13 – 20 December 2009 Kampala to Dar es Salam

Had a relaxing time in Kampala and met up with Rob and Katy – so JC has a new card and can start paying again!!  They are in Kampala on a project for 3 weeks where they are helping to build a house inside of a children’s village run by a Catholic Mission.  For them its definitely not a holiday – they are on site at 7am and work long days, whilst doping a bit of sight seeing when they can.  It was good to see them and after a few drinks we all had dinner together and caught up on the last few weeks.


Meeting up with Rob and Katy..........................................................

The following morning we checked out of luxury home and returned to Hotel Toyota, took her to the local dealer for a quick check over, picked up some supplies and headed for Red Chill Hideaway, still in Kampala for one night before an early start the following day, so that we could get just before the Rwandan border. We parked under an avocado tree whilst the monkeys watched us put the tent up – makes a change for a large group of people!  In the damp atmosphere there were also bananas and coconuts growing around us – very tropical. 


Safe at the Sheraton..................                              Bit different from our garden at home.....

We headed out early straight into the Kampala rush hour, missed a turn and ended up in the middle of a very busy fruit market, surrounded by people selling all kinds of fruit with the heady smell of pineapple all around us.  Just a pity it was so crowded there was nowhere to park and do some shopping.  With people walking everywhere, cars, matatus and bikes trying to squeeze through the narrow network of streets, JC had to have eyes in the back of his head.  Finally, we made it out of town and crossed the Equator for the third and last time! 


In the fruit market............................    not a lot of space for parking or getting through..

Along the road today there were many cooperative style markets with the women of the villages selling their produce – all looking very fresh.  Once again, it was a very large banana growing area.  We saw many bikes carrying at least three huge bunches of bananas straight off the trees, taking them to what looked to be collection points in each village.  Then, we were surprised to see zebra at the side of the road!  We were so surprised we didn’t manage to get a photo – sorry.

As we approached the border with Rwanda, the landscape changed from flat plains with thick forest to beautiful, green rolling hills.  The main crop changed from bananas to onions.  There were onions everywhere – all different sizes, piles of them along the village streets with people sitting amongst them picking the green off the top before bagging them up for bulk collection.  Many were being offered for sale by children at roadside.


Selling to the overland bus passengers.... one of the cooperative markets........     towards the border...........

After a good day’s drive, we finally arrived at Lake Buonyoni Overland Camp, which Lonely Planet describes as “the best camp site in Uganda”  and for once it was completely right.  For $6 per person per night, we camped alongside of the lake surrounded by stunning views, the facilities were spotless, the best we have had since we left home.  The restaurant was excellent but the bar staff became a little confused with my request for a gin and tonic and produced a quarter bottle, sealed, all for me.  I felt a bit like an alcho with my own bottle, especially as no one else in the place, except for JC of course, was drinking!  The staff were making a great effort, under the close supervision of Joseph, the Manager to ensure all guest had the best service possible and JC really enjoyed his first taste of goat stew.  We both felt it was a pity that we had to get on the way into Rwanda the following day, it truly was a stunning location and worth more than one nights stop, but gorilla trekking was calling and we needed to get into Kigali in order to obtain our permits. 

As we headed away from the lake, it certainly felt like a “back end” morning with mist hanging over the water and only 15C.  As usual the people were up early and going about their business, carrying water, bringing firewood, children breaking stones into very small pieces, loggers sawing trees by hand.


Lake Bunyoni Overland Camp............................................                               In the misty morning..............


The children break up stones....           The loggers are at work....................   Some just stand and stare at us.....

At the border – there was no hassle – we were through into Rwanda in less than an hour.  Rwanda is a former Belgian colony, French speaking and driving on the right again.  The hillsides were covered in small terraced fields right up to the summits – very much like what we had seen in Ecuador.  This really was the first African country where the best use was being made of the land.  We could see people in the valleys picking tea or harvesting sugar cane – all being stacked alongside the road for collection or like small ants at the summits hoeing their small plots. 

The whole landscape is more colourful with flowers and plants in the small gardens at the front of the homes with the lady’s outfits matching the beautiful, vivid colours. 


Loading the sugar cane.................           the patchwork hills................             leaving the bananas for collection.......

We were pleased and surprised that day to finally hear again from Alex and Joost, two of our Wadi Halfa gang!  We had lost touch with them in Ethiopia but they had seen a little written note that we had left for them at Henry’s Rest Camp in Marsabit on 3rd December – they got in there ten days after us and left a message on our board letting us know that they were OK, despite “ parking their Landcruiser at the bottom of a river” !! Thanks for the message guys, we will definitely have a laugh checking out your video!

Along the road we got caught up in a Traffic Census and amused and amazed the officials when they asked “where have you come from or how far are you going”.  They think we are crazy – maybe we are. 

As I said earlier – the gorilla’s were calling – our main reason for coming to this part of Rwanda was to visit the National Parque des Volcanes and see the gorillas.  So readers, non-travellers amongst you may find the next bit a little boring but it is essential information for anyone following us on this route and looking for details of how to organise Gorilla Trekking.  First go into Kigali and obtain your permit from the Tourst Information Office – GPS coordinates:  S01.94664 E030.06079. The cost is $500 per person.  Payment may now be made by credit card but there is a surcharge for this privilege!  We managed to get our permit for the following day – in peak times you may have to wait a couple of days longer.  The meeting point for the trek is at Kinigri approximately 100 kms from Kigali and you have to meet and present your permit between 0630 and 0700 on the day of your trek.  Don’t forget the time change Rwanda is only GMT+2 and not 3 – we got caught out with this and were there are 0530!!  The  road  is quite good but lots of potholes – so you need to allow plenty of time.  We drove up that afternoon and stayed at Kinigi Guest House  - just 200 metres before the meeting point.  GPS coordinates:   S01.43260 E029.59843. A simple place run by a group of vulnerable Rwandan women.   You can camp in the car park or take a room we chose to take a room (a) because it was cold and (b) because we would have had to be up at 0500 to pack up the tent, go to the meeting point and then drive to the start of the trek – which in our case was about 30 minutes drive on a very rough road through the forest.  At the meeting point you can decide which level of trek you want to follow – there are several groups of gorillas at differing areas in the park – its up to you.  After the trek everyone goes back to the meeting point and picks up a “Certificate of Gorilla Trekking”.  There, that’s enough of the hard data – for me the trek was definitely my first WOW factor in Africa.  An early Christmas present from JC, I could hardly sleep with excitement the night before.  I had looked forward to this for a long time.  I wasn’t disappointed – it was worth every single dollar.  We trekked into the forest with experienced trackers who enabled us to get right up close to those majestic animals – from the babies to the large silver backs – absolutely incredible.  We stood quietly as they moved around us coming very close.  We were told at the safely briefing that if any of them ran towards us just to sit down!  Bit of a scary thought.  The warden and the tracker did an excellent job and were at all times conscious of the well being of the animals.  We stood and watched for an hour – more than that is too stressful for the animals.  Did JC go in the end?  What do you think?  At $500 he said he could fill the vehicle with diesel about 8 times.  That’s almost enough to get to Cape Town!! Also – the Parque des Volcanes is quite high and the trek in the high altitude is very strenuous, scrabbling through the dense undergrowth of the forest.  For me it was an absolute dream come true and I hope my pictures do it justice.


At the Volcano National Park....................................................                       she's ready to go........................


 We trekked through the forest and there they were.....................................................................................................................


Soooooooooooo close..........................................................                        she had a great time........

After a fantastic morning, we headed back to Kigali and East to the border with Tanzania.  With a couple of long days driving ahead of us in order to meet our friends for Christmas on the shores of the Indian Ocean.

A couple of hours before the border in Rwamagana we found a small hotel – Dereva Hotel – no camping – much to JCs disgust we had to take a room again but it was only $15 dollars.  Excellent place – good stop over on this route.

Once again the border crossing was relatively easy and we through an across the Rasumo Falls which forms the border within just over one hour.  We would have been quicker but JC was gawping at all of the old trucks from England.  One from Lloyds of Ludlow, one from Ralph Williams of Grimsby – I am sure all of you hauliers out there will know what that was all about.  As the day went on, he was in Scania heaven.  99% of all of the motors we saw were Scanias and the majority of them had obviously come from England – old Scanias never die – they just go to Tanzania.  We even saw and E T Morris, King George Dock, Hull on the door – sorry Mark we didn’t manage to get a photograph but then again you maybe don’t want to see it!!


Bad day in haulage....................                    All the old boys are here........................................                           No skids for forklift under this load...


Old Scanias never die..........................but some do roll over now and again.......   Someone will lose their deposit on this Maersk box........

For the first time in a long time, we were able to pull up at the side of the road and cook breakfast without an audience!!  JC cooked up bacon butties and the truckers passing by all pipped and gave us a wave – we could have started a “greasy spoon” there and then on this the main highway for freight coming out of Dar es Salam to Central Africa. 

We had left the rolling hills of Rwanda behind and were once again on fairly flat, deeply forested land “jabbing on” to the coast.  We had just sent an OK message to CMC, telling her not to worry we would be updating the site shortly, when we were stopped at a police check point and had to have an armed policeman with us for the next 20 kms.  The forest came right up to the road, there were no villages, no other people about and, apparently, bandits in the forest!!  It cost us 20,000TSH – about $15.  You never know whether these things are real or just a scam to get money out of unsuspecting tourists but he was a proper policeman complete with bullet proof vest and AK47.  He rode in the front with JC scanning the forest at all times, whilst I hid in the back behind the fridge!!

The road was good and as we reached our planned stop for the night, it was only 1430 so we decided to carry on until around 1730.  All went well until Gloria – set for shortest route got us back on a sand track for 2 hours before we hit the main road again!  As we drove across the flat plains with paddy fields and cattle grazing in the late afternoon sun, we considered bush camping under one of the huge trees, but after our police experience, we were a bit wary and carried on to the next town of Igunga expecting to find a reasonable hotel with good security.  First one we tried was rubbish, no one spoke any English at all,  rooms looked grim and restaurant even grimmer and as we drove up and down the main street I felt a “camp on a garage forecourt evening” coming on for the first time on this trip.  However, right on the edge of town we spotted the Silva ‘C’ lodge and bar GPS coordinates S04.28781 E033.88500 and this is the tale of “one night in Igunga” – We pulled up, the owner spoke no English but JC did his pantomime act and we were inside of the secure parking area erecting the tent, before the owner known what was happening and even when the tent was up I don’t think he imagined for a moment that we would actually sleep there!  He showed us a room with metals bars on all windows,a TV in a metal cage, long drop toilet, small washbasin, shower but no water!! However, it did have a fan, a mosquito net and clean linen – all this for only $7.50 per night!!  We paid our money, signed the register where we entered our “TRIBE” as British and still stayed in the tent.  In search of a drink and something to eat we went to the bar where the barmaid was locked inside and surrounded by metal grilles, just wide enough to push a bottle through and take the money!  Food was finished but a large TV was competing with the music blaring from a DVD player – both being carefully guarded by the owner.  Out white faces created a lot of interest and one boy kept telling us how safe it was in Igunga – we did wonder, I have to admit – looking at the protection around the place.


Breakfast on the road..........    Silver C Lodge...........................

After not a lot of sleep with the blaring music and the truck  with empty   containers banging up and down over huge speed bumps on the main highway just outside of the gate. There were so many going past during the night that it felt like we were in a bombing raid.  Having said that it was a secure stopover for one night. 

Setting of in a beautiful sunny morning, the people were hard at work in the fields, ploughing with oxen, the women walking behind the plough sowing the seed by hand – no power harrows here – even bent ones Allan!  The land is rich and light with farms spreading as far as you can see across the flat plains.  We were zipping along and aiming for another 550kms when, like only Africa can, she stopped us in our tracks and we spent the next 50kms or more on another dirt track – no mistakes this time – its just the way it is!!

As we drove along there were all kinds of fruit for sale as usual but now we saw boys holding up live chickens!!  We were wondering about that when we saw a couple of trucks with their own supply of live chickens on the trailer and some with special baskets on top of the containers especially for the chickens.  With no fridges in the cabs and long overland journeys – they keep fresher when they are alive!!


Livestock market...........                          Drying the millet in the sunshine.....      Early morning ploughing...........


The women following the plough with seed....  Fresh chicken for the truck driver..   No M & S here!!!!

After another long days drive of over 600kms we were looking for the New Acropole Hotel – a recommendation both in Bradt – Africa Overland and on T4A.  Alledgedly a small place run by Canadians, great place to stay and frequented by ex-pats.  We were therefore disappointed to find it closed down but tired and weary we were very happy to find Hilux Hotel next door – no camping here but cheap B & B and we joined the crowds of locals in a good bar watching first Man United vs Fulham and then Arsenal vs Hull City – seemed quite strange so far from home but not surprisingly Hull were getting beaten when we went to bed!

Easy start on our final leg into Dar es Salam.  Vehicle checks carried out and on our way by 0930.  As we drove into the City we were in slow moving traffic for around one hour before reaching the small ferry where we would cross for our campsite on the ocean.  With no opportunity for pee stops along the way we pulled passed the queue for the ferry, into a large gravel area on the side of the water.  JC jumped out, desperate for a quick pee and was swiftly surrounded by “security”.  He was only having a pee in front of the presidential palace.  You can imagine with 6 heavies surrounding him telling him he would have to go to the police station and pay $200 dollars, it was quite alarming.  However, when he offered to pay there and after five minutes of bartering, he got his fine reduced to $50 – with no receipt – has to be the most expensive pee he has ever had in his life – glad I didn’t need to go too!  I suppose if a tourist stood outside of Buckingham Palace, security would soon moved in on him too!!

Once he had paid up we joined the queue running along the side of the fish market to get on the ferry.  It was Sunday and seemed like everyone was trying to get across to Makindi.  As we waited we were approached by water sellers, sunglass sellers, lollypop sellers, beggars, nut sellers – whatever you needed through the window as people, buses and other vehicles all pushed forward for their place on the 5 minute ferry crossing.  On the other side everyone wanted to be off at the same time into the narrow streets with the pedestrians paying no attention at all to the vehicles trying to get off.

Finally we made it to Makindi beach camping and there, to our surprise,  we met up with Charlie, Rick and Monty the Landrover – last seen by us in Addis Ababa.  It was great to see them and catch up whilst camping on the beach amongst the bandas with the turquoise ocean in the background and a light breeze blowing through the palms.


Started off quite organised.............  and then the pedestrians got on board!!       Hey it's Monty the Landrover..........


Not a bad place to be in December.................................................                  Merry Christmas Faye xxx

Sounds great doesn’t it and looks idyllic but just to make you feel better in the cold and snow – the temperature inside of the tent was 34c, the sand had found its way into the bedding and the mossies were hungry meaning we didn’t get a lot of sleep. Hope that makes you feel better.

Have a great Christmas everyone – we will raise our glasses to you wherever we are – probably on another beach!!

Our next update will be in the New Year – we haven’t had many messages lately – I suppose you are all too busy getting ready for Christmas and not worried about us two old fogies and our adventures.  Let’s have some more – we do love your comments.