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Chimps, Gorillas and Camels- a Tale of Three Countries

Chimps, Gorillas and Camels- a Tale of Three Countries

Feb 22nd, 2015, 08:00 AM
  #21  
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TJ had taken care of our camping arrangements and we stayed at The Haven, which featured lazy camping right on the river. This place also featured, according to TJ, one of the best restaurants in the area and he was right. Denis, one of the servers, was attentive and accommodating, and the tents themselves were wonderfully sturdy. That was handy as one helluva storm came in that night, and blew out one of my stakes, but made for some solid sleep. The views from the restaurant were breathtaking- a much different view of the rapids from a few days prior.

I have to also mention here that TJ also feeds his clients, and he does it well- when my riding partner and I first got back he laid out plates full of goodies ranging from sandwiches to quiche and lots and lots of fruit, and we were surrounded by the local vervet monkeys who were hoping for a bit of a bite. TJ's land is one of the few plots around not burned to the ground, and offers shelter and habitat for the vervets.

The guard who watched out for our mounts had a big German Shepherd- I had seen so few dogs in Uganda (and none at all in Rwanda) and I wasn't sure what to expect. I adore dogs, and spend a great deal of time petting strange ones. But a guard dog, I don't just walk up to. He and I eyeballed each other and I didn't do much more than smile at him.

About an hour later I was sitting in my plastic camp chair watching the mist over the rapids when a streak of black and brown came flying into my campsite and stopped dead in front of my chair. This dog's butt was smack in front of my knees. Well, whaddya do when a dog's butt is in front of your knees? You scratch it! Any dog loving fool knows that. So I get my nails down deep in his fur and he does that OMG doggie bend like wherehaveyoubeenallmylife and he gives me this LOOK. Next thing I know I have this huge shaggy head in my lap and these eyes saying, mind doing the ears while yer at it?

No problem.

So for the next few hours, GS and I are fully engaged in Keep Away, Find the Stick, Throw the Stick, Lemme HAVE It, Go get it, Gimme it, Can't catch me, Fake out, every dog game in the book. This poor sweet animal is dying to be played with. I am dying to play with a dog. We are a perfect happy match. He lies down. I roll him on his back and give the belly rub special. He play bites. I pull him around on his back. He's in heaven. So am I. The guard grins at us.

That night, in the dark, I can hear his low growl, and a deep warning bark. He's all business at night. I smile. I like knowing he's out there.
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Feb 22nd, 2015, 09:01 AM
  #22  
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It dawns on me rather late that I forgot to mention a couple things about the gorilla trekking that might be useful to some folks. To wit: the gorilla duct tape left a sticky residue not on the boots but on the pants. I suspect this might require dry cleaning or some kind of solvent to remove. Unexpected outcome.

The KEEN hiking boots that I chose for the lightness proved quite inadequate for the conditions of the mud. Within seconds of being on the treacly mud of the African forest, the mud lodged itself in the tread and I might as well have been on perfectly slick bottoms. I don't have another answer for this. The tread wasn't terribly deep, but deeper tread might also have gotten thick with it. No idea.

The very expensive Black Diamond walking stick I bought from REI for $170 was useless. I immediately switched to the wood one used locally. May have said this before, if so I apologize.

Depending on where you go I"m now at the point where I might just outright point out to my other group mates that it's nice thing to hire porters, now that I've learned so much more about the villages, the work they do, where the rangers and guides and trackers all come from. All poachers. And in all frankness, at what point did centuries of hunters suddenly become poachers in their own land, which is a perfectly valid question they must be asking, but since it's the lay of the land now, let' s at least make animal protection worth changing their focus. Just walking in the other guy's shoes for a moment.

I realize I never did finish the trekking story- the short version was that we trekked to a group that had been habituated for 15 years, with so many of the females born into seeing trekkers looking at them. It's part of life. So we surrounded Rafiki, the big silverback, who was happily, lazily, dreamily waving his feet in the air after a morning of chowig down figs, and generally gorging himself. We all were quite close, and he could frankly care less, unless one took his emanations as a statement of his state of mind. He rolled this way and that, arms here, legs there, looked at each of us in turn. We moved about to get better views. After a bit he got up and purposefully marched past me about two feet away and found a seat down the hill a bit that wasn't quite so touristy.

Up the hill was 38 yo mama with her 9 month old, rambunctious, demanding, scrambling, bouncing on her tummy which caused all kinds of gas, and mama's other daughters were trying their best to take their naps after a morning of eating. Kid was having none of it. Jabbing, biting, poking, clawing, pulling, exploring, climbing, didn't seem to matter which female, baby would climb up a little vine and dive bomb onto the closest full stomach. This was a Kodak moment times a million.

We had that hour and were able to move in remarkably close. At times I was mere inches away from a placid female who watched me "chew" a leaf, those brown eyes fastened on my face. Two sisters lay side by side, upside down, studying me, patiently allowing me to photograph them, look back and ponder.

It really does grab you in a very deep place to be there;. You may only get an hour, but what an hour it is. Unforgettable.

One of the things I didn't quite report here (largely due to long wifi blackout) was that I stayed at a little place called Lake Mutanda Eco Community Center- not much to say except that the village walk was great and don't eat the food. The short version is that I spent nearly fifteen minutes- really- trying to explain omelette with onions and cheese, catsup on the side with fruit for breakfast. What I got, and I am not making this up- was a platter of fruit with catsup on the pineapple. That did elicit a horse laugh from me.
What didn't was that I got deathly, horribly ill for three days, including the day I was supposed to go gorilla trekking, after I ate their food. Now this can happen to anyone, anytime. But thanks to my guide Alex, and the great staff at Nkuringo Gorilla Camp who tended to my groaning form, I was able to salvage my trekking day and go out despite being a wee bit wobbly on the pegs. Four days with no food will do that to you. But the great guides and excellent porters I hired were right there just in case, but all went just fine.

Now I apologize for being out of chronological order here but that's what happens when hotels don't pay their wifi bills (The Haven) and others'wifi just doesn't work at all (everyone else) and I am now weeks behind. Kindly bear with me. Lots has happened. There are some fun stories and good people I'd like to introduce you to in the hopes that you will also find them along the way on a future trip.
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Feb 22nd, 2015, 07:07 PM
  #23  
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When I was at Nkoringo, there was an option, which I took, to visit the Batwa tribe. For the price of a few dollars you join a few men and go on a trek to the forest nearby and are greeted at the forest's edge by a very lively end energetic storyteller, a diminutive woman (they're pygmies) and dancers. This woman then takes you on a tour of the forest and through a translator tells you the story of how they live. You see their world, food, homes, home life, and hear the rather awful story of how they were moved out of the forest and nearly killed off entirely. All too familiar, but well worth the trek, and worth the hearing. I got the opportunity to give bow and arrow shooting a try and managed to get an arrow into a nearby tree. It's the kind of thing you don't want to miss, and you very much wish to add some shillings to when you can, as the storytelling so both fun and lively, and the tribe has also worked hard to learn crafts to help pay their way in the world. What I found was that any time a village tour was made available I'd jump at it and was always richly rewarded. The balance of visiting the animals- gorillas, chimps- with getting the chance to directly interact with, touch and play with the kids, and mothers and elders oif the local tribes was priceless.
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Feb 22nd, 2015, 07:47 PM
  #24  
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Alex and I drove for hours which took us in and out of Bwindi, which meant over and around these breathtaking hills, in and out of the the forests and parks. Rain came and went, and we were always in sight of the white mists that touched the treetops. Near the end of the day after I'd done the trekking (and this was the fourth day without food, so I was a wee bit tired) we arrived at the Gorilla Conservation Camp. This was a series of tents on the side of a hill. Now true to ETrip Africa's style, all my dietary needs had been communicated ahead, as well as the next day's box lunch paid for, as we had a very very long day of driving ahead of us to get to Queen Elizabeth Bush Park. So....here's a fair warning.

Beware men named Solomon intoning that they know all about the hotel business. And that you are in good hands. The Tao has a great line: He who speaks does not know, he who knows does not speak. In this case, boy did that apply. So we unload and while Alex is making sure that Solomon is taking care of my food and the box lunch the next day, the guys are taking my gear up the hill to my tent. I'm barely stumbling up the hill, obviously extremely tired. It's downright chilly and there's a wind. Alex and I both ask for extra blankets. We ask twice. Three times. Someone finally gets the message. Someone goes, gets two blankets. The guy shows up at my tent, throws them in and runs off.

Oh. Okay. I'm tottering there- and mind you if this is all self catering I normally would have no issue but today I"m the leaning tower of Pisa here and about to fall flat on my face. Would have been kind of the guy to put the bloody blankets on my bed, perhaps, take note of the fact that I'm wobbly. Nah. But this outfit knows all about the hotel business you see, they just threw the blankets in.

Then there was the business of food, which by this point I was ready to try. I ordered. It took a full two more hours to get there, by which time I was nearly asleep. Didn't get what I asked for but what did come was manageable. No shower. Wifi is advertised but not available.

Sleep was good but that had to do with the place, as did the pure sweet grace of the next morning, waking up to the light pink glow over the hills, the chorus of thousands of birds and a light breeze sweeping the foliage of millions of trees. Who gets to see these things? Unbelievable.

Solomon was of course not there in there in the morning and neither was any box lunch, so we drove about 8 hours without finding a food source. 'Tis what it is. Trip Advisor was advised and Solomon was discussed in unflattering terms. He pocketed the extra cash meant for the lunch- and given the fact I was just getting my appetite back that was unfortunate. I went hungry for most of the day, but the one star for Solomon stays on line forever.

You take these things in stride, and as I continually am learning, bring your own food. Eat before you order.

At one point in preparation for this very thing Alex and I had stopped off at an Indian supermarket and I had loaded up on yogurt, which is one of my staples. Carton after carton. After Rwanda, where you get vanilla or strawberry, strawberrry or vanilla, it was wonderful to face a panoply of flavors. So I stocked up, and got a handful of Snickers bars. We carried this precious load with us for a few days. Uh, unrefrigerated, during which time I got sick. The bag sat in the corner of my room at Nkuringo while I lay in bed. Neither of us thought to have the yogurt put in refrigeration. So natch, by the time I was vertical, which was about three days later, I go to pick up my bag, which now, interestingly enough, is full of green goo. Hm. I dutifully remove all the contents, wash them off, take out the exploded yogurt carton and throw it away and replace everything after washing the bag.

About twenty minutes later I am getting ready for the trek and and pick up the bag, and this time I look in and sure enough, another carton has exploded and everything is covered in green goo again. This time I get the message, foggy cranium or not, and I stick my forefinger in the green goo to check it out. Nasty. Right. Out they all go, save the Snickers bars, and so much for having a supply of backup food just in case. Snickers are not what you want to eat after being ill for a number of days so they sat in the car and quietly melted in their wrappings.

That was the last time I ate yogurt until I got to Tanzania (where I have just ploughed through my first carton of the morning and am eyeing my second).
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Mar 3rd, 2015, 11:53 PM
  #25  
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March 4th, Korona Bed and Breakfast, of the impossible to read signage (orange and green- a really bad combination, but once you find it what a nice place). Yesterday I remember little more than ploughing back into the same room I had before (and finding the camera charge plug where I left it THANK YOU on my way to the shower, where I took about an hour to remove a week's worth of spiders, crud, ants, dust, small animals, mozzies, baby goats and everything else that had taken up residence in everything from my hair to my armpits. Now mind you the Mkuru Camel Safari people had offered showers but I had refused them for several reasons: One, they are very hard to set up. Two, they use up an enormous amount of water which we then have to replace. Three, I have a supply of bath wipes which worked quite well the first time I traveled with these guys and on all other adventures and four, not using all that water gives my four man crew more to drink. It also allowed me to initiate a wicked water fight that lasted until yesterday morning when I had a chance for a second, last round of goodbyes, where upon Babu, or grandfather, dumped half a waterbottle down the back of my neck. Then hugged me hard and we laughed into each others' eyes. Priceless.

Dominique was the camel I'd long yearned to see again. Not because I carried some stupid notion that he'd remember some mzungu from 15 months ago but I did hope he retained some of his sweet nature. However, 15 months of daily beatings will tend to put an end to any sweetness in any animal, so this time around not only did he not respond to my expensive brush, he took mutliple swipes at me with his teeth. It was only after six days of solid daily affection, and feedings of lovely salads and sweet talk did he bother to put his huge mug close to mine, by which time I hardly knew whether I was about to lose half my face. As a farm girl, an animal lover (but not one of those morons who wants her animal to not smell like an animal to wit- perfumes for horses, PUHLEESE) I feel great empathy. But this is Africa, these are Maasai and an animal is moved by whip and stick, and very very very young children beat the holy crap out of animals that tower over them- and the glee on their faces in doing so makes me physically ill. However, you either set this aside as a fundamental cultural difference and move on or you don't do this safari. There is no African ASPCA. So get over it.

Our journey of 7 days took us through Maasai country. Read: we saw animals. Lots of them. Great if you like cows and goats. And goats and cows. Oh, and sheep. Oh, and officious petty bureaucrats who spot foreigners and think- ah, mzungu tax! and come marching out ot say so sorry, rule change as of yesterday, now you must pay an extra 30k TSH, you have to camp here. Or oh sorry, now new rule change, Natural Resources Visa (of which no such thing exists), now you must pay, and holy bullwhackey pops up everywhere to the extent that you begin to resent the appearance of just about any car. Anybody striding up to your group. You stop trusting anyone approaching you. The imposition on the crew is enormous. It's minor money- but it's hours and hours waiting in the brutal sun while some martinet imposes his petty authority on your group. The Tanzanian Tourist Ministry is very unhappy about this but I can tell you that there are many tiny, stinky, filthy, dirty, foul little Maasai villages with a big drop gate across the only road leading to the tarmac- and they are looking for vehicles with whites/foreigners in them or logos on the side. Their arugment? "You saw our village. You must pay." On one hand this is guffaw territory, you saw a horribly poor, no facilities, filthy town which is full of people desperate to find a way to fund itself. On the other you cannot blame them. On the third hand, they are extracting a pound of flesh from the very companies whose clients get righteously annoyed by these tactics- Mkuru pays, and that riips off their profits. I got livid about it not because it hurt me in any way but because I"m a journalist and it hit my righteous heart and I like these guys. Every petty Pol Pot who wants to can drop a gate and say okay you looked at my cow. That's 50 TSH. Wait. You looked at my other cow. That's another TSH. You get the drift. A really really negative impression.

To help with this, Sam the manager, came flying out on a motorcycle to try to deal with it the best he coulid. All these fees are paid for in advance for you- by E-Trip or your operator or by Mkuru, so the rest of this is pure scam. That's why I get angry about it. Now trust me, the part of me that grew up in the South during Civil Rights, had left leaning parents and works in Diversity and Inclusion sees the delicious irony of this from a discriminatory standpoint (white skin equals special tax) and that is funny. But the impact on local tourism businesses like Mkuru is rough, and that's not. It's the bigger issue of creating jobs and opportunities and education outside the bomas (the Maasai do not educate their kids for the most part, but keep in mind there are many many many Maasai tribes). The whole idea behind Mkuru was to create a different kind of tourism and this is the kind of thing that hamstrings it.

The camps at night are a horror of disorganization if you are anal, neat, and Western minded. Gear is unloaded and dropped wherever the camel happened to be standing. There's a method to this which you learn after a while, but if you lean towards organization this may drive you batty initially. You stumble and trip walking everywhere. Raymond the cook says "sorry, sorry" but no one moves anything. You get your head caught on the omni present acacia thorns Sorry sorry. No one takes out a bush knife and cuts them down. That's because this is not a five star catered safari for soft Westerners who need to be pampered. If you don't have the senseGod gave you to look where you put your feet or watch where the thorn branches are (EVERYWHERE) then you don't belong in the bush. I love this aspect of the trip. This is the real thing and that's what makes it authentic.

The tent gear is slightly busted ( zippers are broken) but clean when you start. It's too damned hot to sleep in the bag anyw
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Mar 4th, 2015, 12:31 AM
  #26  
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anyway. You sweat on top of the bag, I wet my clothing, draped a bandanna over my nekkid form and prayed for breezes which didn't appear until about 3 am. Which was about the time that I went looking for my water bottle that had become a pee bottle. I dunno about you but I am not going out into the African night in my birthday suit to find the toilet. So my lousy 20 dollar Oregon Research water bottle got demoted, and became a priceless resource. And on occasion, because of the plumbing, I'd miss, which is why you do these trips with a wicked sense of humor, extra toilet paper and you don't aim over your bed clothing.

Food is African, and I supplied Justin's Almond Butter with honey. Those little packets brought such a look of distrust it was comical, at least until a tongue test provided a positive result, and then my supply was wiped out almost immediately and I had to hide the last two. I also brought a good supply of KIND bars, which despite the godawful heat did a nice job of staying together. Out of our seven days, two of them I was able to provide the crew with a round of bars which went the way of all good things, and got me some good marks and forgiveness for my pranks. Raymonds' Magic Pancakes- which I am not a bread eater- were absolutely necessary for making it through the very long days, two or three of them wrapped around a ripe banana were a treat indeed. A piping hot pile of them in the morning with fruit jam and honey was out of this world. The ability to eat when they ate, drink when they drank, and not demand breaks all the time allowed for good movement and progress to make camp - and the trees providing shade and fodder for the camels would come into sight by late afternoon, and all of us would silently cheer.

We saw a little wildlife, which is why there isn't much mention of this. The last two days as we approached Lake Natron we began to see small herds of zebra and wildebeest. Most of what we saw were cattle, goats and sheep. I can tell you that this trip can be, and will be, full of laughter if you have a good sense of humor. If you don't you will be flat out miserable. For example, one of my favorite stories is the day we were passing through some pretty featureless land. Very few trees. rolling hills and ravines cut by previous rains. Bomas dotted here and there, not far from each other. We'd been on the road for close to four hours, so approaching lunch break. That meant that my bladder was right at that point. We were not at a good place for right at this point, a great many Maasai were pouring out of the bomas- kids and moms- and a number of men- were coming our way. Mzungus just don't show up around here and neither do camels. So this is pretty exciting stuff, as events go. Unfortunately my bladder doesn't give much of a damn about any of this and has started to complain pretty loudly, which I have mentioned to Raymond and we are looking around for.....a rock. A tree. A bush. Geez. ANYTHING. He drops Dominique to the ground and I clamber off. Instantly the crowd moves towards me. Crap.

I head for a a big shady tree. Almost get there. Two men sleeping. Run the other way. Women holding babies, blue robes flying in the wind, legs pumping, white beads going this way and that. Here they come. Damn! I head into the ravine. LIttle kids staring. A huge herd of goats and a guy staring right at me appraisingly. Women and kids coming from all directions. Ahead, Raymond and the crew look back and grin. He makes a gesture. I nod, Standing next to the single bush and rock, I squat, pull my hat down over my face and in the midst of this crowd of people, relieve myself.

Having taken care of business. I stalk back with all the dignity I could muster, climb back on top of my massive animal and he instantly takes me way way way higher than anyone standing. Really. If watching a mzungu pee is the most exciting thing you've seen this week, have at it.

As I say every time I get on a plane to a new country- best leave your ego at the doorstep and pack an extra funnybone. And an extra roll of TP. Which, BTW, I just had to use in Korona's bathroom.

At the end of each day, we would regale each other with funny stories like these through pantomime- only Philip and I shared some English and Raymond's English was really limited. So the most fun was finding a way to act out a tale so that people understood it, classic physical comedy. Laughter really is the one language we all share. The more simple the fun the more fun we all had.
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Mar 4th, 2015, 08:40 PM
  #27  
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OK so since everything is out of order anyway and I've already apologized for it, I'm going to go back to one spot that I left out due to no wifi back in Uganda. I stayed at Kibale Forest Camp which is a lovely little spot, a tent space with its own happy collection of red and black Colobus monkeys to keep you company and plenty of cool breezes at night and some nice food at night in their restaurant. The Chimpanzee tracking here was terrific, although I can recommend our particular guide who took off like lightning and us far far far behind as she chased after the chimps. Hello? Your group is back here.....

At one point about four in our party were standing in a clearing and there was an elephant hidden in the bush. This woman had said to our group that an elephant was nearby and had alerted. After that all she did was complain to the other guides that her group wouldn't listen to her. These four were in a spot taking photos of chimps in the trees. Fact is that our guide spoke so quietly it was very hard to hear her. I was standing right next to her and it was nearly impossible to hear her. So while on one hand we got to see lots and lots and lots of chimps, on the ground very close with lots of photo ops, I can say that in this case, I'd stick to the male guides. I lodged my concerns with my driver who took the time to express them to the facility for me, as he agreed that the lack of concern for safety and for the cohesion of our group were significant.
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Mar 4th, 2015, 08:42 PM
  #28  
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The food provided at the restaurant was perfectly good, and the nice part- as I found everywhere- was the guests close to my table were hugely entertaining. I found that the woman sitting nearest me was a 15 year veteran of the RAF and since I"m a Vietnam Vet that made for a fun conversation. That's one of the main reasons I travel alone.
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Mar 4th, 2015, 09:13 PM
  #29  
 
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Wow jhubbel what an extensive well written report!

Really appreciate you taking the time and can't wait to see your photos.
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Mar 9th, 2015, 03:03 PM
  #30  
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Thanks KathBC,

A number are on my Facebook page, my first name is Julia so if you use that plus my last name you'll find a nice selection of pics on that site. I traveled with an iPad which was a huge mistake. There's no USB port so I couldn't download pics until I got home.

BTW the Mkuru Camel Safari ended at Lake Natrone, which might have been a nice nature walk had it not been so bloody awful hot and had I not so desperately needed a shower. My team helped me scrape enough cash together to get a lodge which was at least protection enough from the various vermin that I'd been living with and a place that I could get washed up. Raymond handed me three water bottles all hot enough for boiling tea, and I dumped them each in the toilet. No, not like that. They sat in the toilet bowl until they cooled off. Just like I lay down on the floor of the shower where it was a nifty 70 degrees on the concrete while the water I'd just showered with evaporated- and I was for once able to rest in comfort- and while away the wicked heat of the afternoon while my laundry baked on the bushes outside. The lodge had very nice beds, the sheets where so hot they felt as though they'd just been ironed. No breeze. No relief. I briefly considered spending the night on the shower floor, but no mosquito netting. I already looked as though I had the measles from my time in the tent.

So while I'd initially planned to see the flamingoes at Lake Natron I never made it out of the lodge area. I'd honestly had it with the heat, the blistering sun, my lips were blistered beyond repair, and while I'm sure the sight might have been worthwhile there are times when you forfeit a vision for the sake of your being. This was one of those times. I hid inside out of that brutal sun all day, and the next morning headed back, only stopping when we passed by my camel team so that I could hug everyone once more (and we could splash each other one last time).

Arusha was seven hours away. I'm not a fan of this overpriced little town, and for anyone planning to shop here I strongly advise you to know your African product and pricing before you do and be ready to bargain VERY aggressively to get a fair deal. To wit: I like kangas and found one I liked. They cost me US$15 in Rwanda. They go for $21 on ebay. In Arusha, around US$40 and up. Absolutely out of the question. Same item, same quality. So be forewarned and forearmed.
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Mar 9th, 2015, 03:12 PM
  #31  
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Something else I learned the hard way on this trip, which is about medical kits. Before I went on the camel safari I cut my things down to one small bag and a small backpack. I failed to take my full med kit, which was almost a disaster. I had taped up my ribs after my fall in Uganda, and by the fourth day on the camel trip discovered that this taping job had literally ripped three big holes in my skin. I had no wipes, bandages, anything. Mkuru had, at best, two very old plasters. I ripped through my supplies and just happened to find two things: a small tube of wound cream and a script for antibiotics, which is what probably saved me from having those wounds go septic.

It was a superb reminder to never ever go out into wild country without those key supplies. The wounds were serious, but they healed quickly and without problems. Given that I was regularly poked, punctured and ripped by thorns and everything else imaginable (it IS Africa) the antibiotics were priceless. Bio Oil is the single best skin product on earth for getting rid of scars (I'm a BIG fan) so no biggie- but the dangers are real. Just a thought for anyone else considering something similar. On a more catered trip, they'd have the meds. This one, they don't. You're largely on your own, which I really like, but I nearly forgot and it could have cost me dearly.
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Mar 15th, 2015, 06:39 AM
  #32  
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Back home in America, and before I wrap up this trip report I'm going to look through it to see what I left out since there were long blackouts. I do have to admit to seven hours in the emergency room last Friday due to the head injuries, resulting in double vision, extreme fatigue and all the other nasties one gets from concussions, but otherwise nothing serious. It was lovely to return to the same very nice hostel in Kigali where I first landed.The very attentive staff there fed and attended to me like royalty and made sure that I got to a certain souvenir shop where David, the hotel owner, bargained for some antiques for me and got me a very reasonable price for the kinds of things I most like to bring back from Africa: old, used, smelling of smoke and goat's milk and long use and an African table, and stories. They took up every last living inch of space in my onboard baggage but it was worth it. I got this treatment for two reasons: I had tipped his staff nicely the first time around and I had also written them a fine review after staying there the first time, and David was extremely warm towards me. I'm a great believer in passing good things around, so when I landed I was received with some big hugs, and treated like family.

All I know is that kindness is returned wherever we are in the world and what you spread around comes back. David worked hard with his friend at the souvenir shop to shave me about $35 off the prices and that helped, and my final night in Africa was restful, blissfully cool in the Rwandan morning, and I was sent off with the kind of warmth and kindness that I experience from friends.

I do also wish to do a final shoutout to ETrip Africa, my planning team, who for a second time (one of my future trips together) did a simply superb job of putting together an exhilarating itinerary, put me into situations where I was challenged, as is my wont, gave me athletic options to push my boundaries, gave me a smorgasbord of African delicacies to enjoy and learn from, and allowed me the kind of learning experiences that they know I value highly. What I love best about ETrip Africa is that they continue to learn from my feedback and are highly sensitive to my comments, are a learning organisation in the best sense of the word, and I've already asked them to start thinking about a return trip for 2017. Ben and Aurelie are responsive and engaged in their work and in giving back to Africa. in making sure that their employees are giving more than just a living wage, and the fact that their Kilimanjaro team has been together for many years attests to this. Teams don't leave a good thing. So if anyone on this Forum is seeking a firm that tends towards the best of customer service, boutique quality attentiveness, the kind of customized itinerary planning that seems old fashioned any more with the Zaras of the world, and a sensitive eye towards your budget, I strongly recommend ETrip. My second trip simply solidifies my impressions of the first, and locks in my loyalty. Ben and Aurelie base out of Arusha and they really know East Africa and beyond. I love that they allowed me to make some of my own recommendations to shave some costs off my trip and were completely open to working with me on my itinerary. Highly, highly recommended, and if anyone has any questions about them please, feel free to send an inquiry to me.
jhubbel is offline  
Dec 20th, 2015, 09:27 AM
  #33  
 
Join Date: Dec 2015
Posts: 3
Hi,

I work for a charity that is campaigning to Save Kafuga Forest, which forms a buffer zone on the outskirts of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Kafuga is in danger of being felled to make way for tea plantations. Clear felling the forest will negatively affect the livlihood of those that live close by and residents may be forced to work on the tea plantations which are notorious for paying below a living wage and in some cases for employing children. Felling the forest, further, will negatively affect local water catchment & carbon sequestratiion and local biodiversity.

We are looking for a video taken in the Bwindi Forest (Gorilla's would be great,) and also possibly another in that part of Uganda to show how beautiful the country is.

We are seeking someone who can donate raw footage that we can cut, annotate and add audio to. This will be used to raise funds for the campaign to save the forest. Would you be able to help? Of coures we would list you in the final credits

Thanks,
Sandra
(International Tree Foundation.)
TreeLady is offline  
Dec 27th, 2015, 12:58 PM
  #34  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 1,639
Julia your report is outstanding. I am surprised there are not more comments on here. It is so detailed and well written. I am in the early stages of planning a trip to Africa, including Rwanda and Uganda, so was happy to come upon your report. Thank you very much.
live42day is offline  
Aug 15th, 2016, 05:46 AM
  #35  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 637
Dear Sandra and live42day,

My apologies to you both. Once done with a trip I am guilty of not returning to it until much much later if at all.
Two things:

Sandra, I didn't take video of the gorillas. I have photos only. The bad news is that I was so ill on that trek I'm forunate to have any footage at all. However if you would kindly give me more information there may be other ways to help. Please contact me again and I will see what I can do. I wasn't willfully ignoring you.

Live42day, you are most kind. I appreciate your words. Sometimes I find that people comment most if they feel they are being helpful, at others people fire darts. It fascinates me no end. As a long time journalist, this forum allows me to present stories.

I hope you looked at E-Trip Africa. Ben Jennings and his wife are simply superb. Can't recommend them enough.
jhubbel is offline  
Aug 16th, 2016, 03:52 PM
  #36  
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 806
An outstanding report indeed I don’t often read trip reports as I find them overburdened with detail but without giving a true sense 0f the experience Y0ur professional ability shines through, as d0es your true sense 0f adventure and ability t0 laugh in the face 0f calamity G1ad y0u made it back in 0ne piece, if 0n1y barely
eliztravels2 is offline  
Aug 17th, 2016, 03:50 AM
  #37  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 637
Thank you so kindly eliztravels, those are wonderful comments indeed. I did make it back in one piece although I have to admit, I lost the entire month of March to the concussions. At this age one has to take head injuries very seriously, and I did, so I rested up and slept a great deal. All is well.
jhubbel is offline  
Aug 17th, 2016, 03:51 AM
  #38  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 637
Thank you so kindly eliztravels, those are wonderful comments indeed. I did make it back in one piece although I have to admit, I lost the entire month of March to the concussions. At this age one has to take head injuries very seriously, and I did, so I rested up and slept a great deal. All is well.
jhubbel is offline  

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