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Gorilla pics and baby gorilla videos FINALLY posted

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

Sorry it took so long, but they were quite the bear. Note that my camera is really not good enough to take photos in a dark forest without a flash (not allowed) so these are the only decent ones that came out, out of probably 200+ or more. Many are blurry, but I left them in so you can get a sense of how close we were, etc. The videos are short as they take up a lot of memory [read on]

Some Uganda photos posted

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Rather than re-link, if you’re interested, go back to the Lake Bunyoni and Gorilla Forest Camp review posts and photo links have been added.

Am about 1/2 way there to uploading the Gorilla pics, but not sure what kind of connection I’ll have in upper egypt.

Review: Gorilla Forest Camp

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

Gorilla Forest Camp (GFC).

If you go to Uganda.
If you go see the gorillas.
If you can afford it.

You won’t be sorry. [read on]

Seeing the Gorillas

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

In some ways, I suspect what I post here will not be much different from other people who have posted about seeing the gorillas. If you’re into it, which you must be if you’re willing to pay the price, it really is almost magical. My dad asked me ‘why’ and I’m not sure I can articulate it any better than anyone else. There’s just something about being a few feet away, in the middle of the jungle, looking into faces so much like your own (technically they’re our second-nearest living ape relative, after chimps), seeing them amble around utterly uncaring about you staring at them … I don’t know, it is just pretty incredible. [read on]

Lake Bunyoni: It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

As I have fewer than 24 hours left in Uganda, I feel pretty comfortable saying that my most recent trip was both the best and the worst experience I have had while in the country.

Ironically, the reason it was awful was because I went on a very expensive, high-end luxury tour that screwed me over left and right. Pieces of it (not in control of the tour company) were amazing, the the rest was so awful, that I must share. Don’t get me wrong, nothing awful in the “I lost a limb and am scarred for life” (much), in fact most of it in hindsight is very very funny. It just wasn’t at the time. [read on]

A brief post-gorilla note

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Just a quick note to say I am alive and well, but not readily connected here in western Uganda. I probably won’t get a decent post up again until Egypt (next week) and who knows when I’ll get the photos posted. Meanwhile, I know this is out of order and I have lots of adventures to share, that happened before today — but you know how I keep saying “it doesn’t get much better than this?” well it does. So, here’s just one example to share:

I’m in a room lit only by flickering candles and the dimming sunlight from outside.
I’m lying in a steaming bathtub so large that when I touch my feet to one end, I submerge my head on the other.
The cool air from outside conflicts with the steam rising off the water in the huge tub making a wall of white that drifts around the room.
I’m looking out through a curtained opening in the room wall, looking at trees and birds.
The only sound that occasionally drowns out the birds is the very loud clap of thunder and the rain.
But this is no “sounds of the rainforest” soundtrack, this is the real thing.

I spend more than an hour soaking in the tub, reflecting on the fact that today I saw the mountain gorillas. Honestly, I don’t think it CAN get much better than this…

Photos – Ngamba Island and Kampala

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary photos

Various Kampala photos (no labels, sorry!)

The best 15,000sh you can spend in Kampala

Thursday, August 9th, 2007

Ladies, after your basic needs of food and shelter are met, if you have the disposable income and want to treat yourself to a pedicure so divine it damn near should be illegal, get yourself to the Garden City shopping center, go to Sparkles Salon and ask for Moses. For the ~$8-10 USD believe me, you won’t be sorry!

It was so fabulous, I’m going to write a post just dedicated to this pedicure. Anyone other than women and metrosexuals should not bother clicking the “read the rest of this post” link.
[read on]

Chimp Sanctuary

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

These are my last few days in Kampala so mainly I have been souvenir shopping and hanging out around the hostel talking with folks. For example, I met “D”, and ex pfizer guy who mid-life quit his job and is traveling around the world freelance writing for some papers in the midwest. He’s about to go to Sudan and spent a week in Congo interviewing some general last week. He was there when the latest group of gorillas were killed (more on that below). [read on]

Photos Take 2 – Jinja, Bujagali Falls, Sipi Falls, Masindi

Monday, August 6th, 2007


Jinja and Bujagali Falls

As with the Murchison set, these are not well edited, so there is much repetition. Sorry!:

Sipi Falls, or the Hike From Hell photos

Masindi is the town were we stopped for lunch on the way to and from Murchison Falls. The food at the place we ate at was awful. Didn’t have time to label these, so just view these as a typical medium-sized Uganda town. The mopeds are what I’m talking about when I refer to a boda-boda in my blog. Note how people cram on them even with kids or pile them high with stuff. The guy with the water jug collects water from afar, bicycles with it to a location like this, and then people come up and get water from him.

Photos, take 1 – Murchison Falls

Monday, August 6th, 2007

Because it has been impossible for me to upload photos to my kodak site since leaving Tanzania, I’ve switched to flickr. But, I’m still having a LOT of trouble with photos, but here is the first set from Murchison Falls. I really was not able to edit these well, so there are way more than there need to be. Lots of photos of hippos, crocodiles and the falls, but I am having a tough time editing them. Sorry you’ll just have to slog on through.

Snarky’s Murchison Falls photos

Sipi Falls: Part 3. The true African transit experience

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

Got up in time for dinner, ran again into the Irish couple who not only did all the water falls but went on to another one farther away and seemed quite well-rested and chipper (what are these people, freaks??). I have an excuse that the bruise I got on my thigh when I slipped and fell the other night has turned a spectacular shade of black/purple, so maybe that’s why I am mush compared to everyone else around me. Clearly when I get back I am going to need some serious getting-back-in-shaping. [read on]

Sipi Falls: Part 2. Up, up, and more up

Sunday, August 5th, 2007

I wake the next morning around 8, quite happy to see the hurricane lamp did a good job drying much of my clothes. I might actually have both clean AND dry underwear to change into at some point!.

I go down for breakfast and have a “rolex” which is an egg/vegetable scramble inside a chapati – a local favoriate, apparently – which was quite good. I then meet up with Joseph, my guide for what I later termed “the hike from Hell.” [read on]

Sipi Falls: Part 1 Getting There

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

I decided to leave Bujagali Falls as originally planned when the night before I felt the local rodents had too intimate a knowledge with my banda.

Checking out was great because they actually take traveler’s checks, so I had a chance to dump a couple of those otherwise-worthless pieces of paper and got some US dollars in return! I followed the “its so easy” directions everyone gave me about taking the shuttle from Bujagali back to Jinja, a boda-boda (with my full baggage) to the bus park, and ask for the matatu to Mbale (pronounced “Bali” as in Bali, Indonesia). [read on]

Did I really say I wanted adventure and exercise? Be careful what you wish for…

Saturday, August 4th, 2007

Well, I said I wanted adventure, and adventure is what I got. Just as a taste, it included

1) one bicycle boda-boday with me and my full pack rushing across town to get to the correct matatu
2) one 1+ hour ride in a matatu built for 8 that was crammed with 19 (including the 5 kids of various ages)
3) one bus breakdown that included about 30 people sitting on the side of the road waiting for the bus company to figure out what it should do
4) one 7km hike that damn near killed me from exhaustion
5) no electricity at one of the places I stayed for 2 nights and nobody there seemed to have much concern [read on]

Bujagali Falls: It doesn’t get much better than this

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

So I’m at the Nile River Explorers hostel in Jinja having just had a bone-warming hot shower and gobbing conditioner on my hair. I’m now in clean (ish) clothes and am waiting for them to figure out my room. I had wanted to stay 2 nights at their campsite at Bujagali Falls, around a 15 minute drive from Jinja, but they only had the second night available and were going to put me in a room at the hostel for the first night. Then, they had a cancellation and I was able to stay a the campsite at both nights.

When I got to the campsite and they showed me to my room, it had such a great view that I asked if I could book it for a third night. [read on]

Succumbing to Peer Pressure, or “what the hell am I doing here?”

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

As those who know me can attest, I’m not the type to give in to peer pressure. Especially those who have been trying to get me to drink all through school (miz JS!). Normally, I am very good at resisting doing that which I don’t want to do. Somewhat stubborn, in fact, some might say…

I had decided to go to Jinja, a town located at the ‘source of the nile’ (where the nile starts from Lake Victoria), about an hour from Kampala, with the idea I’d just go visit, and not do the number one thing people do here in Jinja — White Water Rafting (grade 5 rapids).

See, I don’t really like the water, I don’t like adrenaline-rushing, life-threatening experiences (I’m fairly wussy that way), and I’ve never done white water rafting before so doing it at grade 5 to start would be really really stupid, don’t you think? So as I was sitting in the raft heading for our first rapid I was thinking to myself — “what the hell were you thinking??!” [read on]

A true vacation Sunday

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Yesterday was sunday and I decided to do a true ‘vacation’ day, which means I did very little at all.

I got up late, I lounged by the “pool” (the pool is indeed an inground pool, but it is about 15′ x 10′, so it is more of a ‘soak in the cool water to get out of the heat’ pool than a ‘swimming’ pool) for a couple of hours, where I met two americans from Cooperstown, NY who were about to go back to the US after a month in Uganda working for an NGO they had formed to help refugees from Congo, Burundi and some from Rwanda (catering to french-speaking refugees, seems there’s an NGO for everything). [read on]

Bye Bye Boda Boda

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Got back from Murchison Falls yesterday and today came into Kampala to keep working on my Cairo ticket and to update the blog. As I get more comfortable with Kampala, I am coming to enjoy the city more and more.

Today I even did what is very like the most dangerous thing one can do in Kampala — I had a boda boda ride (I actually had two!). [read on]

Murchison Falls: Part 3

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

So, as we were up early anyway, we got to watch a gorgeous red sunrise over the Nile.

After breakfast we left to go hike the waterfalls before the long drive back to Kampala.

The hike was strenuous at times, especially given how bad shape I’m in having not exercised in several weeks and given the crappiest of crap food I’m eating, but all I can say is WOW.

If you are in Uganda, you really must go see these waterfalls. [read on]

Murchison Falls: Part 2

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

So, the agenda was to be: day 1, drive to Murchison Falls. Day 2, game drive in morning, back to camp for lunch, boat drive down the nile in the afternoon. Day 3: hike up Murchison Falls in the morning, drive back to Kampala. [read on]

Murchison Falls: Part 1

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

After arriving in Kampala I spent a night in my private hostel room which was really good, and the next day as noted earlier, D helped me into Kampala so I wandered around a bit. It was my goal also to buy my ticket to Cairo but I ran into a snag. It was really expensive (like, $1000) to buy the ticket in advance from the US so I figured I’d just buy it here. After all, who the heck is going to Cairo from East Africa in August?? Well, apparently a lot of people. [read on]

Planes, trains, and automobiles (but no trains, actually)

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Looking back I can see I’ve left out some bits and pieces of my story thus far, so I’m going to try to go back and fill them in now.

To begin, my trip from Arusha to Kampala was fairly uneventful, but interesting none-the-less. I had been told by Precision Air to get to the airport 2 hours in advance. When I got to the airport the security staff couldn’t for the life of them figure out why I’d come to the airport 2 hours in advance. [read on]

Hungy Hungry Hippos, or things they don’t prepare you for growing up in New Jersey

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

I’m awoken out of a benadryl-induced coma-like sleep to the following sound right near my ear:

RIP, RIP, RIP, shuffle, swoosh, shuffle, swoosh, grunt, RIP, RIP, RIP, shuffle, swoosh, RIP, RIP

And after about 2 seconds I realize that less than 10 feet away from me, grazing just outside my tent, is a hippopotamus — the most deadly animal in Africa, responsible for killing more people than any other critter on the continent.

And then another thought hits me. Wow, I really need to use the bathroom. [read on]

The adventure begins: Kampala

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Today the adventure began.

First, everyone I’ve met so far at the hostel (and it’s a very social place!) has been interesting. Fairly intellectual conversation, as many of the people here are either academics doing research or volunteer work, or college students spending their summer vacations doing volunteer work. Lots of discussion of politics and the causes of poverty.

Today “D” was my hero. He’s here doing his PhD research on political conflict and yesterday he said he was going into town today and offered to show me the ropes. [read on]

Safe and sound in Kampala

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Just quick note to say I have arrived safe and sound at the hostel in Kampala and even successfully managed to use an ATM (it took two banks to find one that would take my card). Whew!

Very social place, so far have met americans, irish, scotish, and french travelers. Everyone seems very nice.

Internet connection as the hostel is free, and therefore slow and dodgy. Am going into town to learn how the public transport works, get a feel for Kampala, go to an internet cafe, and buy Harry Potter.