Week 14: Uganda/Kenya: From Lake Bunyoni (UGD) to Nakuru (KEN)
This week mark our 100th day on the road, our 9th country and our 2nd equator crossing – what a crazy amazing adventure it has been this far! (yes I know it is technically 14 weeks and 2 days, but who is counting? 😊)
First our normal stats:
· Total days travelled: 100
· Total distance travelled from Cape Town: 14,927km
o We are super happy with Aardvark that is still on its steady 5.7km/l fuel consumption…regardless of what we’ve thrown at him!
· Total borders crossed: 9
And then the Aardvark stats for Week 14:
· Best drink: We “discovered” a bottle of Moreson Pinotage (one of the few bottles left after our wedding) in one of our secret compartments whilst cleaning Aardvark – it went down oh so smoothly. Especially sitting next to our bonfire, overlooking the Victorian Nile at The Haven campsite outside Jinja, and listening to the rapids in the distance…A close second was the Date Brandy from Naute Kristall that we had next to the Albert Nile in Murchison Falls!
· Best food: We had an Indian lunch at Jinja Sailing Club after we went to look for the source of the Nile (again 😊)…and my chicken korma and Irene’s minced aubergine tempered with tomato, onion, yoghurt and cumin were just out of this world! So good, that a yellow beak kite decided to sweep in and try and steal a bite – luckily for us it was only a mock charge, and we could saviour the remains whilst looking over Lake Victoria.
· Best view: Murchison Falls…if you’ve been there, you’ll know why. If not, go there!
We decided to call Day 93 an official rest day, after we spent the entire previous day enroute to Murchison Falls National Park. After a late breakfast, we moved a full 15km east on the river banks to Murchison River Lodge & Camp. We decided to spoil ourselves a bit, and did the lazy camping option (ie sleep in Aardvark, but eat at the lodge) – it was also the only way to actually stay at their campsite and specifically make use of their beautiful pool right next to the Nile! The day was a scorcher, which made our call of spending it in the pool definitely the right one! That evening we opened the bottle of Date Brandy that we bought at Naute Kristall in Namibia right at the start of our trip, and sipped it over ice whilst looking at the sunset…tough life I know!
We were warned that the hippos roam freely at night through the area, but were still very surprised / impressed to wake around 1am to the sound of the massive beasts softly grazing away right next to us…beautiful! Grown hippos can weigh between 6-9tons…our fully loaded Aardvark at 3tons pales in comparison!
Anyway, we woke early the next morning to go for a boat cruise up the Nile to the Murchison Falls itself. And the cruise turned out to be more of a “river safari”, with our guide Charles pointing out massive nile crocodiles sleeping with their mouths open, pods and pods of hippos, giraffes, buffalo, cob, waterbucks and loads of birds on the way up to the falls. The Murchison Falls is apparently the strongest falls in the world (?), as the Nile has to squeeze through an 8meter gap to continue its journey from Lake Victoria towards Lake Albert. Whether it’s true or not is kind of irrelevant, at it is still spectacular! Afterwards we drove round to the top of the falls, and hiked down to the river and back again…an absolute must to get a closer view of the falls, as well as some incredible photo opportunities…and a free shower in the spray to cool down 😊
We originally decided to stay the night at the Red Chilly Backpackers’ campsite, but the rude attitude of their staff was a sufficient deterrent (seriously, we never experienced service delivery of such a poor level anywhere before), and we decided to rather go back to the Murchison Treehouse Lodge & Camp where their staff went out of their way to make us feel welcome – the extra 20km drive the next day was a small price to pay!
Day 95 saw us bid goodbye to the Albert Nile, and head south to Jinja, and specifically to the Haven Campsite right on the Victoria Nile. After a beautiful scenic section through the rain forest we stopped for a breakfast Rolex along the way – it was our second one in Uganda, and will definitely be something that we will repeat in future when we are back home again in one or other form! (A Rolex is a freshly made omelet with green peppers, onions and tomatoes, covered with a homemade chiapatti, flipped around and rolled…njam!). By this point, I’ve become used (addicted) to my morning french press coffee (thank you Anria!)…and the combination of last sips of coffee with the rolex was just lovely! It was a looooong day in the car again, and we tried to alleviate the inevitable boredom with loads of karaoke singalongs…we might not be stars yet, but it is definitely not due to a lack of trying 😊 We arrived at The Haven, and breathed a combined sigh of joy…as it was truly a haven! This was without doubt one of, if not the, best campsites we’ve been to this entire trip – and after being fairly underwhelmed with the camping facilities (or lack thereof) in Rwanda and parts of Uganda, it was a real treat!
The next day was the first time in a while that we woke without a clearly defined plan for the day (yes I can hear the term “over achiever” in the background!), and it was so lovely to just cruise into Jinja to see what the day had in stock to surprise us with…and it ranged from a last minute boat ride to the source of the Nile in Lake Victoria (where the Ugandans were quite adamant that it was the true source of the Nile, and the one in Rwanda was just a feeder for Lake Victoria and not the Nile itself…potato potatho!), to a leisurely amazing Indian lunch, to an afternoon filled with table tennis, badminton and pool challenges…ending in a massive bonfire next to the river and our amazing bottle of wine whilst watching a thunder and lightning show in the far distance…sometimes it is good just to stand still for a while and allow the experiences of the past to catch up to one’s soul…something for me to remember I think!
On day 97 we decided it was time for some action, and specifically to go and see whether we can catch any of the nile perch that were continuously jumping out of the water, and essentially taunting us from the water! But alas, after trawling for 2hours on the river, the only thing we caught was a bit of a tan 😊 Luckily we could still drink a Nile beer on the river Nile for a nice picture 😊
The rest of the day was spent doing admin (e-filing of one’s tax return is a pain in the bum, regardless of the view whilst doing it!), and sorting out the plan for our first foray into Kenya, from the Kenyan town of Eldoret (where uncle Frikkie was born), past the Rift Valley and lakes to Nairobi. And because it was so nice, we just had to have another campfire next to the river, sipping on our Naute Kristall brandy and mused over all the memories that we’ve made so far…not a bad way to spend our last night in Uganda!
On day 98 we woke early (there is even a photo in Instagram to proof that we saw the sunrise!), and after a hearty breakfast took the road east towards Kenya. And after using our last Ugandian cash to fill our thirsty Aardvark’s tank with petrol, we head across the border at the one-stop post of Malaba. Apart from the “normal” official behavior of one of the officials trying on / buying new shoes behind the counter, ignoring the queue that got ever longer, to the official who had to stamp our carnet being on lunch (nobody knew how long he was still going to be, as it was only 12h15 at that point!)…it was all in all a fairly painless crossing! Luckily for us there were other super helpful officials, who tried to compensate for their colleagues lack of professionalism by going out of their way to then assist us – as always a lesson in patience, and the pleasure of a courteous smile!
Afterwards we made our way to Eldoret, which is nowadays more of an industrial town than anything else…really not a lot to see. But as soon as one drives out of the town, the vistas started opening up to give one a glimpse of the beauty of the area. We stayed the night at the Naiberi Camp just outside town…in some weird way we were reminded again of the fake animals with the big (drugged?) eyes in the “Swedish Moden Inn” in Tanzania…this time round it was a fake cave with a big fire in the middle, cement animals all around on the inside, and a bit of a spoof on Sun City vibe (there is even a little sign outside that says Sun City – it might’ve referred to another place, but it was still fairly apt for our experience!) That said, we had a perfectly adequate camping spot with undercover braai, washing area, and hot showers…all in all the makings of a good and safe overnight stop (if one could ignore the cow that randomly in the middle of the night started balking for hours on end!)
After a fairly restless night, we took the road north to Lake Baringo, and this time we were very thankful for Maps.me (a free offline map app) – as we didn’t have local SIM cards yet which rendered Google Maps useless, and Tracks4Africa (and thus our GPS Madame) didn’t have half the roads loaded that we were travelling on towards the lake. We ended up on a fairly nice gravel road traversing through the Kerio Rift Valley, making our way slowly to Lake Baringo (one of the largest of the rift lakes). Our destination was Robert’s Camp, a bit of an institution amongst overlanders through Kenya, despite the majority of the camp (and about 20 cabins) being “devoured” by the lake when the water levels rose in 2012 due to tectonic plates shifting right along the Rift Valley (which incidentally runs from Jordan to Mozambique!). Our campsite was again right next to the lake’s shore, with 2 crocodiles lying around with no care in the world, hippos grazing next to Aardvark again in the middle of the night, fish eagles nesting in the dead trees in the water, and Egyptian geese teaching their 12 babies to swim and stay out of harms way…welcome back to nature!!
We also did a lovely hike up the nearby cliff to get a bird’s eye view over the lake and it’s 8 small islands – our guide Louis was super knowledgeable, not only about nature, but also about local politics, African politics, and the underlying currents behind some of the power plays that we are seeing all through Africa. But that is an entire blog post on its own…and maybe not for sensitive viewers 😊
Our 100th day on the road started with a spectacular sunrise over Lake Baringo…we couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful way to ring in a big milestone! We had a leisurely breakfast whilst watching life on the lake come alive, and followed it by a slow drive to Nakuru, Kenya’s 4th largest city. We quickly sorted out new SIM cards, and was once again amazed by the cost of data vs South Africa – it was R140 for 5GB data (without an expiry date) along with a bonus of another 8GB data for social media…Safaricom is so far definitely the most efficient, and professional, cell phone service provider that we’ve encountered – in and out of their service centre in 15min all sorted – a record for our 8th SIM card buying expedition! We spotted a “real” supermarket in the same center (Westside Mall), and felt like small kids in a candy store…who would’ve though that we would be so excited to be in a supermarket (which I always tried to avoid like the plague back home)! Irene promptly bought some fresh tilapia and veggies for dinner, whilst I must admit I was more tempted by the smell of the freshly baked bread (and maybe a small tub of ice cream as well 😊). We promptly made our way to Camp Kembu, about 18km west of Nakuru – it is incredible how quickly we got used to openness around us – when possible, we try and steer clear of towns and cities as far as we can, and if we have to brave it, try to get out of there as soon as possible! Who knows how we are going to adjust to Cape Town’s lights after our adventure again?! 😊
Anyway, I’m writing this week’s blog in front of a blazing fire at Kembu’s bar, as it is surprisingly cold tonight – I’m even wearing my red wooly boots and a beanie! Over the next couple of days we are going to hopefully see the flamingos at one of the next 3 rift valley lakes, go for a cycle in Hells’ Gate National Park, recover at one of the natural “spas” in the area, and then make our way to Nairobi, where the next leg of our 12month adventure is going to begin…watch this space!