Wednesday, 21 February 2018

My 1st Mini Getaway in 2018: Gloria The Hippo & Murchison Falls National Park ( Part 2)

Day 2

Tent number 7, my home until tomorrow.

Last night I sat by the fire getting acquainted with my new travel companions. The Red Chilli Staff also informed us about Gloria, the resident hippo who just had baby. Actually what they really did was give us a stern warning. They warned us that late night trips to the toilet may result in a serious casualty if we didn't mind our way carefully.

So at 5.30am my bladder is full and merciless pleading to be relieved. But I dare not leave my tent. Can you imagine them talking at my funeral?

"On her way to the toliet, attacked by a hippo, they found her lying in her own pee.."

We shall wait bladder, we shall wait.

At 6.00am torch in hand, I dash to the communal bathrooms, pee for what seems like the longest time on record, shower,then return to the tent to get ready for the day's activities.

Yesterday, as we were settling in to our tents, the staff cautioned us about leaving food in our temporary accommodation because the resident warthogs had been known to destroy tents and everything in them in search of food. Warthogs have very keen sense of smell. So you just picture my face when I discover while getting my small backpack ready for the day, that I forgot an open packet of crisps in my bag over night. God is merciful people! Once again just imagine what they would say at my wake,

" Over a bag crisps..... both her and the room mate..... the tent ripped to shreds and Maria was drenched in her own pee, just drenched..." 

Our breakfast, ordered the night before is packed and neatly labeled with names and we are allowed a cup of coffee or tea before the mad rush for the ferry. We need to be on the very first one to get to the game park early. 

We make it! Our travel van is number eight in the line, so we line up and wait for the ferry to depart. As we are waiting we notice tons and tons of white stuff floating upstream, at first I thought it was pollution, and am deeply embarrassed for my country but as the ferry crosses the river I notice it's a bubbly foam. I am relived it's not plastic bags, but gosh what the heck is it?

This was taken later in the day but you see the same bubbly stuff..

I later learn that it is caused by the speed of the water, the air, and a certain type of algae living in the river.

We pick up our game park guide on the other side of the river, the sun is slowly making an appearance despite the grey sky so we head on to the park. 

We saw quite a few animals, but I was taking pictures on my phone which as mentioned in the last post does not do the trip justice. Never the less here are a few to give you an idea..

Gloria's extended family



We learnt about how the palm trees in the picture below came to be in Uganda. These palm trees are responsible for  palm oil, which if you have natural hair, is part of the hair gold family . Elephants , being the natural  guardians of the earth that they are , brought the seeds of this marvelous palm tree all the way from South Sudan in their poop! Yes elephants introduced a new tree species to Uganda; they contributed to the environment through their poop. Your poop on the other hand is NOT that special... your 💩💩💩💩 left unattended and not disposed properly is every emergency response NGO's nightmare.... a potential cholera outbreak 😐😐😐

The last part of our safari was this building, which we were told by the game park  guide was built by Idi Amin ( President of Uganda from 1971 to 1979) and when he lost power they just abandoned it. It is the most peculiar thing to see in the park. This worn away building with overgrown plants spelling out raw forgotten feelings about the past.

Sad about no lions being spotted, we headed back to camp for a quick rest and lunch; then at 2.00 pm we headed for the next adventure...a safari boat ride.

This was just fantastic! 

The holes in the picture below are homes of a particular species of bird which gets thrown out mid way through the year by another species of bird. I am told this is a reoccurring cycle. I can't remember the names of the species because I was starting to doze, the steady lull of the boat and my delicious lunch was getting the best of me. 😴😴😴

Ernest Hemingway crashed his plane near the Murchison falls ( see picture below) a rescue plane was sent to collect him and guess what that plane crashed too...😧😧😧  Though I felt mortified at fate's cruelty towards the great literary legend that Mr Hemingway is, it made for a great storytelling session by our tour guide. In fact I was waiting for the guide to add that sometimes amongst the  shadows of the trees his ghost is seen scribbling away in his little black note book, jotting notes inspired by his thoughts and observations, notes that will eventually become the first original draft of another best selling book. But that's not the case, the fall is not haunted by a famous writing genius.  *sigh*

The hippos we saw on boat ride, I can only assume are  Gloria's immediate family, and she must be joyfully bobbing amongst them. Hi Gloria, glad we never met on a late night toilet trip. 🙋🙋🙋

Can you see the mother crocodile protecting her eggs? 

still fascinated my the white form...

Day 3 

We wake early once again hoping to spot the lions on our way out the park but alas the big cats and their cubs have shunned us. The only evidence of their existence are fresh paw prints crossing the road. I am happy none the less,  it's been a good trip and I have seen another side of my country. As always I can't wait for the next opportunity to do so.

Thanks for stopping by! 
Click Here to read part one in case you  missed it.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

My 1st Mini Getaway in 2018: Red Chilli & Murchison Falls ( Part 1)

You need to visit cause my phone photos just don't do it justice.

Day 1

 I wake up at 4.00am because of a nightmare.

 A nightmare about cannibals.

 I was in a safari van heading somewhere with cannibals *Cue any Hitchcock movie soundtrack*.

A week ago when I told my Dad that I was going to be away for a few days, he said,

“You’ll be eaten by animals! ”

This isn’t the first time he has tried to talk me out of my random mini annual breaks. Still I have no idea how his animal warning turned into a-cannibals-on-safari-nightmare!? I suspect my creative subconscious dug deep in the well of my memories and pulled from a forgotten horror film. I am starting to realize I have been programmed to think the worst, worry shall be a familiar companion on this trip.

I give myself thirty more minutes in bed before I get up to prepare for the journey. The special is collecting me at 6.00am. Once I have woken up, dressed,  and finished packing a quick glance at my phone’s clock tells me that I am running late. We finally set off at 6.26am. 

I arrive at Red Chilli Hideaway at 7.00am, it’s definitely hidden because we missed the turning and have to be guided back by a boda boda. After nervously checking in, I am told I have time for a cup of coffee.  So I head up stairs to the restaurant to have some breakfast. 

“Maaaaaaaaria!” Shouts a lady from the rectangular window linking the kitchen and the restaurant, her voice effortlessly projects across the room. She’s done this many times before.

I am a little bit startled by her call, it reminds me of school and I feel  caught in some mischievous wrongdoing by the headmistress. You see I am sitting in the corner, engrossed in my odd behavior of observing other people. I walk up to the  kitchen window; she points at the milk and sugar and hands me my breakfast. This appears to be a common feature of the Red Chilli team, the staff memorize your name to plan your accommodation, your meals and tour activities. A nice touch in my opinion, it helps ensure consistency in their customer service.

We leave around 7.50am. There are seven of us in the safari van. Still recovering from my dream last night, I am naturally reserved and so is everyone else except for one. We have a talker amongst us. Someone who is determined to bring everyone together with the warmth of their character. He has travelled with his wife and friend from Canada  and is just soooooo enthusiastic about meeting everyone. First he makes us all go through a group introduction using our names and nationalities.

Once introductions are done , I pull my novel out and glance out the window as we go. The talker continues his conversation with the lady behind me, and I can’t help but eavesdrop.  He tells her he was 18 years old when he first came to visit Uganda, and two months after his arrival Idi Amin took over, becoming our third President. The talker loves Uganda, you can hear it in his voice and every time the van stops he makes an effort to talk to everyone and anyone in luganda. He can’t contain his excitement, he makes  jokes along the way, and gradually his joy becomes contagious. This man is a much needed addition to our group, without him we would all have stayed very much to ourselves.

It’s around 2.00pm when we arrive at the falls after a long long long journey with only two proper stops to stretch our legs. Given the amount of distance we have to cover and all the activities we have to pack into a few days, it is understandable. Tummies rumbling we finally sit to eat our packed lunch, then it’s a 45 minute hike/walk to see the falls. Our assigned guide,  Daniel, informs us that there are two falls, Murchison Fall and the Uhuru fall. Uhuru was formed in the year of Uganda’s independence from Britain. How fitting that the water represents our path to freedom, making a way through the sharp black bolders until we were finally able to push our way over the edge to independence. There used to be two tribes living on either side and each tribe had a name for the fall until Samuel Baker came along and named it Murchison after the President of the Royal Geographical Society. In fact the tribes used to make regular sacrifices at the fall, a goat would be killed in hopes that good fortune would follow. If a man wanted a wife from the other side of the fall, he had to wait for a special day when they would line up all the single women, and then to demonstrate his love, he would have to jump across the falls. If he made it, he got himself a wife!

where we ate lunch.

Our guide, Daniel

It is beautiful.  I am exhausted from the heat and hiking but it is beauuuuuuuuuuuuutiful. The view is worth it! There is something about being near the water that’s refreshing, even in the blistering heat (my toes are sweating) . The sound of the fall stills the self, and makes me stop and take long deep breaths. I am always struck with a sense of gratitude that through such opportunities I can see the earth show off it's magnificence. Doesn’t it deserve too though? It’s put up with us humans all this time. 

Show off Mother Earth, you’ve earned it!

Would you jump across for love?

Uhuru and Murchison Falls

Uhuru fall

Murchison fall

The Uganda Wildlife Authority has really taken care of the area, there is no rubbish around. The railings to help you keep your balance while walking/hiking looks freshly painted. If they were rusty I didn't see it.  The signs are still readable and placed in significant areas. There are litter bins around. There are rules that must be respected.

No litter...Not one piece of annoying plastic

 It’s been a good day. As we head to camp, my sweaty sticky body is looking forward to a shower and a hot meal.

Wait! Don't leave! Here's the link to part 2, Click here