Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Uganda - national parks and the Nile

There's more of Uganda to see before we head back to Nairobi and today our destination is Queen Elizabeth National Park. It's a longish drive so another early start and more bad roads - all par for the course by now. We're at the park early enough to trial the prototype GDVU, ie, the Game Drive Viewing Unit - the "box" on the roof of the overland truck that is possibly more commonly used to transport backpacks. The main outing today though is a cruise on the Kizongi Channel that runs between Lakes Albert and George. It's great, lots of birds, buffaloes bathing, distant elephants, and hippos which are anything but distant. In fact the boat actually hits one which provokes a flurry. We repair to the GDVU for a late afternoon drive, this time with the enhancements of our sleeping mattresses, a Masai shuka rug and some cold beers. It's a great place from which to spot the wildlife, the only thing is that there doesn't seem to be any! Still, the temperature is perfect, and it's a lovely way to finish the day. We are camping next to Lake George; it's a very simple campsite and also really beautiful, but buggy.

Twin equator photos - we crossed it in both Kenya and Uganda.

The next day's drive is all the way back to Kampala - it's another long one, and as we're retracing our steps it's fairly predictable. We get some good group photos at the Equator sign, and are back at Red Chilli camp round 8pm. Evans and Peter whip us up a carbo-laden dinner of pasta, potatoes and veg to fuel us for tomorrow's white water rafting outing on the Nile (or the Neel, according to Volker).
Our day of adventure starts at the sadly predictable time of 5am, mostly so we don't get caught up in Kampala's awful traffic. As a result we arrive in Jinja early. The rafting trip is $95US each, and a fantastic day out. We get a cooked breakfast, transport to the river, all our gear, a bit of lunch on board and a great bbq at the end of the day. If that wasn't enough, they also throw in a couple of beers or sodas each. I had been a bit apprehensive about this, but it was the best fun. Henry our guide did a great job of guiding us through the grade 5 rapids, and keeping us afloat. The day was warm and sunny, and there are long spells of flat water where it's possible to swim. Perfect. The day ended with a soapy dip in the Nile, that great bbq dinner, and then a few beers in the bar where we watched our antics on the DVD that had been made for us.

After all this activity, there's no way we're up at 5am, and we're treated to a lie in till 7, and then chapati stuffed with fried egg for breakfast. Today's drive is all the way back to Kenya, so another border crossing, and the drive over the Rift Valley escarpment, to Lake Nakuru, where we camped on the first night. We will stay here for two nights, always a luxury as it means not having to pull down the tent. In the morning, we are eventually enticed out of bed and into a minivan for a game drive in the National Park. We see a couple of heavily branded landrovers - it's the BBC/National Geo support crew for Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor's "Long Way Down" motorcycle trip from John O'Groats to Cape Town, popping into Nakuru for some flamingo footage. The park is lovely again, and while it's meant to have cats, it's a bit hard to believe when there are mown picnic areas and school kids playing about.

The very well supplied Long Way Down team, supporting Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor as they motorbike their way through Africa.

The next day it's back to Nairobi, not such a long drive but a little bit sad to be leaving our travelling companions who have been such good company. Five of us get together for dinner in the evening at Trattoria - a fantastic Italian restaurant in the heart of Nairobi. Volker is flying back to Germany tonight; Patrick & Beatriz are off to the Serengeti & Ngorongoro for a "private safari" tomorrow, and we are off to the Masai Mara, with Jocky Tours.

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