Morning at Hippo Hill camp in Queen Elizabeth National Park came fast, and I was so thankful that my Nomad Adventure Tours group would be leaving the park that didn’t do it for me – heading back towards some semblance of civilization. It was still dark as Junior – the Nomad Adventure Tours overland truck that was to take me around East Africa for the next month- pulled out of camp, headed back to the big city of Kampala, Uganda and then en route to Jinja at the mouth of the Nile River.
Hours passed and the Ugandan countryside whirred by us as we sped along. We were making excellent time… that was until we hit Kampala. I though the traffic in Nairobi was bad (and it is!), but dare I say that Kampala on a Saturday is pretty much the worst you can ever face in your life. Cars and pedestrians were EVERYWHERE. The claustrophobia snuck up on me and made me silently beg to any deity that may be listening, to make it all go away.
Needless to say, our giant overland truck sat there, creeping along slower than a snail’s pace for what had to be at least 2 hours. We eventually made it back to Red Chilli Hideaway where we were going to be saying goodbye to Sonia and Carston – who had joined us primarily to do the gorilla trekking portion of our Nomad Adventure Tours Masai Mara & Gorillas Tour. At Red Chilli Hideaway we also met received the tour t-shirts we had ordered while in Kampala the first time. After saying our goodbyes and taking advantage of a bit of free wifi, the original 15 Nomad Adventure Tours members plus our 3 guides continued on our journey to Jinja.
Jinja is 65km from Kampala – so one would naturally think it would be a quick drive to get to our next rest stop on the tour – the Nile River Explorers camp, right on the banks of the Nile River. That is, unless you are aware of how bloody atrocious traffic in Uganda is.
What should have taken us about an hour, ended up taking us nearly 3hours!
The most memorable part of our drive was when it all became a little too hot, and the drive was a little too long – so we decided to entertain ourselves. The truck’s stereo system was playing up and no longer working in the back, so we instead improvised by having the “mug of music” – using the thermos mug to amplify our iPods! We danced on the truck – and soon we realized that some local children who lived in the villages on the side of the road where we had been stopped for quite a long time were waving at us and trying to get our attention. We danced along in the truck and they laughed and laughed – showing off their own dance moves. It was really sweet – and a good way to pass the time.
I consoled myself by first setting up the tent with Lisa, and then finding my way to the campsite’s bar- where I settled in with a cold bottle of Nile Special, and watched in both horror and disgust as the rowdy, drunken, young 20-somethings from a rival overland company made fools of themselves.
We were called over for dinner around 9pm, where we all enjoyed a delicious chicken curry that Noah and Nyika had prepared so beautifully. As we ate, one of the activities co-ordinators from the Nile River Explorers campsite told us about all the ‘exciting things we could do.’ By this point I was sick of hearing about how I could spend an obscene amount of money on another pre-packaged activity that caters to tourists from the western world. I wanted to have a more local experience and was not at all interested in going white water rafting down the Nile.
I went to sleep at a decent hour that night, only to be woken up at about 3am to some idiot who thought having a loud conversation on his cell phone a mere 15ft away from the cluster of tents on the lawn was a brilliant idea. After nearly a half hour Lisa, my Australian tentmate, finally had had enough and told him to shut up (in the kind way only she could) – dare I say I may have even heard a small round of applause from neighbouring tents.
The next morning we all enjoyed scrambled eggs and sausage for breakfast after a nice sleep in (to the late hour of 7:30am). John and Jess – the lovely Australian married couple – and I decided to follow suit after a few others had mentioned they were going to enjoy a dip in the Nile – which we had been assured was Bilharzia-free. We splashed around and enjoyed the refreshing waters before heading back up to the main campsite, and indulging in a long, hot shower.
We all met back up around 11:30am when about half the group decided we wanted to partake in a Ugandan cooking class with a local shopkeeper named Fatima. For $20USD per person Fatima purchased enough food to feed pretty much the entire campsite and we spent the next couple hours learning how to make a traditional Ugandan beef dish, peanut sauce, pilau rice, mashed green bananas, sweet potato, and sautéed spinach. The best part of the lesson was undoubtedly when we finally got to eat the fruits of our labours – it was beyond delicious!
After our bellies were filled and we spent a few hours relaxing around camp – Lisa hired a driver and took off on a moped to go into town to buy some alcohol for the group and check out the real shops (BRAVE GIRL!). While she was gone I found myself attempting to catch up with the outside world, spending a few hours on the very sketchy wifi connection.
Once Lisa returned, backpack full of bottles of alcohol – all bought at the local price, rather than the tourist price- the two of us went out of the campgrounds and to a small house where we were going to indulge in pedicures! A young local woman, Alice, gave me a lovely pedicure and painted my toes a lovely shade of bright pink. All the while I learned more about her life. She was three years younger than myself, and mother to a little boy who was about a year old. Her son (a sweet little boy, who barely left his mother’s side) had actually had a twin sister, but sadly she died a few months previous due to pneumonia. That was the one thing that really struck me – despite living in two completely different worlds, and having 2 completely different lives – I felt I could relate a lot with this young woman, and my heart just went out to her.
Lisa and I returned to camp an hour and a half later and helped out where we could with the dinner prep. My Nomad Adventure Tours family would be feasting on fresh battered fish, mashed potatoes complete with a dill tartare sauce. As with all the previous meals on tour– this one was absolutely delicious!
The rest of the night was pretty quiet – I enjoyed a few beers in the bar, while attempting to catch up on writing and backing up my photos from the tour. I eventually did turn in, and joined Lisa in our two-man tent shortly after 11pm and as I found myself thinking about all the amazing things that had happened in the last 12 days – witnessing a lion kill, gorilla trekking, sponsoring a child – I eventually faded off into a good night’s sleep – the last one I’d have in Uganda.
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.**
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**
**A very special thank you to my fellow Nomad Adventure Tours group members: Emilie, Jerry, Helena, Jessica Henderson of Miracle of Birth Photography and John Henderson of Travel Gorilla for sharing your photos in this post!**