Entebbe was a welcome respite after the previous day’s hike of Mount K. With more serious hiking in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest ahead we chose to have a relatively mellow start to Uganda. The ViaVia hotel in Entebbe was perfect - good food and Wi-Fi in a country not known for either. And the flight over Lake Victoria was beautiful!
We did make our way out of the compound for some interesting exploration. Market day is always bright and varied.
We also made our way to the reptile rescue center - lots of great snakes and alligators that we were glad were behind glass or walls.
We left for our gorilla trek early, as it was a long ride. Whereas Entebbe is on the shores of Lake Victoria, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is on the west side of the country.
The benefit of the drive was we did pass over the equator going north to south (the last time to be on the north until returning to NYC). We got to see some fun tricks with how water drains north, south and directly on the equator. And we just missed the spring equinox, when there would be no shadows at noon!
We stayed at a beautiful eco lodge and had a stunning sunset before our gorilla hike. The town is really nice and the people were extremely approachable and friendly.
Next morning it is up and out early. The nature of a gorilla hike is that you gather with the rest of the hikers and watch a local group of women do a traditional set of dances (very good!) and then get briefed on the gorilla family you’re following. It can take 20 minutes to 5 hours to find your family. Ours was the Mukiza group:
We walked through the jungle, a pretty rigorous hike, until we came to where the group is that day. Then it is machete time though the thick jungle.
You spend an hour with the gorillas. The videos and pictures are pretty spectacular, I've included some highlights.
Our hike back was fun and easy after the joy of our gorilla watching! We also hung out with new friends Marcos and Joaquina, from Buenos Aires on their honeymoon! Surely we’ll see them again!
On to Lake Bunyonyi. It’s a crisp mountainous setting with meh accommodations.
But our trip on the lake was intense for a couple reasons. Our driver took us for a long ride and explained the history of the area and the topography - quite beautiful!
At the end of the long ride we were lead to a visit with the Batwa people. They are pygmies that were originally located in Bwindi, and were removed when the park was created in 1991. They now live a nomadic lifestyle, they don’t hunt, they don’t farm…it is extremely sad. We were treated to some dancing and had some limited discussions with them.
On the long ride back we were inundated with a big rainstorm (see the above bottom right picture - storm approaching!)…our little boat was swamped, no place to hide. So our guide stopped at the home of a friend and we were graciously allowed in to have respite. Very enlightening; they eat LOTS of porridge they heat the house by boiling a pot of water outside and then transferring it inside; they have lots of people to a home. They were extremely kind, if not overly communicative with us (we were thinking, would we invite a group of foreigners to our home if it was raining? unlikely, but still an interesting scenario).
We ended up with a race through an obstacle course. The old guy was slowest, if you were wondering.
By the end of the day it was glorious over the water...
The border with Rwanda was oddly tense. All truck traffic had been stopped by Rwanda as they believe factions in Uganda are trying to undermine the Rwanda government. So our passage through was quick but eerie - not another vehicle passed during our process. Additionally, just a few miles away in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the worst Ebola outbreak in years. We drove past the camps where refugees had been housed years earlier. Such a sad state of affairs. (It is also close to where an American woman was abducted about a month after our departure - the history here keeps so much in flux).