After our 6-month trip from last year, I considered retiring from backpacking and as I wrote a few months ago, I even thought my wanderlust was gone! It didn’t take us long to realize that we were actually missing the adrenalin of backpacking, its uncertainty and its rewards. Our wanderlust was outraged by our lack of travels, our energy went down, our moods deteriorated and it became clear that we needed our loads of traveling adventures before saying bye to 2017 and happily welcoming 2018. Even tho traveling with a big group is normally not our favorite way to discover a country, it was the perfect compromise to start our Ugandan exploration and obtain the needed permits for the chimps and gorillas trekkings without paying the silly $4000 some tour operators wanted to extort from us.
We reached Kampala at stupid o’clock, none of us was in a chatty mood so we found two free spots on the truck and waited to hit the road. It felt good to be back on an Acacia truck, same horrible smell of being lived in, same mess from being travellers’ home away from home. Ô bumpy and dusty roads, how I have missed you! After 9 hours, stopping a few times for “bush” toilet and breakfast breaks, slowly getting to know people, we gladly reached our campsite close to Queen Elisabeth National Park. We discovered that our fellow travellers were Australian, Finnish, Malaysians, Belgian, Dutch, English and Kiwi. Exciting! We were helped with our tent by Sam, our Kenyan tour guide so we were quickly settled. Our campsite was in the middle of nowhere so there was no exploration to be done, we took our first afternoon nap. You gotta love random naps! Our two days spent in Queen Elisabeth left us with mixed feelings.
We started with a rather disappointing morning game drive, with countless water bocks and cobs. Elephants and lions were too far away and the park vegetation was quite dense and high making it difficult to spot them. Most of us had already go on extraordinary game drives so it was quasi impossible for us to feel any excitement for spotting bocks and guessing lions’ ears and tail. If you want a good game drive and will spend some time in East Africa anyway, skip the game drive in Queen Elisabeth Park. If you won’t make it to Kidepo Valley National Park (north of Uganda), Serengeti National Park (Tanzania) or Masai Mara National Reserve (Kenya), maybe those $50 are worth spending as you might (or might not) see the tree-climbing lions that live here. Our highlights: spend some time on the shores of Lake George, taking pictures of hippos and the drive itself as our skilled driver / guide sped up once in a while and we were bounced around left and right, up and down in the back of the van, making us giggle and feeling like rallye drivers.
While our morning activity was not great, our afternoon was saved by Robert. Our knowledgeable and passionate tour guide took us on a walk / hike in the Kyambura gorge to track chimps. While learning about the chimps community, we got to hike, cross rivers, jump into puddles (read: clumpsily stepping in a mud puddle to realize it is actually knee deep…. good times!) and patiently listen to the forest sounds to spot our chimps community. Thanks to Robert’s experience, we were able to wait for the chimps under a tree as this was the only way down for the chimps to make their way to the other bank of the river. While daydreaming, I heard M whispering “they are coming down”. Instead of rushing closer like the others (it helps to have a decent zoom!), I decided to stay where I was, zoom on a vine and wait. Suddenly, three of them slid down the vine and “smiled” at me, giving me some fun shots. Traveling might be enduring at times but it always pays back with life-lasting memories, great pictures and a sense of achievement while fulfilling dreams (the same way we felt last year while hiking among Komodo dragons). We loved our time spent in the Kyambura gorge, even after being peed on by a chimps and while driving back “home”, we were greeted by elephants and baboons which made our afternoon even more special.
Next stop: Lake Bunyoni…Happy trails and remember: Carpe Diem!