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The Solo Scooterist

Documenting my travels on a Vespa

Category: Uganda (page 1 of 3)

Leaving hotel Rwanda

So Monday morning arrived and with the morning came the decision , do I stay or do I go ? So I thought I would pack the scooter and see how that went and then make a call . The crossing to Uganda was not far and my first stop being Lake Bunyonyi was only about a 125 kilometres away , so I could take my time saddling up Victoria , drinking  premium Rwandan  filter while I decided what Monday should bring . I was sorely tempted to stay ,  Philip had told me about a fantastic Italian restaurant that we had not yet tried  , so I was torn between the road , a tender and tasty veal dish washed down with a bottle of Chianti . The choices one has to make. When I saw Victoria all dressed up I knew it was time to go  and living in a luxury  home environment was making   me soft and turning Victoria back into a city girl. Lack of unleaded aside.

I popped into town to go and thank my gracious host , now friend  Philip , who had been so kind and generous with his time , his home and his kindness . Then it was off to the border and  on to the lake for my first night in Uganda. The road out of Kigali was a little busy but in no time whatsoever Solo , Vic and those special playlists Tim had mixed for me put rubber to asphalt and soon Rwanda was flying by.

 

A last look at the green of Rwanda before crossing the border.

A last look at the green of Rwanda before crossing the border.

The road was great all the way to the border with a few patches being repaired , and then the line that divides arrived , a very easy crossing once again , I was out of the country of valleys and mountains and riding across the little bridge to Uganda. This has to be my best crossing in my entire life , the border officials came out directed me to the office to have my carne  stamped , once that was done my temporary licence for Uganda was issued and then the staff directed me to immigration , where I was shown to a parking spot outside the office .  I filled in my arrival form and proceeded to take up my position in the queue . Documents ready I waited for my turn , only two people to go , when a couple of guys pushed in front of me and suddenly I was eight from the front , so I tapped the front guy on the shoulder to ask him and his friends to move back and get in the queue , the customs officer was so incensed  by this behaviour he made them all apologise to those that they had pushed   past and then told them to go and wait at the back until he called them. Does that ever happen? All stamped and legal I was back on the scooter , once again only about 30 minutes for both sides .

 

The Ugandan side just after the border

The Ugandan side just after the border

From the very first kilometre we hit  dust , mud and slow road works , All the cleaning  , all the washing  and  all that work was un done within the first 15 minutes of arriving in Uganda , The trucks , cars and construction vehicles just covered Victoria and I in dust , when that subsided it was replaced by mud caused by the trucks spraying water on the road to limit the dust , and so we rode all the way from the border to the lake off road. Victoria looking a little like she did in Namibia.

 

Looks a little different to Kigali , Kabale does.

Looks a little different to Kigali , Kabale does.

Kabale my first town in Uganda and busy it was , a return to my Africa and the sights and sounds we had become accustomed to throughout our journey. Africa was back.

 

The road to Lake Bunyonyi

The road to Lake Bunyonyi

 

My first glimpse of the lake.

My first glimpse of the lake.

The road out of town up to the lake is really beautiful as you climb up into the mountains passing all manner of road side life and commerce and then down the mountain pass to the lake that lies below.

 

From my tent

From my tent

 

Overland Victoria back after a brief encounter with city life.

Overland Victoria back after a brief encounter with city life.

 

So we arrived safe , sound and dusted on the shores of the lake to clean up and explore , and to decide where to and what tomorrow will bring. So I thank Rwanda for such a wonderful experience and I thank Uganda for such a warm welcome.

Until we meet again

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Off to visit the Queen

Todays ride up to Queen Elizabeth park was meant to be a short one with only 230 kilometres to get to my over night stop . I thought I would get in around lunch time and then spend the afternoon planning the places and activities I wanted to explore in this part of Uganda . After consulting the map I decided to take the scenic route or should I say the short cut through the mountains up to the park . So off we set back to Kabale and then to make our way up to the park.

The road was great and by the time I stopped at the great lakes museum for a coffee and a tour I was still on track to arrive around 13h00 . Edmund a wonderful guide took me around to each display and gave me the run down on each item , in each case . After around forty minutes we had not moved very far and I was calabashed out , so we decided to find the most interesting displays and spend time on those which we did .

Back on the road and then that left turn that would bond man and machine as we took on the shortcut. The tar disappeared at the T junction and off we bounced down the dust road . The road was a little trying to say the least , but after consulting with one of the road works surveyors , who assured me that the road works  would only last for 15 kilometres , we held our stare.

 

The begining

The begining

 

Way past 15 km mark

Way past 15 km mark

 

Way past the new 15km mark

Way past the new 15km mark

 

The estimated time of arrival had now changed from 13h00 to 16h00 , that aside the scenery was absolutely spectacular and this was great practice for Hell road  I hope. Vic had never been exposed to so much powder in her  life .

The dust , the powder , the mud , the gravel , so we bonded , so we rode , Victoria not missing a beat.

 

False hope

False hope

 

So the end arrived

So the end arrived

The ride from here was great except for the road through the park , slithers of tar scattered amongst the pot holes . The beauty was incredible through the tea plantations , Uganda , come soon before all is tar.

 

Just tea

Just tea

 

Spot Victoria in the shade

Spot Victoria in the shade

 

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The lush tropics go on for miles , tea plantations , banana plantations as far as the eye can see. On your last climb as you crest  the landscape changes to resemble that of the Serengeti as you enter Queen Elizabeth national park  and the road with holes . It does feel a little odd riding alongside game drive vehicles while you zoot through the park.

 

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Game viewing , yet no game.

Game viewing , yet no game.

 

And then we arrived at the equator that is not actually the equator but damn close , so just like Capricorn we stopped to cross the line. This time for our North / South straddle , Victoria included as one wheel wen’t South her other North.

 

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Proof of bothsides

Proof of bothsides

We arrived late afternoon at our destination a place by the name of Simba Safari camp , the staff fantastic , the service great , but it is the only place on my trip thus far that I have found it impossible to reconcile the cost to value , It feels like I am in New York enjoying those dollar prices , yet everything is in shillings with no power or good wine.

What a spectacular day , and so we rest tonight , tomorrow we find a place to go Chimping or not , I am riding up to Fort Portal and then down to the National park to go and enquire about chimp trekking , lets see what tomorrow brings shall we?

Until we meet again

 

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Sweating in the rain

My morning ride took me up to Fort Portal via Kasese , which was a very good road , the detour down to Kibale National park is around 33 kilometres and is on what Ugandans refer to as a murram road , which means gravel but good . I managed to cover the distance in just under 2 hours to arrive at Primate lodge that offers various accommodation options all a couple of hundred USD per night or camping which was not a great option as you have to pitch your tent on the lawn were all the guests meet for drinks , dinner and all other activities , so they would be in for a bit more than chimp tracking and bird watching with me hanging out in my tent they could add human observation in the semi wild to their list of activities .

 

The ride down to Kibale NP.

The ride down to Kibale NP.

Beautiful  trees as you get deeper into the forest

Beautiful trees as you get deeper into the forest

 

The visitors centre is about 150 m from the lodge so I rode down to go and sort out my trekking for the next day . The visitor centre is where the trekking starts from and is the main hub for all people hiking or trekking in the area. One can’t hike in the park without a guide so going for a little rain forest walk solo was out of the question. On enquiry I was told that the fee structure had changed and trekking was now 125 USD per person and you could not pay at the centre. One would either have to go to Fort Portal for the permit or to the wildlife office a one and a half hour round trip back on the road I had just travelled. I was informed that the visitor centre had recently gone to  what the ranger referred to as a cashless environment , no payments are accepted here. The prospect of that  road with no guarantee of been able to trek the next day because one is allocated a spot that could be days away , I decided to travel a further 6 kilometres to a place called chimps nest that was recommended in my guide book  for my over night stop. So it is crucial to get your permits before you just arrive like I did. I found the lodge who just like the National Park to had changed their rates dramatically . After much negotiation they kindly gave me the rate quoted in the guide and I settled into magnificent views of the surrounding rain forest .

 

The path to my room

The path to my room

 

Little house in the forest

Little house in the forest

 

Outdoor everything

Outdoor everything

 

It was a very peaceful night enjoying the sounds of the forest as well as the rain storm that surrounded the lodge , which would turn the road home into a three hour affair with Victoria lying on her side , with me trying to recruit bystanders to help me get her up. The rain persisted for most of the road back into Fort Portal that left both Victoria and I very tired and very dirty.

 

Morning ride out of the forest

Morning ride out of the forest

 

One can hire small boat to ferry you across to the island

One can hire small boat to ferry you across to the island

 

Help was usually only a few minutes away , I could not get a foothold in the mud to get Victoria up.

Help was usually only a few minutes away , I could not get a foothold in the mud to get Victoria up.

 

Finally back in Fort Portal it was time for a cappuccino before taking on the 300 kilometres to Kampala . A well deserved treat for me and I managed to find some unleaded for Vic and we were off heading for the city.

 

Back on solid ground

Back on solid ground

 

The ride to Kampala was fairly uneventful , the road good so we made great time to arrive in Kampala , in the pouring rain in peak hour traffic which gives a new meaning to traffic density and free for all .  It was the most terrifying and exhilarating 90  minutes of my riding life making my way to the Red Chilli hideaway .

 

The calm before gridlock to the power of.

The calm before gridlock to the power of.

I arrived feeling totally spent , yet euphoric at the achievement of mastering Kampala Kaos with a KAPITAL K. Wilder than any roller coaster the US of A has thrown at me, Kampala takes them all . A very long hot shower , a delicious fillet medium rare washed down with a glass of SA red and I was off to bed. Up early for breakfast to take on my visa applications with the Egyptian and  Sudanese embassies . The day was trying to say the least , over a two hour wait in Egypt just to be told they don’t issue or process applications for non Ugandan’s then  arriving at the Sudanese embassy thee minuets before closing , just in time to get the application form to complete at home ,  I then took my unaccomplished day through the traffic to  figure a solution out. As luck would have it Liberty Life have an office in Kampala , I popped in introduced myself and next I had met Joe the MD and found myself treated to a fine Thai style stir fry . Joe has kindly offered me the office facilities to sort out all my visa administration , so I will start a fresh with vigour and fortitude on Monday and get all the visa’s sorted out here and in Johannesburg before moving on to Kenya. I will try and get the Sudanese here and then try for the Kenyan before sending my passport back to SA to get the Egyptian visa . The upside is that while  all the paperwork is being processed I will explore more of this fantastic country do some white water rafting , with some R and R thrown in for good measure.

Through the overland forum I subscribe to , I met up with Ian , affectionately known as Parky around the whole of Kampala who now lives here , formerly a Londres local , who was kind enough to include me on a night on the town with him and his friends , and so we painted Kampala red. The city is exceptionally vibrant with an incredible energy and zest for life . I spent the night been whizzed around on the back of a boda boda a 125cc motorcycle that is a taxi . To put the traffic in perspective , I had to get into town for 7pm , if I had taken a taxi I would have had to leave the Red chilli at 530 to make it on time and cover the 18 odd kilometres but on the boda boda it took a mere 40 minutes . So the soloscooterist joined the rest of Kampala commuters on the back of a bike dodging , weaving and manoeuvring  through places that defied science . I found myself sitting on the back of the bike in the early hours of the morning taking in the sights and sounds of a city that does not sleep . Thank you Parky for introducing me to your city and a fine one it is.

The next couple of days will be spent sorting out  my visa’s , and preparing for the ride North.

Until we meet again

 

 

 

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Vampires , a furious funnel and Don’t pay the ferryman

Monday was spent riding around Kampala , first to the Sudanese Embassy , to hand in all my documentation for my visa application , once done I met up with Parky for a coffee in town and then he took me off to meet the mechanic that would be doing a minor service on Victoria on my return to Kampala at the end of the week . From here it was off to Uganda house to meet up with Ester who had kindly organised a friend of hers to make me a sticker of the Ugandan flag for the scooter , then racing back to pack for my trip up to Murchison falls national park to go and see the falls.

Tuesday , I was up early to make the journey  up to the falls , 200 kilometres of the journey would be on tar but the next 130 kilometres was off road 90 of which ran through the national park and I wanted to give myself enough daylight hours to get to the campsite before sunset come what may.

The road up was great , long and straight stretches that allowed me to make good time and by midday I was paying my park fees ready for Victoria and I to do some game viewing en route to the camp , hoping to encounter only omnivores , herbivores and the like while scootering the 90 km.

 

UWA well armed , well trained. All park fees cash only charged in USD.

UWA well armed , well trained. All park fees cash only charged in USD.

I wanted to make the trip up to Murchison falls for two very compelling reasons , the first ,  it is the place where the Victoria Nile is suddenly funnelled into a 6 meter wide gap and between the Uhuru falls  and this narrow gorge all that flows down the Victoria  Nile  has to get through this tiny area before reaching Lake Albert , making a powerful , misty exit from the waterfall to the gorge . The second reason clearly Victoria meet Victoria .

 

So my 90 kilometres started .

So my 90 kilometres started .

 

Tranquillity  and a leg stretch.

Tranquillity and a leg stretch.

The ride through the park was truly breath taking ,  a three and a half hour trip  with forever changing scenery and road conditions just spectacular  , arrived at the camp set up and made the necessary arrangements for the hike the next morning  , early to bed as I had a 35 km ride back to get to the falls to start the hike . I spent the night with a family of pigs with tusks foraging around my tent , they really should learn to chew with their mouths closed , noisy bunch .

 

Never mind no scooter warning , we will be fine

Never mind no scooter warning , we will be fine

 

90 km of wild Uganda

90 km of wild Uganda

 

Once again in cruiser country

Once again in cruiser country

 

Up early to make my way to the falls , with the early morning mist all about , Victoria and I rode keeping our eyes peeled for elephant or any other enchanted forest inhabitants , including potentially bumping into Gandalf or his followers , this really felt like lord of the rings country .

 

Misty morning

Misty morning

 

On my ride into the park  , Victoria was converted into free transport for tsetse flies and I was the buffet , when you are in a car you can close the windows , kill the few that made it in , but on a scooter they just land and feast , having been feasted on I dressed in light colours and wore my luminous construction vest to try and keep them off , nothing helped , they sucked through jacket , buff and everything else I had tried to cover up with . So  with no defence I tried to ride at a slightly higher speed which helped a lot but the second I had to slow they would attack once more . Those day walkers would stop at nothing .

 

My first glimpse of the Victoria Nile.

My first glimpse of the Victoria Nile.

 

As per Ugandan law , I had to hire a ranger and off we set on our hike of the falls and the surrounds . He was a little slow so we made a deal , he would wait a strategic points and I would hike at my leisure and collect him on my way back , worked like a charm.

 

Murchison falls the 6 m funnel in the background.

Murchison falls the 6 m funnel in the background.

 

Jacuzzi foam from the force.

Jacuzzi foam from the force.

The hike was really beautiful and so worth having made the trip , you just cant believe that so much water is squeezed through that small funnel and then down the gorge.

 

That's the gap.

That’s the gap.

 

That's the gorge

That’s the gorge

 

That's me at the top of the falls.

That’s me at the top of the falls.

 

That's Victoria waiting patiently next to Victoria.

That’s Victoria waiting patiently next to Victoria.

 

What a fantastic morning , I got back to camp , realising my fuel was a little low , the consumption higher due to the road conditions , it was then I realised I had no  fuel in the petrol bag , so I would have to take the ferry across to the one pump for hundreds of miles around. The ferry runs every two hours , so it took me almost four hours to buy four litres of fuel and cover a distance of  one kilometre to the fuel depot and the one kilometre back to the campsite.

 

Africa held up by Vic

Africa held up by Vic

 

The ferry arriving

The ferry arriving

 

Victoria on the Victoria Nile.

Victoria on the Victoria Nile.

 

I rode to the ticket office at 11.30 to secure my place on the ferry once it arrived at 12h00 which really is 12h30 to bored for the 3 minute trip , rushed up to the lodge on the hill to purchase my voucher for the fuel , back to the single pump  , while filling up had this herd pass by on their way somewhere . Never before have I seen a herd of elephant while at a petrol station.

 

Fuel and forest

Fuel and forest

I then rushed back to the ferry , which had already left , so back to the lodge for lunch to kill time until the ferry returned for 14h00 that was actually 14h40 so my fuel stop took most of the day , the elephants and the cappuccino made the lazy hours very worthwhile. On my initial  wait for the ferry to arrive  I contemplated the globe , the  African aspects in  particular and came to the realisation , We still have a way to go , Vic and I.

 

From where we came.

From where we came.

 

From here up.

From here up.

Finally back in camp to shower and treat my vampire bites , that when naked I realised covered the majority of my body , I applied cream to all those I could reach hoping that the itching would subside and allow for a good nights rest , I was really tired after my falls hike and fuel mission.

By sunset the heavens opened and the rain poured down , I sat under the thatch watching the lightning dance across the sky and could not help thinking about the road out of the park , bad enough dry what would the water do? Off to bed to sleep nestled up in the tent  , while the rain came down and the lightning gave me intermittent daylight .

Until we meet again.

 

 

 

 

 

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Much a done in a day

I set off early , worried about the condition of the roads after the rainy days . Not knowing how long it would take me to get to the gate to exit the park was the main driver for up and out early . As I packed all my very wet gear my mind wondered to the road conditions once again , forever the road , the road . As I had feared the road started off very sludgy , muddy and slippery with the tyres caked up in no time , making the handling a little delicate of a matter . This only lasted for about 3 or 4 kilometres , tough and dirty they were , but after that the ride out was slow , but not nearly as bad as my mind had portrayed the day to be . I think the lesson for me lies in the realisation that , you have the experience in real time not before you have even started , running the various possibilities and scenario’s through your mind , that is just speculation not based on fact.

The ride back to Kampala was a long one arriving at dusk , set up camp and to bed for the next day was very busy with a tight schedule and a long to do list , that I was hoping to put to bed in a day.

Up early through Kampala traffic to the car wash , Victoria was in desperate need of a valet and a major one at that , two hours later she was brand new and I had to head for the Sudanese Embassy to go and collect my visa , I hoped . I arrived as it opened at 10h00 and left around 12h30 , visa in hand after having assured them I would not travel through South Sudan . The Sudanese embassy told me it was to risky to do the route by road and if I was going take that route , they would not issue the visa for me . I had been given a one month visa , which they kindly re issued for me as a three month visa after I explained , how I was travelling through Africa and my expected time of arrival in Sudan. Then off to Liberty for them to courier my passport home to apply for my Egyptian visa . Lets hope my luck holds and I get the passport back visa issued.

 

Vic in pre med

Vic in pre med

From here I left to have Victoria checked , filters cleaned as I have been doing a lot of dust roads lately and her power levels are slightly down . The road conditions of late warranted a nut and bolt checked  just to ensure all was snug. I have had the front shock bottom out on me of late so I wanted to  tighten  the front shock coil and check the seal that has also developed a slow oil leak for reasons I can well understand . Lastly I wanted to address the  vibration that has recently developed ,   when travelling in excess of 65km per hour. I arrived at the workshop to be met by Isack who introduced me to Waswa who was going to work on Victoria.

 

 

Waswa's assistant awaiting the arrival of the scooter master.

Waswa’s assistant awaiting the arrival of the scooter master.

 

The filter needed a good wash and Waswa was convinced that the vibration was coming from a loose bolt somewhere , so he checked all , could not find anything untoward , so as a final diagnostic we took the transmission apart and found the culprit , that bearing I had replaced on the side of the road was starting to fail . Waswa  reckoned that the quality was not that good , made in you know where . Out it came to be replaced by the Swedish equivalent in a full metal jacket .

 

Waswa

Waswa

 

All clean , tight and oiled Victoria and I took to the streets of Kampala on our way home, with a great sense of achievement as the day had gone superbly well all considering . With the suspension tightened she was handling superbly and feeling great as we floated like a butterfly and stung like a wasp  through the traffic , ready for our way North.

With all the major stuff out of the way I can now concentrate on the more mundane and smaller items that need clearing  , so I hope  to leave for Jinja on Monday to go and enjoy more of the Nile up close and personal.

 

And so the spring clean continues.

And so the spring clean continues.

Until we meet again

 

 

 

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