11km north of Jinja are the Bujagali Falls, Uganda
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Uganda Trip Journal from December 21 to 30, 2007

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Country: Uganda
Duration: Dec. 21 to 30, 2007
Distance Traveled in the Country: Approx. 1600km on the motorcycles of which 500km on dirt roads.
Most Memorable Impressions:
Uganda was everything we hoped for.  Originally we planned to stay only five (5) days, but ended up exploring for nine (9) days. Uganda has a lot to offer, from beautiful waterfalls, to a variety of wildlife and scenery.  It is also the only country in Africa that allows motorcycles in National Parks.  We had elephants cross the dirt road right in front of us, hippopotamus and warthogs graze in front of our tent.  Riding only 400m from the Congo border through the Bwindi, also called the Impenetrable Forest, National Park, home of 50% of the world's Mountain Gorillas population.
Our Favourite:
- Murchison Falls National Park
Fuel Cost: 2,400UGS to 2,900UGS ($1.40 to $1.80CDN/litre) for Unleaded Fuel.
Accommodations: Camped nine (8) nights for 12,000 to 20,000UGS/night ($7.50 to 12.00CDN/night). One (1) night in Hotel for 50,000UGS/night ($30.00CDN/nigh).
Exchange Rate: 1700 Uganda Shilling (UGS) = $1.00CDN
Border Formality Costs: Visa = $50.00US/person;
Insurance Scam: $25.00US/person, even through we had the Comesa Yellow Card.
Motorcycle Customs = Free with Carnet de Passage

Dec. 21, 2007.  The Uganda side of customs and immigration was not as busy as the one in Kenya.  Carnet in hand Mike goes for the Customs office, but is advised that he has to buy local motorcycle insurance first.  We present the Comesa Yellow Card Insurance, which clearly states that Uganda is covered under the policy.  We are advised that it is not valid until purchasing a local insurance of any African country.  Kenya, Tanzinia and Rwanda all excepted the Comesa Yellow Card Insurance without local insurance.  We new it was a scam, but the customs office would not sign the Carnet unless we bought a minimum of 1 year insurance for each motorcycle, a value of $25.00US/motorcycle.  We knew it was a rip of and heard that this was only required at this border crossing.  After paying our $50.00/person for the Visa, we were clear to enter Uganda.  At Tororo, we turned north, passing through Mbale to Sipi Falls.  Sipi Falls is located at base of Mt. Elgon.  We set up camp at the Crow's Nest Campground overlooking the upper and lower Sipi Falls for  12000UGS/night ($7.50CDN/night).  It is a quite place with great views of the waterfalls. We arrange for a guide to take us to all three (3) waterfalls the next morning.

Dec. 22, 2007.  We rise and shine early to meet with our Guide Moses at 6:30am to hike the circuit of the Sipi Falls.  The cost for the guide was 10000UGS/person ($6.25CDN/person) and well worse it as we would have never found the way through the bush, trees and banana plantations.  Stated time of duration is 4 to 5 hrs, but we completed the hike in 2 1/2hrs.  The trail to the base of the lower Sipi Falls is downhill, over some wooden make shift stairs.  To get to the second waterfall, we climbed up a latter to get above the lower waterfalls.  The views always amazing.  Once above the second waterfall, it is a bit of a walk through some beautiful country side to the base of the upper waterfalls.  We were able to get directly below the upper waterfall.   Each waterfall was spectacular and the timing of hiking in the early morning perfect, as temperatures were still tolerable. After breakfast at the Crows Nest, we left at 10:30am to head to Jinja, located on the shores of Lake Victoria. The road is excellent until we hit 72km of construction.  Total chaos, large truck trying to avoid pot holes, white outs due to dust and it took us forever to get to Jinja.  Finally there we visited the source of the Nile and took a picture of Speke's sign, who was the explorer discovering the source of the Nile.  We continued to the Bujagali Falls, which are large rapids, located approx. 11km north from Jinja.  There we stayed at the Nile River Explorers Campground, situated directly at the shores of the Bujagali Falls.  The Restaurant/Bar has a huge wooden deck that overlooks the rapids and Nile.  We had some great supper on the deck and watched the red glowing sun set over the Nile.  Unfortunately the place is not the quietest, as a lot of backpackers also choose this place to party. ($3.00US/person to camp).

Dec. 23, 2007.  We packed up the tent and rode into Kampala, the capital of Uganda.  It has a reputation for bad drivers, but we were in town on a Sunday.  A very good day to hit major cities.  We stopped off at an ATM machine to withdraw some cash and chatted with a local police officer.  He told us the most direct way to get out of the city and to find the road that leads to Homia.  It was amazing that we actually found the road without taking one wrong turn.  In Kampala we saw one women run over by a 125cc motorcycle, and numerous accidents.  Drivers in Uganda are one of the worst we have encountered.  Poor driving skills combined with total disregard to speed and road conditions, made Uganda one of the most dangerous places we had ridden.  Numerous times we had very close encounters and even were pushed off the road.  There is no enforcement of speed limits.  The road from Kampala to Hoima is all tar and some portion brand new pavement.  It winds its way through green, lush, forested hills, passing through small villages consisting of huts.  We stopped on the side of one small village to buy some bananas, which are grown all around us.  The locals are fascinated with us.  In Hoima we fuel up and take the 53km dirt road to Masindi.  The Murchison Falls National Park is 80km north of Masindi and more dirt road.  Entry to the park is $35US/person plus $20US/motorcycle and is valid only for two (2) days.  Uganda is the only country that allows motorcycles in wildlife parks.  We took full advantage of this fact and tried to visit as many as possible. We set up camp at the Red Chili Rest Camp for 10,000UGS/person ($5.50/person).  It is a nice place, located a couple hundred meters from the ferry crossing of the Victoria Nile River and launching of the boat tours.  From the restaurant there is even a view of the Nile River.  Our tent is pitched close to the edge of the site on a grassy spot.  Warthogs freely roam the area.  We take a walk to the park office and sign up for the three (3) hours boat tour to the Murchison Falls for 9am in the morning ($15.00US/person).  Supper is very good at the restaurant and cheap.  At 1:30am in the morning we are woken up by loud removal of grass beside the tent.  Hippopotamus enter the campsite during the night to grass the area.  The hippo was only a couple of meter from the tent and as large as our tent.  We did not make a sound.  Mike was excited and I was scared. If the hippo laid down on the tent we would be done.  We watched him eat and then disappear into the bushes again. Here are some facts about Hippos:

- They can be as large as 3m long, 1.5m wide and are the 3rd biggest land animal.
- Adult hippos weigh up to 3200kg.
- They can walk up to 6km/night and eat up to 40kg of grass/night.
- Most important hippos will outrun a human.

Dec. 24, 2007.  At 9am we are at the ferry port with half a dozen other tourists, ready to venture along the Victoria Nile River to the Murchison Falls.  But the boat seemed to be under repair.  The locals had been working since 7am on the motor and where still hopeful that by 10am it would be fixed.  There was no back-up boat available.  Another half an hour later some parts and oil was carried of the boat.  Better late, then never, after all this is Africa.  The boat had seating at the bottom and open deck above for best viewing of wildlife.  We followed the shoreline and saw an abundance of wildlife, besides the 1000's of hippopotamus lazing in the water.  Some of the wildlife seen were, elephants, huge Nile Crocodiles, Buffalo's, Squaccotterons (White Bird), Grey Crowned Crane, King Fisher, African Fish Eagle and Black Headed Heron.  There was not one dull moment.  The Victoria Nile River narrows at the Murchison Falls to pass through a 6m opening.  Due to the turbulence of the water we are not able to get directly under the waterfall, but are still rewarded with a good view.  We return to the campsite, to laze around in the very hot afternoon sun.  During the night we are revisited by the hippo grazing beside our tent.

Dec. 25, 2007. Christmas day.  The only festivities we encounter is 100's of people dressed in there best clothes walking along the dusty dirt roads to church.  Some villages have large gatherings of people and a goat or cow is being BBQ.  We do not feel like Christmas at all.  A call home is the closed to Christmas as we get.  We leave the Murchison Falls National Park and backtrack the 140km to Hoima.  From Hoima we take the 200km dirt road, past Kitoma to Fort Portal.  We treat ourselves to a nice room with shower at the Travelers Inn in Fort Portal for 50,000UGS/night ($30CDN/night). In the evening we take a walk through town, stop at the local grocery store and bank for some cash (Visa withdrawal only).

Dec. 26, 2007.  Great pavement from Fort Portal to the turn off to Queen Elizabeth National Park greets us.  We were tired of bad roads, dirt and dust and had sworn that morning that we would stay on pavement, but at last minute we change our mind.  First we stop for a picture at the Uganda Equator sign and then just as we get past Lake George, we come upon the turn to Ishasha.  We stop and look down the dirt road that leads through the Queen Elizabeth National Park.  If we take the road it will be two (2) days of riding on bad dirt/gravel roads.  We can not resist a challenge, as well as taking advantage of no park fee and the possibility of wildlife encounter.  We are not disappointed.  Within minutes we come upon some elephants. After 40km we reach the lake shores of Lake Edwards and the road turn south along the lake and Congo border.  We encounter another large herd of elephants passing right in front of us.  The sounds of the motorcycles does not disturb them and we are able to film our close encounter on the Video Helmet Camera.  Unfortunately not enough time to pull out the still camera.  Signage to Ishasa disappear and the intersections get more frequent.  With no one around we guess on what fork in the road to take.  The GPS track shows no tracks for this area, all we see is that the Congo border is only meters away.  Finally late in the afternoon we reach Ishasha.  Here we are only 500m from the Congo border and decide to continue to the Bwindi National Park (also called the Impenetrable National Park).  We are continuously asking people for directions.  We reach Buhoma and stay at the Lake Something Bwindi Camp for 6,000UGS/person ($3.20CDN/person).  Bwindi National Park is home to half of the world's known mountain gorillas, approx. 320 of them. The terrain is steep and the forest tense. After setting up our tent we visited the Park office and see if there was an opening to see the mountain gorillas for $500.00 US/person. The Park Warden advises us that they are totally booked over Christmas and New Years, but that sometimes there is no shows or people are sick. He took down our information and told us to be ready by 7:30am in case for an opening the next morning.

Dec. 27, 2007.  We were both excited, as there was a possibility to see the mountain gorillas in Uganda.  We tried not to get our hopes up.  We waited until 8:30am to see if there was any cancellations, but there was only one opening available and we decided to try our luck in Rwanda instead (for great Mountain Gorilla pictures see Rwanda Pictures).  We packed up the tent and rode through the Impenetrable National Park to Kabale. Again there is no fee to pass through the park.  40km of dense rain forest and another 70km of dirt track.  Most vehicles do not take the route through the park as it is not much more then a single track, it took us four (4) hours of interesting riding.  9km from Kabale we set up camp on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi at the Bunyonyi Overland Camp for 10,000UGS/person ($5.50CDN/person).  A beautiful spot to take a break from riding and to catch up on the usual, laundry etc.

Dec. 28, 2007.  A sign at the lake shore indicates that Lake Bunyonyi is the deepest lake in Uganda, with a depth of 6500 feet.  The hills surrounding the lake are terraced and small islands and bays dot the lake.  We watch local children cross the lake in dugout canoes and women laying out laundry to dry in the grassy terraces lining the shores.  Unfortunately for us big Overland Trucks invade the Campsite and I get a cold. The food at the restaurant is not very good and we decide to cook ourselves.

Dec. 29, 2007. Rest Day.

Dec. 30, 2007.  We get on the road again early to take advance of the blue sky and beautiful scenery ahead.  The 80km dirt road from the Bunyonyi Overland Camp to Kisoro, passes over a mountain range.  We are rewarded by beautiful views of Lake Bunyonyi and the neighboring Volcanoes in Rwanda.  Approx. 20km south of Kisoro is the border crossing into Rwanda, the road leading to it a mess of large rocks, washed out sections and large ruts.  We question ourselves “Is this really the way to the border crossing?”.  Yes it was.  The border formalities of passport exit stamp and carnet exit stamp completed in half an hour. The gate opens and we are in no mans land, exchanging our left over Ugandan Shilling with local touts.  We have come accustomed to the changing of money at border crossings, without using banks.  Not always the best exchange rate, but with no ATM's, cash rules, especially the US Dollar.

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