Finally, we managed to escape from Kampala, visas, permits and travels plans in hand. We negotiated our way through the crazy morning Kampala traffic, and soon found our way on the road towards Murchison Falls.
The countryside of Uganda is beautiful. It is so much greener than the typical dry Africa. The roads are in relatively good condition, with some roadworks along the way. We saw 3 minibus loads of backpackers from Red Chilli Kampala heading up to Red Chilli Murchison Falls, so we knew we were on the right track.
We passed through many small villages along the way. As with so many, there is always mobile phone airtime to be bought, and tomatoes, onions and potatoes from a roadside stall. The people are so friendly – returning our waves with enthusiastic full arm waves and large white-toothed grins. They do appreciate having tourists in their country.
Our route took us to Masindi, where we had to make the decision: do we drive the shorter route through the park to our accommodation, or do we drive around the park. The cost difference is not insignificant: in 2013, the vehicle fee for foreign registered 4x4s is a hefty US$150. We opted for the scenic route, which took us away from the tar road and onto gravel roads towards … yet another lake. This time, Lake Albert. We didn’t find any camping along the lake, so only admired the view and then drove onwards.
We arrived at Murchison River Lodge – it was a little oasis! The main restaurant and bar overlooked the mighty Albert Nile. The beer was cold and the view was stunning. Unfortunately for us, though, the tourist campsite seemed to be located between the overflow staff tents on the one side and the safari company ‘fly-camp’ on the other side (complete with laundry hanging everywhere). It felt like we were located in the staff quarters. A disturbed night with staff waking us at 0430 was the cherry on the cake. The managers were ineffectual, but fortunately the owner was onsite and came to our rescue: he had a little piece of land where we could wildcamp. Perfect! And our second night was spent in peace and quiet enjoying sundowners and nature’s light show over the Nile river with no-one else around.
We arranged to join a boat trip up the river to see the majestic Murchison Falls … make that, we took a boat trip on the NILE river!! How fabulous is that! The guide and skipper on the boat were knowledgeable about the river, and the birds and animals we saw along the way.
We enjoyed some special sightings of elephant and buffalo wading in the reeds in the shallow water. We also saw warthog and waterbuck along the banks. The hippos watched us from the water with beady eyes, and the crocodiles lay lazily at the water’s edge, with open mouths.
There were lots of birds too – kingfishers, herons, jacanas – and we were fortunate enough to see an enormous flock of red-fronted bee-eaters on the tall mud banks of the river, darting in and out of their holes.
After almost 2 hours heading upstream we had our first glimpse of the Falls themselves. The wide river is forced through a narrow gorge – only 6 or 7m wide – and the force of the water is visible even at a distance.
We stopped to let people off who were continuing on foot to the top of the falls, and then returned by boat back to the launch point. Unfortunately, we didn’t get close enough to the Falls to feel the spray on our faces … but it did seem that the water currents were strong even at a distance.
An enjoyable excursion, and we look forward to the next stops on the itinerary.