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Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

My tent has a flap on each of its four sides.  I roll these up for some air movement as otherwise the inside gets rather stuffy.  I’m in a tent on my own so can’t imagine how unpleasant the air must get when two people share a tent.  It started to sprinkle rain at 05h00 so there was a mad scramble to get up and drop the flaps before I got wet inside.  Whilst this was being done a bloody mozzie got inside so no further peaceful sleep resulted.  I got up 45 minutes later, and as usual, was the first, or one of the first, to be up and about.  I had my tent cleared out and packed up and on the truck before some others were up.  There was plenty of time to help some of the others, but isn’t it strange how it seems to be the same ones every time.  Some just disappear into thin air and wait for somebody else to chip in and achieve a quick pack-up.

We crossed from Uganda back into Kenya this morning.  The exit from Uganda was no problem.  I had to get another three day ‘Transit Visa’ to get into Kenya, but as I had done my homework this time, three days was all I needed.  Mind you, I used each of the three days!  It took us over an hour to clear both borders.  Again, there were trucks as far as the eye could see waiting on the Kenyan side to clear immigration and customs.  I counted 88 but didn’t start doing so until some way along the line.

We arrived in Eldoret at 16h45, rather early, but pleasant.  This is the same camping ground as last time.  I decided not to upgrade this time, I rather like my tent and because last time I had to squat under a low tap in my shower to get any water.  The communal shower was wonderful with water that hot I needed to use some cold to make it useable.  A thunderstorm had been brewing all afternoon and broke just as I started to dry off.  I waited until the worst of it passed before I made a dash back to my tent.  When I got there I found a river flowing beneath it.  It wasn’t as though I’d chosen my site badly as all the other tents were in a similar position.  I could feel the water flowing under the floor.  Thankfully the tent is completely waterproof and everything in it, including me, stayed dry.  It is interesting to look back on the whole trip to realise that we didn’t have to put up or take down our tents in the rain.  In fact, the only rain occurred when it didn’t really matter too much.  We were either on the road, eating under cover or in our tents when it rained.

My real comfort is the last of my ‘medicinal’ whisky and some peanuts.  With only one more night to go, I think I did pretty well eking it out to run out with only one night to go!  There will be some more bought in duty free at Abu Dhabi airport for the next leg.  If I get it on the way in I can pack it in my checked-in baggage as I have an overnight stop in Abu Dhabi after my flight from Nairobi.  Saves any possible confiscation of my litre of whisky by some nasty security person!  I can also decant the precious golden liquid into my metal water bottle to save both the weight of the glass bottle and to protect it from breakage.  Can you imagine me trying to suck my clothes dry should the unthinkable happen?

Juma gets a night off cooking tonight as we are being catered for by the camping ground.  They have a pleasant dining area next to the bar and as it is still over an hour before dinner and I’ve run out of whisky, I just might have to start warming a seat in that area.

The thunder storm turned out to bit more than a passing event as heavy rain settled in for an hour or two.  Again, we escaped an unpleasantness while eating our buffet meal.  After the meal, which had an African theme, one which I’m not sure I could get used to as it consists mainly of ugali, a maize based thick goo, and even more carbohydrate in the form of a yam-like root vegetable.  There were plenty of vegetables and tough meat to choose from to make the carbohydrate palatable.  Fond farewells were made as this was to be the last night the group was to be together.  Tip envelopes were handed over and the crew seemed to be happy – as we were with the whole trip.

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Our driver, Mbuthia  P1250984  DY of jtdytravels

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Our camp cook, Juma  P1250988  DY of jtdytravels

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A Tusker beer surrounded by the group!  P1250992  DY of jtdytravels

The trip kitty was reconciled by Ingwe and three of our group and after paying for dinner there was just over $5/PAX left over.  I think this is pretty good.  It was decided that anyone who wanted their $5 could have it in cash, otherwise the balance was put on the bar for all to enjoy.  It only paid for a couple of drinks each so nobody was able to go mad.

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The group at the fire  P1250998  DY of jtdytravels

I was well and truly snuggled up in my tent by 23h00 and asleep soon afterwards.  As would have it, a nature call was required some hours later.  The ground was really muddy and very slippery as a result of the earlier rain.  Over I went, down on my bum to dirty my clean undies and hands.  Thankfully there was a nearby tap which could wash the mud of my hands but my undies are still muddy and will have to wait until I get to Copenhagen to be washed.  My dignity didn’t suffer as there was nobody around.  Back in my tent I had to zip up my sleeping bag for the first time.  Until now I’d been warm enough just using it as a throw-over to my sheet sleeping bag.

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Today was the adrenalin day for the younger people of the group.  There was white water rafting (up to Grade 5), bungy jumping, a river cruise on the Nile and/or one could join a community aid project and paint a school.  This sounded OK until the thought of getting paint all over our clothes was taken into account.  The Nile and Jinja hold a significant place in the geography of the region as it is said that the Nile starts where it flows out of Lake Victoria.

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Brad about to jump  P1250899  DY of jtdytravels

I may have been enticed into doing something silly but bungy jumping for the ‘token grandfather’ of the group was not on.  I rather like my ball and socket joints the way they are.  The other thing that irked me was that the camp site only took Visa card.  This is the first place I can remember where, if credit cards are accepted, that both Visa and MasterCard are accepted.  Add to this anomaly, the blighters added a 5% surcharge on the use of the Visa card.  I’ve had to stomach up to a 3% surcharge on credit card usage, and maybe 5% on Diners or American Express, but not 5% on the two most common cards.  My protest was not silent as I told Ruth, the camp manager, that it was just another way to add an extra cost to the activity.  A captive audience, a captive market!  I just spent a quiet day in camp doing some washing and catching up on some writing.

There were some long-tailed macaques roaming around the camp taking every opportunity to grab any discarded food.

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A long-tailed Macaque  P1250952  DY of jtdytravels

One poor individual had a piece of twine tied tightly around one wrist which rendered it useless.  I don’t know if it got tangled up in the twine or if someone had tied it on to tether the animal.  The way the animal wasn’t able to put the hand down indicated that the circulation to the area had been cut off.  I can only assume that the hand will eventually drop off!

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This individual had twine tied tightly around a wrist  P1250948 DY of jtdytravels

There was free WiFi in the bar area so I took full advantage of this and talked to my sister Helen in Melbourne, son Peter in Newcastle and Jennie in Bangkok when she happened to log on while I was writing.

The Olympics start in London tonight – and although we had a ‘sporty’ day …a world away from here!

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Around 03h00 this morning I heard a water tank being filled.  Silly me. I thought this might mean a hot shower.  There was water but definitely not hot.  I remain somewhat oily from yesterday’s massage but that is probably not a bad thing.

I was up at 04h50 to light rain as an early breakfast was needed because the day was to be a long one.  We actually left 5 minutes early at 06h25 and didn’t get to Lake Mburo until 17h45.  There were 3 roadside loo stops and an hour for lunch.  A long, long day, but the kilometres had to be done.

We just had time to put up our tents amongst wart hogs and hippos making all sorts of grunting noises in the nearby lake before the sun set.

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Our camp site at Lake Mburo      (P1100602  DY of jtdytravels)

We watched the sun set over the lake with the hippos briefly surfacing from time to time whilst we rehydrated with a Tusker beer… or two.

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Sunset over Lake Mburo      (P1100612  DY of jtdytravels)

Most enjoyable… and equally enjoyable was the camp fire we sat around after dinner.

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Our campfire  P1100622     (DY of jtdytravels)

More anon    David

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Today I took the optional extra to trek in to see some Golden monkeys.  These beautiful animals live in bamboo forest.  The same procedure was followed as yesterday with a drive to park headquarters, dancing and singing and a further ride to the drop off point to begin our walk.

On our way up to the bamboo forest we came across a couple of guys cutting planks from a eucalypt log.  Instead of digging a pit with one person in the pit and the other at ground level, the technique used in these parts is to build a platform with one guy standing on the platform and the other one standing on the ground.  I think I would want to be the guy on top rather than the one underneath as he is continually showered by sawdust which was sticking to his body in the hot and humid conditions.

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Sawing a log into planks       (P1100122  DY of jtdytravels)

Nearby was a smoking and steaming pile of earth and leaves.  It was charcoal in the process of being made.  We were told that the whole burning process takes two weeks, something I will have to check sometime when I have reliable internet access.

It was nowhere near as far as it was to see the gorillas – only 20 minutes or so and we were in the company of a troupe of monkeys.

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A Golden monkey       (P1100174  DY of jtdytravels)

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Another family member      (P1100320  DY of jtdytravels)

They were feeding in the bamboo and moving through the forest seeking out the choicest shoots.  The rainy season is best for them as they particularly like the new bamboo shoots, none of which were available at present because it is the dry season.

The golden monkeys take their name from the lovely golden coat they have.  Pretty faces add to their appeal.

We were back at the ’hotel’ by 11 am which gave me plenty of time for a shower – again it was a walk downstairs to the communal showers as there was still no water at all in my room – before wandering a couple of hundred metres down the road to a massage centre.  Moses performed wonders on my stiff and sore body after the last two treks and the awful pummelling it gets on the bus!  I know, any excuse for a massage, but then, who needs an excuse!     D

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It was another early start for our run to the Rwandan border – apparently one is never quite sure how long the formalities will take at this border.

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The truck is ready for an early start – are we?    (P1090681  DY of jtdytravels)

It was only a half hour drive from last night’s campsite to the Rwandan border.  During this half hour the fog came down and it got quite cold.  Leaving Uganda took no time at all but getting into Rwanda took over an hour for us all and the truck to get clearance.

In Rwanda, one drives on the right hand side of the road and this change over is only, I’m told, one of three places where this occurs at a land crossing.  For interest only, this also occurs in the Euro Tunnel and somewhere in Europe/China where the two continents adjoin each other.

There is a marked difference in the reaction of kids on the street and in the fields to our passing. In Kenya their young faces light up with large toothy grins as they wave at us enthusiastically.  Such spontaneity is a little less obvious in Uganda and quite noticeably different in Rwanda.  I don’t know why this is but it could be partly to do with the trauma the country went through just twenty years ago when the genocide was at its height.  It seems that an ‘I don’t trust anybody’ mentality prevails.  I can well understand this after visiting the Genocide Museum in Kigali.

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Kigali Genocide Museum      (P1090689  DY of jtdytravels)

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The Wall of Names     (P1090699  DY of jtdytravels)

The really sad thing about this museum is that it not only portrays the Rwandan genocide but touches on other genocides of relatively recent times.  We must be reminded of these atrocities, but unfortunately, mankind has not learnt from the previous insane killings.  We haven’t learnt and regrettably there will be other cases in the future where these killings will occur again to meet some despots power struggle or grab for territory and riches.  Can I add oil to the list? …and as the world population grows, water may well be something fought over in time to come.

Helmet wearing is compulsory for motor bike riders and just one passenger plus the driver is strictly adhered to.  There are some quite modern buildings in Kigali, the capital.

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Kigali city      (P1090688  DY of jtdytravels)

Even traffic lights are obeyed.  There are overpasses and planted traffic islands.

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Well maintained traffic islands      (P1090706  DY of jtdytravels)

There are rubbish bins dotted here and there with ‘Keep Kigali Clean’ painted on them.  There are some very steep hills in town but the roads are in good repair, with edges strong and continuous enough to have a white a line painted along them.

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Good roads with edges!      (P1090712  DY of jtdytravels)

There are around 600 Rwandan francs to the USD.

 

More anon David

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It was another start in the dark this morning.  Tents had to be taken down and breakfast had before we took another game drive through the park.  The sun rise was lovely with many tall Euphorbia sp. Looking wonderful as silhouettes against the rising sun.

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Euphorbia silhouetted against the rising sun     (P1090603  DY of jtdytravels)

We were hoping to see a lion or two but it wasn’t to be.  It turned out that we just had to be satisfied with the very obscured lion that was asleep on a rock on our very first game drive at Lake Nakuru.

We did see a couple of Helmeted guinea fowl, something the group hadn’t seen before.

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Helmeted guinea fowl      (P1090608  DY of jtdytravels)

We also saw more elephants, including the grand daddy of them all.  He had enormous tusks that almost reached the ground.  He wasn’t for the park for much longer as he must have used up his quota of sets of teeth and therefore was heading to a point where he wouldn’t be able to eat properly.  He would then just fade away due to starvation.  The way of the African bush!

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An old bull elephant      (P1090630  DY of jtdytravels)

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…and then the group was off!      (P1090631  DY of jtdytravels)

We came across a Hamerkop’s nest in a tree beside the track.  They build very large somewhat untidy nests in the fork of tree.  The same tree contained a number of Weaver bird nests.

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Hamerkop and Weaver bird nests      (P1090618  DY of jtdytravels)

Our lunch stop again caused some amusement for the local kids.  It’s a Saturday so the kids weren’t at school.  As the bus pulled up on a nice grassy patch we interrupted a game of soccer.  Their ball was quite adequate for the purpose but the one Shane brought along was a regulation number which quickly took precedence to theirs.   The game continued amongst tethered cattle, bicycles, people standing around, our bus and the rest of us who weren’t kicking the ball around.  This all went very well until one of the kids headed off with the ball, never to be seen by us again.  That made it two balls down!

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The soccer game at lunch stop     (P1090646  DY of jtdytravels)

The country we drove through was very pretty.  It was quite hilly, even tending to mountainous, with a lot of road works going on.  It was agreed that we would take a rough shortcut which would take some hours off our journey time.  Ingwe described the road as an African massage.  This was not far from being true however the main emphasis was on the bum as you were tossed from one cheek to the other on the rough road.  It was extremely dusty on various sections of the road however the only dust that got into the truck came in through open windows.  She’s a tight ship.

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Travelling through hilly country    (P1090651  DY of jtdytravels)

More anon   David

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On our way to Queen Elizabeth National Park we stopped in Fort Portal for fuel and to give the cook, Juma, some time to replenish his stocks.  This obviously gave us a chance to visit banks, internet cafes and to try and find a decent cup of coffee.  Apart from satisfying Juma’s needs, an essential part of the stop and one that is always completed with success (he’s been here before and knows what he is looking for) the other needs were met with varying degrees of success.  We have even been served Nescafe in a little bowl which we can put, to our own liking, into the hot water that comes in a jug.  This is in a country where really good coffee is grown!  Where are we?

I spent 500 Ksh (less than a dollar) at an Internet cafe with no success at all.  ‘Service provider not recognised’ was all I got for my effort and shillings.

We crossed the Equator.

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The Equator      (P1090443  DY of jtdytravels)

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An Internet Cafe and Coffee Shop – but how good?    (P1090442  DY of jtdytravels)

As we entered the Park we saw our first elephants.

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Our first elephants     (P1090453  DY of jtdytravels)

After setting up our tents we were ready for our late afternoon two hour cruise on the naturally occurring Kazinga Channel which joins Lake George with Lake Edward.  It was a delightful cruise on which we saw many birds (including dozens of Pied Kingfishers), hippos and other interesting animals and activities.

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Pied Kingfishers     (P1090482  DY of jtdytravels)

After dinner it was an adjournment to the bar to again replenish liquid lost during the day.  We had dropped down quite some elevation from our last stop so it had become quite a bit warmer and more humid.  Do I really need an excuse to spend a quiet hour or two in the bar with a good group of travelling companions?

Even a cold shower was very necessary after the day’s hot and humid activities, however this heart stopping event is not good for old men.  Have I mentioned that I’m the token ‘grandfather’ of the group.  I’m the oldest by a couple of years.

A dry thunder storm brewed overhead which provided a lovely display through the open window flaps of my tent when I finally hit the hay.  This turned a bit sour when I had to venture outside in my jocks at around midnight to lower the flaps as the dry thunderstorm turned into a wet one.  This only lasted about 30 minutes but could not be ignored.  However, the pitter-patter of the rain did not keep me awake long.

Also, have I mentioned that some of our group can read books and sleep when we are out on game drives???!!!  Why did they come?  D

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Kibale Forest National Park is the most accessible of Ugandan’s major rainforests and is home to the highest concentration of different primates in the world.  Twelve different species have been recorded.  The main attraction however, is the park’s 500 chimpanzees which have been habituated.

We took a walking safari to see the chimps, a real highlight.

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After hours of walking – a chimp up a tree  P1090392  DY of jtdytravels

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Colourful bracket fungus  P1090339  DY of jtdytravels

A village walk was on offer during the afternoon.  This included a visit to a tea plantation, something I’ve done a couple of times before.  I declined the offer and decided instead to do some washing and to have a shower.  There was hot water (sometimes) in the open air showers.  These showers offered a lovely view.

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The open-air shower  P1090396  DY of jtdytravels

Having elected to stay behind I planned to do some writing before my rostered duty came around.  The group has been divided into groups of four whose duty each day is to do their bit for the whole group.  My duty this particular day was to help the cook with the preparation of the vegetables for the night’s meal.  I expected a call to duty at around 17h30, but to my dismay, the cook said he wanted me at 16h30.  This was only 30 minutes after I finished my washing and shower.  I dutifully turned up at the appointed hour and did my duty.  Because I was the only PAX in camp the whole of the job fell to my peeling and cutting hands.  This wasn’t a problem but it naturally took me longer to do the job than having it shared between the other members of my group who were still out visiting the village or doing the afternoon chimp walk.  By the time I’d finished cutting up enough eggplant, carrots, onion, green capsicum, potato and grating garlic to give the non-descript soup some flavour, the first of the group arrived back at camp from their various activities.  It was obviously time to start replenishing some of the liquid lost earlier in the day.  And, there went the best of my intentions!

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The view from the bar  P1090260  DY of jtdytravels

I don’t think I’ve put a flower picture in yet, so here is one just because I can!  The butterfly is just for interest.

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Solanum and butterfly  P1090225  DY of jtdytravels

More anon   David

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We got away to a fairly early start but got caught up in a traffic jam as were turned out of the camp site’s front gate.  A truck had broken down somewhere in the vicinity and this had caused the problem.  It took us an hour to travel only a few kilometres to a supermarket where the cook had to buy our provisions for the next few days.  This stop also provided most of us with an opportunity to cash in our useful currencies for Kenyan shillings.  There was also a good coffee shop in the complex that provided us with what was to be our last good coffee so far, not that we knew that at the time!

It was interesting to note that there was little roadside rubbish, we even spotted a few street sweepers.  Kampala is generally a clean city.

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A busy street-side market  P1090205  DY of jtdytravels

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Clean streets and green traffic roundabouts  P1090210  DY of jtdytravels

More when I get the chance   David

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The day started well until a loud explosive air hiss came from below our feet in our new truck.  Most thought that a tyre had blown out.  We came to a slower stop than I would have expected for such an event. The driver wriggled under the vehicle amidships and attempted to fix a high pressure air supply line.

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How can I fix this with a screwdriver?  P1090171  DY of jtdytravels

Being a new truck that had not been properly fitted out for our trip there was only a screwdriver available to fix the problem.  A call was put out to anyone who had any tape.  This, of course, made little impact on the problem due to the high pressure involved.  We deduced that the air line had something to do with the breaks.  Eventually the driver somewhat admitted defeat when he went across the road to a service station and came back with a bicycle inner tube.  This, along with some more tape, actually did the job.  We were off after a one and three quarter hour stop.

Whilst all this was happening most of the younger guys and one of the girls kicked a soccer ball around on a large grassy field beside where we had stopped.

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The kids came out to play  P1090174  DY of jtdytravels

Great fun was had by all until it was time to leave.  The biggest boy in the group grabbed the ball and made off with it on his bicycle.  We had naively hoped that the ball could have been shared a little more equally by those involved in the game – how silly of us!

The Ugandan border was not all that far away.  We passed many, many trucks all lined up waiting their turn to be processed.  I counted over 100 on our way back.  The drivers can expect to wait from three to seven days to get through the paperwork and inspections.

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Tourist buses get priority – thankfully  P1090165  DY of jtdytravels

Once we arrived at the border, foreigners in buses are given priority, we lined up at the appropriate windows to be processed without trouble.  That was until it was my turn!  I handed my passport through the window to the Immigration officer on the other side.  He looked at it hard and long and then motioned me to come into his office through a nearby door.  He said my visa had expired, as indeed, on my inspection, it had!

I had been given a Transit Visa on arrival at Nairobi airport by the lady Immigration officer.  This was valid for a 72 hour stop.  She asked me how long I was staying, to which I said I was leaving on the 17th and, did she want to see my itinerary?  She said she didn’t and gave me the visa.  I guess I was partly to blame as I should have known that I was to be in Kenya for four days not three, but after X hundreds of hours on the go, through various time zones etc. the error did not compute with me either.

So, now back to leaving Kenya.  The Immigration officer quizzed me on why I had a Transit Visa if I was to be in Kenya for four days.  I explained that his colleague in Nairobi had made the decision to issue me a Transit Visa.  He said I hadn’t paid enough.  I said that I was not trying to avoid paying whatever I should have and could I pay the extra now.  He ignored me while he attended to other people who passed their ‘all-in-order’ passports through his window.  I wondered what was going to happen.  He eventually returned to my passport and asked if I was coming back to Kenya?  Yes, was my answer.  How long will you be staying?  Overnight, I ventured as an answer.  He picked up his visa stamp and slammed it down on my Transit Visa and said, this is an official warning, and handed me back my passport.  Somewhat relieved, I meekly left his presence saying ‘asanti sana’, thank you very much.  We ALL continued on our way to our camping place at the Red Chilli in Kampala, crossing the Nile River at Jinja on the way.  We were to return to Jinja for a two night stop on our way back to Nairobi.

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The Nile River  P1090183  DY of jtdytravels

Along the way we passed black and blue cloth traps.  These were about 750mm x 750mm x 750mm and were seen swinging in trees.  Ingwe explained that they were traps for tse-tse fly, in other words, the insect that causes sleeping sickness.

 

More anon    David

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