Chimps, National Parks and lush landscapes of Uganda (East Africa: Part 2)
Moving onwards from the amazing animals in Kenya I headed to Uganda. Uganda is definitely worth the wait as you cross the border. Keep your head down; get through to see some amazing landscapes and animals.
First thing you’ll probably see is Uganda’s capital city – Kampala. This city was possibly the most outwardly opposite city I’ve seen. On one side you have high rises and perfect roads, the other side you have dirt tracks, a railway that acts as a path and slums, where people live in tin sheds (or less) and prepare their dinner on dirt while toddlers happily play nearby. It’s heartbreaking.
Leaving the sadness behind I ventured to Kibale Forest, where chimpanzees roam free. They play high amongst the trees and scurry along the ground. The sound they make is incredible. It is high pitched and you could almost think they are terrified they make so much noise, yet they just seem to be talking to each other. The outfit worn to track chimps isn’t a pretty one, but there is a good reason for the waterproof trousers and knee-high rugby socks… ants.
Heading to Queen Elizabeth National Park you start to realise how far away from home you are. I’ve never physically crossed the equator and its pretty neat to be able to do so through travelling such a large continent by overland transport. Heating up towards the equator I ventured on a boat trip. Gazing down from above on a high cliff was a lion keeping an eye on everything. Meanwhile, in the water the hippos are having fun, with the odd play fight and cleaning each other on the shore or just lazing about. Cruising along, an elephant glides out of the lake with a fifth leg (don’t ask me to explain).
Seeing these wild animals roaming at their leisure meant that Queen Elizabeth National Park was definitely great for animal spotting if you had a keen eye to watch out for them. It wasn’t always easy to see them up-close but it was still a great experience when you did see them relatively close.
Camping in Africa was beginning to seem a lot easier than I had first expected. Yes I come from New Zealand where many think we live in the bush and run around in grass skirts (this is a lie I swear), I personally had not been camping since I was a child. So having tents that were free of bugs was a nice surprise for me. I even handled cold showers and drop toilets (or holes in the ground) relatively well. That was until there was no water at one of our campsites. Then became the time of showering every second day or so and trying to not use the bathroom unless you were really desperate. I do have to say on leaving Africa the thing I was most looking forward to was a toilet with a seat.
Back to Uganda though. Lake Bunyonyi was next on the cards, an incredibly deep lake surrounded by bush where we stayed in cabin/tent structures (one thing that got me through camping was often the upgrades that you could pay for to avoid putting up a tent in the rain if you weren’t too concerned about the possibility of bedbugs). This camping ground was in a beautiful landscape, high up in the mountains. The drive there was very beautiful and scenic if you excuse the rock quarry that was home to child labour that we drove past.
However, there were happier things to see as I passed through Uganda…
Uganda is a lovely country even if it did have its sad points. Like Kenya, the animals seem so free and happy as do the people as they continued to wave at our truck everywhere we went. My journey returned to Uganda a few days later where I found the guts to bungy jump over the Nile River and white water raft on grade 3-5 rapids. I’m pretty sure I’m lucky to be alive after that day!
Prior to the return to Uganda I headed into more lush green pastures and the rolling hills of Rwanda. Next week I’ll tell you about Rwanda and the highlight of my East African trip – meeting some incredibly strong furry and friendly beasts.
Until then if you’d like to see more of my Uganda photographs check out the photo gallery here »
Or, if you’d like to find out about the East Africa book I published earlier this year – a preview and purchase details of ‘Footprints through East Africa’ can be found here »