Friday 8 April to Sunday 10 April 2005, Kigali
The border crossing took much longer than expected. On the Tanzanian side there were many trucks waiting, we were parked in and we loaned tools to another car owner who was having major difficulty getting his flat tyre off. The Rwandan side was frustrating. We had to pay USD 60 per person for a visa and the immigration officer said he had no change and we did not have USD 20. He also refused to take any notes older than 2003. We had to find a money changer to change USD to USD. He also objected to taking notes older than 2003, but would for a price. We ended up paying R36 to change a USD 50 note! In fact we took so long the immigration officer found some change (!!!) but by then it was too late. Pieter also had to start driving on the right hand side of the road.
The drive to Kigali is through cultivated hills and valleys and is really very scenic. We arrived in Kigali at about 3pm and I recognised a traffic circle so we ended up going directly to the MTN offices. Patrick was in and we had a chat with him, Gerald and Ronald (the Internal Audit team). Patrick was very surprised to see us. He had been told that we were traveling through Africa but did not really believe it. He was also flying out to an IA Managers conference on Sunday, so would be able to let the other Internal Auditors know we had arrived in Rwanda.
We really needed their help as we did not know of any camp sites in Kigali. Ronald suggested Le Parisse. This is a resort consisting of a series of enclosed gardens which can be rented for parties or picnics. We stayed in the upper parking lot near a bar though because we could not drive the car into one of the grassed areas. At least it was not busy as Rwanda was having 7 days of mourning for the people killed in the genocide and loud music and parties were discouraged.
We wanted to stay until the Monday so we could ask about multiple entry visas to Rwanda. The weekend was tremendous. Saturday we collected our e-mail and did some washing. Sunday morning Pieter worked on Grom while I updated the website for Tanzania. Early afternoon we were greeted by Jean-Vier. He is a Rwandan resident in Pretoria and on seeing a GP number plate just had to say hello. We ended up spending the afternoon talking to him and his friends. Ronald also arrived to see how we were going and it turned out they all knew each other. Kigali is a small place
Monday 11 April to Tuesday 12 April 2005, Gisenyi
Monday we tried to update the website online but the power was down. We also took up Jean-Vier's offer of taking us to the UN office to try and contact Pieter Frank as we had been unsuccessful so far. The UN sent a message through to PF and assured us that he would be able to cross over to Rwanda easily as he had an SA passport which does not require a visa. We were also told that for us to drive into Goma and along the border for a short distance then into Uganda was definitely NOT advisable. This was one option we had to avoid paying for new Rwandan visas.
Then we set off for Gisenyi, the Rwandan town next to Goma in the DRC. Again the scenery was fantastic, a tapestry of ploughed fields covering the very high hills right to the top. The local farmers must be very fit as all the agriculture is done manually. In fact I doubt machines could be used on those steep hillsides.
PF received the message and phoned through. At least he can phone us even if we cannot phone him. We arranged to meet he next morning at 10:00am in Goma.
Camping in Gisenyi is also difficult. We asked at the Kivu Sun but they could not assist, so we asked at the Palm Beach hotel next door who had no problem with us camping on the beach. This is one of the few sections of Lake Kivu where there is actually a beach, most of the time it drops steeply away. Lake Kivu is the highest lake in Africa and it has been recently discovered that it is also the deepest. Previously Lake Tanganyika was thought to be the deepest. The water is fresh but far too cold for me to swim. The local children had no problems though. If we were to stay in Africa, this might be the place.
Tuesday we went to the border to see if we could arrange to leave Rwanda for a few hours and return without having to buy another visa. This was not possible and PF said he could not come through the border because he had been categorically told he did not require his SA passport as his UN passport would cover everything, so he left his SA passport at home. Unfortunately to go through the border he needed his SA passport. We were about to go through the process of officially leaving Rwanda when we saw him in no-mans land. We ended up standing in no-mans land chatting for about an hour with all the officials quite happy so long as we stayed there. It was great to see him so relaxed and happy. He will return to SA in May but hopes to get another oversees posting as he has enjoyed his stay so much.
Wednesday 13 to Thursday 14 April 2005, Kabale
We went through the border at Kisoro just north of Ruhengeri. It was really very quick as there are few people going through. One improvement though would be a big notice to remind drivers to drive on the left. We only figured that out when we met another car coming towards us. We traveled over gravel towards Kabale. The scenery continued just like in Rwanda but with lakes in some of the valleys. The photos have to speak for themselves. We saw a bit more than expected though. We came to a junction and not sure which way to go we asked someone standing nearby. 'Go left' he said, so we did. The road was narrow and more muddy than gravel and I felt we should have gone right, so a few kilometers along we asked another person, 'keep going' he said, so we kept going and the road deteriorated a little bit more. We checked with another 2 people and they all said we should go on to get to Kabale. The road got really bad in spots. Once Grom slid in the mud and ended up with one wheel overhanging the cliff. It was real tense because the hillside was stripped of trees to grow a variety of crops and once over the rim there would have been nothing to prevent us from going down hundreds of meters. Careful reversing managed to get us out of that one. Another time Grom slid in the mud again and landed up close to the mountain side, we came out of that with the left hand bumpers full of mud. Eventually we arrived at the gate of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Yes we could get to Kabale going through the park. The road went down to Buhoma and then you could return via Kanungu, however, the shortest route was to return to the junction and take the other road. They gave us a map of the park and its surrounding roads and we turned around and retraced our route through the mudslides.
In all we covered 90k as the crow flies, but 210k by road, with an average speed of 24kph. We went from 1704 meters above sea level up to 2476 meters above sea level (3 times) and finally down to 1966 meters above sea level. The weather was rainy overcast and cool.
Lake Bunyonyi is just outside Kabale and is a very pretty place to stay and catch up on washing, website and car maintenance. It was pouring with rain during the night when we took the photo of the glass.
We stayed an extra day to catch up with the washing etc and witnessed two overland busses offload their human cargo of wary and often tired travelers. They were mainly Australians with a few other commonwealth burghers who came to view the gorilla's. That was the plan. But the track to the main road was so slippery the big truck, re-incarnated as a touring vehicle, almost slid off it and down the slope. Change of plan: two local mini-busses, 4-wheel drive capable, were commandeered and off they went once more. When we left the next day they had not yet returned.
Friday 15 April 2005, Mbarara
We desperately needed some local currency and headed to the nearest town with international ATMs. By the time we had drawn money, updated the website and bought some supplies it was getting late. There had been no signs for campsites so Pieter asked a taxi driver who told him to just turn at Stanbic Bank and Fort Coleb (S 0 ° 35' 58.1", E 30 ° 39' 6.3 " ) is a kilometer out of town was the advise. There was a sign at one of the turns further on and we had no difficulty finding the place. There is a bar and self-contained rooms (i.e. the bathroom en suite) plus some space for tents. We were allowed to use the facilities in one of the rooms as the outside shower was not in operation. David Semugoma has recently taken on the task of building it up and is keen to attract visitors. It is a good staging point on the way to Kampala.
Saturday 16 April 2005, Kasese
We decided to take the long way round to Kampala via the Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Edward and Lake George. The countryside was much flatter than further south with more gently rolling hills. It was obvious that this was part of the rift valley as Lake Edward and George are in a flat plain between a high plateau on the east and the Rwenzori Mountains in the west, both sides covered with cloud. We passed a small crater lake being mined for its soda and many, many carefully laid out and neatly trimmed tea plantations mainly owned by Finley.
At Kasese we had to look for camping again. This time we stopped at a garage to ask and were directed to the town clerk who just happened to be eating in the restaurant behind the garage. He took us to Hotel Virina where we were allowed to camp and use the same facilities as the rooms (not self contained!).
For people who are not really wild life tourists we were unusually excited to see a herd of elephants cross the road. The cattle are also very interesting with their long large horns. At times like this we would appreciate a better camera
Sunday 17 April to 11 May 2005, Kampala
If the M1 was in Kampala, there would be 5 lanes moving ever so slowly instead of 3. In Kampala, like in Dar es Salaam and other African cities, (and most probably even more so in Arab cities), no quarter is given or taken. A centimeter is a safe distance to pass or overtake and it is therefore surprising I only had one little mishap. (The taxi in front of me rolled back a centimeter, but of course he claimed I had caused considerable damage to his (unroadworthy) vehicle). And that was on day four of our stay here.
Up to the moment we arrived at this campsite, I had experienced little pleasure in the journey through an otherwise very pleasant landscape. Even on tar roads, or maybe especially on tar roads, the driver has to concentrate almost constantly 100% on the road. Looking up to take a look around may land you in a pothole of which the dimensions can be rather staggering.
The first thing we noticed when turning into the entrance was this expanse of green field, gently sloping towards the lake shore with large, shady trees and no other visitors. Once we had found our first, temporary place, we noticed some big nests almost right above us with some busy hamerkops working on it. After that we started to notice al lot of other things.
The resort proves (we are still here) to be a wonderful place with beautiful vistas over the lake-pocket and an abundant bird life and other marvels to watch. In the high slender trees towards the shore the fish eagle comes to overview his domain, sometimes together with a palmnut vulture. At the water edge we can see open beak storks, large white egrets and their much smaller cousins, a group of blackwinged stilts, cormorants, and an Egyptian goose. The smaller birds get very nervous when a small buzzard (unknown model yet) flies over.
Please understand we hadn't chosen this place deliberately. It was pure luck, after we had stopped to ask someone where we could find a place to camp. Right in front of us we saw the sign: Nabinoonya Resort. Nothing yet of camping facilities. That came later. It was becoming late and we had experienced our first encounter with Kampala, but on the way in there hadn't been a trace of any camping site. It was Ann's suggestion to drive towards Entebbe and closer to Lake Victoria that had seen us drive for over 20 km with a lot of guesthouses and hotels, sort of, but no camp site.
A resort seemed promising. (Up to now we always found a place to camp, even some very odd ones, but we never had to worry much.)
And so we found this place, with pied kingfishers that fish and a mangrove kingfisher that doesn't, because it is an insect eater. In the trees above us (amongst which is a nutmeg tree) silvery-cheeked hornbills twitter and crowned hornbills fly on and off, purple-crested louries make sure we know they are there and a few very shy (pat, pat, good boy) black faced monkeys eye us with suspicion. And than there are the frogs.
It's true I never gave a hoot about frogs, or dragonflies for that matter. But when you see a whole bunch of them (dragonflies) follow a person walking past (doesn't happen very often I must say) then even I get curious. They have black spots on their otherwise transparent wings and when flying they make you think of helicopters with patches of colour on their rotor blades.
The first couple of nights the frogs were rather loud. We only saw some really small and cute ones. We could only imagine how big the large ones were by the size of their legs, hanging from the beak of a marabou stork. They came one morning, about ten of them, and stayed the day. After that we hardly heard a frog at night (at least for a few nights).
And, after having identified and recorded the bigger birds, I'm about to start work on the smaller ones of which there are plenty. A true little paradise here, I would say. With very little rain, fairly warm weather and no wind to speak of, we could never have found a better place to stay a fairly long period of time. And that for hardly R15 a day! Incredible!
Kampala traffic - Pieter might enjoy it but he should have been a matata driver (kombi taxi) anyway. What he does not like so much is my flinches and stifled screams. I am personally amazed at the coolness of the passengers on the backs of the motor bikes and pedal bikes. They nonchalantly sit there, usually not holding onto anything, occasionally with a parcel on their laps or sometimes pipes roped together, or even a computer and ladies sit sideways. Pieter went into the back of one, admittedly at about 2kph. The passenger looked casually at the back of the bike and told the driver not worry his tail light was still in order. She didn't even flinch or scream. I am sure I would be a nervous wreck if I was on the back of a bike in that traffic.
There are traffic police to control some intersections and circles, but if they are not in front of the car, and glaring at others nearby, they are totally ignored. If a driver feels he can get through before the policeman/woman notices, he goes for it. Of course if the traffic stops and does not move at all you can be sure there is a policeman ahead. I think they are very brave to walk in front of a moving car and stop it.
The roads are full of potholes, some quite deep. The traffic has to negotiate these along with the cars. I do not know how, let alone when they can be fixed as there is always traffic.
Our campsite - The birdlife, frogs, butterflies and insects are wonderful in their variety. We are serenaded to sleep by the frogs and crickets and woken by the happy chirping of the birds. The ablutions were not very nice to start with. It was a public squatter toilet (small hole in a cement floor) and a tap. By the end of the weekend after several visitors had been through the floor was rather sticky, proof that men cannot aim! At least it was cleaned on Monday. This type of facility is very common and I expect it to remain so until we are in Europe. We used our own 'douche' and showered after dark, I even added some hot water to mine - what luxury. By the end of our first week they completed an ablution block with flush thrones and cold showers. What bliss. The best is that they do have electrical connections available which saves our batteries.
Shopping - Dad asked where we shop. The answer is that we shop where the locals shop. There are always small shops and roadside stalls where you can buy all the basics, especially bread, fresh fruit and vegetables. The large towns and cities always have a supermarket, very often the SA chain, Shoprite. This is where we seem to spend most of our money on meat, butter, fizzy drinks, beer and biscuits, not on diesel and accommodation. The supermarkets have imported goods and meat from an abattoir. We have had very few meals from the cans we purchased in SA before we left. Unfortunately the meat is not always as tender as it looks but it is better than the meat on the streets. The meat sold at the street stalls is usually covered in flies and pieces are hacked off and sold by the kilo, OK for a very well cooked stew, if you dare! We have bought Tilapia (Nile Perch) straight from the fishermen on Lake Victoria. One was so fresh it continued flapping even though the insides had been removed. When it was cooked in foil on the braai it was absolutely delicious with surprising few bones for a fresh water fish. Fresh milk is available in large towns but not always in smaller places. However there is always powdered milk, or we just go without.
One item I was very pleased to buy from the Kampala Shoprite is a toaster for gas that actually works! I have tried others and eventually thrown them away. Now I have a 'simmer ring' used to reduce the heat between the stove and the pot. When used on gas it makes really good toast, especially when you add butter and honey, Mmmmmmmmm delicious.
Unusual sights in Kampala
- Cows and sheep grazing on a major traffic circle
- pothole in a speed hump
- 2 fish, both at least 1.5 meters in length, 50 centimeters wide and 30 centimeters thick being transported on the back of a motor bike
- A full grown pig on the back of a motorcycle
- 2 chickens hanging from the handlebars
- Euphoria at winning a soccer match against Tanzania, thousands of trucks, matatas and bikes festooned with tree branches pouring along the road screaming, shouting and whistling.
- It can pour with rain in Kampala and Kisubi does not have any rain. We often see rainstorms passing us by.
We have used my ex colleagues at MTN to help us send a parcel to SA and receive a parcel from SA. This is very important to us as it contains my renewed drivers license (it took 9 months and intervention from the manager of Langlaagte to obtain) a visa credit card so we can draw money in Ethiopia and another Nikon camera which we cannot source locally. Grateful thanks to Richard and Conrad and most especially to our son David who did all the running around in Johannesburg..
We have also managed to source a Dutch carnet which will allow us into Egypt and other middle eastern countries. We will pick it up in Addis Abeba. The next problem will be obtaining a Sudanese visa. Rumors among over-landers say it is difficult and takes a long time. We will not be able to do anything before Addis in any case, so we will hope the rumors are wrong.
And so after almost 4 weeks relaxing, cleaning, re-organizing Grom, stocking up, spending hours at the Living Word Internet Cafe above Shoprite and general preparation we are on our way again. This time we feel we are very much more prepared for the next part of our journey than when we left SA.
Thursday 12 May 2005, Tororo
Today we headed for the Kenyan border via Jinja, where Speke decided he had found the source of the Nile. I saw a documentary contradicting this and stating that the source of the Nile was the Ruwenzori mountains on the other side of Uganda. The water is caught by the mountains and flows into Lakes Edward and Albert, then into the Albert Nile at the north end of Lake Albert. There is a connection between Lake Albert and Lake Victoria through Lake Kyoga, which appears to be quite a swampy area. However, Murchison discovered the falls (named Murchison Falls) flow out of Lake Albert into Lake Kyoga. In any case Jinja is not about to give up its claim to fame.
There was one patch of road between Jinja and Bugiri that was terrible. Apparently France (Basil Reed-Bouygues Joint Venture) had the contract, but abandoned the project from December 2004 to February 2005 and therefore the contract was terminated. The reasons behind the abandonment were not in the newspaper.
Because Pieter hurt his back packing up this morning we decided to stay in a guest house in Tororo. The Innosan Gardens Guest House was very well maintained and everyone was very interested in Grom. We had people coming to ask questions while we cooked our dinner and cleaned up afterwards. It was the first hot shower in almost a month! Wonderful! Breakfast was provided in the room and consisted of 2 cold boiled eggs each, 2 slices of sweet bread each, 2 bananas each and a thermos of hot milk. We had asked for coffee although usually they serve tea. The coffee was coffee grounds specifically for use in a cup. We had to stir a spoonful into a cup of hot milk, let it stand for a minute and remove the grounds on the surface of the milk. It wasn't too bad, actually, just unusual for us.
|Averages||Rand||Dollar||Francs||Rand||Dollar||Shillings||BACK to Tanzania||NEXT to Kenya|
|Cost per litre diesel||6.85||1.07||535||5.81||1.07||1704|
|Kilometers per litre||8||7.63|
|Camping per night||64.02||50.00||25000||19.21||3.52||5634|
|Days in country||5||30|