Day 8, 9, 10: Queen Elizabeth National Park (Part 1)

We were back at it, bright and early Thursday morning with Wilson coming to pick us up at 8am. Lucky for us, we got to sleep in, but the rule followers we are, we were ready to go at 7:50am. YAY us!! (Girls, take a hint— the dudes love it when you are ready BEFORE you actually need to leave. Nobody really likes that girl who is never on time.)

Our drive today was to Queen Elizabeth National Park, somewhat southwest of Kampala. The park is 734 miles and is home to Cape buffaloes, hippopotami, crocodiles, elephants, leopards, Congo lions, and chimpanzees. The traffic was once again, uhhhh interesting, but I do think Wilson took a few back routes to miss most of the fun. Once we got out of the city, we hit towns along the way. People were hustling to work, the market, and there were so many kids getting to school. The park extends from Lake George in the north-east to Lake Edward in the south-west and includes the Kazinga Channel connecting the two lakes.

Let’s talk about the kids getting to school because this is one of the things that sticks in my head the most… These kids are WALKING, BAREFOOT along the HIGHWAY with cars going about 60mph up and down hills, for miles, to get to school. How do you know that’s where they are going, it’s because they are wearing uniforms and the kids in the uniforms are heading to school. The kids without uniforms are probably heading to get water. Why they don’t go to school- their families can’t afford the fee’s for the uniforms to send their kids to school. It’s heartbreaking to see on so many levels. These are kids of all ages- little ones, walking little ones; older kids walking with little ones- some with shoes, some without; some with back packs, some without. Just makes you stop and think….

We got to Queen Elizabeth park after about 5 hours. We did stop for some roasted plantains and lunch along the way. Our highlight was stopping at the Equator!! I mean WHO does that? We took a few pictures, a selfie with Wilson and off we went.

The landscape went from rolling hills, to flat, to the mountains real fast. This part of the country seemed a bit more organized and that they had more money. This might be off but to us, that seemed to be the case. There were a lot of tea farms, fields and fields of tea plants. There was also a lot of corn fields which was used to feed their flocks of goats and herds of cows. One thing Uganda has along these “highways” is a gazillion speed bumps as you pass through the towns. These aren’t American speed bumps- these are slow down to 20 or less and bounce over them speed bumps. Wilson said “an engineer must have gotten a bonus for each of these because they are so close together”. They are awful.

Once we entered into the Park, to get to the hotel, the landscape turned from the mountains to flat savannah, with no palm trees but Acacia trees scattered. They had the cactus trees, like you find in Southern California, with large thickets surrounding them. It’s kinda of what you imagine Africa to look like.

After we checked in, we hung out by the pool for awhile before dinner. You got to pick from a menu and it’s a salad, main course, and dessert option. One of our lessons of the day was: when in Africa, always close your screen door because there are bugs. We came back to a room full of Lake Flies, nothing that would bite but just kinda gross. They sprayed the room and we got the dead ones off the bed covers. City folk… Next night we’ll do better.

We were up and met Wilson at 6:30am to head out on a game drive. We were looking for some lions and leopards. The lions are kinda hard to find and the leopards are SUPER hard to find. We started off and saw a hippo out of the water for the first time, and it actually crossed the highway. Not what you see everyday. We saw more wart hogs, Bush Buck, and a few more hippos. We also got to see the giant sun rising. For the most part the game drive wasn’t nearly as exciting as Murchison but still a good time, because— it’s freaking Africa. Once we were back at the hotel we had breakfast around 10:30 and had all day to hang out at the pool until our boat ride up the channel. Wilson came looking for us around 2pm because he heard that someone spotted the leopard and really wanted us to see it but we didn’t want to miss the boat ride.

I hung out at the pool and I have to say, that sun is HOT! There were hippos and water buffalo across the channel that I could see. We got ready for our boat ride, down the  Kazinga Channel, and decided once it was over, we’d go see if we could find the lions or leopards.

The boat ride—- the BEST DAY EVER!!! We saw everything- hippos, crocs, water buffalo, a whole lotta birds and a “million” elephants! We got to one point along the way and two very large African Savannah elephants came trotting down the hill side to take a sip of water- no big deal. Our boat captain idled the boat so we go to watch them for a good 15 mins. We were about 20 feet away and I have to say, they could have cared less, they were just enjoying their drinks. The hippos were more pissed that the elephants were there than the elephantsrt cared about us.

We continued our drive down the channel and saw a Village up on the hill side. There were kids out fishing, a young kid gathering water and men out in boats. it’s kinda of crazy to think these people live in areas where there are lions, hippos and elephants just a few feet away.  We really loved the boat ride- it was one of the best trips we took.

Once we got back to land, Wilson was waiting for us to hop in the truck and take off for  our night time game drive, which is kinda against the rules. It takes about 20 mins to get to where the lions/ leopards were spotted. We drove around a bit and no leopards but Wilson, being the awesome guide that he is, talked to another driver and took us right to two lady lions sound asleep in the grass. They were about 5 feet from the road. We drove in circles around them taking many photos and they could have cared less.  The sun was going down and we needed to head back but we found another lady lion about 50 feet down the road. It was crazy to see them so close!

We headed back to the lodge and it was pretty dark.  We spotted a herd of elephants eating along the road and then we spotted two hyenas. They are just as ugly in real life as they are in the Lion King. Wilson also stopped because he “saw something” and he spotted a leopard. He got out of the car, with his giant flashlight and wanted us to follow but we were smarter than and stayed put. Wilson came back to the car and said “I wish you had the courage to come out and see his spots” but we were ok with just seeing his eyes.

What started out a bit slow, ended pretty well.

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