BROKEN BRIDGES AND CLIFF DRIVING
1 July 2008
QENP Ishasha - Kisoro (Virunga Hotel Campsite S1 16.908 E29 41.209)
BRUCE: Today was one of those days, that when it ends, you either love it or hate it. We spent the morning agreeing that the gorillas are too expensive but that we'd still like to go to Mgahinga and hike on the volcanoes as it sounds awesome. It is right in the south west corner of Uganda and borders the DRC and Rwanda. We chatted to a Tanzanian family who confirmed that the roads south of Lake Victoria from Uganda to Arusha are ok so we have that option.
After a short lion drive we were on the road to Kisoro. The road was spectacular and ran along the sides of mountains and valleys full of banana trees and plantations. The road surface was really dusty though. After about 100km we were flagged down by a local man who told us that a floating bridge across the river that we had to cross was broken and that we would have to turn back!! We called one of the lodges at Mgahinga and they confirmed that the only way was back to QENP and the long was around. We had seen trucks taking a small side road (S1 00.036 E29 50.796) that went in the right general direction and decided to go back and take a look. A truck driver confirmed that this was open but as it was a hectic single track down the mountain and we were alone we decided to head back to QENP and try again tomorrow. We'd just made the decision when a friendly Matatu driver, with two European tourists, said that he was going that way and we could follow him. So off we went!
The drive was tough and we were in low range in places. Passing other vehicles was life threatening too as one set of wheels would straddle the cliff edge. It took as two hours to get to a wooden bridge over the river upstream from where this sunken bridge was. After that it was plain sailing to Kisoro and I was elated that we had made it!
2 July 2008
Kisoro - Mgahinga Gorilla NP (Community Campsite S1 21.226 E29 37.168)
SARAH: We treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast at the overland spot but the scrambled eggs on toast were pretty average. Bruce then spent time on the compute resizing our photos and taking advantage of the power socket. I meanwhile did some washing and hung it up to dry in the hot sun.
We popped into the UWA office to check what there is to do here and double checked the gorilla trekking price- still $500. All other activities and walking can be organised from the MGNP so we tried doing a blog update but the connection was too slow. Then interestingly, a guy called Joseph, approached us on the road to offer us gorilla trekking permits for $400 each. This didn't seem quite legal and if we were really passionate about the gorillas we may have accepted his offer but neither of us were prepared to spend $400.
Kisoro is a rather scruffy town with a few tourists here and there and we weren't sorry to leave for the beautiful MGNP campsite. It is situated at the base of 3 volcanoes, the Virungas, with thick bamboo forest and jungle around. We arranged to hike up the smallest of the 3 tomorrow and chatted to some other travellers at the campsite for the rest of the evening.
MR LAVA LOVER - CLIMBING MT GAHINGA
3 July 2008
MGNP (Community Campsite)
Park entrance fee: $35 pp (for 2 days)
$15 pp (walk)
$20 pp (Golden Monkeys)
BRUCE: I am a mountaineer!! We climbed a volcano today, Mount Gahinga! It was tough going and took us 7 hours to hike the 6km round trip. I seriously cannot believe it was only 6km!!! We had a guide, Jones, and a man at arms, Chris, who took us up there. Chris has an AK47 to scare off any elephants, buffalo, gorillas and guerrillas!! A Scottish couple were also doing the hike but with their own armed escort and body of knowledge. On the way up we heard gunshots in the forest and after some radio comms Chris confirmed that it was poachers trying to capture their gorilla troop. It really sickens me that there is a demand, somewhere in the world, for gorillas when there are so few left. I really would love to see them but at $500 it's just too much for us. The last bit of the hike was slippery and tough up lots of wooden ladders and steps. The swampy crater lake on the top of the volcano was a spectacular fusion of greens with green vegetation all around. Philip at the campsite cooked us up a great hot bucket shower and we had a great lentil dhal for dinner. Our game of scrabble was abandoned and called a draw so the score is still 2-1 to me!
GOLDEN MONKEY TRACKING IN BAMBOO
4 July 2008
SARAH: It is so different and beautiful here. We booked to do the Golden Monkey tracking. So back up the mountain we trekked and into the bamboo forest. Trackers had been sent out earlier to find the Golden Monkeys and we were now in radio contact with them, bundu bashing through the thick bamboo. It was good fun crashing though the forest and we found the beautiful Golden Monkeys who have a golden reddish back and black legs and tail. They didn't strike me as being very habituated as they kept leaping away from us across the top of the bamboo. Seeing them was quite difficult but it was a great experience none the less. The walk today was far less hectic than yesterdays, thank goodness, and we made it back to the campsite before the heavens opened. The downpour was torrential and it poured and poured all afternoon. We felt sorry for the sole walker up Mt Gahinga as we had a nap in our tent with the rain pelting down. Luckily the rain stopped long enough for us to have left overs for dinner. We continued our scrabble championship inside around the fire and annoyingly Bruce won again.