Uganda & Tanzania

I won’t bore you with the details, but we had to board the same plane three times in Denver before we took off. That landed us in Seattle 90 minutes after our flight to Amsterdam left, we booked a 4 hour layover in Seattle to avoid that, but it happened.

Delta wouldn’t claim responsibility for the delay, insert long story, so they wouldn’t give us a hotel. So it is 9pm, we are tired and hungry, we have checked and there are literally no hotels for 20 miles with availability and we are pleading our case to a customer service agent.

Through her thick accent we hear her say, “this may get me fired”. Her coworker leans over to see her screen as says “good for you”. Turns out they are not happy with their manager. Next thing we know, in our hands are first class tickets to Amsterdam the following day. Later we checked, they sell for $8,000…..each. After an expensive taxi ride we got a crappy nights sleep at a hotel.

The next morning we went back to the airport to enjoy a couple of hours in the VIP lounge, which was way nice. Soon we were on the plane enjoying endless food, drinks, movies and a seat that reclines to fully flat…..turns out I CAN sleep on a plane. It was the shortest 10 our flight of my life.IMG_0520

The missed original flight meant no 24 hours in Amsterdam, big bummer. So instead we spent our 4 hour layover in the airport enjoying listening to all the languages being spoken. Soon enough we were on a KLM flight nonstop to Entebbe, Uganda. And let me tell you, it was a long 7 hours in the cramped, back of the bus seats compared to our previous flight.

I have always loved the adventure feel of international travel. Meeting new people, learning about new cultures and smelling things that make my nose take notice. Having flown across the Atlantic Ocean 8 times prior to this trip, this one left me with some butterflies in my stomach about what was coming our way. A one way flight into east Africa. Who does that?

IMG_4706We arrived in Entebbe in good spirits at 10pm, we were quickly through immigration and customs and on our way to our guest house. What awaited us we could not know. We pre-booked a couple of nights at Secrets Guest House in Entebbe, just outside the center of town in a village near “banga beach.”  The dirt roads in the village leading to the guest house are beyond terrible, when compared to dirt roads in Colorado. Of course they aren’t steep and the weather there is quite mild so the roads aren’t a big problem. We were both in culture shock the first few days that we were there. Particularly because the village is such a weird combination of extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

By that I mean there are huge mansions on the same street as our guest house. The mansions are said to be owned by some of the members of parliament as Entebbe used to be the capital city. These compounds have huge brick walls with barbed wire and closed circuit TV security. Based on the size of the houses and the fact that we didn’t seen any windows open they may even have air conditioning (extreme wealth). In comparison, the shack directly across the street has a kitchen made from shipping crates which is located near the end of the front yard. This is where the family does all of their cooking using a coal fire stove. The neighborhood kids are very meagerly clothed (if at all), often they have goats and chickens tied up in the yard, and they literally throw their trash in the street for the various animals to pick through. As we walked through the streets of the village locals would call out to us, “Hey Mazungo” and several kids screamed as they ran up and hugged me. Mazungo is the Uganda word for white person.

Our guest house is a big complex of buildings behind a metal gate; all of this on the same block. We had a huge room with an en suite bathroom and hot water (quite a treat in Uganda – so we are told). Our host is quite a chef and baker who runs a very successful business creating extravagant cakes for weddings and special occasions. She is from Uganda but went to university in London where she met her husband who is from London. They have 4 children; 25, 22, 28 and 2 years of age – quite the combination.

IMG_0017After 4-days of sleeping off jet lag and getting our East Africa bearings we left Entebbe and headed to the capital city of Kampala to join a 3-day safari tour of Murchison Falls.


We ended up booking a private tour with Insight Safari Holidays and had the distinct pleasure of having Mr. Bosco as our guide. If you’ve never been on safari you should know that the vehicle you travel in and your travel companions can make or break the safari. We were lucky enough to be riding by ourselves in a Toyota “Super Custom” with a pop-top modification for game drives. It was extremely comfortable and highly versatile. The minute we drove into Murchinson Falls National Park we began to see animals that we’ve only ever seen in zoos and on TV. Giraffe, elephants, water buffalo, and so many species of ungulates that we couldn’t keep them all straight. In the end we saw baboons, vervet monkeys, patus monkeys, colobus monkeys, white rhinoceros, hippopotamus, warthog, giraffe, water buffalo, waterbuck, kob antelope, oribi, elk, elephant, mongoose, porcupine, lion, Goliath Heron, African Fish Eagle, red bishop, guinea fowl, and quail. We did all of this from just three game drives and one boat tour on the Nile River. Uganda Photos.

After that we headed to Tanzania. We flew out of Uganda at 12:15pm on a Saturday and arrived in Tanzania just a short 1.5 hours later via a local airline “FastJet.” They have 3 planes in their fleet; ours was quite clean and new, nicer than any United flight I’ve been on.

We were picked up at the airport by our safari group and driven to Ilboru Safari Lodge. The drive was easy on nice tarmac in a large land cruiser vehicle. Our initial impressions of Tanzania were that it is a bit more wealthy than Uganda, cleaner, cooler but quite dry that time of year. Winter is just coming to and end in August. I’m not going to lie though the street that we turned onto to come to the hotel worried me. Somehow a 3-star resort is tucked away in what appears to be a ghetto. However this place is lovely — quite a sanctuary in Arusha, owned by a single mom from Amsterdam, Annalisa who has an amazing story and brilliant smile.

The next day we met our G-Adventures safari CEO (Chief Experience Officer) Furahini and the other people on our safari, then we left on a Monday morning early. Because we booked last minute we got a screaming deal.

We had a good time getting to know a few people in both Uganda and Tanzania. We learned about their government and the problems they face. For Uganda I still have a hard time comprehending why people living within the capital don’t protest the lack of running water. Some places in the city have it but many do not. They just say “it hasn’t reached us yet.” Of course what we were seeing was expansive–very wide-spread poverty. I have to remember that these countries only gained their independence from Britain in the 1960’s and Uganda suffered mass genocide in the mid-1990’s (very similar to the Holocaust). So while I think clean water is a big deal they are just happy that things are stable and laid back.

Our G-Adventures safari was really something spectacular! The first day we actually saw UP CLOSE a leopard stalk and kill a Thompson Gazelle. Then she dragged it across a field with the intention of climbing a tree with it. The gazelle was so big she would drag it a few meters then stop and rest. When she finally got close to the trees, she dropped it to go and scope out the trees without the cumbersome load. However all this time we could see a hyena coming for her kill. Once she saw the hyena she quickly ran over, grabbed the dead gazelle, and climbed a tree like it was easy for her despite the fact that the gazelle was nearly equal in size.

IMG_0052Then two nights later we had the distinct pleasure of having a pride of lions walk through our camp only to kill and eat a wildebeest 100 meters from our tent. Needless to say we didn’t see any of the action only heard the chorus of the jungle as the action took place. Hyenas soon followed the lions and yawled in excitement. Elephants were trumpeting in an effort to chase something away. We could hear the footsteps of Zebras, Giraffe, and Cape Buffalo as they grazed outside our tent at night. Quite the experience.

We’ve really enjoyed our visit to the Tanzanian bush. We were able to spend time with the villagers of “Mtu wam bu” and learn about their agriculture and art industries. We also had the pleasure of spending a little time with a Maasai family. They are a nomadic group of people that have lived on the lands for centuries. While many of their cultural practices are quite shocking, they are nonetheless a very interesting and intriguing people. I’m told there is a book / movie that explains a lot about them called “White Massai.” The best way I can describe the Maasai is this, imagine if the Native Americans had been allowed to live off the land without any interference and actually peacefully co-existed with currently civilization, that would begin to describe the Maasai relationship with the Tanzania people.

IMG_0045They live in mud-stick homes that are built by the women, who also raise the children, cook, clean, get water, gather firewood, make and sell jewelry, and count the cows when the men return. The men in stark contrast do almost nothing but walk the cows to graze and sell them at the market. The men beat their women with sticks if they make any mistakes. Also quite interesting is that they live exclusively from the meat, milk, and blood of their cows and goats. They don’t grow any vegetables as they are not allowed to own land. And they believe that they own every cow that they come across. I know it sounds strange but they have fought to keep their culture from evolving. However, the Maasai man that we met speaks three languages, has an iPhone, and rides a motorcycle. Those are of course all of his worldly possessions with the expectation of his sandals which are made of motorcycle tires and bought to last 10 years. Tanzania Photos.

This was truly a once in a lifetime experience but we were off to our next adventure – Zanzibar.

Takeaways:

If you’re going to have food poisoning in the Serengeti be sure to charge up your laptop with the solar charger so you can watch movies in your tent. Be sure and ask what is cold before ordering anything at a bar. Take binoculars!


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