,2 km away from civilisation) in nowhere, outside everything, in this huge Ugandan forest with massive trees, butterflies and animal sounds. I sent a thought to Mabira Forest.
Every part of my body hurt when we finally got down (and it still does). << This is what those ones of the Danish Refugee Council looked like on return.
We drove from the Rwenzori National Park to Queen Elizabeth National Park. We passed the equator, where the Argentinian decided that he preferred that the Europeans moved over to the northern side in order for himself to be photographed on the 'right' side.
Then we went through the dozy town of Kasese, searching for an ATM and a place to buy cigarettes. Strange town. But I liked the setting almost on a savannah plain at the foot of the hills. Looked very South African/Tanzanian to me.
On arrival to Mweya Lodge we were greeted with a 'Welcome back!', though I have never been there before. - One of the funny things about living in a small African country with 21 other Danish colleagues driving a red car with a logo. Mweya is luxurious, and well, comfortable.
I also found myself saying yes, though I knew I was going to fall asleep, to a boat ride on the channel between the lakes, which is nice, but absolutely nothing to Murchinson Falls and the River Nile. I.e. in QE you must wear life wests and you are told to balance the boat (which Peter was fully qualified to do after having dined on the lunch buffet to an extent which would make any northern Ugandan/Sudanese workshop participant envious). Imagine being the only tourists sleeping on a guided tour, while all the rest move around expressing themselves in constant exclamation marks when they see another hippo.
I am back in Kampala after 9 hours on the road (and I am only composing this out of honest obligation to my readers after having been off line for several days). It was a whole new experience to see this part of Uganda. I knew before that northern Uganda was deprived and messed up, but to see the difference is another thing. No tukuls for instance. We met very few international NGO cars, and I guess they were in many cases people like ourselves on holiday. People live in iron sheet houses, there are big hospitals, schools, tarmac roads, huge banana plantations and even Kampala International University has a branch in this area. I heard that the president is from this area. No wonder. Or what what?