Uganda

First stop after crossing the Rwanda/Uganda western border at Cyanika was a fairly new and pleasant campsite at a place called Muko Campsite at the northern end of the lovely Lake Bunyoni.

(Co ordinates lost but the campsite is in Tracks for Africa). We were the only campers and the evening was spent around the campfire with the manager Phillip, his wife Connie and 1 year old daughter Blessing with them telling us about life in Uganda. Ugandans have been a fairly friendly and talkative lot in general we have found. Their country is very green and tropical (except for the Queen Elizabeth NP savanna) and nearly as hilly and beautiful as Rwanda. They say if you plant a walking stick in the ground in Uganda, it will grow! Rainfall is in excess of 1500mm per annum – and we experienced some heavy downpours. (Tin Can kept up to Landrover form and leaked water onto our feet through the windscreen/dash)!

Next day we stopped off in the larger town of Kabale for some fruit and vegetables at the market and to try and find an ATM that actually worked with Visa and then hit a fairly rugged road north towards Kihihi and the Queen Elizabeth National Park. (Incidentally, we have found that Mastercard is virtually unusable in both Rwanda and Uganda – but Stanbic and Barclays Banks accept Visa. Just as well we have both)! The road from Kabale to QENP had miles of bulldust of talcum powder consistency interspersed with washaways where it had been raining and was reminiscent of Australia’s Northern Territory bulldust. Fine dust got into everything. Beautiful mountainous and green scenery though. Furthermore, our air-conditioning in Tin Can suddenly stopped working for no good reason. (Don’t know if its too much dust or a coolant leak or electrical fault? We will have to wait until servicing in Nairobi to find out)? I hate anything complex and electrical after our 3rd inverter!

We were tired as we entered the Queen Elizabeth Nationa PArk (QENP) and headed 15 kms to Ishasha River Camp on the Congo border. We were the only campers in a lovely site with two guards with AK47’s to guard us all night! GPS S00*36”780’ E 29*39”530’. Previously a year or two ago they have appaerntly had trouble with nasties coming across the river from the DRC it would seem- as well as lions and other dangerous animals about? Josef the “askari” guard even insisted on coming along with his AK47 when I had a shower to keep watch outside and be sure I dried my toes! Good guys actually, one had been a ranger since the 1980’s, but we had to feed them and they talked (quietly) at the fire next to us all night. Their murmuring voices mingled with the sound of hyenas and hippos blundering around and lions roaring in the distance to cause a fairly fitful night.

Ishasha area is famous for its tree climbing lions (the only type in Africa other than a few at Lake Manyana in Tanzania that can climb trees- to escape the biting Tsetse flies apparently), but despite a few hours the next morning cruising the tracks through the bush along the river along the DRC border, we saw no lions in trees or on the ground in fact. Plenty of Ugandan Kob antelope, which were a new species for us and monkeys. On returning to camp we met a f young Dutch doctor and his partner (Joris and Miathe) traveling in a Toyota Landcruiser from Amsterdam in Holland to Cape Town. We chatted much about information to the north of us and the south of them.

In the afternoon we drove 100kms along a gravel road to Mweya in the north of the QENP where we camped on a hill next to a grand old lodge where Queen Elizabeth stayed in 1954 and after whom the Park was renamed. Great view at Mweya across Lake George and the ranger Tobias chatted for hours to us that night about the animals. Elephants and warthogs trotted past the camp as we talked, but not the lions he told us are always there!

We did some more game spotting the next morning around a part of QENP which was very beautiful around old volcanic craters and with plenty of bird life (including the Grey Crowned Crane the Ugandan national bird on their coat of arms). We crossed the Equator in the north of the Park and then when our permit expired at 3.00pm, headed South East towards Kampala on a fairly good tar road for once.

We were expecting to camp at a place in the largish town of Mbarara called Agip Motel, but on getting there late in the day, it was a pit – and also going to be noisy that Friday night with the usual loud weekend African music and drums? So we moved on – wondering where we were going to stay for the night when amazingly another Landrover Defender overtook us with 3 young white people aboard. When we all stopped a bit later on to let one person off and had a chat, it turned out that the driver, Chris, was setting up a new lodge near Lake Mburu NP some 10 kms to the south and he invited us to camp on his property. Chris proudly showed us around his lodge under construction called Rwakobo Rock GPS S 00*31”702’ E 31*00.022’ It is going to be great when it is finished. Magnificent view from the kopje it is built upon across the hills with eventually 8 pretty luxurious rooms all with a view.

There was also a tame bushbuck, Ug and a baby waterbuck keeping us company as we camped on the building site. His lodge is not really geared to campers, but will be mid range luxury accommodation at $80pppn when it opens in December. A good spot though with magnificent views.

Next morning was an easy 3-hour 250km cruise along a mostly very smooth road into the capital Kampala –where we headed for the well known Backpackers Lodge and Camp which has been run by an Australian for some 18 years. Driving in Kampala traffic was an exciting business! There is no such thing as traffic lanes, traffic lights, stop streets or any known road rules! More like a dodgem alley. But it was an interesting challenge and we hit (or were hit) by nothing in the 3 days there whilst finding the new Forest Mall with a Shoprite supermarket to stock up in, sort out our MTN Internet data sim card, which wasn’t working and finding a place to get a new inverter. One of the workers at Backpackers called Moses kindly drove with me one morning to a solar panel repair shop to have them look at our inverter. (Turned out, as expected, that it was unfixable without spare circuit boards they didn’t have). We ended up having to spend yet another $390 on inverter #3.

This time an 800w Dutch made model which looks fairly robust and hopefully will last the rest of the trip)?

After deciding not to try for Ethiopian and Sudanese visas in Kampala as we had heard from Swedes Chris & Mia that they had just got theirs in Nairobi without trouble, nor to buy new tyres for Tin Can yet as they are apparently cheaper in Kenya, we headed East towards the Nile River at Jinja in eastern Uganda. (As an aside, we camped next to an Austrian couple in Kampala traveling south in a Defender who had Cooper Discover Mud Terrain tyres which were coming apart at the sidewalls with long cracks after only 10,000kms?

He was most upset as he couldn’t make a warranty claim in Uganda and was up for $1,500 for new tyres)! Methinks we won’t get Cooper tyres in Nairobi but will stick to the pricier BF Goodrich AT?
Jinja is an attractive town on the banks of the Nile. We stayed at Nile River Camp GPS  which is very nice with a pool, bar and excellent restaurant on the Nile some 8kms North of Jinja. Run by South Africans – and even has hot showers that work and a swimming pool! There were a lot of young backpackers in Jinja and the River Camp doing things like whitewater rafting and canoeing on the Nile as well as paintball fighting.

After two days at Jinja catching up on chores like blogging and washing, we bade Uganda fair well and headed to the Kenyan border at Totoro and the road to Eldoret and Lake Nakuru. We liked Uganda a lot despite its general air of disorder and chaos (especially in Kampala) and would recommend a visit to anyone. There was never any threat or problem that we were aware of- quite the contrary with locals trying to be very helpful and friendly. It is a green and tropical country with interesting scenery and generally OK roads.

We crossed the border into Kenya at Mabale uneventfully despite a “fixer” who helped us uninvited through the process and was annoyed that he only got $5 for his pains rather than $10! Those guys annoy me! We paid our $40 Kenya road tax and $50 Visa costs and were in! Let’s hope Kenya (and particularly Nairobi {or “Nairobbery” as its known} with its reputation for crime) can be as pleasant as Uganda?….

If you want to go on your own adventure through Africa, you might want to have a look at 4×4 hire to find the best vehicle for your adventure.

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