Sunday, 20 May 2012

Ssesee Islands

It was one of those perfect lazy weekends away with friends. Good company, yummy food, gorgeous views, bike rides around the island and lots of lazing around the pool. I have never seen Lake Victoria looking so beautiful - the light glistened on the water and the distant hills made me think I was on a Mediterranean island, not one degree south of the Ugandan Equator. I have not photo-shopped these pictures - the water really was crystal clear! It's a shame we couldn't dip in the water for fear of being snapped by a crocodile!

I spent the weekend in a lovely house full of eclectic artwork on Bulago Island (one of the Ssesee Islands) just an hour away from Entebbe. I was there to celebrate a friend's 40th birthday and her five years spent in Uganda. We have all decided to go back in another forty years, but then we will be flying in on our private jets!

I seriously recommend a visit to One Minute South!

Cool wood carving!

Here's how I spent the night with Daniel Craig!

This view was my reward for climbing the hill!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Limbo Land

For many years, I had an anxiety dream involving my GCSE Geography coursework. In this dream, after having months to compile a folder full of surveys, maps and graphs, the morning of the due date would arrive and I would have absolutely nothing to show for it. In reality, this makes no sense as I always quite liked Geography and I distinctly remember putting all those sheets of paper together inside plastic pockets, with the sections subdivided by brightly coloured cardboard section dividers well in advance of the due date.

More recently, I have developed a new anxiety dream. This one does involve a more recent and realistic situation. This week I have woken up in the middle of the night a couple of times, reliving the moment of the ascent night of Kilimanjaro where I was quite literally gripped with fear and afraid to move either upwards or downwards. So what does this all mean?
Still a long way to go here then!

I am in limbo land at the moment. I have a mere six weeks left in Uganda, a few weeks holiday, then I set off on a whole new adventure to Singapore. I have a long list of things to do before I leave; from tying up loose ends at work, to selling or giving away the belongings I no longer need and organising shipping for the things I can’t let go of so easily. I also have to prepare myself to say goodbye to the country, which despite its petty frustrations, has become my home for the last four years. Some of my friends here have become like family too. It is not going to be easy.

Then we have the future and things are moving so quickly! My flight to Singapore is already booked and I am being asked to get in touch with housing agents. I can’t really get my head around thinking about where I may like to live in a city I have never visited, on a whole new continent. The Internet may offer a whole host of facts and figures about living in Singapore, but I will only really understand when I arrive and experience it for myself. I’m going to be the new girl again, get lost on strange streets, find new friends and establish a new life for myself. I know I will be fine because I have done this twice already, but the big unknown is always a little scary!

Monday, 30 April 2012


Last week I took Matilda (my car) on her final road trip up to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. A special visitor decided to perch on the bonnet gaze at his reflection in the windscreen before climbing up onto the roof. It was only on closer inspection that I realised that Ugandan crowned cranes have very long and sharp claws ... oops!

This time we saw eight of the twelve rhinos in the sanctuary, including Obama, who was 'being stubborn' last time I visited. Apparently, he is behaving much better now he is a teenager!

I didn't realise the big bull was having a gigantic pee when I took his photo - I'm glad I wasn't standing too close to the action.

We spent an hour following the rhinos around and left as the heavens opened and the roads turned into slippery mud. Matilda was non too happy as she's really a city girl and was well out of her comfort zone in such conditions!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

An amazing April!

It's almost the end of April ... did I blink? It seems to have flown by, with barely a chance to catch up with myself and share all the lovely things I have been doing. It's been a month of last chances to enjoy everything East Africa has to offer: visitors from near and far; a fabulous safari in the Masai Mara; a return to a favourite spot on the Kenyan coast; a great birthday night out and a school trip to Zanzibar!

If my feet ever have the chance to touch the ground, then I'll share a few stories. For now, here are a few photos from the trip to Kenya ...

My first sighting of a cheetah in the wild

Although I loved viewing the abundance of wildlife, I was reminded that safari in Uganda is very special and tranquil. So many cars crowding around a pride of lions ...

Alpha male!

Gorgeous elephants!

I love Watamu, rain or shine!


Shopping for a last pair of beaded flip-flops

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

A sour ending to a fun weekend

The weekend adventures and mishaps did not end with the broken down vehicles. On our way back, around an hour or so outside of Kampala, we had quite a disturbing experience.
To be honest, I was dosing at the time, so I'm not sure how accurate my synopsis is, but the others have filled in all the details for me. A car overtook us and I heard my friend who was driving shout 'oh my god'. The car in front of us had hit a guy who appeared from nowhere and jumped out in front of their car. I'm glad I didn't see the details, otherwise it would have been even more unnerving. We pulled over and so did the car in front. A couple of very shaken looking muzungus emerged from the car.
Many people say that if you hit somebody in the car here, you should just drive on. Mob justice often prevails here and tempers flare rapidly when a friend or family member has been injured. But in all honesty, who has it in them to do that? I once bumped my car on the M25 and there were no injuries, only my little Fiesta came to any harm, but I was very shaken all the same. I just had to stop. It's human nature. If you don't stop, how can you live with your conscience?
We had a little dilemma in our car. Should we get involved and try to help? But if we all got out, then we would risk aggravating the situation more. Besides which, it is always better to try to avoid getting implicated in anything that may involve a court case here.
The police arrived and miraculously an ambulance arrived within ten minutes. This was the best looking ambulance I have ever seen in Uganda. We have since heard that the man was not too badly injured and that he is recovering well. We also heard that he was very drunk and that the police were quite sympathetic. This is comforting compared to all of the horror stories that circulate.
However, the whole event made me think how we take our lives in our hands on a daily basis here. We may have camped in a national park, surrounded by hippos, lions and elephants but the real risks here in Uganda are much more mundane. If the man had run out five seconds afterwards, then our car would have hit him. It could happen to any of us and it is probably the worst nightmare for all of us.

Monday, 2 April 2012

A road trip in Uganda over the April Fool's weekend - now that has to be asking for trouble! I wanted a little adventure and I was not to be disappointed.
On Friday evening we set off to Masindi to stay in the oldest hotel in Uganda. Back in the day, the Masindi Hotel must have been quite the place to stay; Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart stayed there when they filmed 'The African Queen', as well as the writer, Ernest Hemingway. I would hope that the stars of the silver screen of yesteryear were treated to slightly better service than we were ... I bet they were not told to take the buffet dinner because the chef could not be bothered to cook at such a late hour! Still ... thr place has a certain charm and we enjoyed a peaceful night and a hot shower before heading off to camp in the wilds.
On Saturday afternoon we discovered that while it is expensive to swim in the pool at the lodge, the staff will happily allow you to sit by the poolside and dangle your feet in the water for free, as long as you have a drink. After a final trip to the last loo we set off to our campsite on the Nile Delta.
We decided we would go directly to the campsite to set up our tents before our game drive, but happened to see a lone lioness, a tower or totter of giraffes, a sedge of Ugandan crested cranes (in fact a whole volary of birds, including a single vulture, not a wake of vultures), a congregation of plover and a bloat of hippos. Sorry ... I got a little carried away with the collective nouns there!
A we set up camp, the winds picked up and dark clouds gathered. As you may be aware, I am not the most competent of campers and found the extra trials from the elements a little trying. As it has not rained for weeks, the ground was solid and we struggled to hammer in our tent pegs since we had all forgotten the car jack and had to improvise with a car jack!
Despite the menacing clouds and the distant rumble of thunder, we escaped the rain and we were able to barbeque without umbrellas. We then proceeded to go on our night safari, without, I hasten to add, the presence of a guide. We didn't have enough space in our car and some of our party claimed to know the park well enough to direct us to all of the nighttime action. Miraculously, we did not get lost, although some of us had doubted the word of a man who offered to guide us through the park at night, but had forgotten to pack his tent pegs, a toothbrush or a sleeping bag!
Bedtime came and we crawled into our tents. I was a little on the warm side, since my sleeping bag, originally purchased for Mount Kilimanjaro, was designed for temperatures as low as minus 15. This however, turned out to be quite a tactical move. If you make yourself hot enough over the course of the night, then your body will sweat out any excess fluids and remove the need to get out of the tent in the middle of the night for a pee. Good news indeed when you can hear the grunt of hippos in very close proximity. Genius move, some would say!
Our morning game drive was not without its drama either. As we headed back to camp, we saw a group of cars (what is the collective noun for 4X4s?) We headed over to see what amazing animals were gathering, only to find some of our friends looking perplexed at the underside of their car. That would be the car containing the family with a 12 month old baby, of course. Broken brakes, a failing clutch and a burst tyre. There was no hope of any of us getting it back on the road. And we were still by the Nile Delta, 30kms from the safari lodge. So we waited and waited and relied on the hope that some vehicle would pass and be willing to take on a few extra passengers. Of course we were lucky and we all got back in one piece.
Am hour later, we were back in the lodge and decided that as long as we could have a good cup of tea, then we could take on the world! :)

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Return to Murchison

More stories and photos from my little adventure camping in the wild to come later ...