As there were no direct buses to Fort Portal I had to get the bus to Mbarara, then to Kassese and finally one to Fort Portal. Now this should have been easy – but as you soon learn in Africa nothing is as easy as it seems! The bus dropped me off at some random service station in Mbarara rather than at the bus park. I was going to get a taxi to the bus park when the driver offered to take me to Fort Portal for 200,000USH (about £50) – in the end I gave in and said yes as I knew it was a long way and I still had to change buses again. It took us over 3hours to drive there so I was quite pleased of my decision in the end. It was much more comfortable and more space than the bus. When we got to Fort Portal the driver then asked me if I wanted to buy him lunch! For some reason he seemed quite shocked and offended when I said no! Not my problem – there was no way either that I was going to take him back to the UK with me as he kept suggesting either.
Stayed at probably the worst hotel of my stay so far the Rwenzoris traveller inn. It was cheap but so loud – even with ear plugs in I struggled to sleep for the road and bar noise. Left early the next morning on my 2 day mini trek. Lina was supposed to have been coming with me but she was sick so couldn’t make it.
The trek when we started was harder than I imagined – first off I hadn’t realised it was going to be 25km long (not a problem as I needed to train anyway) and that it was going to be the hottest and sunniest day I had faced in a long time. Climbing the 500m in altitude through valleys and up the side of the forest in the national park was very tough and took me almost 4 hours by the time we reached the top. On the way we walked past a primary school with this odd bee hive looking contraption. It was actually a small water turbine that harnessed the power of the stream to generate enough electricity for the school so they could have lights on all night. Quite a neat invention as they wouldn’t have any other means of power there.
The walk carried on over and along the ridge through the forest and then started down the other side. This was as tough – if not worse that the way up. For one it was steeper and even more slippery (something I hadn’t thought possible!) so much so I was very grateful for the lack of rain and the walking poles. And secondly we had to descend much further that we had climbed.
After a while my legs were really starting to hurt. It wouldn’t have been so bad if there was the odd flat bit in there to stretch out legs but no – it was steep tricky descents for 3 hours before we reached the villages and then it was steep descents for the next hour and a half! It really wasn’t fun especially in the heat. But I only fell over twice so I was pretty impressed with myself! Walking poles were a godsend!
When we reached the villages it became clear that the little children don’t see white people very often. The first group we came to seemed to think it funny to run up to me and try to touch me. This then seemed to develop into a game of postmans knock. If I caught them coming to me then then ran back screaming with laughter. They clearly weren’t well versed in this game as they couldn’t stop giggling as they were coming up to me. As we walked on more and more children joined this group. At one point I had over 30 children under the age of about 6 or 7 following me! I felt like the pied piper or in one instance the child catcher as one very small boy took one look at me – burst into tears and hid crying behind his dad! Now I really don’t think I am that scary but he clearly begged to differ. All the children also seem to know how to say ‘how are you?’ and nothing else so all I heard for the next 2 hours was calls of how are you from all over the mountain – most of the time I had no idea where it was coming from.
Finally after 8 and a half hours walking we made it to the accommodation over night – I was so pleased to have a shower (even if it was a cold one) and a lie down. I was shattered – how am I going to manage on Kili???????
The next day surprisingly my legs felt fine, I had been expecting a lot of pain so we then set off for a short drive to the Semiliki Park and the hot springs. I set off with park ranger as a guide first to the female hot springs and then the male hot springs. Natural volcanic springs similar (but not as large) as in Iceland. Expect you couldn’t swim in them as the coolest one was 96deg c! As I seemed to have seen most of the animals and monkeys the ranger pointed out to me before the ranger then decided we were going to go off tracking the elusive and very shy bearded monkey. Off we went through the muddiest and boggiest section of the hot and humid tropical forest in search of these blessed monkeys that I wasn’t really that fussed about seeing anyway.
Through a bog I went – wet feet yet again! And then on through a tsetse fly area where I became their lunch – I have so many bites over my shoulders now. I so wish I hadn’t worn a black t-shirt – black attracts them. Finally the ranger heard the monkeys but they weren’t near the path so off we when into the depths of the forest trying to forge a path yet doing it quietly so as not to frighten the monkeys. The ranger kept getting very excited and pointing at various spots in the trees. I saw a few tails but none of the beards! He then got a phone call which frightened them all away! It was my driver wondering where we were as we had been due back an hour ago and he was cooking lunch. Oops. So finally the ranger decided we should head back. By the time we got back to the hot springs where the driver was cooking my lunch we had been walking for over 2 hours more than we should have. Apparently I was very lucky as very few people ever get to see this type of monkey – even if I did only see its tails!
Lunch was potatoes, Matoke (a type of banana) and eggs cooked in the hot springs – because we were so late the eggs had been cooking for about 30mins so were rather hard boiled! This was served with avocado, tomato and bread followed by pineapple. Don’t know what the driver was thinking as he cooked more for me than the other guide who was there was cooking for 5 people! I think his family ate well that night! After that it was back to Fort Portal and this time a lovely guesthouse called the Rwenzori View.