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We Heart Jinja: Uganda – Kenya

Kampala, Jinja, Lake Naivasha, Crater Lake

We are back in Nairobi, picking up more people for the next stage of the tour. And saying a few sad goodbyes. I have just typed up a day to day itinerary so far and have notice how much we have actually done. And the 3 weeks has flown! We are again staying again in the area called Karen, named after Karen Blixon (‘Out of Africa’). One of the funniest things I have heard here is a Kenyan guy wearing an Aussie hat yelling out “A dingo stole my baby” to me.

I enjoyed Kampala, me and one girl on the tour had a very ‘western’ day there at the Garden City shopping centre, eating burgers and milkshakes and watching a movie, meanwhile the rest of the truck did a slum tour.

We then left for Jinja, Uganda’s adventure capital. We are already planning a reunion there it was so much fun. Our camp site was right on the Nile River and it was so nice to set up camp and know we were staying for 3 nights. No packing up tents and day packs. We got straight into the Chapati’s, which are DELICIOUS and overflowing with avocado (obviously not as expensive here as in Oz) and arranged a sunset cruise on the Nile – Lake Victoria. Turned out it is more of a Booze Cruise and we were forced to drink by the bar guys. “You guys drink too slow” and out came the Ugandan whisky bottles. We are a very musical group and as usual the night ended up with a lot of loud singing, continuing to the bus trip back to camp as we told people we were a travelling choir, and conga lined down to the bar to disturb everyone’s night. The next day I did White water rafting on the Nile. The drive there was beautiful, driving right through villages. We got a flat tyre, and as there was no spare we had to drive the last couple of km’s really slow. At one stage I looked behind and there must’ve been half a village following us! The first rapid – a Grade 5, 3m waterfall - was the perfect hangover cure. And the guides weren’t hard on the eye either. Ours was a Ugandan with an Aussie accent. He was HILARIOUS and we were in stitches all day. It would have to be one of the most fun days I have ever had. “If you fall out in the rapid, just chillax and enjoy the ride”. Easier said than done, especially getting stuck under the raft. We flipped a few times and one time the guide pulled me on top of the raft and we rode out the rest hanging on top. FUN! We partied on that night with all the guides at the bar and it was there I made the decision to go back and do it again in a tandem Kayak. Once again the first rapid was enough to wake me up. Always unnerving when your guide tells you he is shitting himself haha. It was a lot of fun, but definitely more scary than the rafting. The waves look a lot bigger from that small thing, and I did at moments wonder what I had got myself into. We were on the water for about 4 hours, and in between the rapids you just get to casually drift down the river, watching locals fishing and washing on the rocks. I really loved Jinja, the dirt roads, the villages, the weather and just being on the water. It just had a really nice vibe about it. One more day would have been great, just to relax on the river or look in some more shops (though it is probably best I avoid any more shops, I already have to send a box of things home).

We left early Monday morning and crossed back into Kenya to stay at a really nice camp site in Eldoret. Dinner was delicious, much better than any cook group meal.

Next stop was Lake Naivasha where our campsite was located right on the lake. Lake Naivasha is known for its Hippo population so we were comforted to see the electric fence to keep them from the tents. They leave the water to graze at night so although we were too scared to sleep, it was worth it to see them come up from the lake and eat less than 10m from our tents. We visited Elsamere, home of Joy and George Adamson (‘Born Free’) and had high tea in the gardens. A really beautiful location and was interesting to look around. She was an amazing artist! Also watched a short movie on Joy’s life and her work with wildlife.

On Wednesday we had the choice of a cycling safari through Hell’s Gate or a walking safari through Crater Lake Game Park. I did the walk and it was unreal! Although we had seen all of the animals before, it was pretty special to not be in a vehicle at all and just out in the open. There were so many Zebra’s and Giraffe’s and we were able to get within 5-10m. We hiked to the crater and down to the lake looking out for monkey’s overhead. When we got back to camp, we took some boats out onto the Lake to go Hippo hunting. I was a bit worried as I am sure the hippo’s could swim faster than these boats, and the drivers seemed to think they could drive through anything so we got stuck a few times. But it was pretty amazing, for about $5 an hour on Lake Naivasha watching hippos and even giraffes on the shore. We would have seen about 30, and if I said I wasn’t nervous at all I would be lying. Then stayed up watching the shore line again that night to catch them out of the water.

Yesterday we arrived back in Nairobi and visited the Giraffe Centre. They offer free entry to school students to educate them in the hope they will grow up to be wildlife warriors. We were able to feed the giraffe, Daisy, and I put a pellet in my mouth and she gave me a big tongue kiss. Very rough tongue but my first kiss in Africa. We went out for dinner last night in Karen as a farewell to a few people who are leaving, and once again singing was a big part of the night. This morning I went to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage which was great. A kiss from a giraffe one day, patting an elephant the next. All there is is a rope to separate us. Many are orphans from poaching, drought, being left behind stuck in wells as babies, or being driven out of their land with their families by humans and being lost in the confusion. They seem to do great work there to reintroduce them into the wild.

Tomorrow we leave for Tanzania.

Posted by neerg_08 03:15 Archived in Kenya Tagged victoria lake nile kenya crater giraffe kampala rapids jinja uganda naivasha sheldrick Comments (0)

Truck Life Begins: Kenya to Uganda

Turbot, Nakuru, Kampala

all seasons in one day

Overland Truck life is going well. The truck is really well equipped, even with drinking water which I am happy about (save my $1-2 a day water budget). I like how the seats are arranged, facing the middle of the truck instead on rows of 2 facing the front, as everyone has window (or in our case, open side) and it is more social…when we are not all sleeping. The beach area is good too, as a bit more out of the wind and sticking your head up over the top of the truck is probably the best view to see all around. The group on the truck seem like a good bunch and the tour leader and driver are great too. We have 17 people at the moment, and the truck has room for 24 for the extra seats are a bonus. We have split into 4 cook groups, so each night one group does dinner and then breakfast and sometimes lunch the next day. My group cooked last night and also a 5:30 breakfast this morning. The best part was shopping in the local market in Nakuru for pretty much everything besides the chicken. We fed 19 people 3 meals for $30-$40. I am not sure about this weight loss in Africa I was expecting though, as I can see we will be having a lot of pasta, rice, bread and potatoes over the next 10 weeks. All the good stuff.

Today we crossed the Uganda border and are heading for Kampala.
We did Lake Nakuru on Tuesday, a 6am start which was gorgeous that time of morning. Within the first 10 minutes we were called to see where some lions had just killed a buffalo and were sitting nearby waiting to drag it away. That was exciting and pretty lucky. Also saw black and white rhinos as well as many of the animals we had already seen. The lake looks just as it does in photos with all the pink flamingos and pelicans.

After Nakuru, we stayed overnight at Turbot and then crossed the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere, stripping off our ski jackets. The days are warm but as soon as the truck gets moving the wind really chiils things.

The people in the rural areas especially are sooo friendly and as we drive by, hanging out the side of the truck like dogs everyone waves and shouts “Jambo” and “Mzungu”. Particularly the kids, driving past a school you will see them over 100m away in the playground all with the 2 handed wave, One man lifted both his hands off his steering wheel to wave. It’s so nice and I just imagine how crazy we would look if we were at home doing that. We have had a couple of long drive days but even those are interesting as you get to see all the areas no one stops.

The scenery became greener and we crossed into Uganda. The border crossing was pretty hassle free as we are a big group. We are now in Kampala for the night, staying at Red Chilli’s. It is a pretty good campsite with FREE WIFI so us technology addicts are satisfied.

Posted by neerg_08 03:03 Archived in Uganda Tagged overland lake kenya equator kampala uganda nakuru turbot Comments (0)

The Maasai Mara: Kenya

Nairobi, Maasai Mara


Well I hope I can remember everything that I have seen in the last few loooong days. I’ll try to start at the beginning. My accommodation at Karen Camp, Nairobi, where I stayed the first night that I arrived and tonight isn’t too bad. The first night I had a dorm room all to myself which was nice. There is hot water (when you time your shower right) and electricity so I am happy. Everyone has been very friendly so far, and happy to give a bit of a guided tour when I am picked up/dropped off. Nairobi city centre is pretty urban, plenty of traffic though I haven’t spent time actually wandering around, maybe when we head back through on the tour. As modern as the city is, while you are sitting in traffic it is like a drive through supermarket. You could be offered anything from fruits and veggies, newspaper, school world maps and body charts or balloon animals. I was driving down the highway on Friday and Shakira’s Africa song came on, I nearly cried I was so happy to be here finally….or maybe it was the dirt in my eyes.

The Maasai Mara tour…..
There were 6 in our van for the Safari, from 6 different countries (Australia, USA, France, Latvia, Ecuador, Kazakhstan and the driver Kenya, quite the variety). They are all here on some sort of work as well so it has been interesting hearing different opinions and experiences depending on where their work is based. The drive to Maasai was about 5-6 hours, we drove through the Rift Valley which was hard to capture in the morning fog. “Looking is free” seems to be the main catchphrase here to lure you into the shops.
The last 2 hours of the drive was … not relaxing. Let’s just say you know a road is bad when you are driving next to it instead of on it. My first “African Massage”. Entering Maasai land either side of the road there are herds of cattle or goats being looked after by kids in their red dress, no older than 10! How easy I had it growing up in Sydney!

We arrived at our tented lodge in the afternoon, had the local Maasai men who work at the lodge take our bags to our tents (with its own BATHROOM!) and went for an afternoon game drive. It has lived up to all of my expectations of a safari and more. We spotted a couple of prides of Lions, Zebra, Wildebeest, Hartebeest, Dobi, Gazelle, Thompsons Gazelle, Mongoose, Impala, Elephants, Giraffe and Buffalo – not bad for a couple of hours. And this isn’t just spotting them from a distance. As we were able to go off road we got so close and the animals were completely unphased. (Being parked a few metres away from lions and elephants was very cool). Our driver, Nathaniel, was great and could tell what an animal was from the horizon – Maasai eyes! The drivers are all on radio so when a rarer animal is found you can see vans and 4wd’s speeding from all directions. We got bogged and had to lift the van out of the ditch, which was part of the fun…just keeping an eye out for lions. The sun going down over the park with the dark clouds on the horizon was beautiful.

At night you can hear footsteps on the gravel outside the tent as the Maasai patrol the camp. It is actually comforting as the camp isn’t entirely fenced (fences are tree branches).

Day 2 was a full day game viewing starting at 7:30. Besides the usual Wildebeest and Gazelles, our first exciting find of the day was a Cheetah, which along with Leopard and Black Rhino, are one of the hardest to see. The reserve in the morning is pretty spectacular and everything I imagined when I think of the African savannah. As well as everything we saw the first day, we were lucky enough to see a Leopard up in a birds nest, Ostrich, Hippos in the Mara River, Crocs, Crown Prince bird, some bird of prey and Lion cubs. Very cute, and yes I do want one. There were 30 or so Hippos in the river, in 3 groups, and to hear them communicating was pretty funny. One group would make these noises like a man with a really deep voice chuckling, then the 2nd group and then the 3rd group down the river would respond. I am sure they were laughing at us and daring us to come closer to the edge of the river. We were able to get within 10m of them. We drove to the border with Tanzania, this marks where the Maasai Mara (Kenya) becomes the Serengeti (Tanz) and 2m either side of the post is no mans’ land. We ditched the usual designated lunch spot for an acacia tree away from everyone else, with a view over the savannah. In the afternoon, while watching some giraffe’s with their babies we found 2 males fighting. Fast Fact: Giraffes don’t have vocal chords. So it was a silent fight watching them swing their necks in what seemed like slow motion and slam into the others neck. The only sound actually was the necks hitting. They would take it in turns hitting the other, a very polite fight, and then stand there calmly for a while as we took bets on who would be first to swing again. This went on for over 10 minutes and was still going as we left. Men! Also saw some baboons and Secretary birds, some sort of feral little monkeys and warthogs. We arrived back to the camp around 6 and headed straight to a local Maasai village.

IN the village there are about 200 people, 20 families. The chief has 4 wives. It was very interesting and they were really friendly and encouraged us to ask questions and take as many photos as we could. I of course did. They are open to anything, someone even asked about Female Genital Mutilation and whether they still practise that, which apparently they stopped last year. The kids go to school from 5-10 (apparently, though I find this hard to believe when you see all the kids with the animals all day) – I think it is much to the parents discression whether they want them to help out with the chores or send them to school. Also, the big holes in the ears is a sign of beauty though it is up to the parent whether or not they have them stretched. At the age of 10 the boys are circumcised and at 15 they go off into the mountains along for 5 years, to practice their jump and become a man. They will try to kill a lion to return to the village to prove this. The chief’s son, Alex, introduced us and several men performed a welcome dance, but I was more distracted by the kids jumping about following along behind them. They showed us how they make fire and assured us they don’t use matches or lighter (but mobile phones are common haha) and showed us leaves they use as nail files, plants used as Mosquito repellent, which actually smell like aeroguard, and the plant used to dye the blankets they wear red (the traditional ones, I am sure the ones they were all wearing were made in China). They took each of us into separate homes, I felt a bit intrusive. I wasn’t sure I’d fit through the front door hole. The mud huts are VERY warm inside as the fire is going and the heat is contained. There is a room for the fire, and a room separated by a cooking fire, and the family sleeps either side. Then behind where I sat was an inside stable for the calves to be kept away from lions and hyenas.

So 750 photos down I was ready for the final day. The dogs in the camp were going crazy this night so I didn’t sleep much, not so much from that nose, but more what they were barking at. The mind wanders………..

Today we started our game drive at 6 and had a couple of hours. My 5:30am cold shower really woke me up. First sight was a couple of jackals. Then all the usual gang. The pride of lions we saw today were actually on the move which was nice for the photos, as they are so lazy apparently sleep 20 hours of the day, so happy to catch them awake.
Then the bumpy ride back to Nairobi. The camp the last few nights only had hot water for a couple of hours morning and night, which we never experienced and now learned you have to ask them to turn yours on, and the electricity is also only on for a few hours, so I am on the way to developing night vision.
Back at Karen Camp now and having an early night before the Oasis tour starts tomorrow. Looking forward to it!

Posted by neerg_08 06:30 Archived in Kenya Tagged safari kenya maasai masai nairobi Comments (0)

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