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Tuesday, August 30

Uganda, the lakes

Mary: Our first stop in Rwanda was Lake Mutanda Eco Community Centre ($6 pppn, negotiated down to $3pppn), which was very basic, but with good views. They made us excellent hot water bucket shower, although you had to run past big columns of vicious biting red ants to get there. We had quite a lot of “Give me Money” and “Give me Soda” from villagers on the way in, so were happy that it was quiet and peaceful. The guy running the place was really nice and we spent the evening chatting around the bonfire, before the rain came down and we went to bed.

We were only planning on going for a drive to see the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, but the road was slow (steep and windy), so we decided to take it easy and stayed at Nkuringo Gorilla Camp ($6pppn) – we met the owner on the road as he was heading into town and he told us all about the campsite and its “brillliant views”. The views of the forest were brilliant, but not from where we were camped - the only space to actually camp with a roof tent is the small driveway, which doubles as a parking lot and building site while work is being done on the cottages. There is no gate and no guard, but it felt safe anyway. Unfortunately it was too misty to see much of the Virungas NP. We had a great hot shower here and Brett cooked while I put my feet up. We spent the evening chatting to 2 other South African couples who have retired and are travelling for a few months. The owner came and joined us – a well travelled but quite intense guy. After we told him we use the LP as our main guidebook he said he wasn’t trying to cater towards “LP travellers” and in fact disliked budget travellers in general (which didn’t surprise me given how expensive his rooms were, it was just ironic as his only guests that evening were all camping).

We had a massive storm in the evening, so now we know for sure the tent has no leaks! Apparently the small wet season has come early and also come further South than normal. The ground was clayey when we woke up and the sky still threatening rain so we decided against a walk. We drove the last 10km west to the DRC border – there is no border post, and the road just ends in bush. Heading back to the tar, we took a couple of hours on a scenic route with the other South Africans following us – the views of the forest and terraced farms were fantastic.

We followed the dirt road along the edge of Lake Bunyoni towards Lake Bunyoni Overland Resort ($6pppn). We checked in and were directed to the best spot on the edge of the lake – not even in the parking lot for a change! Because of the rain we didn’t feel like cooking, so we ate in the restaurant, which meant a 90 minute wait for a bad tasting stew of bone and fat (couldn’t find the meat) that we could still taste for a long time afterwards. The heavens opened again, so we settled in for a movie marathon, finally getting to see the ending of 2012 (the laptop battery had died right at the most tense part where the final tidal wave is approaching), Black Swan and Morning Glory.

The next day was overcast and drizzly so we spent the day doing chores – I did most of the massive amount of washing that had accumulated, while Brett took the running board and protective plates off to try find the source of a very slow petrol leak we have picked up (more below). After most of the day under the car on his back in the mud, he had mostly fixed it. When he finally gave up he was literally covered head to foot in mud, so didn’t enjoy the freezing cold showers. The rain had made it a fairly boring and depressing few days so we went back to the restaurant and had a very nice chips & chapatti dinner, although the waiting time had lengthened out to 2 hours! We managed about half an hour of internet on the very slow computers as we have not found any wi-fi in Uganda and our 3G dongle doesn’t work outside Rwanda (even on MTN) as it hasn’t been unlocked (yet).

At 3:30am, the driver of the overlanding truck in the parking lot started bashing on a metal drum and making a huge racket, and when Brett went over to investigate at about 4am the guy started shouting at us. Well, first asked if we were in the tents belonging to his truck or not, and when it turned out we weren’t he started shouting at us. I didn’t get back to sleep after that as the guy was so aggressive I thought he might come and try do some damage to our car. Aside from that, we have been really enjoying the night-time noises on this trip – rain on the canvas, thunder, lovely birdsong, the sometimes strangulated mooing of distant cows, chickens crowing, hippos grunting, frogs croaking, bats squeaking, and the sounds of drumming and beautiful singing from nearby villages. It is amazing how much you hear when sleeping in a tent!

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