Sunday, 1 February 2015

... Gorillas in the Mist: The Jewel of the Nile

The past two nights haven't been the greatest sleep-wise and trying to sleep on a truck driving crap roads, which have potentially given me whiplash, is no mean feat. Also add the combination of being too hot to the variety of noises heard during the night. At Bunyonyi it was a howling dog... I wanted to throw it in the lake and I'm an animal lover! Back at Red Chilli, Kampala, this morning the church bells were going off well before 6am. Well, it is a Sunday after all, however I wished the wannabe Quasimodo would bugger off. No amount of ear plug/covers over head was going to truly dampen either of those noises.

Yesterday I was up at 5 and packing the tent & hauling it up a couple of flights of steep stone steps before having a quick breakfast. We wanted to get on the road early in a bid to try and avoid the Kampala traffic again as we spent another night at Red Chilli. The views during the drive were.... Interesting. First up were the coffins being made and sold on the roadside. I guess you can never be too well prepared and now you needn't worry with the ease of drive-thru funeral arrangers! Next there was the tall naked Ugandan in the middle of a field. I'm going to hazard a guess that perhaps he was bathing himself. You can apparently get away with being naked in a field in these parts because no-one batted an eyelid. Whereas back home you would attract the attention of the boys in blue pretty quickly. I was half tempted to wave.....

Traffic in Kampala was, as predicted, nuts on both days. People this time were driving on the wrong side of the road and headed straight for us. May be Sunday is a day where anything goes? Thankfully I was sat up high in a huge truck so really never had anything much to worry about. I think what concerned me about the entire experience was those in their little chicken chaser-Toyotas didn't seem worried either.

Camp for the next few nights is at the Nile River Explorers in Jinja. Jinja is the second largest town in Uganda, after Kampala, and is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, near to the, often hotly contested, source of the (White) Nile River. The nearby Owen Falls Dam regulates the flow of the White Nile and generates electricity. You are not allowed to take any photos on or anywhere near the Dam nor are you allowed to stop. The actual "source" of the Nile was the Ripon Falls now submerged after the construction of the Owen Falls Dam. Englishman John Hanning Speke was accredited with the discovery in 1862 as the first European to locate the source at Ripon Falls, however in 2010 an exploration party went to the source of the Rukarara tributary giving a new length of the Nile believe to be 4199 miles. It is still not agreed upon which is the most distant source, Lake Victoria has feeder rivers of considerable size and some still believe it to be in either Rwanda or Burundi.

The White Nile offers grade 5 white water rafting. I've been told, should I wish, that I can partake in that tomorrow either in a white water raft or in a kayak. I have to admit the thought of every upper body muscle aching and swallowing half the Nile isn't really appealing to me, having already white water rafter I think I would rather do another activity. But it is certainly popular amongst those that stay here as well as options to horse ride, quad bike, mountain bike, kayak (on calmer waters), SUP, village walks and volunteering.

A Nile sunset cruise certainly seemed like a tamer idea after watching a member of my group enter the Nile alternatively, courtesy of the "Flying Fox" zip line (he admittedly screamed like a girl but it was hilarious to watch). I would have entertained the idea but my rib cage is still really sore from the water polo accident and holding onto a bar really hurts. You have a considerable amount of hillside to clear before you are overwater and I've no desire to face plant into solid earth. I did go into the water for a quick swim to try and escape the heat then of course began worrying about schistosomiasis. A quick shower "with a view" (meaning the front side of it was open) over the river was a better way to get wet in my humble opinion. I chose the "waterfall" themed shower and it literally was just like that.

The cruise was about 2hrs in length and there was a bar and appetizers for the duration ($45USD all inclusive with a considerable discount if you're signed up to one of their rafting excursions). It was a great place to be if you're an avid birder and some of the species seen included: great cormorants, long-tailed cormorants, African darters, several species of heron & egret, several birds of prey including fish eagles and some vulture species, swifts, moorhens, jacanas, greater-painted snipe, malachite kingfishers and pied kingfishers, to name but a few (posters were on the boat to assist you). I also got to see two river otters frolicking around. No signs of Kathleen Turner or Michael Douglas however.....

 $45 was a little steep if you're not a meat eater or looking to drink (and I wasnt to either) but the sunset was, of course, stunning with a vast array of red, orange and gold before night finally fell. This kind of made it worth the price tag.

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