Today was rhino tracking day! We got up early, as always, and had some breakfast at the main hut. We ordered food kin of late but we still got our french toast and scrambled eggs in time. No beer for breakfast today (or any day). Then we said farewell to the other tour group from Red Chili, they went on another game drive this morning while we headed off to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary in the van. It was another long drive out of the park and this time we had another passenger along for the ride, Jack. He had been at Red Chili for the weekend as the expert pig on a spit roaster for some party that had taken place and needed to make his way back to Jinja, by way of Red Chili in Kampala. We chatted with Jack a bit as he was sitting beside Lindsay and I. I asked him if he knew anywhere in Kampala to get a quality thumb piano. He mentioned a few places, some which we had been to before, but one we hadn’t so we’ll try it tomorrow. We also learned his story and that he’s been living and working in Uganda for quite a long time now. Currently he’s a fisherman with his own boat catching all sorts of fish on Lake Victoria and that was apparently the dream job for him. Before that he ran Nile River Explorers (or next stop on our trip) for 10 years or so.
Along the drive back out through the park we came across a few animals in the road, a water-buck, lots of baboons, and most noteworthy, two horn bills. These birds are huge. Zazu is completely disproportionate in the lion king where they portray him as about the size of a lion’s head. In reality they’re about 1/3 the size of a lion, particularly if they open their wings at all, they have a massive wingspan. Turns out horn-bills are quite the impressive bird, they were a nice last spot on our time in Murchison Falls National Park. After an hour or more driving along the dirt road we made it out and back to the town of Masindi. We of course took a break and walked through the craft shops, not buying anything even though in hindsight we should have, and then went across the street for more samosas. Have I mentioned I love Samosas. Once I get home I’m going to make some, after I learn how to make them first. Once more back in the green machine we journeyed on towards Kampala and the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary.
ZZzzzzz, Zzzzzzz. There was a lot of sleeping on the trip to the Rhinos.
Many hours later we made it to the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. It is not the biggest of reserves and is definitely trying to make as much off of tourists as they can as it is priced a bit high for the simplicity of providing this experience. We drove down another dirt road for maybe 7 minutes and were at the visitor’s centre. Filing out of our green tin can we went inside and found information on all of the sanctuary’s rhinos and where they are originally from, names, ages, sex, and found information on the new members of the group. There are 12 in all and I believe 3 of them are babies which is great because the whole purpose of this place is to reintroduce the white rhino back into Uganda’s parks. While at HQ we pre ordered lunch which would be ready for us when we got back from our tracking of the rhinos.
So back into the van, this time with our tall, dark, armed, ranger/guide, and we drove maybe 3 minutes back down the road to the entrance and then parked on the side of the road. We got out and got instructions on where we were going, and not to get to close, and that the gun he was carrying was not to protect us, but to protect the rhinos from people (poachers). So we headed off walking into the bush of Uganda. I had been hoping to do just this on our trip as I hadn’t had the chance yet. I’ve wandered outside of some of our safari campsites, but after a few metres into the bush I usually turn back as I have no idea what is out there and the bush is thick., haven’t been eaten yet, either. So we walked for maybe 2 minutes through the bush and we were at the rhinos! We were hoping for a little more effort to get there but you can’t control nature and the rhinos just happened to be that close to the road. There are rangers guarding the rhinos 24/7 so they talk on their radios about where they are and finding them is really easy.
As we came upon the rhinos none of us really knew we were there until our ranger pointed them out; 5 of them sleeping under neath some trees in the thick grass. It was not the most exciting animal encounter of the trip, but we were standing 10 feet away from some very monstrous creatures. In this bunch there was even one little baby which was the most active of the sleepers. It was good to see that they are all breeding and the herd is growing but it takes a long time between calves and this whole process could take quite a while. We watched the rhinos from a few different angles, slowly getting closer depending on what side we were looking at them from. I took a lot of photos but the videos are better because sleeping rhinos make a lot more noise breathing and farting on film than they do in a picture. After about 30 minutes in the hot, hot, sun we headed back through the bush to the van leaving our little clump of rhinos to sleep away the rest of the heat.
Back at HQ, lunch was ok, don’t eat here if you don’t have to. We did enjoy another lunch of chatting with our international safari friends. During our meal chats and time travelling in the green machine we learned many more things about their countries, and political/cultural views from the Swiss about neighboring countries or other nations in Europe. Following our lunch we piled one last time into the green machine and started the long journey back to Kampala. It went by a little quicker this time as we napped on an off as we had already seen the view, which is mostly tall bushes along side a very straight road.
We arrived back into Kampala traffic a few hours later and I had a very good time taking pictures out of the side of the van. You can capture a lot more daily life this way, from the safety of a moving vehicle and without people looking at you funny. It will be fun to examine the photos closer to see what I actually have once home. I do remember taking pictures of wooden bed “factories” (hand made shops really), giant piles of foam (used for couches and chairs), and a load of boda-bodas and crazy traffic, and all the ads for MTN (a giant mobile phone company). We dropped Anya off where she needed to go and then Nole got us all back to Red Chili.
We checked into our new, and reserved, twin room, which was a mirror image through the wall of our last room here. While unpacking we noticed that there was a craft lady set up in the garden area so of course Lindsay wanted to go take a look. It was a good thing we did because it turns out that this lady had some nice stuff and was charging appropriate prices (aka, there was no Muzungu price that was different from the locals). Having already tried some shopping we knew right away that these were priced right and she still bargained it down when we bought a fair amount of things. I saw a stuffed elephant that I just had to have so we got him and I also bought a smaller one for my nephew back home, a little stuffed animal mobile for the future baby (a lot of our shopping on this trip is for a nursery we don’t have or need yet), and Lindsay got a pretty green bracelet. All of this cost us around $20, it was an amazingly good shop.
After cleaning up, yay for hot showers again, we ordered some fresh brick oven pizza for dinner. It was really good and I wanted to get another one, but we didn’t, so we enjoyed our pizza and drinks out on the picnic tables in the garden. After dinner I went to talk to my favourite receptionist Leonard about getting laundry done. He has some sort of problem with his one eye and can’t see properly I imagine so I felt like we shared a little bad eye bond and he has been very helpful the entire time we’ve been at Red Chili. He told me to bring it back to him in a bag and they would do it the next day, but no underwear! Uganda was very adamant about not washing underwear, which I guess is understandable, but frustrating since that is usually what you need washed the most! Lindsay is apparently good with underwear for the rest of the trip, I did the math and I’m going to run short by a few days, hopefully the next place has laundry facilities. Laundry here does cost a lot more than else where, so if you had the time and needed your funds, find a way to do it yourself.
Laundry away we chatted with Amber, told her our plans for the next day and she decided to come along, so we’ll meet her in the morning. For now it is off to bed as we are quite tired again. We said good night to each other and tucked ourselves into our seperate mosquito netted beds and fell asleep, back at Red Chili Kampala.