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#ExploreWest Uganda – Day 3 Report

Camping in a group is always an interesting undertaking. Regulars include cuddling couples – lucky bastards, the one drunk chap who can’t find his tent, some chick watching a Korean soap on loud speaker…when did this Korean cinema takeover happen btw? It was Bollywood in style last time I checked…the parte after parte guys who switch on the Bluetooth speaker and keep going after everyone else has signed out… It’s the characters that make the experience worth it. The extra spice of wild camping is, well, the wild animals. A Rhino crossed my camping site once. This time, it was just warthogs scouting the area for food. At least that’s what I convinced myself so I could sleep whenever a weird noise woke me up. I can take pumba down.

We wake up, pack up, drop our things in the bus and walk to the nearby Kazinga Channel boat landing site. Before kazinga storo, the morning view from the camping site was fire. And to my dismay, the group failed the camping site cleanliness guidelines. Don’t live your litter there.  We left a bomb site. Not me, I disposed my trash in the bins. Yes, I’m the better person here.

At Kazinga, we jumped in the boat. But not before a hippio appeared out of the water hyacinth and gave some people a scare and the rest of us a good laugh. We jumped on the boats and rowed around the channel which connects Lakes Edward and George. Primary geography woot woot! We see all the wild animals again, communally taking in the sweetness of the water. Hippos, a bunch of birds – I recognized showlebils and kingfishers, elephants, malnourished looking crocodiles, a lot of loser buffaloes. That’s that the guides call them. I wonder what that does to their self esteem. See, they are former herd leaders that were kicked out by younger dudes and now have now crew so they hang out together. Ageism cuts across the animal world.

Next, we head to Lake Katwe to see the salt mines. It’s good to see they upgraded since I last was. Forexample, they use generator pumps to move water from pond to pond instead of basins. I think they are called salt mining ponds. I skipped most of the briefing again. The kasana was oppressive. I don’t ask if they still work in condoms to prevent the salt water poisoning them and making them infertile. It feels intrusive. There’s raft in the middle of the lake. We are told it’s for collecting kihonde. Most of the salt is bought by cattle herders for their cows. Fascinating. The can do different quality grades. You can wash salt to make it better. It’s like us, guys. I remember asking about ownership vs rental of the ponds but I don’t remember receiving a straight answer. But I learnt there are boundaries beyond which you can’t mine.

The plan was to stop by the next door Lake Munyanyange to see flamingoes but they were on leave that day so we just cruised by. At least we spotted a dried up lake that looked like an alien landing site.

We climbed out of the salt valley and parked at the nearby Institute of Tourism for a specially prepared luncheon. Do you know how it cool it feels to be welcomed by a traditional troupe as you go for lunch? Though I guess VIP types must be tired of that routine. We chom the matooke and meat, speeches are made, gratitude is expressed and then we vamoos out of there towards Kasese town.

There’s a quick CSR activity in Kasese where the minister hands over items from the group to Bulembia Primary School. The highlight of all that is we catch a thief on the bus. Remember this is the vibes bus. It really wasn’t this guys day. He’d already stolen a phone from one of the buses and got caught on ours  The whistles start blowing. Voices rise. I stay cool because I was posting yesterday’s update. The threat is implied but no mob justice occurs. I’m proud of us.  A citizens arrest is made in the bus and we move with him to Kilembe mines where the police in our convoy car are summoned and they lead him away in handcuffs. I have only seen this stuff on TV. My money is finished.

At Kilembe, we climb up to a school up in the hills where we can get a good view of the chaos that is River Nyamwamba. Long story short without going into a geography lesson, the river flows with huge stones down from the Rwenzori mountains. The entire river bed valley is thus covered with these massive roound boulders. Gattdayum, this is mental. And people still stay there?! There’s even ruins from houses that have suffered the wrath of the rocks. Why do we even know about the mines that are there looking meek at the side of the hill? This is where the real action is!!!

 

We leave the Kilembe area still intact, pass through Kasese and onto the Fort Portal road. It’s flanked by the Rwenzori highlands but the mountain top refuses to come out and greet us from behind it’s cloud cover. Sha, you think us we don’t want to see snow. Miss Tourism tweets about Kazinga National Park and we judge her because it’s Kazinga Channel and Queen Elizabeth National Park. Soon we learn Kazinga is the decolonized name of the park. I have been humbly educated.

We enter Fort Portal as the sun is setting and find it wet from a previous pour. Heh. We scatter to support the accomodation facilities in the area. There’s a lot of chatter about camping but by the time I reach the camping grounds, AR Bistro, it is evident I am on a solo camping mission again. Punks! As I approach the dark camping grounds, a fellow traveller calls me telling me about the 25k self contained rooms they have found that have hot water showers. It’s cold and my adventure resolve is shaken by the soft life. But after the owner of the camping grounds takes me around his 8 acre natural backyard forest neighbouring the camping grounds doted with finishing ponds and channels, soft life fades away and I set up my tent. I’ll post pictures with tomorrow’s report. I lie down and before thoughts of going out have time to be formed, I’ve drifted off to dream land with a choir of crickets as background music. The sleep bes real in your 30’s

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