Day 1 – 4/1/13
Crossing into Uganda was easy, if time consuming. We got a visa on entry, which thankfully was only a stamp, not a whole passport page (we are running short of these), which they kindly put on an already used page. The carnet was stamped, but we needed to pay road tax.
We then drove to Tororo and an ATM (which would only let us draw ~ $ 70 – looking forward to seeing the charge for that!!) We also got a new SIM card.
The road from the border to Tororo was average and it degraded badly from there. It became one long series of bad potholes. About 20 km before Mbale it improved and was OK all the way to Sipi. The vegetation was ultra lush. It seemed that anything could grow here and the country side was a giant mass of green.
The drive up Mt Elgon provided some fantastic vistas across the plain below. Unfortunately it was quite hazy, so we could not get decent pics.
We ran into Ben and Jen (English overlanders) at the border and travelled with them to Sipi. We camped at the Twilight camp. Apparently this used to be run by a German chap, but (sadly) he is no longer there. They promised hot showers, which turned out to be jerry cans of hot and cold water and a bucket - the women doing all the water heating and carrying, whilst the blokes chatted.
Jen cooked us a nice dinner.
Avril driving; 300 km; 6 hrs; N 010 20’ 05.0’’ E 0340 22’ 13.2’’
Day 2 – 5/1/13
We had organised a drive & walk around the Sipi Falls. We thought it strange that the people at Twilight wanted to charge us National Park entrance, as the map showed us that it was outside the NP and the guide book made no mention of a fee being payable. They also wanted to charge $ 30 pp. Ray had copied the Uganda National Park fees and showed it was only $ 25 pp. Long story short, it seems that the folks at Twilight camp were running a scam. Very naughty. After debating the matter endlessly, reluctantly we paid 1 x $25. Later we called Ben & Jen and said we thought this was a scam. They had been to the camp ground next door and found that there was no National Park fee payable. The good news was they managed to get most of our money back.
A very bad introduction to a new country! Clearly we cannot recommend the Twilight Camp.
Sipi Falls are a series of 3 cascades, the 1st and 3rd being the most spectacular. We walked to the base of the 1st falls, the top of the middle falls and to a vantage point in the Sipi valley to see the 3rd fall. There were also stunning views from the heights over the plain below – seemed like you could see forever. We also managed to get a hazy view of Mt Elgon peak.
We then drove to Jinga on a very good standard tar road. We looked at the Nile High camp ground but there was no “roof top” camping area and there were already 2 big overland trucks there. So, we drove onto Nile Explorers which is much nicer for us 4WD overlanders.
As soon as we drove in we saw Heather (Ian, Don and Gabby were out white water rafting) the folks we had driven down from Loyangalani with.
We enjoyed catching up later at the bar. The bar has a great view over the Victoria/White Nile and we were treated to a wonderful sunset.
The night was a bit noisy (apparently someone rode a motor bike into the bar area!), but we managed to get some sleep. Jacques & Cecilia and the staff at the camp were very friendly and super helpful.
Avril driving; 220 km; 4.5 hrs; N 000 29’ 04.0’’ E 0330 09’ 47.4’’
Day 3 – 6/1/13
There was a lot of rain in the morning, but we managed to pack up the tent during a dry period. The road to Kampala was very ordinary/bad tar.
We passed through some industrial scale sugar cane and tea plantations and as the guide books said, took 2 hours to cover 73 km to Red Chilli Camp.
The camp was very full with backpackers and one overland truck, but no other overlanders.
We met up with a group of young Americans who are carrying out charitable works in South Sudan. These are being funded by an independently wealthy former oil man. It is amazing how often one comes across Americans living a very basic existence and trying to assist local folks.
Avril driving; 73 km; 2 hrs; N 000 19’ 12.4’’ E 0320 37’ 47.0’’
Day 4 – 7/1/13
We were up early to get to the Rwanda embassy 1st thing. Unfortunately, the staff was not of a similar mind and arrived 30 min late. TIA. Very unfortunately, they have a 72 hr waiting time for a visa. Bit of a bugger, Rays’ charm did not work fully this time. After pleading/begging, maybe they can do it in 36 hrs. Fingers crossed.
We headed off to the local shopping mall for brunch and essentials shopping.
Then, just as we got back to the camp, the heavens fully opened up.
Ben & Jen, who we had met at the border and Sipi showed up and we shared a few beers and dinner
Day 5 – 8/1/13
Again we were awakened by rain. It also rained later in the day.
We did some emails and chores during the day. Luckily the Rwanda embassy listened to our pleas and we got our passports complete with visas late in the day.
Again, we shared the evening with Ben & Jen.
Day 6 – 9/1/13
Rain, rain, rain. Again we were awakened by rain and packed up a wet tent.
We then drove through to Gulu in mid north Uganda. The vegetation remained green and lush, but the scenery was not all that interesting. We did get a picture of the rapids/small falls on the Victoria Nile at Karuma.
We had an interesting exchange with a traffic cop along the way. Apparently we were doing 54km/hr in a 30 km/hr zone. We pointed out all the other people speeding and the appalling driving standard in the country. After some conversation, we were let off. Fine would have been $45 – lucky, Avril - as that would have been her chocolate allowance for a week!!
When we stopped for lunch, a girl (early teens?) who was minding some cattle came over. In a show of subservience/submissiveness – and much to our total embarrassment, she knelt before us. We gave her some food, pen, money etc. We had a similar experience with an older woman when we were walking at Sipi. Some of the old stuff must hang on.
The road was good until the Murchinson Falls turn-off and then deteriorated to very poor tar with lots of aggressive pot holes.
We could not find any camping, so stayed at the Churchill Court Hotel (USh 114,000 B&B and internet)
Avril driving; 336 km; 6.5 hrs; N 020 46’ 58.1’’ E 0320 18’ 06.2’’
Day 7 – 10/1/13
After a hearty breakfast, we were off on the “bad” section of the road. It was dirt and bad, but not as bad as other roads we have been on recently. This is the main logistics route into South Sudan, so there were lots of trucks along the way
A good day to be white!! We were ushered to the front of the very large queues in both Customs and Immigration on the Uganda side and in no time at all exited the country.