Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kenya – Take Two


DAY THIRTEEN – 7th October 2010


Another early start! Up at 6.30am and on the road at 8 after getting some local chapatties for our packed lunch.  Crossing the boarder was an easy task again.  We arrived in Eldoret at about 4ish.  It was another long day of driving!  On the positive side we both haven’t read so many books in our lives!!


DAY FOURTEEN – 8th October 2010


Up again at 6.30am (this is no holiday!) and on our way to Nairobi.  It was a long day in the bus.  We arrived at Nairobi campsite at about 4pm.  That night a group of us went to Carnivores restaurant (its just like Wildfire in Auckland and is one of the top 50 restaurants in the world).  We got to try crocodile, and Ostrage, they were both really nice. Everyone ate far to much meat that night!!

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Mike getting some Turkey

DAY FIFTEEN – 9th October 2010


We slept in this morning (although a sleep in for us is now about 8am!).  Later that morning we ventured out with a few of the group to the Elephant Orphanage.  They had two groups of about 15 baby elephants ranging from 3 months to 3 years old.  They were so cute, Trace wanted to take one home!

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We then caught a taxi into Nairobi town which took us about 45 minutes (traffic is far worst than Auckland, believe it or not!).  We were in search of a water proof casing for our camera for our beach stop at Zanzibar.  We asked a few shops and they just laughed at us, there was no way we were going to get anything like this in Nairobi.

It took us an hour to get back to camp in the taxi.  Traffic was horrendous and it also didn’t help that the taxis in Nairobi run on near close to empty (it is said they do this because they don’t know when there next fare will be and also it the car is high jacked they haven't lost a lot in fuel. . . . .)   The taxi driver pulled into the petrol station, we thought great he is going to fill up, but for some reason or another out we pulled with no more petrol in our tank.  We stalled going out of the petrol station and struggled up the hill, we really thought we were not going to make it back to the camp!  Eventually after a slow and bumpy ride we made it.

That night we order pizza for dinner, African’s know how to cook pizza!!


DAY SIXTEEN – 10th October 2010

Masa Mara – Knolong Camp

We were up at 7am and on our way to Masi Mara.  Firstly we stopped to pick up another 12 people who were joining our tour.  We then got onto three mini vans and drove 3 1/2 hours.  The first hours drive was great, the road was smooth and the van didn’t sway or bump around as much as the truck.  However our luck soon ran our and we were on the bumpiest, pot holey roads!!  They were so bad in fact that the driver spent more time driving on the dirt beside the road than on the road itself!

We arrived at Knolong Camp at 2pm and had a cooked lunch.  This campsite is a permanently pitched tented camp so there was no putting up tents for us – luxury!  We even got our own en-suite tented toilet and shower – paradise! 

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After chilling in our tents for a few hours we then departed on a game drive.  It was raining so we thought the animals would not be out and about but to our delight they were.  We travelled the park in van which wasn’t 4WD but they had pop top roofs, we prayed we wouldn’t get stuck!  After a bit of a journey we saw ahead a circus of white van, they were all gathering around a lion. 

We were told that it was a $10,000 shilling fine if you drove off the tracks in the park, but this didn’t seem to deter the drivers, they surround the lion in every which angle.  We felt a bit like we were in a outdoor zoo, it wasn’t a good feeling but on the positive we did get some amasing shots.

25 Africa 025 Our first lion -  he was absolutely spectacular!    

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We arrived back at the camp at 7pm for dinner.  That night we slept well in a bed rather than on a mattress on the floor.

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Two of the cubs play fighting

DAY SEVENTEEN – 11th October 2010

Masi Mara – Knolong Camp

Wake up call at 6.30am and off for our first early morning game drive in Masi Mara National Park which is 1086 square kilometres.  We saw buffalo, antelope, a sleeping lion, two stunning lions under a tree, elephants, giraffes, vultures and hundreds of thousands of wilderbeast.

 25 Africa 008 One of the many different types of antelope, it’s hard to remember all the different names.

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A vulture preparing for takeoff25 Africa 227

These skeleton's are everywhere, the lions aren’t going hungry around here!

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These two lions were sitting together under a tree, our guide thought that this injury would be from a fight over female lions! 25 Africa 399 25 Africa 408 25 Africa 438  25 Africa 496 25 Africa 577 25 Africa 603 25 Africa 31825 Africa 628

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We have almost crossed off the big 5 now Buffalo, Rhino, Lion, and Elephant . . .  just a leopard to go, maybe tomorrow . . . .

We had a picnic lunch just up from the river after spotting crocodiles and hippos.  The boys played a bit of frezbie, keeping a close eye out for lions.  Back in the van we drove back to camp.  On the way we had to wait to elephants to cross the road.  It was an amasing day out in the park.

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That night there was a huge thunder and lightening storm!  We chatted to the new people who had joined the tour – ya 3 more kiwis!  And its such a small world, one of them knows Prue Hawkes.

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When it rains… It really rains!

DAY EIGHTEEN – 12th October 2010


Up AGAIN at 6am and in the van for another game drive, this time we are hoping to see a Leopard.  Nothing much came of this early morning game drive which was a bit disappointing.   Back to camp for breaky then we hit the road for 3 hours, stopping at a little local restaurant for lunch.  Back on the road for what was meant to be an hour! Our van radiator was playing up.  We stopped twice going up this hill to fill up with water.  Our 2nd stop the guy put some glue or something in it, it did the tick!  We made it back to Nairobi for a supermarket stop to pick up some essential supplies of alcohol for Trace’s birthday.

Dinner at the campsite, yummy coconut curry chicken.

It was then that Trace began to develop stomach cramps which turned into squirty bum – what a great presents – thanks Africa!  She thought the best way to get what was in the system out was to drink as much water as possible, that evening about 4 litres of water was consumed.  This didn’t have the desired effect and Trace was back and forth to the bathroom all night. . . . . what a way to start her 26th Year!



DAY FOUR – 28th September 2010

Jinja – River Nile Camp

We woke at 7.30am and staggered out of our tent, we were blown away by the view we had.  An absolutely stunning view of the Nile.

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Mike got ready to go rafting.  Trace decided this was not her thing so stayed behind with about 6 others from the group.  She spent the day taking a trip into the Jinga Village (A shitty little town, as told by our guide Marike, Trace can now confirm she is correct).  In the afternoon Trace went and saw Bujagali falls and relaxed at the campsite.

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Mike returned at 5ish and told the story of his day – he absolutely loved it!!  Huge whitewater rapids with lots of grade 5s… A couple of grade 6s that we had to skip as they’re apparently only for professionals.  Everyone got wet and the boat was flipped plenty of times!

The rest of the night was spent enjoying “Nile Specials”. 

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The view from the outdoor showers . . . . pretty amasing!

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Our campsite

DAY FIVE – 29th September 2010

Jinja – River Nile Camp

This morning we were up at 7.30am, then breakfast and off to visit an African Kinder garden then school with Soft Powder, which is an organisation that organises funding and maintenance for the schools.

The children were so happy and came running up to us and climbed all over us.  It was like being bombarded with over excited children at Christmas.  25 Africa 012 25 Africa 018 25 Africa 036  They couldn’t get enough of Mike

25 Africa 049 This little girl took a shine to Trace, in particular her shoes – she licked them!

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Mike playing soccer with some of the locals

25 Africa 075Our transport to the next school.

We did some painting of a school room, there was no prep work done before we were given our rollers and paint brushes.  We were told to just paint over spiders and posters.  This was not our style.  We stayed and had lunch at the school. 

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Trace’s favourite photo!

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Those are Trace’s glasses!

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imageThese signs were all over the play ground 

25 Africa 128The school role – its a huge role for the space

The afternoon was spent showering, relaxing and drinking more Nile Specials.  We went out for dinner just outside the campsite for a local meal which consisted of pumpkin soup, rice, beans, vegetables and beef curry with fresh fruit salad to finish.  The restaurant was set up in an old shanty hut.  It cost about $3 US per person- cheap as chips!

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The view at night from our campsite of the Nile


DAY SIX – 30th September 2010

Kampala – Red Chilli Hideaway Camp

A sleep in this morning, we left the campsite at about 10am and headed for Kampala.  On our way we stopped at the supermarket and got some water (5L for $1 US – bargin!).

We stayed at Red Chilli Hideaway Camp which was a nice camp but had no view.  Alison, an Aussie girl in our group made vegetable lasagne which was divine with garlic bread and fresh fruit salad for desert.  So good in fact that Mike and a few of the other guys thought it must have had meat in it.

During this trip the group is divided into 5 groups and we are allocated jobs each day.  Mike, Sean and Jess were lucky enough to be on truck cleaning duty.  The truck was so dirty this night from all our muddy footprints as it had been raining.  They set to the task without a mop . . .  only a window cleaner and as we have heard a window cleaner on a checker plate floor doesn’t work!!  They ended up with a pile of water down one end of the bus as it was parked on an angle (the wrong angle according to the engineer, Mike) if only it had been slanting towards the door!  The team spend at least two hours trying to clean the bus, the results were pretty average.

Mike and a few of the other boys had a few too many Nile Specials that night. . . . . And woke up a little under the weather with the 4:30am start!

DAY SEVEN – 1st October 2010


Up at 4.30am – well Mike said he had set the alarm for them but in his boozed state this didn’t happen.  Trace woke at 5am in shock and it was all go to pack up the tent, make lunch and have breakfast ready to depart at 6am!  We stopped at the equator on our way to Bunyoni Lake.  A young man demonstrated how the water spins in different directions depending on what side of the equator you are standing on.  Right on the equator the water didn’t spin at all.  This was fascinating!  He also said it is believed that you are 3% lighter!!

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After a total of 10 hours in the truck with a couple of stops we finally made it to the Bunyoni Lake camp.  And to our excitement there is a flushing toilet and hot shower!! Its the simple things in life that keep you happy!!  This camp is right beside the 2nd deepest lake in Africa at 900 metres.  A few of the group went swimming, we decided to play it safe although Marika did say there were no bugs in there . . . . .

We had a yummy dinner cooked by Claire, an English girl, looks like Trace and Mike may have to step up to the cooking at some stage with a NZ special . . . . . Not sure what yet.  We all had an early night after talking about cyclone kits and how drinking is banned when there is a cyclone alert as they had too many people getting wasted waiting for the cyclone to arrive – typical Aussies.

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DAY EIGHT – 2nd October 2010


Sleep in! We spent the morning charging batteries as the next 3 nights there is no power!

After 3 1/2 hours drive on an extremely bumpy road in a mini van, we eventually reached the camp.  Trace had a light pink top on at the start of the trip, by the end it was a different colour, more a light brown!  The road was so dusty and it didn’t help that our driver kept right on the tail of our other mini van which the rest of the group was in.

Nkuringo is a beautiful campsite above the mountains, no power, you feel like you are away from everything.  We lucked in on the showers in the campsite, they boil the water on a fire then mix it to the exact temperature and a couple of guys run back and forward with buckets to keep it going! However, we lucked out on the toilets, it was a long drop and you have to hold you breath one step up from a hole in a ground though! 

The children and a few of the adults who live around this area put on a performance for us.  They were so fill of energy and have such great rhythm, even the little 3 and 4 year olds!  The camp caters for all meals, we were served pumpkin soup, fresh bread roll, spaghetti  bolognaise and a roast banana and honey for dinner. 

25 Africa 005The local boys playing the drums at the show they put on for us  25 Africa 064  All the children dancing, they had so much energy25 Africa 084 Trace wanted to take this little boy home – he was so cute!

Because there is no power, there is no fridge so our Nile specials were not as cold as we liked them – they still went down a treat!

That night we sat around the camp fire and toasted marshmallows – did you know there is an Aussie and Kiwi way?  The Aussies put theirs in and wait for it to catch fire, then they take it our and blow it out, charcoal on top but soft in the middle.  Kiwis toast until crispy on the outside but not burnt! and soft and goey in the middle.  We like ours the best but with 8 other Aussies it’s tough trying to convince them!

We spent hours talking about the gorillas and our trek tomorrow, everyone was getting excited!!

DAY NINE – 3rd October 2010


We were up at 6.30am and packed all ready with our fully charged camera batteries (we triple checked these as we didn’t want to miss anything!).  We caught the bus down to the head office and meet our guide.  We were all very excited and couldn’t wait to get out in the forest to find the gorillas.  After a de-brief we got back in the van and spent about 1/2 hour travelling down yet another bumpy dirt road.  We were then dropped off and we began our walk along a well used path, passing a few mud brick homes with lots of children saying “hello hello”, “how are you?".  After about 45 minutes we reached the edge of the National Park forest, crossing a stream with the help of our guides, August was our leader and we had two other Uganda National Wildlife Rangers who carried guns, one walked in front and the other behind us.  They were keeping an eye our for elephants apartently, but we were extremely close to the Kongo boarder . . . . .

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One of our guides with his gun and the view of a piece of our walk

Trace spent a lot of the walk on her butt as her shoes didn’t have much grip from all the walking around Europe they had been subjected too.  The head guide was great and lent her a hand when needed.  Mike had enough trouble keeping himself up too with similar shoes… Hiking boots for one morning of tramping just didn’t seem to add up!

Two other trekkers set out at 7am to find the Gorilla nests (were they spent the night) from yesterday and follow the tracks, they then radioed back to our leader their location.

After a short walk in the jungle we found the gorillas, so amazing!   The guide told us “we’re here”we were all amazed at how fast it was to get there.  He told us to put our bags down and bring our cameras.  Around a bush we all crept and to our delight sat a black back (this is a young male gorilla).  He was stunning and blew us all away.  Behind him sat a silver back, although we could really see him.  His name was Bahati.

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This is Kirungi – he was about 6 years old and is the first black back we saw.

We were then lead on through some more dense bush and up a hill that was when we got our first sight of Karibu, he is a 13 year old black back and was absolutely stunning.  The children and the juveniles played up higher on the hill while we all sat mesmerised and watched. 

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This is Karibu, more photos of him are below

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Karibu then decided he had had enough photos and just pulled down a bambo branch like a twig in front of his face, eating as he went.  He was ridiculously strong.  Then we decided it was time for a walk so he got up and started heading towards the group.  We all didn’t know which was to run . . . . we just sat there and he slowly made his way passed us down the hill and sat.  There was a huge adrenaline hit, Trace was shaking and found it hard to believe they could get so close to such a massive gentle giant.

The group of gorillas were all very quiet.  This particular group had been in contact with humans for 12 years so a lot of them have grown up with human contact. 

Two of the juveniles named Rwam Utwe and Kuhirwa tried to play with us firstly grabbing the trackers arm and then a little while later trying to get Trace.  Steve got grabbed on the arm and Craig got grabbed on the leg.  They are such big and playful animals but you got the impression they wouldn’t hurt a fly.

25 Africa 241 Kuhirwa – one of the young juveniles posing for the camera

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Muhozi – 9 months old.  he entertained us by trying to climb a tree, using his mouth for extra grip.

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       Trace with the silver back leader, Safari behind her.                                     Close up of Karibu

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Rwam utwe one of the cheeky juveniles

As our hours was almost up and we were about to leave, the group leader Safari came down the hill.  He was stunning – you wouldn’t want to mess with him though!  We were worried that our 300mm lens would have enough zoom, but at times we wished we had the 50mm on! We got some amasing photos as you can see and can’t wait to print one for the wall at home!

25 Africa 536 25 Africa 544 The above two photos are of Safari the silver back group leader – he was stunning! 25 Africa 616

Our hour was up, it seemed like the gorillas knew this too as they all began to disappear into the forest .  The two juveniles tumbled down the hill together head over tail of each other, they were so agile.  We descended, picked up our bags and began our walk back.  Everyone was speechless and on such a high – it was one of the most incredible experiences of our life!!

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Our lunch break stop – amasing view

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The grey pants – there is a story to these.  As you will see in the photos above four of us (Kira, Craig, Trace and Mike) are all wearing very similar grey pants.  We were told that the brown/red mud in Uganda once on your clothes would not come off and we only packed one pair of pants so decided we needed another.  That afternoon in Jinga at 4pm we approached a local lady who had two pairs of grey pants one which fitted Trace and the other fitted Kira.  We asked if she had more, she said no but she could make two more pairs the same.  She said she would deliver these later tonight when we were at the bar.  We walked away thinking that these pants aren’t going to show up but oh well its worth a try.  Sure enough later that night when we were sitting at the bar and about to head to bed the lady came back with the four pairs of pants.  The two which she has sewed looked just like the other pairs.  She must have sewed her heart out since seeing us at 4pm!  We paid her $10 US per pair and she was so happy that she gave Trace a big hug.

We arrived back at the camp at 2pm and had a shower followed by a Nile Special to celebrate such a magnificent day. 

DAY TEN – 4th October 2010


Half of our group left to go back to the other campsite while 6 of us stayed on. There was no room for all of us in the van, it will be back tomorrow to pick us up.

At 10am we decided to do a village walk down to the Pigmy people (shortest in the world).  We went passed a prison, all the prisoners were dressed in bright yellow, a trading centre were the locals traded their bananas, avocados and other produce. Our guide bought a dozen small banana for about the equivalent of 30cents!

25 Africa 724 25 Africa 732The heard of cows that nearly trampled us on the way down!   

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Inside the pigmy village

We walked for 2 hours and reached a pigmy village, a local pigmy toured us around the village.  We bought a small weaved basket and some bracelets to support the people.  We then walked another 2 hours back to the camp – this was all up hill!  While we were walking it started to spit and then started to downpour, we managed to take some shelter in a woman’s shop and gave her some biscuits to say thanks.

25 Africa 749The view from our campsite

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The view from our campsite looking the other way

The rest of the afternoon we spent relaxing our legs and reading.  That night there was a thunder shower with a bit of a lightening show, we took shelter under the restaurant/bar area.  Dinner was potato soup with a fresh bread roll, spaghetti bolognaise, (we think that people only stay 2 nights as this was what we had the first night!), and fresh banana and pineapple for desert. 

We all had an early night.  Mike was not feeling well, he has caught a cold off the local children – poor Mike!


DAY ELEVEN – 5th October 2010 


We were up at 6.30am to pack the tent and have breakfast.  We had to fit 8 tents, 8 rain covers, 8 peg sets, 16 mattresses and 8 people into a mini van – it was a squash!

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We began our 3 1/2 hour journey back to Bunyoni camp.  On our way we saw women carrying massive rocks on their heads – this is for foundations for homes.  There were always women and children walking along the road.  We are not sure what the men do. . . .

Every woman we saw had a baby on their back, there were not many without a baby!!

We arrived back at the camp at 12pm in time for a hot lunch of pasta salad and lasts nights left overs – satay chicken dish.  It then started raining . . . so we all went to the bar to look at our Gorilla photos and enjoy a drink or two . . . .

DAY TWELVE – 6th October 2010


We were up at 5.30am and departed the camp at 7am.  We spent the day driving to Jinga, stopping at Kampala on the way to drop off the 3 girls who had just joined our group for the Gorilla tour.  We had dinner at the bar and enjoyed our last Nile special (only available in Uganda, damn shame!) .