A Travellerspoint blog

February 2010

Dirty Harry and Other Business

sunny 28 °C

It was so great to see Rob's Mum and Dad and Kenyan family friends – Liz and Ruli, especially as they had come to pick us up in a truck into which we chucked the bikes – in anticipation of a week of R&R.

Arriving at Ruli and Liz's house we were greeted by their lovely staff – Lucas, Mohammed, Zachinah, Violet and Osman. Mohammed commenting how he remembered last time I visited – 20yrs ago!

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After sunset stroll by the flamingo lake that the house overlooks we crashed into the comfort of crisp white sheets – no more sleeping in the tent for a whole week! :)

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Following morning Mum and Dad's goodie bags were unpacked.. Christmas 10 months early! They had done a sterling job at getting a whole load of very specific bike bits – new chains, sprockets, chain whip etc etc plus suncream, travel books and energy bars.

The suncream and energy bars were set aside and Rob and Mick set to work replacing the rear sprocket of both the bikes.

For those of us who don't know much about bikes – ours are pretty special – the gears are all inside the rear wheel hub, so there is only one chain ring (sprocket) on the rear wheel (unlike most other bikes which will have 5 to 8 rings). Consequently the chain always runs on this chainring which had completely worn out – and as a result the chain was beginning to slip with a horrible crunch now and then.

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As you might imagine - a chainring that has had 8000km of peddling to tighten it into position – is not very easy to remove.

Dad and I tried our hardest but couldn't do it – so set off to the flower farm workshop.
“Do you think they will be able to do it” I asked.
“Of course – they maintain the Geothermal Power Unit – they'll be able to fix your push bike” came Ruli's reply... unsure of how geothermal machinery relates to bikes we set off.

Sure enough, within 5 minutes the chainring was off Polly's bike. But while heaving on rob's chainring the tool ripped apart... doh.

“Do you have a tool to remove sprockets” I asked the beefy mechanic -
“No” he said – “in Africa we use this” gesturing to a rather heavy looking home made metal hammer.

With visions of him smashing the chainring off the incredibly expensive German gear hub, I told him to hang on while I went to get another tool.

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On my return the sprocket was removed – and the hub still intact – the African way worked fine!

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The following morning the new parts were put to the test on a bike ride from the house. Within 1km we spotted flamingoes, hippos, giraffe, waterbuck, jackels, warthogs, various gazelle, zebra and multiple different colourful birds all living in seeming harmony with the local people. It was better than any of the rather expensive game walks undertaken while we lived in South Africa.

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Unfortunately we didn't see hyenas... but we heard them howling at night and saw their tracks at the lake.

Whilst Ruli could watched Man U vs Arseneal without interruption he had organised a trip to the game sanctuary owned by the flower farm.

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The rhinos and zebra were beautiful but what stole the show was 'Dirty Harry': an ostrich who has the hots for tourists... or just anyone who will show him some attention!

At first I felt a little awkward as I thought someone had dressed up in an Orstrich suit and was dancing for us... how odd.

My awkwardness then turned to worry (as I realised that he is a real, very horney, ostrich). The worry was mainly for Beth – who he seemed to be performing for.

Worry turned to relief as we found he was in fact performing for his favorite yellow tub.

As we watched him strut off into the distance he came across an unfortunate warthog – who he started performing for – the warty – having seen it all before – ignored the strange giant bird's dancing and carried on nibbling the grass – so a rather perturbed Harry stopped his dance and headed off into the sunset.

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We on the other hand all needed a glass of wine by the campfire to calm our nerves!

Next on the agenda was a trip to Nairobi to get a visa for Ethiopia and essential supplies for the next leg of the trip: the hot “it can touch 50”, sandy “my brother lost his landrover there”, inhospitable “watch out for thee scorpions – they are everywhere” road of Lake Turkana – the largest dessert lake in the world.

The most important items on the shopping list were fishing hooks and line and citric/ascorbic acid based fruit juice powder to make the warm, volcanic slightly brackish and very alkaline water of the lake drinkable – unsure how much to buy as our advise had been “Just keep adding it until the water stops fizzing” “you will probably drink 10 litres each per day.” - we bought all of the supermarket's stock!

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The following day - As an antedote to the traffic jams and hustle of Nairobi a morning ride to Hells Gate National Park was prescribed.

For the afternoon's entertainment Liz had organised trip to a little jewelry making place that also buys baskets from Turkana – Minalyn was struck with horror as we told her our plan to cycle to Ethiopia via Turkana.

“But it's not safe” she objected.
“They all have guns – even the children – my driver got shot in the leg last month... it's too hot and windy - you'll die of heat and dehydration”

It was too late to cover Mum's ears – our relaxing trip to the Jewelry shop – added a few grey hairs to all of us!

After a sad Goodbye to Pol's sister – Beth. Mum and Dad kindly gave us a lift in the general direction of Lake Turkana.

Having spoken to multiple Kenyans about the road ahead - We were as prepared for the challenge as we ever would be. Bikes fixed and tested. Extra water carrying capacity – now 29 litres. Energy bars, sun cream, dried mango, fishing stuff and water neutralising ingredients.

We couldn't help some trepidation creeping into our hearts after all the hype – but not as much – I fear - as poor old Mum and Dad who did look rather worried as they headed away in the car.

Posted by robandpol 03:51 Archived in Kenya Tagged bicycle Comments (1)

Kruising through Kenya

Eight become three

sunny

There was a touch of sadness saying our goodbyes to the others, after such fun times in Uganda, also a little envy of their plans for a relaxed picnic at the source of the Nile in contrast to our days cycle of 120km to get us to the border, but the call of Kenya was too strong to delay any longer.

bye bye bamboo

bye bye bamboo

Beth was excited but also a little apprehensive, as now it was time to see if she could keep up! The last few weeks had worked out well, getting used to the hot sun and loaded panniers, as well as breaking Pol and Rob gently back in, after their rest in Rwanda, taking it leisurely through Uganda, the pearl of Africa, mixing up cycling and fun times with friends. Up until now, Beth has been loving it, but the question in her mind was 'would this continue now she was alone with the hardened cyclists Pol and Rob?'.

SAMBUKA!!

SAMBUKA!!

Prepared for hectic roads leaving Jinjya, we were pleasantly surprised with the initial dual carriageway, then later, the presence of a hard-shoulder. This provided some room for us, when crazy out of control buses, or huge lorries were overtaking, with little acknowledgment of our presence. At times like this we were very grateful of our wing mirrors, on which we had become quite reliant... a bargain buy, being the equivalent of about 50p and an extremely useful bit of kit! Our days pedalling took us through fields of sugar cane, little towns providing us with snacks of bananas and mangoes, and eventually to a little guest house in the border town of Busia. Happily washing off the days sweat in a cold shower, Beth was pleased to have completed 118 km and survived the afternoon's temperature highs of 39 °C, just an average day for Pol and Rob.

big dead snake

big dead snake

Cycling through Busia, in the pre-dawn darkness, the town was already bustling, a man starting to cook chapattis by candle light, and a multitude of pink shirted men cycling bikes providing a taxi service to those sitting behind them on the pannier racks. We reached the border with the first light.

border at dawn

border at dawn

No border seems to be the same, nothing is standard. There are many unwritten rules: 1) No photographs allowed that might threaten security. 2) One should have exactly the right amount of US dollars in order to pay for your visa, because it is apparently unreasonable to expect that they might have change for you! 3) No cycling across the border, you must push your bike; whilst obediently pushing our bikes across the border, as everyone was doing, a man told us we could now cycle, we subsequently got on our bikes and started pedalling our way into Kenya, only to be stopped by a large man in uniform telling us to get off our bikes. We explained that someone had said we could cycle, the officer asked who, as we turned to show him, our man was no longer in sight, and given that the officer had a very big gun, once again we climbed off our bikes, to push for the final few metres!

breakfast chef

breakfast chef

Now we were in Kenya, Pol and Rob's tenth country on their journey home. We'd heard reports of Kenya being less friendly and hospitable towards foreigners and more particularly independent travellers. For this reason, we planned our daily destinations to be cities where we could find guesthouses, rather than deserted places in which to wild camp. Unlike the reports we'd heard, we were extremely welcomed by the Kenyans who instead of shouting 'umzungu!' (white person) or 'Give me money!', as we passed, they would say 'Karibu' (welcome) and 'Safe journey'. Likewise when we stopped for a drink or some lunch, instead of the large group of children and adults who'd stand breaching our personal space and unashamedly staring, the Kenyans would greet us and continue on their way.
Initially there didn't seem much difference in the landscapes of Uganda and Kenya, but gradually the expanse of the Kenyan plains spread out before us, giving a larger grander feel to the country we were now in, which matched with the sense of greater wealth and development we were getting.

road to kericho

road to kericho

For the second time in just a couple of weeks we crossed the equator...it would seem the GPS has got a little confused and is taking us West to East instead of South to North.

across the equator again!

across the equator again!

Not long after crossing the equator, we caught our first glimpse of Lake Victoria, excited not only to see it, but also Kisumo on its edge, Kenya's third largest city, the place where our days cycling would end....and it was at the bottom of a very long awaited and long-lasting down hill!
After checking out a few places to stay in Kisumo, including the Imperial Hotel, a tad out of our league, we took a ride in a little rickshaw, to give Beth's aching bum a rest, and watch the most fantastic sunset over Lake Victoria.

victorious sunset!

victorious sunset!

Once out of the long flat plains, it would seem that Kenya also has some pretty big hills and mountains. Unlike Uganda's hills which although frequent are not too big, Kenya's seemed to go on forever. It is hills like these that we are appreciative of big lorries that also go slowly and accommodate us grabbing on behind and getting a tow! It was on the way up one such hill that we saw a huge cloud of black smoke, and wondered what it was coming from. On reaching the top, and passing all the long queue of lorries that had passed us on the way up, we came to an overturned diesel carrying lorry, that had collided with another car, and subsequently ignited, not only itself, but also the adjacent field. Thankfully no fatalities.

Unfortunate Lorry

Unfortunate Lorry

We did some rubbernecking, cycled through the excitable crowd, and continued on our way, past the very long queue of stationary traffic, that had spread across onto both sides of the road obstructing our pathway which we naively thought would be clear!

Leaving with the first light in order to cover the long distance before the unbearable afternoon heat, results in enjoying the best part of the day. Morning cycling is fantastic, the air is cool and fresh, the light gentle, as the rising sun shines upon the mist that still rests across the plains and valleys.
Teapickers

Teapickers

Leaving our 'campsite' in the grounds of the Tea hotel, Kericho, we first cycled through the fragrant tea plantations, scattered with people busily picking. This was the final of a few long days, and although being slightly shorter at 92km, seemed to be a never-ending series of up hills, accompanied by a strong head wind. The scenery was beautiful, through the hills, and thankfully being higher again, at 2500 metres meant the temperature was more manageable.

Reunion

Reunion

The end of the week brought us together with Rob's parent's Mick and Dorte, and our friend Liz at her home in Naivasha. What a perfect way to end the week, G&T's on the edge of the steely blue lake, reflecting the hills, whilst the sky hailed a bright full moon, and pink clouds which were mirrored by the pink rim of the lake, created by the myriad of flamingoes.

Flamingoes

Flamingoes

Posted by robandpol 10:15 Archived in Kenya Comments (3)

The Meander Through Uganda

Round hotels and minibus taxis

Thoroughly satisfied with our chimp encounters we resolved to head off early and attempt a sizeable dent in the 400km which lay between us at the Crater Lakes near Fort Portal and Jinja, on the shores of Lake Victoria, where the Nile begins. The first 20km took us to Fort Portal along a decent gravel road with spectacular views of the Rwenzori Mountain Range – “The Mountains of the Moon”.

The Ruwenzori Mountains

The Ruwenzori Mountains

We stocked up on petrol, snacks, jam and porridge and indulged ourselves with ice-cream ( ;0) thanks Ben) in the little town in celebration of our return to tarmac. Heading out of the town lush green tea plantations gave way to dense virgin forest and the seven bikers sped along invigorated by the cool shade and smooth road.

Cool shady forest

Cool shady forest

By and by the bikers tired and we pulled over to pee and re-energise on our newly purchased Fort Portal snacks. That is six of us pulled over to re-energise. Ben “The Hud” Hudson, however, was nowhere to be seen. He had last been spotted a good half hour or so before, a mere speck on the horizon as his racing spec bike finally came into its own and he opened it up leaving the others for dust. Being left for dust had it's advantages. As we chewed our chocolate bars we were treated to a sight to drive any twitcher wild with envy as three pairs of Great Blue Turacos flew overhead and perched in the tree just next to us.

The Great Blue Turaco

The Great Blue Turaco

The day progressed, the temperature soared, the kilometres ticked by and in the afternoon heat our dissipated group re-convened in an unremarkable Kyenjojo town. Sipping cold cokes and fanta our eyes were caught by a very strange sight. On the edge of the tumbledown town stood a substantial tower several stories high surrounded by walled grounds. So peculiar was the sight that we had to go and investigate to find out what it could possibly be towering above all the local single storey dwellings. The top bet was UN offices.

A big round hotel!!

A big round hotel!!

The truth was even stranger. The building was a five storey hotel complete with swimming pool and sauna. We jumped at the unexpected opportunity to escape the afternoon heat and plunged into the cool water of the pool.

Unexpected Joys!!

Unexpected Joys!!

After some hard-nosed bartering we managed to persuade the management to let us camp in the grounds providing we ate our meal in the restaurant. We slept soundly feeling very secure and rose bright and early ready to slip a few kilometres under our belts before the sun got us. The ride began with some significant downhill which turned into good undulating hills with each downhill pushing us into the next up. Pulling over for coke mid morning we met some more Mzungus.

Hardcore Slovenians

Hardcore Slovenians

These very friendly Slovenians had cycled down from Addis Ababa. Pol and Rob got talking and the others headed on. We swapped stories and gleaned valuable information about the road ahead including the all important phrase “not too spicy” in Amharic – apparently all Ethiopian food is very hot and spicy! The brief exchange had quite an impact on us as these guys had entered into Kenya from the Omo Valley in Ethiopia (“The Peoples Region”) and down the western side of Lake Turkana. We had previously rejected this route as we had thought it unsafe but we now learnt from the Slovenians that it was a real highlight. Food for thought in any case. We also learnt that the road between Mityane and Jinja was terrible cycling; “Russian Roulette with lorries” as they put it!! We swapped details and said our goodbyes anxious not to get too far behind the others since we were carrying all the supplies for lunch – including a rather large and much coveted wheel of cheese from Fort Portal.

We caught up with the others just in time for lunch at the pre-arranged distance of 78km. And there they were at 78 km ON THE NOSE sitting in the shade. After lunch the temperature rocketed but we pushed on and managed to cover the remaining distance to Mubende. While the posse took refuge in the garage, draining the fridge of cold drinks and, incidently, heating the small room with our sweaty bodies to well over the outside temperature (nice!) Rob and Ben P powered up the hill to reccy the town's accommodation options. A final push to the VERY top of the hill up a bumpy, sandy, gravel road got us to the “Town View Hotel” - streets ahead of the closest competition and well worth the extra exertion. We sat around that evening refreshed and showered, clothes hanging up to dry drinking sweet cups of ginger chai feeling pleased with the longest day we'd done together; call it 100km. Excellent going for the newbies (and the oldies!)!!

We set off at dawn and witnessed this stunning sunrise.

Dawn from Town View Hotel, Mubende

Dawn from Town View Hotel, Mubende

Then re-fuelled with banana filled chappatis and chai mid-morning.

Chappattis and Chai

Chappattis and Chai

We reached our destination, Mityane, in good time and checked out the local digs. Although the “Half-London Inn” looked perfectly adequate we still had a lot of the afternoon to play with and were not too enthusiastic about “chilling out” in Mityane. The Hud got on the case with some very adept bartering skills and before long we had comandeered a private minibus taxi. Packing it full to bursting; 7 bikes, 7 bikers, 2 drivers and all our luggage, we happily set off for Jinja.

A minibus full of bikes and bikers

A minibus full of bikes and bikers

Jinja was the end of the road for this leg of the trip and spirits were high as we spent the evening chilling out in the backpackers eating twickers and snixes and seeing how many we could fit in our mouths at once..........

Arrival in Jinja

Arrival in Jinja

Jinja is the “adrenaline centre” of East Africa if you believe what your lonely planet tells you so we couldn't pass it by without sampling the white river rafting. We had a fantastic time and then headed on again downstream 50km to set up camp on an island in the Nile called “The Hairy Lemon”.

Seven bikes in a boat

Seven bikes in a boat

On the way to the Hairy Lemon a local man accosted Beth: “Give me your bike”. Beth was not in the mood. “Yeah Ok, if you give me your T-shirt and your trousers.” She replied dryly. Then on seeing the guy examine his t-shirt and his trousers with a weighty expression on his face as he debated their worth to him she hastily added “AND your house.” Luckily for Beth that did the trick, the bike was not deemed a good swap for a house and the guy went on his way, fully clothed.

The Victoria Nile

The Victoria Nile

Posted by robandpol 11:57 Comments (5)

Fair Roses

URGENT - Don't buy roses for valentines day without reading this.

In today's age of conscientious consumerism popping to the shops is a complicated business. We want to shop responsibly. We want our purchases to be environmentally friendly and pesticide free, fairtrade and with a low carbon footprint. We don't want to encourage the world domination of multinational supermarkets; we want to support the cornershop.

With all this in mind the temptation of dropping into Tesco's on the way home from work and grabbing a dozen very reasonably priced, flawless red roses produced in Kenya for valentines day sets the alarm bells ringing at a deafening pitch. Think of the air miles. Think of the pollution. Think of the carbon footprint. THINK AGAIN.

Environmentally friendly, fairtrade roses?

Environmentally friendly, fairtrade roses?

We took a tour of Kenya's biggest flower farm, Oserian, and were surprised by what we learnt.....

View of Oserian flower farm near Naivasha in Kenya

View of Oserian flower farm near Naivasha in Kenya

Greenhouses? In Africa? On the equator?
When the first flower growers came to Kenya and put up greenhouses people thought they were crazy. When some dutch people suggested heating the greenhouses their fears were confirmed. However there was method in the Dutch madness and the flower yield increased by 20% as the dreaded Black Spot all but vanished. Black Spot is caused by a fungus whose spores are only released when the temperature drops below a certain level. The theory follows that if the temperature doesn't drop too low the Black Spot doesn't spread and it has been proved to be correct.

Hundreds of healthy roses!!

Hundreds of healthy roses!!

The sun always shines in Kenya so a lot less energy is required to keep the greenhouses at the elevated temperatures than would be needed in cold, wet Europe, and the active heating that is required is provided by the on-site geothermal plant.

Geothermal power plant

Geothermal power plant


You've gotta dig deep for geothermal power!!

You've gotta dig deep for geothermal power!!

Located in the middle of the Great Rift Valley Oserian is ideally situated to tap into the Earth's internal heat source via the fault line in the tectonic plates. Drilling 2km down through the earth’s crust was no mean feat but the benefit has undeniably justified the initial outlay. The mixture of steam and CO2 rushing up from the core at 150 °C is used not only to heat the water which heats the greenhouses but also to drive electricity-producing turbines. These supply all the electricity used by the flower farm, the clinic and the schools. Even the CO2 released is not allowed to dint the Ozone; it is trapped and piped to the greenhouses to feed the photosynthesis.

Pipes channeling near-boiling water and CO2 to the greenhouses

Pipes channeling near-boiling water and CO2 to the greenhouses

The carbon footprint of the African rose is looking good up to this point. It looks even better when you learn that the amount of CO2 fed to the flowers from the farm's geothermal plant is insufficient. Oserian makes up the deficit by purchasing the CO2 released by the national geothermal power station adjacent to the farm thus preventing it's release into the atmosphere. Independent assessors from Bristol University calculated the carbon footprint of each Oserian rose including air freight to be 1/10th that of a rose grown in Holland where the greenhouses are artificially illuminated and heated 24hrs a day by electricity and kerosene.

Red Roses

Red Roses

Biological control
The flower farm uses many innovative techniques to control pests but our personal favourite was these little guys.

These indigenous mites are bred in greenhouses full of the beans on which nasty little bugs gorge themselves. The red mites feast on the pests and breed like crazy. When they are needed a slight, controlled temperature change within the greenhouse causes the pests to climb down the stems whilst the valuable mites climb up the stems and congregate obligingly in the yoghurt pots placed on top of the stems. They are then conveniently transported to the area of the farm where they are needed to control the pest populations.

Fairtrade not aid
Oserian is a fairtrade company. This is not because they feel strongly about fairtrade. They are a business and their priority is profits but most of their roses are sold to the big supermarkets in the UK and the supermarkets want fairtrade flowers.

Supermarket sizing chart

Supermarket sizing chart


The supermarkets call the shots: the stems must be the right length, the blooms must be the right size within a 3mm margin and the buds must be open just the right amount on point of sale. But consumer power is king – you have a lot of power in your pocket.

The supermarkets want fairtrade flowers because the shoppers want fairtrade flowers. So the 4000 employees at Oserian are looked after pretty well. A house with running water comes with the job as does a fair wage. There is healthcare and a clinic for the staff and schools for their children all provided and paid for by Oserian as well as a communal hall with a big screen TV and a football stadium. The staff have the option of a bike paid for by monthly deductions from their salary and can also take part in a “small loans initiative”. The job is also kept interesting since the workers have responsibility for all the stages of one row of flowers in the greenhouse from grafting to packing.

Fairtrade

Fairtrade

As we travel through Africa we have seen first hand that there is almost nothing to show for the 1 trillion dollars of aid and charity money poured into the continent over the past 50yrs. Africa needs trade not aid and preferably fair trade where healthcare, schooling and fair wages are guaranteed and where the goods are processed within the country. A commodity gains it’s value once processed and traditionally that happens outside Africa so she loses out on most of the profit. Who do you think makes the most money; the Belgian Truffle maker or the Congolese cocoa farmer?!

Yellow roses - friendship

Yellow roses - friendship

Oserian grows, picks, packages and transports it’s flowers to the British supermarkets and Dutch flower auctions. The Supermarkets put the flowers on the shelf and collect the money! Africa desperately needs sustainable, fair trade, and industry, like the flower farm, to add value to it’s raw products.

An African product processed in Africa

An African product processed in Africa

So now you can go to the supermarket with a spring in your step and buy red roses flown in from Africa. You will be supporting the healthy employment of many people there. Oserian supplies Waitrose, Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsburys (among others) with fairtrade flowers exporting 400,000,000 stems a year – that's six for every man, woman and child in the UK. So when you've bought some for your valentine buy some for yourself, and your mum, and your friends and your sister – there's plenty more where they came from!!!

Posted by robandpol 06:11 Comments (4)

Chasing Chimps

sunny 24 °C

After a very relaxed (and very hot) day recuperating 1km from the equator. We headed off in lovely fresh smelling clothes ready for anything.... well almost anything.

We were aiming for a backpackers campsite just 40km away as the other option was Fort Portal – a nice little town but 100km away and 500m higher than the start of the day and due to mid day temperatures being well over 30 we thought it best not to push it.

We arrived at the backpackers mid morning and were still bursting with energy. Rob had a 'Brainwave':

“How about we carry on - not to Fort Portal but to a beautiful camping spot by the famously beautiful Crater Lakes.”

This would involve making a 'short cut' that was not marked on the GPS or our map (Rob had seen the road in another traveller's guidebook a week ago). Spirits high – we all thought that this sounded a fantastic idea so off we went.

2 minutes off the tar and we had our first misshap. A slow puncture in pol's rear tyre (only the 3rd in the past 6000km) We pumped it up and carried on. 5 minutes later flat again so parnniers off, wheel off, tyre off, inner changed, pumped up. 2 minutes later flat again – the spare inner had a split. Panniers off, wheel off, tyre off, slow puncture in original inner identified, fixed, pumped up. Off we set. Now starting to get sweltering hot. No shade. Road very rough. Small hill after small hill after big hill after small hill..... slowly gaining height.

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The heat and hills were becoming unbearable. We considered stopping waiting in the shade of a tree until the temp started to drop but realised that our ave speed had dropped from 20km/hr to about 5 and there was no way we would get to a camping spot with water supply before dark unless we plodded on in the heat and dust.

Ben P got a puncture. Ben H then noticed his inner tube was trying to escape out of a huge gash in the side of his tyre.

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We stopped for a break and a think...

1km further on and Beth realised she had left her cycle gloves, so back she and Pol went. The rest of us continued until the next junction – that turned out to be about 200m away – so there we waited.

The girls returned (Beth having found her gloves resting on the back of her bike!). Off we went again. Ben P toppled off the heavily laden bike, which made Rob topple off his. (Ben's saddle ripped off it's holder. Rob's bike ended up resting on handles and seat as it's so top heavy!) 20 mins later Ben's seat was zip tied and duct taped together and off we went again. Everyone was getting tired and Pol and Ben P zoomed off ahead to go and try and find our camp site and someone with a vehicle who could come and pick up the stragglers.

The hills and heat continued to drain even the fittest legs and Ben P took a spectacular tumble down a steep hill. Dusty and with Ben literally dripping blood, the advanced party got to our agreed campsite – only to find that it was a rather upmarket lodge and not a campsite at all! However a friend of the owner was happy to help in rescuing the stragglers - who having looked like they weren't going to get to the camp before nightfall 20km earlier had dug deep to get over the hills and were now cruising downhill with the lake in sight.

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As we were the only guests (probably for quite some time) we set up camp on the balcony of the biggest building overlooking the lake (there was no other flat ground). The locals were exceptionally helpful and seeing that we looked ravenous produced two cute white bunnies for us to cook for our dinner – we politely declined and instead feasted on mashed potato and tomatoes before collapsing into bed.

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The following morning we could really appreciate the stunning view and the crystal clear lake. We had seen a hippo in the crater the night before but there was no sign of it by mid morning we went for a plunge.... only to spot the hippo again in our swimming area a few minutes after we got out!

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Anyhow we couldn't rest for long and headed out in the afternoon to another lake 20km away – touted to have the 'best campsite in Uganda'

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At 'the best campsite in Uganda' we met a lovely American who saved our skin (literally) by resupplying us with suncream. She was also raving about the local Chimps – so we booked ourselves in for a chimp walk.

The day of the chimp walk I was in a sullen mood. Just after booking our afternoon walk (for $110each) we were told it is much better to track chimps in the morning as they are very docile and inactive in the after midday, therefore not calling and difficult to find).

The beautiful foliage, elephant tracks and huge butterflies flitting here and there did little to lift my spirits as I counted the minutes tick past and wondered to myself - “was the last 70 seconds worth 1 US$!”

On we trudged – the guide tried to lift our spirits telling us: “They were in this tree this morning – but they can move very fast.” “There are 20 000 chimps and 250 verities of butterflies in the forest”. “! got chased by elephants – just here a couple of months ago - I thought a was going to die – I hate elephants.” “90% of the time there is 100% chance of seeing the chimps – 10%of the time there is a 0% chance of seeing them”.

My mood darkened and darkened as I tought we were in the unlucky 10% of clients that had a 0% chance of meeting the cuddly primates - but all of a sudden we heard a call in the distance, then another. We picked up our pace and within a few minutes we had spotted knuckle marks in the mud

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and then were standing next to a big chimp munching figs with his whole troop playing about over our heads and half chewed fruit thudding all around us.

We sat and watched for 40 minutes – enthralled by their interactions and complete disregard for us - until urgent screams sounded in the trees a km away and in the midst of a deafenening carcopheny of noise they rushed off to join the fight. “Can we go and see” I asked the guide - “No” he said firmly “It is either a buffalo, elephant or foreign chimp – if its a foreign chimp they'll kill him”. Oh – chimps are not as cuddly as I thought”

Posted by robandpol 08:15 Archived in Uganda Tagged bicycle Comments (2)

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