Jan 2015 trip report

Gavin writes:

Having recently returned from two and a half weeks in Uganda, which went very well, I felt that I ought to provide something by way of an update.

The Red Chilli Hideaway has indeed moved to Butabika, and does indeed have a pool, which I made good use of. The pizza is still very good however, and available every day except Sunday. Butabika is a little bit far out of town, but their complimentary shuttle service (several times a day, the last bus coming back at 1700)  tends to make light work of getting into the centre. The head stop is at Garden City shopping centre, where one can find an excellent little bakery at the entrance to the car park, selling locally made preserves as well as bread, eat-in or takeaway.

My camera which collapsed after little more than 24 hours in-country. I was recommended Pavan Computers, on the basement floor of Garden City (+256 790 915 162, sunit333@yahoo.comwww.computers.co.ug).<http://www.computers.co.ug%29./> As the Eye had listings for just about everything except electronic repair places, this was a most welcome recommendation. However, Panasonic is not a popular make in Uganda, and there were no parts available, despite their best efforts, so I had to buy another. I was able to do some surprisingly successful haggling in Uchumis. For those caught in a similar situation, Wilson Road is a good place to look for replacement cameras, although one wonders at the provenance of some of the older, and obviously secondhand ones on display.

I went hiking in the Rwenzoris – with Rwenzori Trekking, who were excellent.

I had a bit of an experience coming back from Kasese. I was travelling with Link and the bus left on time (which was more than can be said of the outward run).  However, the police had other ideas, and the bus was turned back a little way out of town and forced to wait for three hours! Apparently, this was because the registration of the bus was not that which had been provided to the traffic police. Whilst this may have been genuine – I presume that they are a little careful on that route due to its proximity to the Congolese border, although I saw no other signs of heightened security – it may well have been because the relevant wad had not been handed over. In any case, it would have been bad had I been due to depart upon my return, so the likelihood of this happening should be factored into any such journey.

I had some trouble getting from Jinja to Mbale on the last Saturday before my departure, as it seemed that there were no buses running that day. I was told as much at Jinja, and had to go the whole way via matatu. I certainly didn’t see any for the rest of the day. When I got to Sipi Falls it was quite late, but I was able to organise a trip around all of them apart from what was referred to as Sipi 2, on the property of an American who refuses access past 1700. There are compensations for arriving at the end of the day, however – the view over the plains at sunset surpasses description. One thing I must stress, however, is that there are no southbound matatus from Sipi after about 1630-1700. Instead, the boda-boda I’d hired took me all the way downhill to the nearest stage, some miles away – not exactly comfortable in the middle of the night, as I was breaking my own informal rule of never taking two-wheelers after dark, but I had no choice. My eyes were pummeled by various insects until I thought I’d never be able to see again – some Afrika Korps-style goggles would seem an essential accessory. It was of a course a matatu all the way back to Jinja, and I will say that I felt more secure aboard it than I would have done making a similar journey in Kenya.

I spent my last day at Entebbe, at Entebbe Backpackers, who can organise a number of activities.I did feel slightly embarrassed going to and from the rooms at Entebbe Backpackers, as the main lobby is brilliantly arranged so that one has to walk right in front of the TV. Not something that makes one feel too comfortable when there’s a match on! I found that it didn’t have the convivial atmosphere of Red Chilli, but this might have been due to the particularly transitory nature of the guests. I certainly didn’t miss having to rush up from Kampala on the day.

The pool at The Imperial Botanical Beach Hotel is now open until 2000. Those who prefer minimalist swimwear should be aware that there is an ordinance prohibiting G-strings, although the staff didn’t seem to be interested in checking when I was there.Shoebill tracking from Entebbe is expensive, at about $120, but the guide will take up to five people for this amount.

Determined to see one, I made my way to Mabamba Swamp, but rather than schlep around by land, I got to the ferry stage and booked a boat across the lake. I paid about Ush50k for the journey (with a lifejacket Ush10k extra) and was transferred directly to a smaller boat crewed by a guide and his assistant, who, for another Ush50k or so, seamlessly navigated those endlessly confusing waterways. The transfer was conducted on the lake side of the swamp – balance was good here! With the aid of several fishermen, we cornered a shoebill, but it had holed up in a thick clump of reeds, so no joy there. Still, I saw many other species of bird, including some very rare ones.

Arrival at Entebbe Airport was a little bit chaotic – some ad hoc screening for Ebola was in place, and I managed to get to passport control before being sent back to collect a medical summary form, after having a temperature sensor pointed at me. On the way out, I was pleased to note that I wasn’t hustled by airport staff helping me upstairs to the departure lounge with my baggage

It was a very successful trip indeed, and your book, as ever with Bradt guides, was indispensable, to myself and others. All the best for 2015.


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