Today it was time for a safari again, yay!!!!. We were up early this morning to depart and caught a simple breakfast of toast from the kitchen at Red Chili but that wasn’t the plan. Last night we had met an Irish guy and his son (James and Josh) who suggested grabbing breakfast at a small grocery store down the street – highly reccommending their yogurt. A plan was set that we would meet to walk down together at 6:45 am. So we were up, dressed, packed and Lindsay got her big tube of art stored somewhere at Red Chili before our meeting time. I stayed with the bags while Amber, James, Josh, and Lindsay walked down for the tasty yogurt. Turns out the store wasn’t opened yet so they all trudged back into Red Chili wanting some food, hence the toast.
After the little breakfast we all met outside to meet our driver and were given the prep speech from another staff person regarding our itinerary and what all to expect for the next 3 days. Then we met Nole, our friendly yet reserved driver, and we all climbed into our safari vehicle. This time it was a van, kind of in the peace wagon style, that held 7 or 8 in the back and if needed another up front and then the driver. It of course had a pop top roof so I was looking forward to riding along looking out that again. A few introductions later we were off and driving through Kampala. It was a nice drive because we got to see more of the city from a safe space and we would not have gotten that opportunity otherwise. Kampala is big, as I’ve mentioned before, but has a lot of separate communities that are more like separate cities since you really wouldn’t have to leave as everything you need is there.
After the very interseting, dirty, and dusty ride through Kampala we made it out of the city going North and started the extremely long trip along a rather straight but well paved highway. We drove for about 3 hours passing a ton of greenery, it’s rainy season here right now, and we even watched some sort of foot race going on. There was a lot of rather professional looking runners with support vehicles making their way along the highway going towards Kampala. A few other racers looked more like they were in it just to see if they could do it, but regardless it seemed like an important event for the locals around where we were. We all chatted a lot in the van about where we were from and differences around the world and it was very eye opening to see how Europe feels about other places, such as Britain, and what vast differences in culture there are, even within some small countries such as Switzerland. Our fellow safari mates were two guys from the french part of Switzerland in their 40s, Nicola and Allan, our new found friend from South Africa, Amber, and our Deutschlander, Anya. Eventually we made it to the town of Masindi.
Here we stopped for snacks, bathroom break at the restaurant on the corner, and if you wanted shopping at the craft stores across the street. These craft stores seemed to magically open about 5 minutes after white people arrive in town; word travels fast by cell phone in Africa. There were some nice things in the craft shop, but we couldn’t really carry much with the backpacks and we were not wanting to spend what they wanted, although in hindsight we should have. There was a little “grocery store” or “supermarkets” as they call them, even though there is nothing “super” about a 10 foot by 8 foot store, beside the craft store where Nole told us to go pick up some snacks if we wanted. After walking through the store Lindsay and I knew there was better prices and stock to be found elsewhere. So using our new African knowledge we started wandering around town and sure enough around the corner there were a few more “Supermarkets” with a load more things and the one Indian man’s store we shopped in had good and fair prices. We picked up some chips, and biscuits, and drinks and a few dollars later we were headed back to the restaurant to use the bathroom. During this whole time Nole had taken off to get gas and pick up some other supplies to take to the camp. Back at the restaurant we used the fairly nice facilities and then I saw samosas. I had to have them, so we bought a couple samosas which started a domino effect of most everyone getting samosas. Probably the best tasting ones of the trip and still quite cheap, from our perspective anyways. Love samosas.
Back on the road we now headed into the less comfortable driving as the road turned to dirt and we started heading through territory that looked much more like a park. We passed a few small villages, which all had crafts and what not for sale, it was a shame we didn’t stop as they are usually the best to bargain with and have the nicest original stuff as well. Ugandans are friendly, especially the children, and pretty much every child we passed waved at the vehicle, so we of course tried to wave back. It must have looked a little ridiculous as there are a bunch of white hands randomly coming out the windows to wave at the kids. About an hour into this dusty bumpy road we made it to the park entrance and while Nole was paying our way we took some photos with the gate, then off into Murchison Falls National Park. Not long into the park the tsetse flies attacked. They are extremely persistent buggers that particularly liked Noles head, which I tried to keep clear as I was sitting behind him, and they always ended up in the back of the van due to the wind so the three girls back there had to deal with them. Their bite is brutal and as Lindsay and the girls swatted at them it became apparent that it took more than a normal hit to kill them as they would seem to just be stunned when hit with what would kill a normal fly. By this time the windows were all closed to stop the flies from getting in, which of course made it a freaking hot van full of dust; trade one evil for another it would seem. The worst part was as I was sitting in the front of the back half of the van I smelled what I swore was mosquito spray, then I choked on what I was sure was mosquito spray. I’m thinking “what idiot puts on super deet bug spray in a closed vehicle full of other people”. Lindsay tells me later that apparently in order to fight the flies Anya had decided that she would whip out her bug spray and methodically spray here wrists and ankles, the only skin showing, with about 4 sprays each. Lindsay said her and Amber nearly died from the fumes and when Amber went to open a window to let the fumes out Anya jumped and told her not to do that because she would let more flies in, priceless 🙂 So as we drove through the start of the park the sound of swatting was persistent as we all tried to kill the flies in the car – Lindsay for sure had the highest death toll and cheered every time she got one.
Eventually we reached a lookout where Nole stopped for us to take photos of the extremely tree filled park below us and then a bit further down the road we pulled up next to some Cape Buffalo who were taking a bath in a giant mud pit. That was pretty cool as they were just outside the window of the van and I got some really neat pictures of them covered in mud. A little further along we made it to a parking lot along side the river where we had lunch in a little gazebo building. There were quite a few rapids right along side we could watch and they later made sense as it turns out we were just above the falls. So after eating we were met by a guide, and our group and the other van of Red Chili safari goers, headed out on our hike to see Murchison Falls. On a low note if you come here on your own you are required to pay $10 per person to hike “near” the falls and take a guide with you. Guide is definitely not needed as it is really just an easy walk and if you have a family $40 or $50 to look at the falls is most definitely worth it – unless you’re from the Sahara, maybe a waterfall this size would be much more exciting then… As we started our walk the sky had turned a little dark so the guide and drivers wanted us to shorten our trip to the falls in case it started raining as driving back up the one road would be quite horrible when wet. It did not rain. The walk around was easy and the points where we stopped to look were way too short and rushed. Lindsay and I of course spent more tim at each stop so we ended up missing what little information the guide had about each place to view the falls. The falls themselves were cool and Murchison falls is quite powerful and extremely wet when you get close, pictures became difficult and I was definitely missing Lindsay’s waterproof camera at this point. The second falls, Uhuru (freedom), was created following a flood that occured the same year as the nation achieved independence, but is a much calmer although wider falls. After only about 30 minutes we were all back at the truck to finish the drive to Red Chili Camp.
Another hour or so later we pulled into camp, saw the resident Warthogs – much bigger close up, then moved into our first real safari tent. These tents were the kind you see in all the “safari” movies of Africa and I had been hoping to stay in one at some point on the trip, to get to do it while actually on safari was great. Each tent was complete with two single beds and ours came with a gecko in the window who ran away somewhere once we opened all the “blinds”. After moving in we all found a seat in some camping chairs near the big fire pit and looked out over the view of the park towards the river. Amongst the relaxing, beer drinking and what not we chatted and took turns heading off to the shower to wash the dust of the drive off. Eventually we sat down to dinner which was quite tasty. Each night there are 3 options, 2 good ones and a vegetarian option for the sissy folk; good proportions and the price was all right. We sat with our fellow safari goers and chatted more about life in their countries, met Regina, an aspiring travel show producer/actress/promoter from the US who was nice and extremely bubbly in the American way, and in general had a nice evening with everyone. Once our bed time came, around 8 or 9 we headed off to our sweet, if a tad moldy on the outside, safari tent and slept. We’re excited for tomorrow which has a game drive in the morning and a boat cruise up the river in the afternoon, or if you will a “Jungle Cruise”. I’m hoping to see most everything you would at the Disney jungle cruise while we’re out on ours.
Red Chili camp has hot water and you guessed it, flush toilets. Haven’t seen a squatty in weeks.