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Old 02-15-2011, 09:50 AM   #85
Asianrider OP
Gnarly Adventurer
Joined: Apr 2010
Oddometer: 120
Game viewing

On the way to Uganda, we stop at Lake Naiwasha. There are many campsites to chose from on the side of the lake so we do some shopping as there aren't many tourists around. The lawn is occupied by marabou, an ugly but funny bird that likes to feed in the garbage bins. It has a very large wingspan, so they come in flying very slowly, much like a glider. Next to the lake is Hell's Gate National Park, where I was told bikers are allowed inside. Not so, we're told at the gate, but one can get in with a car or.. on a bicycle. Does it make sense ?

Anyway, it's useless to argue so we rent bikes and get in. Only a few minutes inside and we meet our first herd of zebras and warthogs. The warthogs are very curious and come pretty close if you don't move.

On the other side of the road, buffaloes are grazing. That's cool, we're alone, on foot and we can get pretty close to these animals. Not too close to the buffaloes, mind you, as they can charge you. More people are killed every year by buffaloes than by lions.

A little later we meet some giraffes close to the road. But the rest of the park isn't so nice, as they've built several very noisy geothermic power plants and quite a few big lorries as well.

The following day, we take the main Nairobi - Kampala road, which is in a pretty bad shape because of all the lorries plying the road to Uganda. And probably also because of bad constuction, that's the first time I see such deep ruts in tar.

The border crossing is very easy, following a common pattern: guys come to "help" you with the paperwork (requesting a tip afterwards), and scores of money changers come to you with big wads of bills. Soon after we reach Jinja, next to the Victoria lake and the source of the Nile. The Nile source is supposed to be here as the Nile exits Victoria lake to flow into lake Albert - which we'll see later. Jinja is a big spot for rafting on the rapids, but it's also quite nice to sit back and have a beer watching the sun set over the Nile.

Our next goal is Murchinson Falls in the north west. To drive there, we have to cross Kampala to find a pharmacy for CÚcile, so reluctantly give a miss to the northern bypass. Boy, do I hate the big cities, it takes us 2h to cross the center of the city, which is not that big. All traffic is totally frozen.

Arriving at Murchinson Falls they let us into the park (after paying 30$ for the bike itself), which was a good surprise as in most game parks in Kenya and other countries you can only drive in with a car. We camp there and take a cruise up the Nile (again), which is a very good way of watching hippos and crocs, as the boat gets pretty close.

We also drive to the top of the falls, 1h 1/2 drive in a small trail infested by tse-tse flies. We leave wearing just t-shirts, and as soon as I slow down below 30 km/h or so, we're literally eaten alive. But it was worth it as we could get within 2-3 meters of the falls itself.

Back on the road we head south to Fort Portal on a pretty good gravel road. The area is very fertile, they grow mostly plantain bananas, called matoke, a staple of the country. The banana cluster are transported on bicycles, with one "driver" (on foot) and one "pusher" behind, necessary because the country is very hilly. They must put around 100 kg of bananas on a push bike!

From Fort Portal we start to organize our trek to the Rwenzori mountains, a chain of mountains between 4000m and 5100m (so it is the 3rd highest mountain in Africa). It turned out the be very easy (but very expensive). We show up in the afternoon, and they prepare everything for leaving the next morning. We decide on a 6-days trek, which means we won't be climbing Margherita Peak (5109m), but it will also be much cheaper. The walk up the mountain is incredibly steep, unlike what we do in the Alps, they make absolutely no effort to build switch backs. It's straight up the slope! The vegetation is stunning, definitely a highlight of my trip so far - even though it was on foot. Sometimes you need to get off the bike to experience something else.

The rest of the pictures are here.

Fantastic trek, unique, and very enjoyable, although it started to rain after 3 days of sunshine so it was nice to get back. It sees it's almost impossible to trek there without getting at least some rain. And in the wet season, it's raining all the time so you're walking with rubber boots.

On the way back, we pay a visit to a new luxury lodge that was built on the rim of a crater lake, in a stunning location. Very impressive - and of course very expensive. It's just not the kind of place for a dirty and smelly biker!

Unfortunately it's time for CÚcile to fly back home. She had booked her flight from Entebbe a few weeks earlier, on Egypt Air, which was the cheaper and most convenient flight. That was just before the start of the revolt in Egypt.. now we're in the middle of it and we're not sure if the flight will leave. The website shows it as "scheduled". When CÚcile shows up at the airport, at 3AM, she finds out that it's marked as "canceled". But no one from Egypt Air is at the airport office, so she just comes back at the hotel. The next morning I call the office in Kampala, and after some discussion I manage to make them book another flight to Paris, on Turkish Airlines. It should have been automatic, but they just couldn't be bothered to help their customers. I guess there were so many cancelation that they didn't want to fly an almost empty airplane, so they canceled it, but without telling anybody of course!

Alone, I get on the road again to return to Nairobi and settle down in Jungle Junction to do some maintenance on the bike - and change my front tyre that's now completely slick. It's a nice place owned by Chris, a very competent mechanic, who opened a workshop there. It is therefore a must for almost all overlanders going down or up the east coast.

He keeps many vehicles on storage, the blue lorry in the background is a "2DM", a Swiss military truck. It has been raining, look at the mess that the 4-wheelers have been doing. tss..

I get to meet a lot of people, unfortunately not many bikers, most of the space is taken by 4x4s, or even truck, a favourite of the Germans. But among the few bikers I meet Michnus, on his way to Europe. His brother-in-law is Metal Jockey, of ADVRider fame because he wrote the absolutely best RR, of their trip to Angola. You definitely need to read it if you haven't yet, it's here.

(Yes, it does look like he's milking his Dakar..)
2006-2007 Mongolia - Pamir - India - Nepal
2010-2012 Caucasus - Middle-East - Africa
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