East Africa

East-Africa-2

It actually stretches from the northern arid deserts of Ethiopia to the tropical forests of Mozambique and Madagascar, with 19 countries in between.  While my East African adventure in 2006 only spanned 3 countries, the experience it yielded were quite diverse – from the usual Safari adventures to tracking Chimpanzees to the more extreme, whitewater rafting.  Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, territories that were formerly under British control and each hold common thread yet bear its own unique character.

Highlights:

rhino-and-zebra

Catching sight of the Big Five – Lions, African Elephants, Cape Buffalos, Leopards, and Rhinoceroses.

giraffe

The Big Five aside, Zebras along with giraffes have become favorites.

Witnessing not quite the migration but the start of it.  From July to October, one could witness the great migration where wildebeest and zebra travel to and from the Serengeti National Park to the greener pastures of the Masai Mara National Reserves.

masai-mara

It is perhaps the most breathtaking event in animal kingdom and the whole point of our visit to this continent.  To see them gather together, sometimes in a line is more than thrilling.

flamingos

Witnessing a gathering of Flamingos.  Absolutely a sight to behold, this sea of pink covering a large part of Lake Nakuru.  One of the Rift Valley soda lakes that attract vast quantity of flamingos that feed on the lake’s abundant algae.

Being in beautiful Ngorongoro Crater.  It is the world’s largest intact unflooded volcanic caldera and is home to over 300,000 animals including the rare Black Rhinos.

ngorongoro

An absolutely beautiful place to be on a safari, the crater makes for a stunning backdrop to rich grazing grounds.

zanzibar4

Chilling in Zanzibar.  A semi-autonomous island separated from the Tanzanian mainland.

zanzibar3

Although just a short distance from the Tanzanian coast, it is at the crossroad of Africa, the Middle East and Asia resulting in a culture of diverse ethnicities, more Middle Eastern in its feel than African.  Likewise with local dishes, the rich fragrance of cinnamon, ginger, cumin, pepper and cardamom is synonymous with Zanzibar, also known as the Spice Island.  The streets of Stone’s Town – the capital’s old quarter – is full of the bustle of back street markets and local flavor.

zanzibar2

The charm lies in its labyrinth alleyways and faded buildings redolent of the glories of the old Islāmic empire.

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Rafting the White Nile.  Stretching 31km from just below the Bujugali Falls in Jinja, experiencing the Nile at its source is by far the best heart-pounding whitewater ride of my life.

Getting lost in Uganda.  On a wrong bus, we went the other way and ended up not quite where we wanted to be.

bus-stop-scene-in-Uganda

Best known for Idi Amin or Joseph Koney, getting lost could be frightening but this mishap gave us a taste of the local flare and the kindness of its people.  We eventually found our way but not without the help of the people we didn’t know from Adam.  An impression indelibly marked in my heart.

It is by far one of the best trip I’ve had – a wonderful surprise, considering that it was not even on the priority.  I will be back Africa, sooner than you know.

Uganda Mishaps

You get what you pay for. We were on a budget and we decided to take the bus to save some money. We could have asked the taxi driver to drive us there but it would cost us 4x more than if we took the bus…

After our rafting stint in Kampala, we headed west. We took the wrong bus and ended up in a small town called Kamwenge with no inns to accommodate us. It was our first taste of the local Ugandan life. We should have been alarmed when we entered the bus and saw zero foreigners.

bus-to-kamwengeCredits:  Frame (for all photos)  by Sweet Shop – Cycle Carnival Frame

The trip was supposed to have taken 4 hours. 5 hours later, we realized we were nowhere near our destination.

kamwenge-enroute1

Along the way, I was scouting for places to sleep and can’t seem to spot any and as the town gets smaller and more remote, my fear gets bigger and more foreboding.

vendors

When we finally reached the end of the road, we got out, got our bags and tried to muster an act of normalcy, probably to no avail. The people were staring, probably wondering what brought these 2 Asians to their town (if they’ve even seen an Asian upclose and personal before). On the bus, dear boyfriend befriended a young local residing in the city, who was going to visit family. Dear boyfriend’s thought balloon – “I’ll force this young guy to take us home with him for the night!”   😯 He probably sensed it because he waited with us for a matatu (their version of our FX) and was I relieved when we were finally on our way to where we were supposed to be 6 hours ago. The driver even helped us find a good hostel, stayed with us until we were guaranteed a room. We were warned by friends to be careful in Africa and so far all we had experienced was kind accommodation from everyone.

OK, that was our scary moment, we also had our fair share of funny moments and one such moment was when we had to take a matatu in Fort Portal to Lake Nkuruba (near Kibale Forest, where the Chimpanzee tracking is). We were the first passengers and had to wait till the car got filled up.

squeeze

The matatu, a Corolla, finally left with all 10 of us – 5 passengers at the back and 5 in front including the driver – but not without a flat tire.

flat-tire1

Don’t ask me how we fit in that poor Corolla. It was hilarious! It didn’t help that dear boyfriend is a big guy and I refused to sit on anyone’s lap nor have any one sit on mine so one guy was practically standing (squatting was more like it!) all the way. Poor guy but I wasn’t budging.

lakeside-cabin

The misadventures did not stop there. In Lake Nkuruba, we booked for the lakeside cabin. It wasn’t what we (or rather I) envisioned it to be and the lake was practically the only thing that was going for us, at this point.

admiring-nkuruba

First of all, the bath is an outhouse on a hill. Secondly, there was no electricity, good thing we had headlamps. But the worst thing was when we were about to call it a day, (headlamp) lights out and all, as I lay down, head resting on my pillow, I felt something moved! MOVED! I was sharing a pillow with a bush rat! Let’s just say that the pillow (and the rat) got thrown out of the cabin, and I shared a pillow and a bed that night! The next day, we checked out and moved to a $45 room in Fort Portal.

So did we save? Learn from our lessons, my friends. If unsure, take a cab and be wary of super budget prices. As I said, you get what you pay for, as simple as that. Not their fault.

Despite the mishaps, this trip was exceptionally memorable (and on hindsight, quite enjoyable) precisely because of the risks we took.  The experience was all worth it.  No regrets. It’s all good!

African Groove

african-grooveCredits:  Papers – JSprague 07, MCO Beautiful Journey 02;  Embellishments – JHE Twilled Phrases blank, Leona Apron Strings2 pldlabel, MCO Topper;  Overlays – KPertiet Sanded overlay, MCO Boho Flourishes;  Paper Mask – MCO Scalloped Paper Mask;  Alpha – JSprague Dauphin Alpha

This was taken in Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve in Fort Portal.  It is also home to orphans of AIDS victims.  Part orphanage, part guesthouse, the money earned from the guesthouse (and various donors) helps sustain the orphanage.  Most of the time, a show is prepared for guests.  Performing with gusto, we watched, entertained by their zeal.  They showed pride as they performed in front of a handful of delighted foreigners.  These children definitely have the groove!

red-colobus

Red Colobus among the many wildlife found at the forest.

lake-nkuruba

Lake Nkuruba was our jump-off point to an up close encounter with the chimpanzees.  Uganda is home to gorillas (in Rwenzori Forest) and chimps (in Kibale Forest).  Unable, however, to see the gorillas due to time, budget constraints and the government’s policy on permits, we went on the chimpanzee trek.

chimps

fort-portal

A small town with one main road, we found our way to this western town of Uganda the hard way.  In fact the highlight of our African adventure was this journey to Fort Portal and Lake Nkuruba.  It’s a story all its own so stay tuned.   😀

River White

white-nile

Credits:  Papers:  KPertiet Fairy Dreamer, JSprague Red Solid Paper, KPertiet Botanist no. 7-2; Elements:  Jack n Me Alpha blank, KPertiet Brown Stitching, KPertiet Quotes;  Brushes:  DD MWise A La Mode, KPertiet On the Edge Flourishes 2-1G;  Frames:  KPertiet On the Edge Flourishes 3-6G, KPertiet Snap Frame

Navigating the White Nile or the source of the Nile, in Uganda, is a once in a lifetime experience.  The Ugandan government has every intention of constructing a hydroelectric dam at the Bujugali Falls to provide power to the country, as their frequent power interruptions can last a whole day.  In a few years the exciting rapids will just be a memory.

We would raft rapids labeled as “the bad place”, “overtime” and more.   The day trip is a 30 km stretch of world-class white water rapids, mostly grades 4 & 5.  I was in for a turbulent ride!  But hey!  How often do you get to raft the longest river on earth?  The White Nile is a beautiful stretch of river with abundant bird life and rich, green-forested banks.  While the whole experience gives you an adrenalin rush, strangely, a calm assurance sort of settles in because well, wasn’t I rafting with some of the best river guides in the world?

Useful Info:

The Outfit: ADRIFT Adventure Co.

Plot 14, York Terrace,
Kololo (near Kololo airstrip & MTN Nyonyi Gardens)
Kampala, Uganda
E-mail:     raft@adrift.ug
Telephone:   +256-(0) 312 237 438
Mobile:   +256 (0) 772 237 438