27/10 Kibale NP
(Lake Nyabelere) - Murchison Falls NP
We left the Kibale region for good. People told us the roads were bad
and if it rained the journey could take up to eight hours. We weren’t looking
forward to it. It turned out better than expected, it didn’t rain and the
road wasn’t too bad. Halfway through our journey we were ordered to stop
by some armed men. We wondered if they were from the military, the police
or even rebels? You couldn’t tell by their clothes. They looked at the
car from every angle and even wanted to search it. They soon changed their
minds once we told them everything would fall out if we opened the boot.
“Okay, drive on” was the retorted reply. We later found out they were from
the military. The rebels use this main road to smuggle arms, amongst other
things, and that was why they were patrolling it.
Not much else happened on the way and we reached Masindi without any
setbacks. We still had 89 kilometres to travel before arriving at Murchison
Falls. The last few kilometres were a nightmare. Every time we drove over
a bridge in Murchison National Park, we were attacked by tsetse flies.
Actually, Murchison Falls National Park owes its very existence to these
flies. In the past, they caused many of the local inhabitants to suffer
from sleepy sickness (encephalitis lethargia). Reason for the inhabitants
to abandon this area, paving the way for the national park.
You can compare the tsetse flies with that of the fly blind that plagues
horses. All of a sudden, we were attacked by a dozen of these little terrors.
Panic in the car. Everybody started swatting the flies to keep them at
bay. They seemed almost invincible, you had to swat them at least ten times
before you were finally free of them.
The can of insecticide, which Karla had bought, really worked wonders.
Four flies were jammed in the window of the car but once they got sprayed
they were soon kicking up the daisies. From now on, every time we approached
a bridge, we shut the windows. This helped, and with the odd exception,
we managed to keep the tsetse flies out of the car.
After those active last few kilometres, we arrived at the campsite
in one piece. We were allowed to pick any hut we wanted. There were two
beds, both had a mosquito net. It was pitch-black inside, but in the light,
when the door opened, you could see there were a considerable number of
mosquitoes. Fortunately, the campsite also had insecticide. We asked if
we could use it and sprayed the entire hut before going to bed with, for
us at least, a consoling poison.
28/10 Murchison Falls National
It had been three weeks since we’d last stepped out of a bed. It was
quite comfortable and we weren’t bothered in the least by the mosquitoes.
We left at 9am for a cruise along the River Nile. This river divides Murchison
National Park into a northern and southern sector. Murchison Falls National
Park is one of the most spectacular parks in Uganda, perhaps even in Africa.
It’s without a shadow of a doubt the biggest, 3,840 m2 and it has the greatest
concentration of wildlife along the river.
The most common animals found here are the elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus,
leopard, warthog, lion, aardvark, pangoling, civet, buffalo, oribi, patas
monkey, Ugandan kob, and the baboon. There are also 450 types of birds,
including the Pel’s fishing owl, pennant winged nightjar, red-throated
bee-eater and the rare shoebill stork.
Murchison Falls National Park has a diverse vegetation of woods and
marsh land to open savannahs, giving us the opportunity to see many of
the most common animals in Uganda.
But the main attraction at the Murchison Falls National Park is the
awe-inspiring waterfall. The River Nile forces its way through a narrow
crevice and plunges 40m in one breathtaking leap.
This is also the final destination of the cruise. Along the bank of
the River Nile, we encountered crocodiles and hippopotamuses from very
close by. From the roof of the boat, we also saw waterbucks, buffaloes,
monitor lizards and countless birds, including the African fish eagle,
kingfisher and the saddle-billed stork.
The sun was shining but because we were so engrossed in all the animals
we hadn’t even noticed we’d got burnt. We thought the cruise along the
Kazinga channel was beautiful, but this one was even better. After cruising
for two and a half hours, we reached the Murchison Falls. We saw the River
Nile spewing out through a 7m gap, which was accompanied by a deafening
roar. Some of the passengers left the boat and walked to the top of the
waterfall. Everybody warned us it wouldn’t be easy. You were advised to
be in good physical shape, if you wanted to take part and furthermore,
to go at your own pace. A newspaper article in “The New Vision” published
just a few days previously, devoted a lot of attention to this subject.
They particularly mentioned the steep and slippery walls as being the hardest
to endure. They also quoted reactions from several visitors. Of course,
we’d been put through our paces the last few weeks but even so we were
a bit nervous when we started the climb. It was easy in the beginning and
before we knew it, we were standing just a few metres away from the waterfall.
Watching how the River Nile dispersed into a cloud of rain was a magnificent
sight. By this time, there were no trees or bushes to give us some shadow.
It was very hot and the sun burnt relentlessly on our shoulders. I was
like a leaking sieve, the sweat just poured out of my body. I had a full-time
job on my hands trying to keep the cameras dry.
We then started the climb. It wasn’t nearly as bad as everybody said.
We climbed a few stairs to get to the top; our only adversary was the heat.
The advantage of walking to the top is that you get to see the entire length
of the waterfall. If you were to drive to the top, you’d only see about
10% of it. Ellen went back to the boat and was driven to the top but we
didn’t know she’d see a herd of elephants and a group of crocodiles on
the way and that too was lovely to see.
We walked for about an hour before reaching the top. The force with
which the water is expelled through a 7m gap is unbelievable. The water
is a huge whirlpool and causes clouds of mist. Ellen joined us in the afternoon,
and together we enjoyed the view from the waterfall. We couldn’t stay too
long because the car, which was needed for the afternoon’s game drive,
had to be brought over by ferry. We had to catch the three o’clock ferry.
It was now 2.45pm, we were back at the campsite, but we still hadn’t had
any lunch. We decided to send the car on ahead and we’d catch up later,
we’d take a speed boat. That way we could have lunch.
It was still very warm. Wilfred and I decided to sit on top of the
car during the game drive, so we could enjoy the view and feel the wind
blowing in our hair. The game drive was just underway and we’d already
seen a bushbuck. These solitary creatures are very shy. As soon as the
car stopped, it vanished into the bushes. We were lucky we could savour
the moment just a little longer. Murchison Falls National Park is, qua
landscape, one of the most beautiful national parks we’ve ever seen. Plains
with palm trees were the most dominant features. There wasn’t much game
to see in the first half an hour. After that, we saw our first giraffe
and hartebeest in Uganda. The grass is very long, sitting on top of the
car you could at least see across the plains. Whenever we saw something,
we knocked on the roof, which was the sign to stop so that the others could
also enjoy the animals.
Wars, conflicts and poachers have all taken their toll on the wildlife,
but this was particularly evident at Murchison Falls National Park. A lot
of progress has been made in the last 10 years, after the regime of Idi
Amin. Let’s hope we won’t have to wait too long for a complete recovery
of the animal population. While driving along we saw oribis, Ugandan kobs,
buffaloes, giraffes, warthogs and right at the very end an extremely poisonous
puff adder and one elephant.
The ferry left at 6pm and we had to be there before then. We arrived
at one minute to six. The ferry is still on the far side and it is apparently
too expensive for it to come across just to pick a couple of passengers.
After all, the car had to remain here, it’s needed for tomorrow morning’s
game drive. The guide asked us to come as quickly as possible because there
was a good chance we could see some big game.
We had to make the crossing in a small boat, which couldn’t carry more
than four passengers at once so it had to sail to and fro three times.
Which would have been cheaper? Back home, we took a tepid shower, the water
had been warmed by the sun, and it was a joy to wash all the dirt off our
bodies. We had a drink in the campsite’s restaurant and shortly after we
had dinner. Unfortunately, this was somewhat dominated by an army of ants
that were on the move. Right along our table, large ants were carrying
their eggs to their new home. If one of them were to sting you, it could
be very painful, so be careful not to tread on them in the dark.
29/10 Murchison Falls National
We woke up at 6am. Whenever we came out of our huts there was a red
glow on the horizon. After breakfast, we packed whatever we needed for
our game drives and the swim at the Paraa Safari Lodge. At 7am, we crossed
over the River Nile. Fifteen minutes later, we were sitting in the car
ready for the morning game drive. Once on the other side, all Ronald had
to do was fetch the car. After waiting for quarter of an hour, we decided
to see what was taking him so long, to our astonishment he was phoning.
We all piled into the car in the hope he might take the hint. He didn’t.
Even the guide was standing in the doorway. Only when it suited Ronald
did he finally get in the car, we left three-quarters of an hour too late.
The chances of seeing big game in action were now considerably slim.
I personally wanted to see a leopard and a shoebill stork, you don’t
often see either of them. We could do with a bit of luck. We drove to the
area where we had the best chance of spotting them. On the way, we saw
all the animals we’d seen the day before, except for the elephant and the
adder. For some considerable time, we drove round an area where we should
have seen leopards and shoebill storks, but we never saw one!
We were driving between a group of oribis and Ugandan kobs when the
oribis raised the alarm. It was a whistling sound that warned them of danger.
Their heads all turned in the same direction, and ours did too. The people
in the car behind us pointed at lions. We could see the silhouette of 5
of them. Four vanished behind a mountain and one peered out over the plain
from under an acacia bush. Once it had lain there was nothing else to see.
We couldn’t pursue the lions any further, that would have meant leaving
the road, and that was prohibited. If you got caught the chauffeur would
be fined US$ 100 and the guide would be arrested. Our guide said his boss
sat in the car behind and that he wasn’t going to take a chance, and who
could blame him. We didn’t even deviate from the road when we saw vultures
circling around. It is such a pity that the park as so few side roads.
The last part of the game drive was a ghost town as far as the big
game were concerned. We decided to head for Parra Safari Lodge for some
lunch and a refreshing dive in the pool. The temperature had soared to
At 15.30pm, we left for the next game drive, this was to be our last
one, at least for this holiday. I think most of us would have been quite
pleased if we’d sat this one out because of the heat. For this very reason
most of the animals were nowhere to be found. This was the third time we
combed the same area. Although Murchison Falls National Park is huge, only
a tiny proportion is used for game drives, i.e. north of the Nile and then
only west of Paraa Safari Lodge. I’d like to know why that is.
During the three-hour game drive, we saw the most common animals. Elephants,
leopards and shoebill storks all remained elusive. There are approximately
2000 elephants and 6000 giraffes in this park. So where are they? Strange
that we only saw a handful of giraffes and one elephant.
Today, the tsetse flies hit home again. Poor Ellen was their favourite
victim, she got bitten three times above her right eye.
While we had a nightcap to round off the day, you could see Ellen’s
eye was swollen and it was getting bigger by the minute.
30/10 Murchison Falls National
Park – Kampala
All that shuffling of Ellen woke me up. You should have seen her. Her
eye was so swollen you couldn’t see her pupil or eyelid anymore. It truly
was a sight for sore eyes.
We had to travel for 6 hours, back to the place we started from three
weeks ago. The first two hours were the worse, after that it was tarmac
roads. Before we left the park, we saw two impressive buffaloes and a warthog.
We all made a combined effort to keep the tsetse flies out of the car.
If Ellen were to be bitten in her other eye, it would probably make her
completely blind, at least temporarily.
After we passed Masindi, we drove through an area with papyrus. The
locals were busy chopping away the side of this beautiful marsh plant.
Actually, we’d love to have a few cuttings, so they choose a couple of
nice ones for us. They asked Pamela if we would be prepared to give 1000
Ush so they could buy the local tipple. We were only too happy to do so.
If you’d seen how happy they were and their friendly smiles, it was worth
We arrived at Olympia Hotel about 15.30pm. We agreed to eat again at
the Ethiopian restaurant. This time Pamela, Rosemarie, Ronald and Bart
came too. Three exquisite dishes with meat, vegetables, cheese and eggs
were put in front of us and we enjoyed every last morsel. A man selling
curios waited patiently till we’d finished eating before he approached
us. A set of six small elephants were in great demand. He then showed us
a mask that came from the Congo. Everybody fell for it as soon as they
set eyes on it. All that remained was to agree on a price. I could have
it for 25,000 Ush, that’s about US$15. Pamela gave the thumbs up sign.
After this divine meal, we headed straight for the pub, just like the day
we arrived. Bart managed to drum up another dealer. Bargaining began all
over again. Just like his predecessor, he too had the masks from the Congo.
I couldn’t resist the temptation to haggle. With great difficulty and with
fits and starts I managed to finally beat him down to 25,000 Ush. I paid
a reasonable amount and he made himself a tidy profit. Pamela was most
impressed with my trading skills. Tomorrow we’re going to the curio market
and I was just itching to go.
In the meantime, Bart gave us a couple of deep-fried grasshoppers to
taste. They were surprisingly good but the thought of it does take a bit
of getting used to.
We agreed to go into town with Pamela and Rosemarie at 11am. We wanted
to visit the antique and curio market. Kampala didn’t seem quite so hectic
this time around and we strolled through the streets at a leisurely pace
even through it was very crowded.
The antique and curio market had about 50 different stalls. It wasn’t
be so easy to haggle here. We immediately fell in love with a wooden anti-theft
bag, i.e. a type of carrier bag which splits in two and has a wooden lid
as well as a long chord that runs through the entire length of the bag,
through the lid and back down the other side. Even Pamela had never seen
the likes of it. The asking price was 60,000 Ush. We walked on and Pamela
tried sussing out the street-trader. In the meantime, we’d seen many pretty
things but the bag was the pinnacle of the market. Pamela came to meet
us, as expected the woman drove a hard bargain. She wouldn’t take anything
less then 50,000 Ush. By this time, we’ve combed the entire market and
it is no where to be seen. It was a one-off curio. I decided to try my
luck. She really was a tough negotiator. It took a lot of effort to get
her down to 48,000 Ush, still too expensive for my liking. I also wanted
a mask and I thought I could haggle for both once I got negotiations going.
I was prepared to pay up to 60,000 Ush for the bag and the mask. She wouldn’t
budge an inch and I decided she could take it or leave it by then. Half
an hour later I walked by her stall. I shouted to her, “Hi, hard bargainer”
and she started laughing. We started talking, this time her boss was present,
a well-built lady who interfered with business while she was eating her
lunch. We cracked a few jokes, had a good laugh and told her how the haggling
went up till now. We talked a while and finally I got my wish, I could
have both items for 60,000 Ush. We shook hands and departed on the best
of terms, everybody was grinning like the Cheshire cat.
It was now 4pm. We had a snack at Steers (a fast food restaurant like
McDonalds). We had a reservation at a bistro near the hotel. Pamela, Rosemarie
and Ronald had to give an account of the journey to Bart. The girls were
visibly upset when they left Bart.
They didn’t want to discuss the matter with us at dinner but we felt
they should, that way they could get to hear what we thought of it all.
Of course, you only heard one side of the story but during the trip we
had picked up enough things to be able to assess the situation properly.
It was now 9pm and little by little during dinner we noticed that Ronald
said things that simply weren’t true. Pamela and Rosemarie were very upset
and worried they might get the sack. As far as we were concerned, this
would be a great injustice because nobody could have done more for us on
this trip than Pamela and Rosemarie did and they were always cheery. Unfortunately,
we couldn’t say the same for Ronald who on more occasions than we care
to remember presented himself as conceited, pig-headed and dour. I could
write a book about him but I won’t because it would simply ruin a good
story and a terrific holiday. We promised we’d discuss this matter fully
with Bart on the return journey.
We tried to enjoy the rest of the meal and made the most of it. The
uneasy feeling about the role which Ronald played in this entire scenario
kept haunting me. My aversion to Ronald had reached an all time high. The
girls will get a good tip but Ronald can forget it. He has to drive us
to Entebbe tomorrow.
Pamela and Rosemarie came to the hotel to watch videotapes of the gorillas,
chimpanzees and the tree-climbing lions. Then came the inevitable goodbyes.
(Email) addresses were exchanged and we promised to write a letter or send
an e-mail. Whenever Pamela started crying Ellen and Karla joined in. Both
Pamela and Rosemarie really are one in a million.
1/11 Kampala - Amsterdam
About 11am, we left for Entebbe. Bart’s suggestion to stay the night
at the Victoria Lake Hotel and visit the Wildlife Education Centre from
there was a good idea.
Ronald was very reserved and once he dropped us off at Entebbe, he
realised he’d blown it. Before we even went inside the hotel, he retreated
quickly into his car to avoid all form of contact. We didn’t mind in the
least and we enjoyed an early lunch.
That afternoon Ellen, Beate, Wilfred and I visited the Wildlife Education
Centre. At this ‘third-rate’ zoo, at least by our standards, the locals
can learn more about wildlife live in Uganda. As far as we were concerned,
the main attraction of the park was the shoebill stork. We didn’t stay
long. Back at the hotel, we spent our time just hanging about, writing
or reading. The water was too cold to go for a swim. After our last supper,
it was time to travel to the airport. Bart was already waiting for us,
he came to say goodbye. Somehow he’d managed to pull a few strings and
came to some arrangement with another airline company. Ronald dropped Bart
off, again he avoided all contact. Oddly enough the co-chauffeur, who we
met for the first time that morning, was really friendly, he waved spontaneously
and wished us a safe journey.
2/11 The end
After stopping in Nairobi and changing in Brussels and London, we landed
in Amsterdam a little bit behind schedule. The journey was very tiring
but went without a hitch. In Brussels, we thought we were in trouble for
a minute when we had to wait for a captain travelling to London, who had
to fall in for a sick colleague there. We were asked to be patient, it
wouldn’t take more than five minutes – it took half an hour, it reminded
us of the outward journey and all the trouble we had with our luggage.
Fortunately, this time everything went smoothly and when we saw our luggage
on the conveyor belt at Schiphol another African adventure had come to