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After getting my first passport in 2006 and traveling to climb Kilimanjaro in Tanzania my life changed. I began the process of getting rid of all my possessions and traveling the world. Traveling to over 125 countries and all 7 continents, hostels have been my home. This "new life" has taught me what is important and it was NOT accumulating money or possessions. Traveling is the best education. I hope my blog will encourage others to travel. My World Tattoo was a way for me to express my PASSION FOR TRAVEL.

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Showing posts with label UGANDA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label UGANDA. Show all posts


Sad Day and didn't know it.

March 7, 2013

Woke up at 4 am which a strange feeling that something was wrong with someone in my family. Could not shake the feeling and was unable to go back to sleep. Having no internet for the past week was nice but also a little worrisome not being able to make sure everyone was okay. My only travel fear is being gone when needed at home.

I told Seith at breakfast that I needed to leave a couple of days early as I needed to check on my family. He said he could get me transport to Gensenyi, Rwanda on Saturday, 2 days from now. With that my only option, I told him to arrange it.

I would not find out until I arrived in Gensenyi upon going straight to the Internet Cafe that one of my best friends in the world and 1st couisin, Brad Passman, had died early on the morning of the 7th. He will be greatly missed  by all who knew him. Love you Brad, rest in peace.

UGANDA, Nkuringo Gorillas in the Mist

March 5, 2013


Seith drove me the 10 minutes to the Nkuringo Ranger Station for the gorilla group briefing before the trekking began. Only 8 people are allowed to trek to each gorilla group per day and you are only allowed to spend one (1) hour observing the gorillas. The cost is $500 for the gorilla permit and includes the guides, trackers and 2 armed guards. The guards are to protect us in case the gorillas pose a threat but they only shoot up in the air if there is a problem. The Nkuringo Group of Gorillas are the most habituated group in Uganda we were told and this is the group VIP's come to see. I was fortunate enough that when I applied for my trekking the girl advised me to see them if I had a lot of leeway in my travel schedule. 

There are 14 gorillas in the NKuringo group which includes 4 Silverbacks. We began our trekking 14 Km away from the Ranger station since the gorillas had moved. We hiked down one steep valley and up another, then down a steep valley and up another. Then down one more time until we finally were told the gorillas had been located by the trackers. Only 2 hrs of hiking and we had found the gorillas. I had heard that sometimes it can take much longer. We were told to drop our backpacks and walking sticks and just bring cameras and extra batteries if we had them. I dropped my bag and was the first person behind the guide as we approached where the gorillas had been spotted. After about a minute a ranger pulled back some brush and a gorilla was sitting there eating leaves. We walked around to another area where most of the gorilla group was situated. We first encountered a mother and her baby. The guide told us their names as each of the 14 gorillas has been named. The gorilla named Christmas is supposedly the most friendly. After about 15 minutes observing some of the mothers and babies, one of the Silverbacks made his way to us to give us an inspection. He walked almost right up to me and I was told to slowly move backwards and give him room. I had NO problem with that as they are one of the most powerful animals in the world. He posed for us several minutes. I even got a picture of a baby gorilla who stood up and walked on 2 feet right in front of us. Even the guide were excited to see it as it was the only time it happened. Not an everyday occurrence. During our time there we were fortunate enough to see 12 of the 14 gorillas including all 4 Silverbacks. One of the Silverbacks climbed up a small tree and perched on a limb while observing us. 

At about the 40 minute mark it started to rain, hard. Of course my raincoat, rain pants and b backpack cover were all inside my backpack which I left behind with the porters as we were told. I was completely soaked in 2 minutes and it was very cold but I kept taking pictures. It became dark and the pictures did not come out as great as I had hoped. One of the gorilla rules is NO FLASH photography. With only 8 minutes left in our hour and the rain pouring so hard you could not see far in front of you, we decided to end our incredible gorilla encounter and head back.

The Ranger said since the rain was so intense we would not be able to go back the same route but must walk back to the Ranger station , 14 km (about 9 miles) back. The guide hacked a new trail straight up a couple ovalleys to avoid trails that were too muddy to climb.The rain quit about 2 pm and we stopped at the top of a large hill and had our packed lunch. I had 2 tomato sandwiches, bananas, watermelon and pineapple. Not sure what type of sandwich the English Couple who stayed at Clouds had but it looked pretty impressive. Of course, their accommodations at Clouds cost $750 PER PERSON PER NIGHT. That's right, $1500 a night for a couple to stay at Clouds. (Will post pictures of Clouds later) I was very happy to pay $10 per night and eat my tomato sandwiches and fruit, thank you very much. lol

Arrived back at the Ranger Station about 3:30 pm after 5 hrs intense hiking and 1 hr observing the gorillas. We "graduated" and received our gorilla certificates from the Ranger. 

Back to the Bwindi Backpackers to reflect on the experience. As I thought about it afterwards I can not believe how close we were to the gorillas. Gorillas have 98.4% of the same genes that humans have. They seem so human at time. It is really an experience that is impossible to describe but must be experienced yourself. GREAT DAY.    

Nkuringo Gorilla Group in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

UGANDA, Church Day

Church Day in Uganda

March 3, 2013

2 days before going to see the gorillas I had one of those great cultural experiences. Seith's dad asked me about 10:30 am if I would like to go to church with him. Caught by surprise but realizing what a unique experience this would be , I agreed. As we left Seith's dad told the cooks we would be back for lunch at 1:00 pm. We walked the 2 miles to the church and arrived just as they were beginning. We sat in the back but word quickly spread through the congregation that there was a muzunga (white traveler) in the church. The stares back towards me quickly became frequent. Small children who just roam the aisles quickly decided that my aisle was the one to frequent. Seith's dad (can't remember or pronounce his name) acted as a translator throughout the singing, testimony and sermon. While almost everyone speaks Englishmost speak their own tribal language when possible. 

A special group had come from Kisoro to sing for the church. Afterwards, one of the singers gave her testimony to the atrocities that happened to her afer her husband died leaving her with a small child and how God stepped in to help her when she thought there was no hope. This testimony lasted a long time. Then more singing which lasted a long time. By this time a man moved next to me on the other side and told me he would translate for me. Now I have Stereo translation with both giving me the play by play of the singing and sermon which was to come. This was a Protestant Church but there seemed to be a two people addressing the church with one in a robe who gave the sermon. The sermon, even in Stereo, was very long. Seith's dad had given me a coin and paper to wrap it in to give as a tithe. I told him I would give me own money and thanked him. I wrapped it in the small piece of paper and followed him to the front of the church to give it to one of the 5 people in the front. He said we would give it to his wife who was one of the five. Then there was more singing. And then he said they would do a Thanksgiving for those who were blessed who would like to donate. I immediately walked up to the front and deposited some money into the Thanksgiving plate. Caught Seith's dad off guard because he quickly came up after me, made a donation and said that there would be a small prayer while we were up there to ask God to accept our offering. The sermon was a little unusual or maybe it was the translation. They talked a lot about witchcraft and people who were possessed by witchcraft. On a hike the previous day my guide showed me a tree which is used to make a brew to remove witchcraft from those possessed. I kept asking if he was talking about evil but he never would tie the two together completely. Some locals worship a particular tree but the practice is becoming less common.
After the services, I was requested to meet with some of the congregation outside. They were very happy to meet me and all spoke English. Finally time to go back the 2 miles and eat lunch as I was starving. Of course, it was 3PM .  5 Hrs in church. Seems it ran a little long. The word of my church attendance quickly spread throughout the villages and on my many walks many would say hi and said they heard about me going to church. Seems I am the 1st Muzunga to ever attend a church service in the area and the fact that I tithed and donated to Thanksgiving made it more impressive to them. Great experience.     

UGANDA, Bwindi Backpackers

Bwindi Backpackers Lodge

March 2, 2013

Picked up by Seith at around 4:30 pm for the short drive to Kabale to wait for the other person coming from Kigali. He ran late so we did not leave Kabale until about 6 pm. The drive took a little over 2 hrs on some really bad dirt roads. Since it was dark, we were not able to seewhat is amazing scenery high up in the moutains. Boht Eliot, Aussie, and I had booked dorms at only $10 a night but the dorms have not been completed at the Backpacker Lodge yet so we both were given a private single room each for the same price. Bwindi Backpackers only opened in November 2012 and we were the 58th and 59th people to stay there. There is no electricity, yet, but the power lines are in place and they are hopeful it will not be too long. My trekking day was not until the 5th  but Eliot was trekking the gorillas the next day. I went with the guide, Ivan, the next day to see the 15 acre garden Seith planted which has all varieties of trees, crops, pine seedlings, rabbits and natural swimming pool is in the works. We also visited a waterfall, cattle ranch and visited the village. It took about 3 hrs in all. Nice day. 

UGANDA, Lake Bunyoni

February 28, 2013

Lake Bunyonyi (Place of Many Little Birds) is Uganda's most beautiful lake and encircles 29 islands and its steep hillsides are intensively terraced. This morning I and Julian, from Germany, did the 1 hr walk up to Acadia Cottages for the best view of the lake. It was spectacular but not enough to sway me from moving from my $15 dorm to the $100 room at Acadia. We passed a school and all the children ran to the road waving and wanting to know our names and of course, tell us theirs. Good morning. Everything always seems better when I am going up high somewhere. The view down is always better than the view up.

UGANDA, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

February 25, 2013

We packed up to leave and eat breakfast. We were supposed to leave at 8 am but 4 of the young Aussies enjoyed themselves until about 2 am so I heard. On the way back to Kampala we were to have lunch and stop by the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. We stopped at the restaurant and ordered our food for later and then arrived at the Sanctuary about noon. Not my idea to choose the hottest part of day to walk through the bush in search of rhinos. We signed in and our guide led us to the area where some of the rhinos were located. At present there are 12 white rhinos (though not actually white, has something to do with their mouth). They have a baby rhino who is about 1 year old that I fortunately got a picture of nursing with his mother. To nurse the mother stands up and the baby lays down under her. One young 3 year old rhino is named Obama because its mother was from the US and its father was from Kenya. (Can't make this stuff up) Since it was the middle of the day the rhinos that we visited, 4 of them, were all resting under a big tree. We circled the tree to try and get good pictures and were fortunate enough that one stood to stretch his legs and then laid back down. Then after 30 minutes of whining by the baby, the mother got up so the baby could nurse. Enjoyable 1 hour but pricey for $40 but which was included in my Big 5 Tour price. The money is used to protect the rhinos and they are under 24 hr. surveillance to ensure no poachers get to them. They also use some of the funds for a children's school and for abused women. So while pricey, at least it is being used for good causes. We were only about 15 feet from them and given instructions to climb a tree if they got up quickly.    

UGANDA, Nile River Cruise, Murchison Falls

Nile River Cruise Safari

February 24, 2013

After lunch at Red Chilli Camp we climbed back into the minibus and drove back to the Nile and boarded a cruise boat for our safari up the Nile River. We departed about 2 pm and cruised until almost 6 pm. We saw lots of hippos, elephants, crocodiles, and many varieties of birds. We cruised all the way to the mouth of the Murchison Falls and then returned.