So, now it’s Uganda. This means for me exchanging the public transport for a 4WD. Quiet a change, turning from an independent traveller on fixed routes to flexible locomotion but now depending on my fellow travellers. We started off in Entebbe after spending 2 nights on Ngamba Island in Lake Victoria, also called the Chimp Island, as its main inhabitants are orphaned chimps in a sanctuary. Lawrence is the veterinarian on the island so we could stay for free. (Quiet amazing t o meet people who spend considerably more then $1000 a week to work here – cleaning the cages etc.) It’s so impressive to see chimps from close up.
Given the time to observe them, one can see that we are apes after all. Their behaviour resembles ours so much. I was most impressed by the way the alpha male establishes his hierarchy back in the forest. I should mention here, that the biggest part of the island, the forest, is fenced off. Chimps are dangerous animals, which makes it feel like being in Jurassic Park. We went around the island once in a boat and cruising around once in a kayak. The chimps come back every night into the cages, a measure taken to protect the forest from overuse, as it’s too small to house all 45 constantly (just look at the cage floor the next morning and you’d understand). In the cages the hierarchy is a bit different among them so every morning again the alpha male gets its troop back to together. The moment he enters the outskirts, an increasing starts. Some of the male chimps with lower hierarchy give him their hand to touch and smell and then they touch and sniff each others arse. After five minutes everything is back to normal and they head off into the forest only to come back twice during the day for feeding and then again before night fall. Had a great time there, including campfires and lots of fireflies.
And then off to Kidepo Valley National Park, situated in the Northeast of Uganda. Up to now quiet inaccessible on road, as both possible roads used to lead through hard-fought areas. In the Northwest, the LRA, lord resistance army used to fight the government, a dirty civil war with child soldiers and land mining. You can see an increasing number of warning signs the more remote the area gets. Plus, the road condition…don’t ask for it. But now Kony fled to Congo (probably more ‘fun’ right now) and the road through Gulu and Kitgum is safe. That was a straight 16h rides, leaving at 4am (picking up our 2nd man from Entebbe airport) arriving at the campside around 8pm. On the way back we decided to go for the route through the Karamoja. This huge eastern part of Uganda is inhabited by the Karamojong, a relative tribe to the Massai in Kenia.
Dangerous because it is still very common among them to steel each others and their neighbours cattle. And it was not uncommon to get ambushed in the middle of either one of their raids or more likely by thugs. But according to the Karamojong rangers in the Park and other visitors who had come that way it’s supposedly safe now during the day. So went our way, through beautiful landscape and amazing people on the road; accompanied by one of the rangers, his AK47 between his knees, who wanted to be dropped off in Moroto.
(dead caracal or african lynx we found on the road)
We picked up some other guys on the road, all of them carrying an AK47 with them. It only occurred to me later during this trip that it is actually not common for western standards to share the back seat with AK47 carrying people, but then here, it’s the most normal thing you could imagine. I have to admit that also it was considered safe, crossing the ‘more dangerous’ area was certainly not calming. But the whole trip was ways more then worth it. Turned out to be more adventurous then expected in the end, having a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.
We arrived at Sipi Falls in the dark again, but then having a nice view when getting up the next morning, which sadly enough was my last day of this whole trip, leaving Entebbe at midnight.