Time to hit the road again and head back down the mountain to the flat plains. We pass lots more crops including miles of rice paddies before heading through the big town of Mbale. By midday we reach the outskirts of Jinja and stop to look at the interesting Railway Museum. Then on to the town itself and along the edge of Lake Victoria until we reach the Source of the Nile. Here we find a lovely camping area right beside the Nile. A tad pricey but very scenic.
We wake to rain so we head off later than usual to tackle the huge city of Kampala. And we have found the traffic. Trucks, mini buses, boda-bodas (motorbike taxis) and cars. Large sections of the road are gridlocked. A bit of a shock as there has been so little traffic in Uganda until now. And it is not orderly traffic – its crazy stuff, especially the boda-bodas that buzz around seemingly in circles and so close they nearly touch us! We have made a list of places we want to visit so first head to Parliament. Hmmm the area is totally congested, both parking spots and the road itself. A definite no go for us. So, onto the Gadaffi Mosque. The police stop us using the route we have on the GPS – no trucks this way, so a bit of fast talking to get out of a fine before taking a longer route. Once there we find a huge carpark and head inside for a guided tour. I have a head scarf, but that is not enough. I need a long skirt and scarf over my shoulders! John must don a long tunic and cap (although the cap is optional.) The Mosque is impressive, but the best thing is the view from the top of the minaret with 360deg views of the city. Our next stop is the not so impressive Namirembe Cathedral and our final visit is to Mengo Palace. The King was banned by Idi Amin and has not returned. He cannot live where death has occurred – and this is where Idi Amin set up his horrific torture chamber in an ugly concrete bunker. We are glad to leave the bunker and head out of the city. Lots more traffic snarls, one roundabout takes us about 30mins to navigate! Later we navigate a long section of dirt track to the lovely Avocado Bay Resort right on Lake Victoria. It is a pretty spot to relax after the chaos of the city. Another storm in the night with lots more rain.
In the morning the track is not too sticky and we head back out and join the main road to Entebbe, and from there to the crazy Aero Beach Park. Here we wander around the collection of old fighter jets, huge planes, and a ginormous helicopter. Our plan is to drive over 100km to catch the ferry to the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria, but at the park we discover that there is a ferry here in Entebbe, so we head straight there. Yes, the ferry leaves at 2pm for Buggala Island and we will fit on. A bit of a wait, but we have lunch and talk to people (well John does!)
The ferry ride is over 3 hours and we spend a lot of the time upstairs in the exclusive area, by special invite. It is early evening when we drive off and head to Victoria Forest Resort where we can camp right beside the lovely white sand beach. Magic.
We spend a lovely day getting chores done and enjoying the lovely swimming pool. The resort is deserted, but guests start arriving in the evening (it is Friday) and we join them at the buffet. The boom boxes are set up beside the pool, but it is quiet by midnight. In the morning we drive all the way across the island to catch the free ferry back to the mainland. It is a short 30min ride. We want to reach Mityana by mid-afternoon Saturday to visit 100% Hope Church, School & Orphanage run by the amazing Trischelle Sayuuni who hails from the Gold Coast.
We make it in time, despite a rather bumpy dirt road I detour us onto! One of the guards shows us around the premises before we follow Trischelle to her home, a lovely rambling house on the top of the hill overlooking Lake Mityana. We have a wonderful time with Fred & Trischelle and their 6 children. Fred has cooked up a storm and we all tuck into a lovely dinner. John of course fixes up the kid’s bikes, which has the roll-on effect of quite a few crashes as the kids race around the yard.
In the morning we all head back to the Church for Sunday services. The Youth are taking it today, so it is action packed with dancing and singing. By early afternoon we say our goodbyes and head off. Such an inspirational couple. Look them up on http:// www.100-hope-org We head towards the city and take the ring road. Traffic is OK as it is Sunday. So far so good until we rejoin the main road and find the traffic. Oh well it is always a bit amusing watching the mayhem! When we reach the Nile, we decide to try a different campsite further up the river, but it is down a dirt track and the last section is not good. If it rains again tonight it will be sticky getting out, so we return to the Nile Camp at the Source. And just as well as it rains heavily in the night.
It is time to leave Uganda for our next country and by midday we are at the border town of Busia. It is supposed to be a One Stop Shop like our last border. Not! We get there in the end with only some road tax to pay. Welcome to Kenya! The border town is so chaotic we drive on to the next town to get our new sim and some groceries. Another storm rolls through with torrential rain, but finally we are off and head through more lovely countryside to the city of Kisumu nestled beside Lake Victoria. We drive right through the centre of the city to find our camp spot right beside the lake at Dunga Hill. There are picnic tables overlooking the lake and we can watch the sun setting over another day. We even spy a lonely hippo and then a few spider monkeys swinging in the trees. Back in town the next morning we get some urgent paperwork printed and scanned before finding an ATM and an excellent supermarket. We are impressed with this modern clean city. Mid-morning, we head out through fields of sugarcane. As we head into the mountains to Kerico, we see tea plantations stretching for miles. Stunning as always. Some of it looks as if it has been harvested by machines, but some is still been picked by hand. Back on the main road we find the trucks. Many are overloaded and incredibly slow, so lots of overtaking is required. A short stop at a tyre shop to change the front tyre. John mentioned it might be the next to go as there are a few cracks in it, so I suggest maybe we should just get it changed before that happens! Later we head on to Lake Nakura and the gorgeous camp at Kambi Amani that overlooks the lake.
The next morning, we chat to the owner, and he recommends the best route to the Maasi Mara NP and he also suggests visiting Nakura NP is not worth the cost. He also comments that next year the NP fees will double! We check out his kitchen and get a few free samples to try. His doughnuts are delicious! But time to move on, so we skip Nakura NP and head straight to the Maasi Mara. A fabulous drive through miles of cropped mountains and untidy villages. This is Maasi territory and they are all wearing their signature wraps. Later we stop at the bustling town of Narok for a few supplies before heading to the NP. We drive right up to the gate to work out the costs and the best time to enter. All sorted (hopefully!) we head a few kms down the road to the Oseki Maasai Mara Camp for the night. We enjoy a campfire and a rain free night, followed by an early start to enter the Park. We can get a transit pass through the first section of the park and then pay for entry at the Maasi Bridge so we can spend most of our time in the lovelier Maasai Triangle. It takes all the 2 transit hours to drive through because of the corrugations. We pay our entry, camping and vehicle fees and head in. Thank goodness the tracks in this section are not corrugated! We can slow down, relax and animal spot. The lions sunning themselves on a rock are a bonus and there are numerous giraffes, zebras, topis and a population explosion of elephants. The wildebeest have already migrated south to the Serengeti, but we stop beside one of their crossings on the Mara River and see the crocs still lying in wait for food. Instead of watching wildebeest cross we watch a family of elephants cross. And of course, there are plenty of hippos.
Later we head to our expensive campsite. It is simply a piece of land on the brow of a hill with a shed containing 2 squat toilets. John lights a fire so we can sit outside, but the rains come again and continue most of the night. It will be an interesting driving back out! The road is not too bad, but we do not venture along any side tracks. We spy another lion sound asleep on the grass and lots of balloons floating across the plains, despite the drizzle. We then get another transit pass to exit the park by 10am. On our way out we meet a truck with a 40ft container stuck in the mud. Why would he be allowed to drive these muddy tracks in a National Park!!
Out of the park we are accosted by Maasi ladies selling their wares, and we spread our purchases out between them. Then we head down the road to stop at the Maasi Cultural Village. We get a welcome dance involving a lot of chanting and jumping, before a guided tour of their village. Over 200 people live in a small ring of basic mud huts. Life is very basic here and they still eat only milk, blood & meat from their cows. Then a demonstration on fire lighting before the usual escort past a row of stalls. Finally, we head back to Narok and then turn and head east to Mai Mahiu and finally north to Lake Naivasha where we camp at the lovely Camp Carnelley’s right beside the lake. It is a gorgeous spot on lovely green grass with good facilities, an electric fence to keep the hippos out and a great restaurant. Awesome!
More to come.