Uganda: As we walked across the bridge border from Kenya to Uganda, we had no idea what was to come. Looking back, it ended up being one of our favourite countries and we had some of the best times in that blessed little kingdom. Although we had some attempted pick pockets greet us as we got off the bus in Kampala, it would be our only bad experience in the country. The bus ride into Uganda revealed one of the most lush and green environments we could have ever imagined. We were excited to see what this little country with such a big reputation would offer us. We settled in immediately to the Red Chili Backpackers, which had almost as many vervet monkeys as guests staying there. It also included a 500lb pig and several goats and chickens running amuck in the bar at night. One particular goat had a nasty habit of stealing guests food in the bar, and caused himself and the owner much anxiety as was routinely chased and kicked around the building. The Red Chili Backpackers is a little enclave of activity tucked away in the city, where every night is a raging party with a great mix of locals and foreigners breaking it down. We couldn’t help but spend a few days there, soaking up the atmosphere and frolicking with monkeys at the poolside.
After we left Kampala we decided to split up and go our separate ways for about 2 weeks. Dan wanted to do a hike in the RwenzoriMountains, and Tom wanted to track Chimpanzees in the Congo Rainforest. Dans hike was a little more than was anticipated, and turned out to be a full on tumultuous expedition. Most of the 10 day hike was in waist deep bogs, until it turned into a sheer blizzard like any he had experienced in Canada. It was a strange feeling to be only 40 kms from the equator while being immersed in a torrential blizzard. Dan crossed through 11 ecological zones, starting in lush tropical jungle, and ending up clamouring across glaciers on a blizzardous mountainside. The final ascent was on Stanley Glacier (the 3rd highest peak in Africa), where all members of the team have ice picks, cramp ons and are harnessed and roped to each other so if one person falls through the ice, the others could pull him to safety. The lead guide, Jehosephat fell through a crevice, but was quick enough to put his arms out and save himself. Another guide, Benard, slid down the whole side of the mountain into a glacier lake, ending up with a swollen and busted hand. At the end of the 10 day trek, there was an immense feeling of joy from Dan, the two guides and 6 porters as they arrived safely in civilization.
Meanwhile, Tom headed out to a place called the ImpenetrableForest. It is part of the Congo basin of vast steaming jungle in the absolute heart of the African continent. Tom stayed in a tree-house, high up in the rainforest canopy. The tree house was 3 kms from the nearest building and his time there was some of the greatest times of his life. The life that exists in that forest is overwhelming. He happened to be there during a once every 4 year butterfly migration, and at one point every square inch of my body was covered in butterflies as he sat high up on his tree top balcony. You could hear the torrential rainstorms as they came from kilometers away. They come down with such ferocity that you can hardly hear yourself scream over the deafening roar of the raging storm.
He spent many nights walking through the jungle with his headlamp on. The most amazing thing Tom did was head out to track Chimpanzees, our brothers from other mothers. After walking with his guide for a little over 2 hours, as they noticed half eaten fruit all around our feet was when the chimps started to scream and hoot from the treetops incredibly loudly. Without them even realizing they had stumbled into the midst of over 150 chimpanzees, and they came down immediately to see who we were. They came crashing through the bush and banged their fists on the tree trunks to display their strength, eventually becoming calmer and coming right up to them, equally fascinated with us, as we were with them. Some of the males weigh in excess of 200lbs and certainly feel more like being amongst a group of humans rather than animals. The whole time in the jungle was such an amazing experience, as Tom was the only visitor the park had for 2 weeks, and the only person to stay at the treehouse in the last month. Tom felt very sad to leave that place after his 10 days, but was excited to see what would happen next.
We regrouped on the shores of LakeBunyoni in southern Uganda at Kalebas Cam; a tiny camp directly on the lakeshore. We had no idea how wild the next 7 days would be. It was good to be back together again, and we were eager to share our experiences with each other. We could not have hoped for a better place to share stories. LakeBunyoni is a gorgeous lake set in amongst terraced hillsides, and is itself over 2,000 metres deep. The local people come and go on their dugout canoes, and there is a real sense of peace in the area. That peace was only to be broken by the escapades of the two of us, and our now legendary new friends Roland Krol, and……ULF. Things started off slowly as we got to know Roland who is the Dutch owner of this camp. His long time friend and confidant Ulf, a german man. It quickly became an episode of Fear and Loathing in Uganda, as we discovered our new friends were maybe the two craziest people we have ever met in our lives. Without an ounce of exaggeration, Ulf is far and away, the funniest human being either Dan or Tom has ever met in their very short and brutish lives. To give some idea of who Ulf is, he is a 62 year old man, with an 18 year old Ugandan girlfriend, and his escapades include; swinging from the rafters of a local bar, collapsing the entire roof of the building on to its patrons, waking up in the bar the next day at 3PM as his flight was scheduled to be leaving from Kampala, offering to pay the bill by pulling out his gold teeth which of course the bar owner excused him of when he couldn’t bear the sight of Ulf trying to rip out his teeth. Performing cunnilingus on his young girlfriend in the midst of a packed bar of disbelieving onlookers, until the local police threatened to arrest the group of us if we didn’t leave. One morning we decided to bring Ulf a shot of tequila in bed, as he had done for us so many times, and he rubbed the lemons all over his penis as a practical joke on his unsuspecting girlfriend. The days of the camp were spent in extreme tumultulism, as Roland decided to close the gates and declare the camp closed to the public. It was a heady concoction of early morning tequila shots and countless bottles of wine and Nile Gold. Ulf had a penchant for skinny dipping and rolling around naked at inappropriate times. After Ulf failed at ordering a palette of beer by helicopter, we settled for our quickly diminishing supply of elixirs. During our time in that part of Southern Uganda a bad batch of local moonshine was going around. The home-made alcohol was lethal, and was killing more people in the area than they could keep track of. Luckily we didn’t try any of it, as Roland had warned us beforehand. What was most unsettling about this was that these particular people sound a huge drum from on top of the hill whenever someone dies. It became very disturbing when we realized every morning as the drum rang out across the lake that each bang represented another person dead from the night before. It was with a wretched liver and a teary eye that we bid adieu to our larger than life friends and headed out for the border into Rwanda.
As we had over extended our stay in Uganda, we had no more than 2 days in Rwanda. This suited us just fine, as thiere was a eerie feeling on the streets that stemmed from the aftermath of the genocide in 1994. Even in our short time there, we realized that Rwanda is far different from the rest of Africa. For whatever reason, the Rwandan’s are very organized and orderly. The streets are all paved, devoid of garbage and traffic lights at every necessary cornet. It is maybe the only place in Africa where the pedestrians have the right of way. With our deadline to meet Toms family friend Sybille on the island of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania, we headed off eager to be back on the beach.