Saturday, June 30, 2007

Kampala, Murchison Falls

Arrived in Kampala 3 days ago after a 10 hour bus ride from Kigali and not having eaten all day.  Met a Ugandan woman on the bus who told us we could share a taxi with her because it would be soon as we arrived the taxi drivers and motobike drivers had swarmed us, the motobike drivers literally circled us with their motorbikes and we couldn't move.  We dropped the woman off and she invited us into her home for a minute, which was nice.  Then the driver took us to the backpackers and ended up ripping us off for a couple dollars (the woman told us the price we would be 15,000 shillings and he demanded 20,000 when we got there), but he did do a great job darting around all the Kampala traffic jams.  At the backpackers, for the first time since South Africa I was surrounded by mostly independent backpackers.  Was fun to be in a hostel again.  We tried to get on their organized Murchison Falls tour, which seemed like a good deal, but was booked for three weeks in advance.  Found two other travellers who were planning to go to murchison falls and set off to do it on our own.
Since we'd be camping we went to a store to try to find a tent the morning before we left...couldn't find anything under $100 so after spending over an hour in the store exploring our options (including one of the sales people offering to sell us the tent then help us return it 3 days later if we kicked him $20, this was too risky for a $200 tent) we decided to buy two $15 tarps and we'd just sleep outside. 
That decided, we went downtown to catch a bus, where I almost got pickpocketed on the street...slyly avoided.  We caught a 4hr bus to Masindi where we were left with the next problem of how to get into the park and to the campsite we wanted, 90km away.  Ended up finding another independent traveller and after a lot of negotiation got a taxi for $15 a person at 6:20pm, we were told by the driver the park gate closed at 7pm.  We get to the gate at 6:55 and it actually closed at 6:30. 
We start talking to the guard and he tells us how late we are, but he is very nice.  He gets his boss. After him angrily telling us he shouldn't be doing this allows us to pay and go in at about 7:20.  I asked the taxi driver if he knew when the gate actually closed and he said "I thought it closed at 6," so basically he was planning on ripping us off for the ride.  Once we got in, he took us to the campsite, all 5 of us stuffed in a little toyota for an hour on a bumpy dirt road.  
Finally, arrived at the campsite and one of the people we were with saw someone he had met travelling in Sudan and they had an extra tent.  So four of us were able to cram into the tent.  We booked a game drive for $20 a person and picked up 1 more traveller.  The drive was pretty good, saw my first leopard int he wild!  Also saw giraffes, elephants, buffalo, and a lot of birds. 
That afternoon we heard we could camp right at the top of Murchison Falls, so we went on a cruise up to the falls and were able to hike to the campsite along a scenic trail.  5min into the hike a ranger stopped us and said we had to pay $10 each for the hike.  Nobody told us anything about a fee and the hike was only 30minutes long anyway.  We said we weren't going to pay, had a little discussion and he went away saying we'd talk at the campsite.
The falls were pretty, but not amazing.  What was amazing was narrow it was.  The whole 100+ ft wide river flowed out of a 10ft wide crack and the water just raged through it.  Was very cool to water the water splash and churn through the crack from the top of the falls. 
At the campsite we found a pavillion to sleep under, never needed to use the tarps.  We called a taxi driver to pick us up at 8am the next day and take us back to town for about $75.  He said he had a car that fit 6.  The next day he arrives 2hrs late and in an SUV that 2 people had to sit in the trunk.  We renegotiate the price because we were pissed he showed up so late (we missed the bus to Kampala) and that 2 people had to uncomfortably sit in the back.  We get him down almost $20 on the price, get to town and find some other travellers to book a private minibus back to Kampala.  Finally get back at 7pm.
We did everything the people on the organized tour did, including being able to camp at the top of the falls, which they didn't get to do.  The tour was $145, and we spent $125.  Saved $20 doing it on our own! 


Krish said...

What up Josh I just landed back in NJ. Keep fighting the good fight and do me a favor and avoid Sudan, haha.


July 1, 2007 6:57 PM  

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