As expected, 4:30am came sooner than anyone had hoped it would. After our unexpected torrential downpour experience the night before, we were happy to see that the rains had died down during the night– leaving only a campground that squished underneath our shoes as we brought our bags back to Junior, our Nomad Adventure Tours overland truck.
Since it was so early we had been told that rather than have a normal breakfast, we were going to have a “packed meal” that we could eat at our own leisure since we had to start our day very early in order to make the Ugandan border at a decent time. Once all passengers were aboard, and the interior lights were turned off – I curled up in my seat, wrapped up in my fleece blanket and nodded off until I felt it was a more acceptable hour to be awake.
That hour was 7:00am when I felt the truck pull over to the side of the road and come to a stop. I groggily looked out the window and noticed a very worn road sign announcing we had reached the Equator. While some of us excitedly ran over to the sign taking advantage of the photo op, others started preparing cups of tea and coffee with the hot water Nyika had put in a large thermos for us earlier that morning. After all photos were taken and everyone who had needed a bush toilet came back from their private areas in the forest, we all got back on board to continue our journey to Uganda. As everyone made themselves comfortable on board, we each enjoyed our packed breakfast – consisting of drinkable yogurt, bananas, bread, and hard-boiled eggs.
The rest of the day seemed to fly by as I drifted in and out of consciousness, waking for a toilet stop, or to gaze mindlessly out the window at the passing Kenyan countryside consisting of large tea plantations and small impoverished towns. We eventually reached the Kenyan border around 2pm and seemed to fly through Kenyan immigration. We drove the quick drive down the road to the Ugandan border post and rather than individually walking up to the desk and dealing with an agent personally, we handed over our passports to Nyika who told us he would sort it out.
While we waited for our papers to be processed, Noah and the rostered prep team for the day put a quick lunch together, as the rest of us fended off street children desperately trying to sell us cold bottles of water and coke. Nyika reappeared quicker than anyone had expected, with our passports in hand and his signature smile on his face. We shoveled down the rest of our midafternoon feast and hopped back into the truck. Sandile navigated Junior across the border and directly into the massive cluster of traffic that stood there – unmoving.
And there we sat.
And sat some more… at a complete stand still… for nearly 2 hours!
Sandile eventually pulled some tricky moves out of his sleeve and managed to sneak ahead of the hundreds upon hundreds of trucks in front of us. However, the damage to our schedule was done. We didn’t arrive at the Red Chili Hideaway – our campsite in Kampala- until nearly 9:30pm! Luckily there were delicious pizzas made to order, waiting for us to enjoy upon our arrival.
The fifth day of our Nomad Adventure Tours Masai Mara and Gorillas tour had us enjoying a much-needed ‘day off’ in Kampala- where we were free to do as we pleased. I took advantage of this free day and slept in until the late hour of 8:30am. It was a good opportunity to get laundry done and enjoy the hot showers. While most planned their day out into Kampala – where they would be visiting a market and large mosque – I decided to stay back with a few others from my group. It was the perfect little break and opportunity to cherish some quiet time– something that doesn’t happen often while you’re overlanding across Africa with 15 strangers.
The only plans for the day was meeting the rest of the group at a restaurant called Mama Ashanti – which we had originally been told was a traditional Ugandan restaurant. Unfortunately there was some sort of miscommunication because it was actually a Ghanaian restaurant – but the food was still nonetheless delicious. We feasted on freshly caught tilapia from Lake Victoria, and spicy plantain chips. After a bit of confusion with the bill – something that often happens when dining out in Africa with a very large group – we paid, then all jumped into the taxis that had come back for us to return us to Red Chili Hideaway for our last evening in the Ugandan capital city.
The following morning –day 6 of the tour- was another fairly early start. It was another packed breakfast kind of morning and we were slowly becoming used to the 5:30am departure times. This morning we’d picked up a German couple, Sonia and Carstin, who would be joining us for the following five days of tour. Again, as soon as we made our way out of the city center, I curled up, wrapped up in my fleece blanket and promptly passed out. I woke up once again to our Nomad Adventure Tours overland truck pulling over to the side of the road, and there I saw another sign indicating we were at the Equator. It was like déjà vu.
Once again, we all piled off the truck and took photos with the signs. We also took the opportunity to take advantage of a somewhat normal looking toilet stop. As bladders were being emptied 2 large busses full of local school children came to a grinding halt… and off came nearly 100 children! They were everywhere! I don’t often feel overwhelmed or claustrophobic, but I couldn’t help but feel the sudden urge to jump back on Junior and get out of there. While a few of the other passengers on the tour decided to watch the ‘equator trick’ – where a local man demonstrates how water drains in opposite directions on either side of the equator – I decided to make my way back to the truck and get comfortable.
The others soon followed suit, as the school children seemed to have pushed them out of their good vantage points. Before long, Sandile was back behind the wheel and we were taking off down the road. This long, long drive to Lake Bunyoni took around 12hours before we finally made it to the Lake Bunyoni Overland Resort – probably one of the nicest campsites I’ve stayed at in all of Africa. After a scary drive along a very narrow, winding road on the side of a very steep mountain I was beyond relieved to make it to camp in one piece. If it had been any other driver besides Sandile, I would have been really worried about our safety, but perhaps I’m a touch biased.
We settled into the campsite and quickly erected our cluster of tents at a gorgeous spot right next to the lake. Many spent the next while taking advantage of the hot showers and ice cold beers. I on the other hand, took advantage of the free wifi and spent the next few hours chatting with my boyfriend back home in Canada. Dinner – a very hearty and delicious spaghetti Bolognese- was served around 7:30pm and we all devoured it as if we’d never seen food before.
It still astonishes me that despite the fact that some days we don’t do a whole lot, except sit on the truck, we’re still all famished come dinnertime. Strange.
After dinner not too many people stuck around. The following day was the moment that we had all been waiting for – it was to be the day we would go trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest up the mountainside in search of the very endangered wild mountain gorillas of Uganda. After enjoying a last cup of tea and a quick skype session with the boyfriend, I too turned in, excited for what the next day would bring!
Start reading about my experience on the Masai Mara & Gorillas tour from the beginning! Click HERE for Day 1
Click HERE to read the next chapter of my adventure on my Masai Mara & Gorillas Tour with Nomad Adventure Tours.
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours asked me to partake in this tour and did provide me with a discounted tour price, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
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