Uganda (Part 1)

Our first stop in Uganda is the town of Jinja, and so the blurb claims is the source of the Nile.  Rwanda also claim to have the source of the Nile and so does Burundi, but at Jinja is where the Nile leaves Lake Victoria.

Our guide book is six or so years old, a fact that does not worry us.  We rarely stay anywhere in the book as usually we find somewhere better and cheaper, and things change, places come places go, but the mountains stay, the pyramids stay, geographical features do not move or change.


We moved to a place down the road a bit to Bujagali Falls, to stay in a camp that is in our book, so that we could over the falls which are no longer there.  Bang goes my theory, it seems some fool has gone and built a hydroelectric power station downstream from here and has put the falls under water.


There used to be some falls shortly after the Nile leaves Lake Victoria, but they also have succumbed to the needs of electricity.  Later we are going to Murchinson Falls Park, I hope they are still there.


But first Kampala, there are a number of things we want to do and see in the city that has it all.  The roads in Kampala are dreadful, huge amounts of pot holes, some almost the width of the road, they are all deep, even the smaller ones, with everybody weaving about and bumper to bumper it difficult to see them, and on top of that the powers that be have the nerve to put in bloody great speed humps, with the amount of traffic and the holes nobody is going fast anyway.  We have abandoned any thoughts of doing our bits here, we are off to the North.


Murchinson Falls National Park, the first thing we need to do is go to the falls and see if they are waterfalls or power generators.  Thank God they are still waterfalls, and pretty impressive they are, as the river Nile is forced through a narrow gorge, the power is incredible.


Also this is a game park. unfortunately not as good as it used to be. Idi Amin in his wisdom ruined the Ugandan economy, frightened off any tourists, then, started to build a huge tourist lodge on the banks of the Nile, until the money ran out. Then in order to feed his army they had to go into the game parks and shoot their food.  Things got a lot worse after he started a war with Tanzania, as besides shooting Amin’s troops, the Tanzanians were also shooting the wild life.


But things are on the mend now, if a little difficult to find, we found herds of buffalo, giraffes, antelope and a host of exotic birds including the rare, elusive  and much sought after  ‘Shoebill’


Day two we went out of the North gate, and as we wended our way through the park a pair of grown lion cubs crossed the track in front of us, they then climbed a rock to survey us, and cavorted about as cubs do, we sat there watching and enthralled.


After leaving the park we went to see some more Nile falls, at Karuma, these were like huge rapids, this is our last look at the Nile as it flow North and we flow South,  and so to Misindi for a day off and check over the car.

When I got the extra spare wheel, I had to make one those gate thingy’s to go on the back to carry it,

that works a treat, but I did not make the latch strong enough, so I had to get that strengthened and welded a while ago.  But I am only an amateur not a professional vehicle manufacturer.

 The professionally made Toyota spare wheel carrier is underneath the back of the car, or should I say WAS underneath the back of the car.  It has gone, broke and gone, and my wheel with a brand new tyre gone with it, the tyre that I was saving, it has not yet even been on the road, well it is on the road now but not with me or my car.  Again I never liked the design of the carrier but I did not know what to do about it, but I am seriously thinking about it now.  I need something that is capable of handling the bumps that we go over.  Toyotas huh!


But first I have to try and find a wheel, and then a tyre, I have already been trying to get a tyre in two countries, and as to yet have not been able to get the right size.  Toyotas huh!


I may well have to consider Helen’s suggestion and take the easy, safe (ish) tarmac roads, and not do the interesting routes.

That said we went from Misindi to Fort Portal and that was a six hour drive on poorish dirt roads, at one point we went through a small town that had tarmac roads, but there were more holes than tar, it was in a lot worse condition than the rural dirt roads.


In Fort Portal I managed to get a second hand tyre for my remaining spare wheel, it was expensive, the wrong size and largely lacking in tread, but at least we have a workable spare wheel.  


Now we get on with our next plan, going to Semliki Game Reserve, unfortunately after a couple of heavy downpours the dirt road is not in the best of condition, so we were slipping and sliding about quite a bit, but using my amazing driving skills we managed to stay on the track, unlike a couple of locals. We came across someone who had slid into the ditch, after a bit of an exciting tow we managed to pull him out.  Helen was in her usual panic mode thinking he was going to turn over.


Later a vehicle was a bit awry, somehow the back axle was on the ground, leaving one rear wheel down a slope and the other wheel in the air, four people were trying to rock/push/drive the thing out of it’s predicament and totally without success, and along came international rescue and dragged him to safety.


You would think that people born and bred on these roads would be able to drive on them.


This park although highly praised seems to be in a bit of a flux, we managed to get away without paying the $150 foreign car fee, we used some of this money hiring a boatman to find the elusive shoebill, unfortunately the shoebill was more skilled at being elusive than our boatman was skilled at finding him.


On our way out of the park we came across a big articulated lorry in a precarious attitude, all the nearside wheels of the trailer had slid into the ditch, tipping the cab so it’s off side drive wheels were in the air.  No way was I going to try and pull that thing out, and he is a professional driver.  We camped at the northern end of the park, and were the only ones there, at the southern end is a very upmarket safari lodge, their tents have Persian carpets, four poster beds, the works.  We thought we would have a sneaky looksee, but they were closed.  We were the only customers in this highly praised park.


We also went to the Batwa pigmy village, unfortunately it was as disappointing as we expected it would be, the pigmies have always been at the bottom of the social scale in Uganda, (everybody looks down on them) and they do not have much in the way of stature to do manual labour, so now they spend much of their time trying to glean money from tourists.


Going South we visited some crater lakes and a swamp, did some bird watching, and then made our way to Queen Elizabeth National Park.  On the main road South there is a line across the road and big signs denoting the equator.  As this will be our last time crossing the equator this trip I thought we may share a bottle of warm sprite or something to celebrate, unfortunately we did not come down the main road we came in from a swamp and down very poor dirt roads and passing numerous delivery boys with seven or eight hands of bananas on their push bikes, pushing up hill, struggling to stop them running away down hill.  We also bypassed the white line and forgot about it for three days, too late now.  We stopped at Kasese to stock up for the park, the town was a bit of a dump, and not a lot of good for us.  It is definitely a good place to leave. 

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