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Last Few Days in Uganda


February 3rd, 2022 

We arrived at our AirBNB around 4:30 after terrible traffic due to road construction.  We have a little house on a property with a large house that has a second floor terrace we are allowed to use as it’s accessed by a circular staircase outside.

Our house has one bedroom with an ensuite bathroom, a small living room with a desk and a full kitchen complete with a washing machine.  It’s a lovely full gated, landscaped property close to Lake Victoria so on the terrace we get a view.  The weather has been overcast and hot so we are glad there’s a fan in the house that we can move around to the room we are in.   We had hoped to stop for groceries on the way here as we are staying four nights (we hope only four) but the traffic was so terrible we tried one store and although it looked huge inside, it was pretty empty.  After checking in and getting settled we walked over to a nearby hotel/resort to have beer and pizza by the lake.

Doug had rescheduled his cardiologist appointment for this Friday so he had to go into the city but didn’t want to drive in the horrible traffic.  He decided to walk and take “boda bodas” (moto taxis) when he could (no one driver would take him all the way there – 30 km / 20 mi).  He left here around ten and got there early for his 1pm appoint and was back around 3:30.

So as with all air travel these days, if we are going to Egypt which is what we want to do, we need a negative PCR test so before booking our flights, we wanted to get the test done within the 72 hour limit and then book the flights.  So we hopped in the car and drove to Entebbe to a hospital our host told us does the tests (Fran confirmed this by phone via Skype).  We hit no bad traffic (since we were not headed north to Kampala but south to Entebbe) and checked in, paid (180,000 UGX = about $50USD) and got the test done all in under 25 minutes – results by 1 pm tomorrow.

We went home, checked into using the washing machine (there’s a charge for it) and then had a quiet night until about 4:30 am when a thunder and lightning storm hit; didn’t sleep much after that.  We awoke to continuing on and off rain, showers and downpours for most of the morning.  As is usual for Uganda, the power was out  on and off today but by about 1 it was back on and Fran managed to do a load of laundry, get it hung outside to dry and it was all done before dark.  As there is no dryer in the house, Fran didn’t want to do laundry until she was more confident it would dry outside.

Before 10:30, we received our negative PCR tests.  The owner here had his daughter go into town to get the results printed as this is required for entry into Egypt – we could not get our visas online as you need to do that seven days ahead, but we also know that you can get them at the kiosks upon arrival in Cairo.

Doug booked our flights to Cairo and we looked into accommodations. Our overlanding friends, Joe & Josée had been to Egypt over a year ago and gave us some recommendations but the place that they stayed at had no private rooms left for next week so after looking at our guide book and iOverlander, we found a hotel that seemed to fit our bill.  We booked three nights and it comes with free airport pickup!

Doug began looking into guides for Cairo and surrounding regions – a few day trips – and although we contact our friends’ guide his price had gone up considerably so we’ll see what else we can find once we get there.  Our hotel offers tours so we’ll see what they say.

We are trying to use up our remaining UGX before leaving so we try to pay credit when we can and sparingly use our bit of cash when we have to.

Sunday morning we went off for our final outing.  We were out the gate by 7 am and made our way eastward (but had to go through Kampala to do that – hence the early departure as even though it’s Sunday, we expected traffic for sure on the way back and hoped to beat the rush in by leaving early)

and we made it the small city of Jinja on Lake Victoria – here is the source of the Nile River!

new bridge over the Nile at Jinja

Our guide book spoke of two different spots to check out:  (1) the actual Source of the Nile Park on the east bank and (2) the Source of the Nile Gardens where the monument to the explorer who found the source is erected.  So we went to the east side first – turns out the actual source is in the river – there’s a spring where the water comes out just where the river meets the lake.  Although our guide book made no mention of this or of the boats that can take you out there, we opted to just view it from shore.

Upon arriving at the Park, we learned that the fee had gone up considerably since the publication of our book – actually tripled – so we asked to pay with credit.  Their machine was down and we were told to go back into town and get cash at an ATM!  Finally they told us we could pay in USD so even though that was more expensive, we did that.  We got down to the parking area and immediately were approached by boat guides which was when we learned that to get to the source, you need to take a boat and it was another 30,000 UGX each which we didn’t have.  So we took a few photos, made our way through the souvenir vendors and returned to our car to check out the other side of the river.

Upon arriving at what we thought was the “Gardens” it turned out to be the Living Waters Resort.  We drove inside and a man told us we had to pay to walk around the grounds (not expected) but it was a third of the price of the other side and it was much nicer with a way better view!  Here you could actually make out where the spring was coming up into the river!  Apparently the spring supplies 30% of the water that flows up the Nile.

We walked over to the monument which was an obelisk to John Speke, the British explorer who discovered the source.

Europeans began to learn about the origins of the Nile in the fourteenth century when the Pope sent monks as emissaries to Mongolia who passed India, the Middle East and Africa, and described being told of the source of the Nile in Abyssinia (Ethiopia). Later in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, travelers to Ethiopia visited Lake Tana and the source of the Blue Nile in the mountains south of the lake.

Lake Victoria was first sighted by Europeans in 1858 when British explorer  John Speke reached its southern shore while traveling with Richard Burton  to explore central Africa and locate the great lakes. Believing he had found the source of the White Nile on seeing this “vast expanse of open water” for the first time, Speke named the lake after the then  Queen. Burton, recovering from illness and resting further south on the shores of Lake Tanganyika was outraged that Speke claimed to have proved his discovery to be the true source of the Nile when Burton regarded this as still unsettled. A very public quarrel ensued, which sparked a great deal of intense debate within the scientific community and interest by other explorers keen to either confirm or refute Speke’s discovery. British explorer and missionary David Livingstone pushed too far west and entered the Congo River system instead. It was ultimately Welsh-American explorer  Henry Stanley who confirmed Speke’s discovery, circumnavigating Lake Victoria and reporting the great outflow at Ripon Falls on the lake’s northern shore.

Next it was down the path to actually reach the river.  Here Fran put here toes in the Nile:

We  walked back up and then decided it’s nearly 10:30 let’s have an early brunch and eat at the café here where there was an amazing view.  We were the only ones and we had an excellent breakfast with ginger flavoured black tea that was super yummy!

So we left about 11 hoping to make it back through Kampala in reasonable time.  Before hitting Kampala, we got pulled over by a female traffic cop – she advised us we’d pass in a no passing zone and wanted to see Doug’s license.  He showed her and she passed it back.  She told us there was a fine and she’d have to go get the machine to process it.  She came back 2 minutes later and said “since we had a non-Ugandan plate” she wouldn’t be able to process it and let us go.

The final place we want to go to  in Uganda the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (aka the Entebbe Zoo).  The only reason we wanted to go was to see the shoebill stork that lives in a very small part of Africa.  We had hoped to see it in the southern sector of Queen E NP but the 4×4 road up to the swaps of Lake Albert were too muddy to chance going up there.

We took the ring road around Kampala and made really good time.  Part of it is toll so no trucks allowed and no motorcycles on that section.  It’s four lanes and we whizzed by the city.

Even though the zoo showed up in both Google Maps and, neither app could direct us there!  Turns out the entrance is on the opposite side of the golf course which the zoo is beside and even when we were on the street Fran saw could get us there, the apps both said turn around!  Anyway, we made it and got parked.

Before paying our entry fee we asked to be sure that they actually had shoebills in residence and were told yes.  It was getting quite hot out with humidity being so close to the lake and we tried to stay in the shade as much as possible.

The zoo is really more of a rescue centre so their inhabitants vary but we managed to see more than we expected, including a shoebill!

It is one of those creatures that “only a mother can think is beautiful” but we were impressed.

Fun facts about shoebill storks:

  • they grow to 4-5 feet tall;
  • they have an eight foot wingspan
  • their bill looks like a Dutch wooden shoe!
  • they live in marshy areas
  • their favourite food is lungfish – an eel like fish but they also eat catfish, lizards, snakes and baby crocs
  • they can stand motionless for hours staking out their prey
  • they have gold eyes
  • they have very powerful bits so you don’t want to approach them
  • they will lay two eggs and have never done so in captivity
  • they have a very repulsive habit of sh*tting on their legs; apparently it’s a cooling method in the heat

We wandered the zoo and saw other injured/rescued animals including a serval cat

a caracol, some lions, A pride of lions, a pair of  Spotted necked otters

an African Grey Parrott, ostriches, a hyena, 2 white rhinos, an untusked warthog, some Chimps

We finished the rest of the enclosures and made out way back to our AirBNB for one final night.  We did a repack of our belongings – again! after which we relaxed and had another quiet evening.

Monday morning, Doug went for his run, we showered and clean up the suite before leaving for the airport around 11.  We were to meet the car rental agent at the parking lot there as we’d arranged that beforehand.  Our rental was actually only supposed to be until the 4th, but Doug called on the 3rd and extended it for a few extra days as that was cheaper than getting airport transport.

In total in Uganda we drove 2832 km / 1760 mi.

We really enjoyed our time in Kabale visiting and assisting the school.  For us, the national parks were somewhat disappointing due the lack of maintenance and lack of animals after visiting Kenya but the chimp trekking was cool and if you want to do the gorillas, we understand that this is less expensive here (and safer) than neighbouring countries.  Frank and Antje did it and really enjoyed it.

The people of Uganda have been totally welcoming and friendly; this is a national less used to tourists and you do not get hassled as much (except for money in general).  We did not experience anything bad and everyone loved to smile back and say hello – often unprompted!

We arrived at the airport before noon, the car rental agent seemed to be running late, so we left the key under the mat and went inside.

Upon arriving to check our bags, the attendant wanted to see proof of our departure flight out of Egypt – we don’t have one as we don’t know when our motorhome is going to be ready.  We explained the situation, showed her a copy of the Purchase Order for the RV and she said she’d get her supervisor.  The supervisor would not take this as an excuse not to have a flight so we booked one on Expedia, showed her and then after boarding the plane we cancelled it.

The flight to Cairo had a five hour layover in Addis Ababa and left more or less on time.  The plan was not full and we had empty seats beside us.

During our layover, we tried to get into a lounge but decided to rather sit in a bar/restaurant.  We had a couple of beers, shared a meal and met a young Canadian named, Cory, and then a Belgian couple while sitting there.