De Addis Abeba a Ciudad del Cabo (From Addis Ababa to Cape Town)


A piece of paradise (revised and reworked)
January 27, 2012, 4:10 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Please note: This is a revised entry in addition to the one I excitedly posted on 23 January shortly after arriving at Byoona Amagara where I muddled up some of my facts. Now after having spent a few days here, I thought I’d expand on my thoughts about this beautiful little place and correct some of the information previously provided.

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The last few mornings I have woken up to the light seeping in from our balcony and the sound and sight of the birds chirping and hopping about on the railings. If I lift my head just a little bit, I look out on to the great expanse that is Lake Bunyonyi (also aptly known as ‘Place of many little birds’). As soon as we arrived at Byoona Amagara by dugout canoe, we knew we would be staying here for a while – we’d found our little piece of Ugandan paradise.

Geodomes of Byoona Amagara, as seen from the dugout canoe

Geodomes of Byoona Amagara, as seen from the dugout canoe

Byoona Amagara Island Retreat (B.A.) sits on a hillside on Itambira Island, one of the 29 islands located in Lake Bunyonyi at the southwestern corner of Uganda, close to the borders of Rwanda and the Congo. All proceeds generated from B.A. support education and sustainable community development in the lake. The location of B.A., the accommodation and the good food all make it easy to support this worthy cause.

As previously explained, our room is a geodome, a spherical like hut with only three walls which opens out on to a balcony from where we get to watch the birds and life on the lake go by. It’s definitely one of the coolest ‘rooms’ we’ve ever stayed in! The showers are outdoors (and cold – we were counting today and we think we’ve only had two hot showers in the almost three weeks we’ve been in Uganda) with a gap in the wall so you can watch the last of the dugout canoes heading back to the surrounding island villages as the sun starts to set. If nothing else, it helps to take your mind off the cold water!

Our home for seven days

Our home for seven days

How we've been spending our days

How we've been spending our days

Shower with a view

Shower with a view

Our days on the island have gone something like this – waking up to birds and lake views before a hearty breakfast of either pancakes with banana and chocolate or the healthier option of fruit or eggs, then a bit of reading and relaxing (or washing – we seem to do a lot of washing in Africa – and man, the bars of African laundry soap are amazing!) either on the terrace of the restaurant or by the swimming dock before lunch. Lunch has been great – the menu includes avocados filled with freshly caught little Bunyonyi crayfish and topped with (real) cheese, stuffed eggplant or potato chapatis crammed with vegetables covered with more cheese. Then to ease the guilt and our slowly expanding waistlines, we climb into a dugout canoe and paddle around some of the neighbouring islands for a couple of hours before heading back to shower and to watch the sun shimmering over the water as it starts to set before ordering dinner.

One of the toughest decisions to make on the island

Probably the toughest decision to make on the island

Lake Bunyonyi crayfish - delicious!

Lake Bunyonyi crayfish - delicious!

One of the reasons for our expanding waistlines

One of the reasons for our expanding waistlines

The mode of transport in the lake is the dugout canoe and although they’re pretty sturdy (they’re carved out of eucalyptus trees), they’re very sensitive to the wind as well as the slightest movement from inside the boat. Alberto practised quite a bit the correct way to steer to enable us to travel in a straight line and to avoid going round and round in circles, which is known as the ‘mzungu corkscrew’ (white man corkscrew)! Slowly making our way around some of the islands (most times with no one else around except a few birds) and marvelling at the cultivated hillsides and looking out across the lake is a great way to spend the afternoon.

The dugout canoe master

The dugout canoe master

Sometimes I paddle too . . .

Sometimes I paddle too . . .

The view from our balcony

The view from our balcony

One of the islands closest to us is called Punishment Island which is tiny and easy to recognise as it only has one tree in the centre of it. Sadly, this is where unmarried pregnant women were dumped to die (and most of them did as they didn’t have the stamina to swim to shore). Not a nice bit of knowledge in the midst of all the surrounding beauty.

Now that we’re feeling relaxed and like we’ve had a proper holiday, we’re ready for the next destination – Tanzania (we’ve decided to give Rwanda a miss). We’re leaving paradise on Monday and it should take us about a week (ferry and train timetable dependent) to get from the Ugandan border to Dar Es Salaam but we’re both pretty excited about the prospect of our first bit of beach time.

It’s a hard life . . .

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Lake Nkuruba y QE2 National Park
January 26, 2012, 12:13 pm
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Después de Kampala fuímos hacia el oeste de Uganda, acercandonos a la cordillera de las Rwenzori, que hacen de frontera con el Congo. El paisaje se vuelve más y más verde, con colinas cubiertas de plantaciones de banana y maiz.

Cerca de Fort Portal hay una región llamada los Crater Lakes, donde hay medio centenar de volcanes extintos en un radio de unos 20 kilometros, muchos de ellos con un lago en el crater. Tras una noche en Fort Portal decidiendo que hacer nos fuimos de camping a Lake Nkuruba, donde plantamos la tienda en un camping en el borde del crater del antiguo volcan. Mención especial para el taxi compartido que nos llevo al volcán, en un sedán de cinco plazas nos metimos ocho personas, dos bebés, nuestro equipaje, y dos gallos. En el asiento del conductor iban el conductor y una señora.

Allí pasamos dos días de relax, bañandonos en el lago del crater, yendo de visita a otros lagos, yo yendo al poblado a un par de kilometros a jugar billar con los locales, y comiendo arroz con judías, que con la dieta general que seguimos en África siempre nos da la impresion de que nos hacen mucho más saludables. Al amanecer y al atardecer nos visitaba un grupo de monos colobus, blancos y negros con una especie de tupé, nos podíamos pasar las horas viéndolos saltar de árbol en árbol y hacer otras monerías.

Nosotros en Lake Nkuruba

Nosotros en Lake Nkuruba

Comida sana!

Comida sana!

Otros lagos en el vecindario

Otros lagos en el vecindario

Un vecino empujando su bici

Un vecino empujando su bici

Monos!

Monos!

 

En Lake Nkuruba conocimos a otras dos parejas que tenían la misma idea de seguir hacia el sur hacia Lake Bunyonyi, y decidimos ir todos juntos a tratar de ver chimpancés al parque nacional Queen Elizabeth II, que está más o menos a medio camino de Lake Bunyonyi. Así que decidimos llamar al mismo taxi que nos había traído al lago y pedirle que nos llevará a nuestro próximo destino a los seis, tres personas delante y cuatro detrás ahora parece que es lo bastante cómodo para aventurarse en un viaje de dos horas, la mitad por caminos de tierra.

Ahora, ver chimpances en QE2 no es precisamente fácil, decidimos pasar la noche en Katunguru, que es una aldea cerca de la entrada del parque, y organizar cosas desde allí. Katunguru es África profunda, medio centenar de casas, sin agua corriente, pagando cuatro euros por el hostel, con calidad acorde, y un único restaurante en el que solo comimos una vez, debido a las ratas. Gracias a Dios que con el anochecer se ponen unos cuantos puestecillos en la calle donde la comida era más que decente. A la señora que hacía la comida seguro que le hizo ilusión que un nutrido grupo de turistas le dijera que su comida era excelente. Tras lo bien que me lo pasé jugando al billar en Nkuruba reté a uno de nuestros amigos a unas partidas, y una vez que había como veinte personas viendo a los dos blancos jugar le pedí a los locales que se mojasen. Todo muy divertido hasta que uno de los locales, llamado Omar, se animó a jugar y nos derrotó a los dos utilizando solo una mano. Vivir para ver.

Por la mañana nos fuimos de safari en un taxi. Vimos Kob Ugandes (un antilope, como tantos que hemos visto ya), una leona, un puñado de hipopótamos muy contentos en la orilla de un lago, y la verdad es que poco más. Los safaris mejor hacerlos en Kenya o Tanzania. Por la tarde nos fuimos al otro lado del parque donde nos iríamos a buscar chimpancés.

Lago de sal en QE2 National Park

Lago de sal en QE2 National Park

Contento como un hipopótamo en su charca

Contento como un hipopótamo en su charca

Lo de ver chimpancés supuso ir en un grupo de siete turistas con un guardia del parque arriba y abajo por la jungla en el cañón de un río, buscando dónde podrían estar los chimpancés desde que los vieron en la mañana en un sitio particular. Tras unas tres horas o así de hacer trekking buscándolos en vano nos cruzamos con un elefante, al que vimos bastante de cerca. Al cabo de unos minutos el guardia se puso a dar golpes en su rifle, que el elefante obviamente reconocía como algo peligroso ya que se dió a la huída tirando árboles abajo y haciendo un montón de ruido.

Inmediatamente después salimos del cañon, y desde la parte de arriba vimos que los elefantes habían asustado a los chimpancés, que saltaban de árbol en árbol al otro lado del cañon, así que abajo otra vez a cruzar el río en el fondo a dónde los habíamos visto saltando, a conseguir nuestro trofeo en forma de foto.

Un chimpancé, que no estaba de humor para acercarse más

Un chimpancé, que no estaba de humor para acercarse más



A little piece of paradise
January 23, 2012, 6:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Since I last wrote, we’ve done quite a bit but you’ll have to wait a little bit longer for me to tell you more about that as we’re now in Lake Bunyoni (which means “place of many little birds” and seems to be true for where we’re staying) on a little island called Byoona Amagara (their website doesn’t do the scenery justice and we’ll upload pics as soon as we can). We had to paddle at least 50 mins in a dugout canoe to get here and it was definitely worth it!

Our room is called a geodome and only has three walls – instead of a fourth wall, we have a verandah and a view of the lake – it is absolutely beautiful. Electricity is solar powered so again we might be out of touch a little bit over the next few days and tonight I had an outdoor shower (albeit cold) while watching the fishermen in their dugout canoes in the distance.

Promise to write more soon but we’re really happy where we are now – we think we might stay here for a week and not do very much and then head for the Tanzanian border.

Thank you to all of you who’ve left comments – sorry we can’t reply to all of them and sorry I can’t write individual emails but promise we think of you all lots.

Take care and be in touch soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Chaotic Kampala and life on the Lemon
January 19, 2012, 7:57 am
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Following a weekend of relaxation, lots of eating and star gazing on the haven island that is Hairy Lemon (HL) – more about that in a bit – we thought we’d better move on before we got too comfortable and fat at HL and couldn’t leave . . . So we thought we’d brave Kampala.

Once you get over the initial impression of reigning chaos in Kampala (but that was probably also due to the area where we stayed, which wasn’t all that nice), it’s not such a bad city and parts of it are quite attractive. The streets are quite clean but the air is clogged with the pollution of the traffic, which is relentless and for a pedestrian, quite scary (Allison, if you can believe it, Alberto and I both think it’s easier crossing the streets of Hanoi than the roads of Kampala!). At the risk of being dramatic, each time we ventured outside our hotel, we braced ourselves for the close shaves we were going to have dodging motorbike taxis (those guys are dangerous as they dart in and out and seem to drive straight towards you with no indication of slowing down), minibus taxis, cars and buses as pedestrians seem to have no rights when it comes to rules of the road.

One of the Kampala taxi parks

One of the Kampala taxi parks

En route to the bus station

En route to the bus station

Kampala Road is the main thoroughfare which runs through the centre of the city and is where most of the banks and some restaurants are (call me sad but I did get a little bit excited at the sight of familiar SA establishments such as Steers, Debonairs and Nando’s – and Woolworths in one of the shopping centres – but I was restrained, I didn’t indulge in any of them). The differences between the surrounding areas on either side of the road are remarkable – our hotel was on the side that was closest to the taxi park and bus station so while good for transport, I wouldn’t stay there again (one night after dinner while walking back to our hotel – hand in hand too, mind you – Alberto was propositioned by a prostitute who thankfully just laughed when I turned my head and glared at her). The parliament building, fancy hotels and more nice restaurants are on the other side of Kampala Road and that’s probably where you’d choose to spend more of your time.

On our second morning we walked down to one of the main shopping centres and ended up spending most of the day there. As part of my Christmas present from Mom and Dad, I treated myself to a much needed – and surprisingly relaxing – manicure and pedicure (the spa seemed a bit dubious at first as it’s in a parking lot and inside is dimly lit with red light bulbs but that’s as dodgy as it got) administered by Jameel, a young Ugandan guy, who complimented me on my nails (as most of you know, I’ve been biting my nails forever and it’s only been in the last five months that I’ve managed to grow them so I was pretty chuffed at his remark). Alberto and I then had back and shoulder massages which I think we both needed to relieve some of our travel stress!

For dinner we met up with Andrea, an Italian structural engineer who we’d briefly met at Hairy Lemon, and I feasted on awesome masala dosa at yet another really good Indian restaurant. Andrea used to live in Manchester for a while (his wife is British) and then worked in Zimbabwe (building cholera water treatment centres during the outbreak a few years ago) and Kenya before moving to Uganda – he’s a really great guy with a wicked sense of humour and we had a really good evening. Andrea recommended we head to the nearby National Theatre as he said there’s often live music on and we’re glad we did – we were treated to an African percussion session and the music was great. The dancers were pretty entertaining too – especially eight-year-old Shafiq (son and grandson of the band members) who was quite comfortable being in the spotlight and taking centre stage to show off his impressive dance moves :-)

After just two days in Kampala, it was crazy to think that only a few days before and in under two hours away, we were at Hairy Lemon, which is worlds apart from the madness of city life.

The island in the Nile that is Hairy Lemon was established about nine years ago and is the perfect getaway – we can totally see how people get stuck there and don’t want to leave. We travelled from Jinja, which is at most an hour away, to a small village called Nazigo and then heaved ourselves and our backpacks on to the back of a bodaboda and held on for dear life as we bounced along 10km of dirt road. Once at the ‘parking lot’ for the island, you announce your arrival by banging on an old tyre rim and from what seems like out of nowhere, the boatman (this guy’s got muscles!) appears to row us back across to our little island oasis.

Sounding our arrival at Hairy Lemon

Sounding our arrival at Hairy Lemon

The mighty Nile (looking pretty calm in this shot)

The mighty Nile (looking pretty calm in this shot)

HL’s especially popular with experienced and professional kayakers as there are some serious rapids nearby to play around in (Alberto and I had a go with a two-man kayak one day – not all that different from our Laos experience, Valerie :-p – but we played it safe and stuck to the quieter parts of the river) and Paul, the relatively new South African owner (another awesome character – very calm and laidback and I reckon he’s seen a fair bit of the world), has done the Dusi (an annual 120km canoe race back home in South Africa) a number of times too. Paul’s trying to encourage more families to visit the island and we even helped him choose pictures (and I did a tiny bit of editing and additions) for an article that’s due to be published in a magazine called The Eye, which is aimed at expats living and working in Uganda. Fingers crossed that works out for him.

The kayak collection

The kayak collection

Apart from a kayak session, we spent three days lying in our hammocks, reading our books, swimming in the Nile and getting fed delicious food. Evenings were pretty chilled too – a bit more reading, lots more eating plus a bit of stargazing – I forget how much I like to be able to see the stars – and then off to sleep in our tent which was pitched very close to banks of the Nile. It was brilliant!

Morning views at Hairy Lemon

Morning views at Hairy Lemon

This is what it's all about . . .

This is what it's all about . . .

Very cute (and delicious too when roasted on the fire at Hairy Lemon!)

Very cute (and delicious too when roasted on the fire at Hairy Lemon!)

Anyway, on to new adventures and places and now we’re in Fort Portal in the southwest for a quick pitstop before we head to the surrounding crater lakes.

Our bus journey from Kampala to Fort Portal started off as yet another random African travelling experience – the first two hours involved enduring the ramblings of a preacher/politician wannabe/salesman projecting his sermon and selling his wares to an audience that was mostly asleep via a mouthpiece connected to a strategically placed (right behind us) speaker hanging from a hook on the bus railing. Thankfully at the halfway point, the speaker was unhooked and the salesman got off. We then watched as a little while later, the bus stopped alongside a tiny village for a woman to disembark with her belongings which included an office sized photocopier, petrol generator and an assortment of plastic bags and suitcases. She was then replaced by a new passenger who stuffed a live and squawking chicken into the luggage hold underneath the bus . . . Just another day in Africa!

More news soon.



Sipi Falls
January 13, 2012, 6:12 am
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Our introduction to Uganda was the dusty border town of Busia. Once we cleared immigration, off we went to find the taxi stand and a little while later with a patch of my behind perched precariously on the edge of a seat (there were six of us in a three seater row), we set off for Mbale, the first major town from the border. There’s not much to see (except Mount Elgon in the distance if the dust and haze clears) or do in Mbale, except maybe to eat curry at Nurali’s Cafe which we did and it was some of the best curry we’ve both had in ages.

The next day we ventured out a bit more comfortably to Sipi Falls, 55km north of Mbale. The falls are gorgeous. We did a four hour walk to all three levels of the falls and the surroundings for each are green and lush with fields of plantain trees and cabbages. Our guesthouse also had stunning views of the third level of the falls and we found the perfect hillside to watch the sunset and from which we could clearly see Mount Elgon in the distance.

Views of Mt Elgon from Sipi hilltop

Views of Mt Elgon from Sipi hilltop

Waterfalls and cabbages

Waterfalls and cabbages

The start of the second level of Sipi Falls (we had a shower in the spray underneath)

The start of the second level of Sipi Falls (we had a shower in the spray underneath)

Sipi level three - and the falls we could see from our guesthouse

Sipi level three - and the falls we could see from our guesthouse

Electricity seems to be pretty sporadic in Uganda and out at Sipi was no exception. However, it’s full moon at the moment and it was awesome to watch the moon rise up behind the hills and light up the valleys below each evening. The following day involved a disappointingly unspectacular walk to a cave through the forests of Mount Elgon National Park (11km ascent and then descending the same way we’d come). The most interesting bit of the day for me was learning that our guide’s brother is Moses Kipsiro, a double Commonwealth Games gold medalist for the 5000m and he’s currently training for London 2012.

Now we’re in Jinja, which is one of the sources of the Nile and where some of Ghandi’s ashes were scattered. We plan to head to Hairy Lemon (!) today which is a guesthouse / campsite on a little island in the Nile. I think Alberto wants to kayak but I plan to laze in the hammocks and not do much else!

At the source of the Nile

At the source of the Nile



En Uganda / Uganda bound
January 8, 2012, 3:38 pm
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Tras un par de dias descansando en Kisumu, que nos ha parecido un lugar excelente, hemos cruzado la frontera a Uganda y llegado hasta Mbale. Hace un calor de la leche y no puedo pensar. Hemos ido a sacar pasta a un cajero que tenia aire acondicionado y hemos debatido quedarnos a dormir en el. Hubiera sido una buena idea.

Tenemos un numero Ugandes ahora: +256 779449983, mandad mensajes que nos llegan.

 

We crossed in to Uganda today! It’s stinking hot but they have very cool looking bank notes :-) Didn’t think it was physically possible but it was confirmed today – Ugandans do pile way more people into their minibuses than the Kenyans do . . .

Our last few days in Kenya were good, we just chilled in Kisumu – third largest city in Kenya but very laidback – and now we’re excited for our adventures ahead in a new country.

We have a Ugandan number (see details above at end of Alberto’s post) so get in touch if you want.

Heading to Sipi Falls tomorrow for a few days so we’ll be in touch again soon.



Magnificent Mara
January 4, 2012, 3:48 pm
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Hippos, crocs, wildebeest, impala, dik-dik, topi antelope, Thomson’s gazelle, hartebees, giraffe, elephants, large herds of buffalo, hyena, jackal, vulture, secretary birds, crown birds (national bird of Uganda), mongoose, warthog, several big daddy lions, lionesses and cubs, a leopard and a cheetah – this is just some of what we saw during our recent trip to the Masai Mara:

Sunrise in the Masai Mara

Sunrise in the Masai Mara

Wildebeest

Wildebeest

Cebras

Zebra

Crown bird

Crown bird

Giraffe

Giraffe

A buffalo herd

A buffalo herd

Buffalo checking us out

Buffalo checking us out

Leopard, really shy and hard to see

Leopard, really shy and rare to see

Big daddy lions

Big daddy lions

Lionesses walking down the road

Lionesses walking down the road

Lion cubs

Lion cubs

Hippos

Hippos

A big colorful lizard

A big colorful lizard

A cheetah, battling in the midday heat

A cheetah, battling in the midday heat

Elephant

Elephant

A kind of vulture, we rode one of these

A kind of vulture, we rode one of these