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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

A Wet Weekend in Fort Portal

UGANDA | Monday, 25 August 2014 | Views [1304]

Our weekend away didn’t go as well as planned and it made us seriously think about how much gadding about we would like to fit in before leaving Uganda.  Unfortunately the rainy season is already upon us so camping is looking like a soggy miserable option for the next month or so.  The other major drawback for us is how much everything costs particularly petrol, activities and accommodation.  So that’ll be the key ingredients that make or break a weekend away then!  Therefore as much as we’d love to get out and about most weekends we’ve decided to save our money for when we really need it.  With friends coming out for October half term we’re going to need some spends and then we plan to ‘finish off’ Uganda during the Christmas break.

Saturday morning dawned and we were up and on the road by 7am and with the traffic still light we were soon beyond Kampala.  In fact the 4-hour drive was as smooth and as uneventful as you could wish for and the turn off for the Sebitoli section of Kabale National Park is clearly sign-posted.  Last time we tried to do something off the well worn tourist route it involved a 3-hour detour on very rough roads and we vowed not to do it again.  So why were we?  Well, this time it only involved a few hundred yards down a dirt road and with the forest being part of one of UWA’s flagship national parks we thought things would be set up.  How wrong we were!

The signboard proudly boasts chimp and primate tracking, forest walks, bird watching, accommodation and waterfalls but heaven forbid anyone would actually want any of those things.  When we located someone they looked at us as if we were barking mad for simply being there.  On hindsight we should have taken the hint and left at that point.  Considering Steve had driven all morning to get there we would persevere.  It turned out the one and only guide had gone into town with the monthly report – now why he couldn’t have sent a lackey is anyone’s guess.  The other ‘guide’ had only been there a couple of weeks and didn’t know the trails but he assured us his friend did.  So we forked out the $15 a head and agreed we would have one fella guide while the other looked for wildlife.    They have the cheek to charge $30 a head for non-residents and don’t forget without a UWA card you need to pay the $30 each entrance fee too.

We set off feeling very we’d been ripped off and could only hope that at the very least we’d get a good couple of hours in the forest with the prospect of seeing monkeys and birds.  Things were looking up when not 200 yards from the ticket office we found a troop of black and white colobus monkeys.  Unfortunately that’s where the good news ends as it soon became apparent that the guide didn’t know the trails at all.  In fact we hit and dead end and had to back track.  Considering he was supposed to be part of the chimp research project the survival of that particular primate would appear to be in jeopardy!

Anyway we set off on another track with the ‘guide’ and ‘tracker’ mumbling between themselves and all we could hear was the traffic on the main road we’d just driven down.  Next thing you know the pair of them are indicating that we cross that road and go into the patch of forest on the other side.  At this point I put my foot down and refused to follow as we knew for a fact that wasn’t part of Kabale.  We cut our losses and returned to the car only 40mins after leaving it.  A pure rip-off and final, conclusive proof that trying to do anything beyond the usual is a waste of time and, more crucially, money.  It left us with a very sour taste in our mouths and feeling like Uganda had let us down. 

Feeling annoyed and upset that the lovely Uganda had let us down we headed down the road to Fort Portal to find digs for the night.  We tried Golf View and it seemed slightly rougher around the edges than we remembered from last time we stayed.  The clouds were gathering and we decided if we were going to get trapped by the rain then we at least needed somewhere with cable TV so we could watch the football.  So we popped up to the other end of town and ended up checking into Travellers Inn; a place we stayed in years ago.  Again it’s not brilliant; cleaner but these places have a particular knack for creating an air of unpleasant aromas.

We quickly got showered (no hot water!), changed and wandered up to Garden Restaurant; a good spot for food, beverages and watching the world go by.  The highlight was a couple of fellas trying to persuade a cow to cross the road but it wasn’t having any of it!  The black clouds that had gathered did indeed decide to shed their load but fortunately we were trapped in a place with cold beer and the footy.  Well until the storm set in and all the power went out!  Luckily they had a generator so all was not lost – well not quite, City lost at home to Stoke.  All-in-all; a long way to drive to spend lots of money unnecessarily, only to watch poor football and rain lashing down.

We didn’t hang around the next morning as we intended to get back to Kampala before Liverpool kicked off (we beat Spurs 3-0 at White Hart Lane by-the-way).  In fact it was once we were on our way back that things started to improve.  Once again we spotted some colobus monkeys and then a huge troop of baboons were blocking the road.  They’ve learned that buses have to slow down and that some numpty will throw something edible out of the window.  However the baboons then thought that we’d have something to share too and one jumped up onto the bonnet and stalked across the windscreen.  We slowly started to drive off hoping he’d jump down but he just clung onto my wing mirror.  In the end we had to rev the engine and noticeably speed up before he leapt into the side of the road.  It was the highlight of the weekend.

That was, until a kilometre or so down the road, I spotted some more monkeys and luckily the road was clear so Steve could stop and pull over.  We then spent a good 20mins watching a large group of grey-checked mangabies with a few red-tailed monkeys interspersed amongst them.  Now that really was the highlight of the weekend and all for free!


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