Day 165 Uganda : Lake Bunyonyi - Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Day 165 Uganda

Trip Distance 140 km (87 m) Total Distance 18021 km (11200 m)
Road Condition 90% dirt 10% tar  
Time to travel 3.5 hrs 30 minutes  
Cost of diesel USH2080 (£0.63)    
Buhoma Community Camp S0 59.049 E29 36.977 USH20000 (US$10) - hot showers, flushing loos.  Camping in parking lot - no level spots

It was a really late start this morning and eventually with Stuart and gang waiting for us Trevor told them to push on ahead, which thankfully they did.  Once we had paid our bill (done by VISA card at a highly-inflated10% charge!!!!) we set off for Kabale with a view to draw some US$ and get in some final shopping. 

We arrived in Kabale 30 minutes later and went to the Stanbic Bank to draw our USH1,400,000 (yes, nearly 1.5 MILLION) that we needed to change to US$.  Then spent the next 2 hours in a queue waiting for the teller to free up.  This was not an easy task, as you can imagine, because of frequent interruptions from his colleagues to discuss their lottery numbers/lunch/plans for the party that night interspersed with muttered conversations with friends on his mobile phone. sigh. 

We left the bank and, finally, drove out of Kabale but on the spur of the moment as we passed the UWA (Uganda Wildlife Association) Information Office decided to pop in and see if there were any permits available for gorilla tracking.  The receptionist behind the counter told us that he was unable to book permits there and we should have done it in Kampala at the main office.  Our hearts sank but undeterred (this is Africa, after all) I turned up the charm 5 notches and spent the next 10 minutes flirting, laughing and joking with him in a mixture of my newly acquired Ugandan words (4 of them!) and English.  It worked.  First he rang the Kampala office - sorry no permits there for the next 10 days which was the window of opportunity we had given him to work with.  We were prepared to wait the time out driving around Fort Portal and Queen Elizabeth National Park.  But wait a minute, it turns out he has a mate that he "just remembered" had bought some permits that might have some available but he didn't know when for.  Our spirits lifted a little (but not too much) as we left him our mobile number and drove off towards Bwindi. 

The road for the first 18kms is in good condition (sealed tar) but regular speed reduction to zero is required to negotiate the sleeping policemen (humps) in the road through the frequent villages.  The first part of the road to Bwindi shown on T4A and described in the Bradt guide is now closed as it has been washed away and not wanting to attempt the 2nd road (the Bradt guide said don't use it) we stopped and asked several locals how to get to Bwindi and eventually found the road that is used by public transport.  Although for the life of me I don't know how!! 

The road we found was in good condition at first but soon turned to a track with deep ruts, rock climbs, awful cambers and at one stage a bridge crossing (and I use this term lightly) over a makeshift affair of logs lashed together.  But we pushed on, started to relax as we watched the track on the GPS leading closer to the original road and then started to enjoy the drive through the mountains and forests.  It is a challenge though and one that, although the locals use in pickups, isn't really suitable for anything other than a reliable 4x4.  Sully negotiated it beautifully. 

As we reached the top of on mountain, the views of the Impenetrable Forest opening up around us - and I have to tell you it was magnificent! - our mobile phone suddenly got 1 pip of signal and an sms came through.  Our wonderful, amazing new friend had called his friend and found 3 permits for the next day.  Oh my god!!!!  Fate was definitely working for us - the next day!  We stopped the car as the signal faded and managed to punch in a quick message to ask him to book them for us.  Just as the signal blinked out a final sms came through - done!  We were going to see track the gorillas! Tomorrow!!

The next 2 hours passed slowly on the road as the heavens opened (as it does every day now at around 3pm) as we negotiated the now wet and muddy track, but passed quickly for us as our excitement mounted.  Our arrival at Buhoma Community Camp was simple.  We signed in at the National Park gates (most unusually, you don't have to pay park entrance fees to stay in this camp) and found Stuart, Fiver and Merrill all set up with them fending off people who were trying to park in the space they were keeping for us.  I passed on the fantastic news of the permits to Stuart, for TOMORROW no less and was rewarded with a great big hug!!!

Now all we had to do was try to get some sleep.  Yeah right!