DAY ELEVEN Linda and I got up early and went into the Y.M.C.A. (we camped the night behind the building) for a cold shower in the stinking urinal that doubled as the shower. We had breakfast then drove into town and spent all morning hanging around the market.
Because Scotty’s contact had wanted US$10 each to forge a stamp on our currency declarations, we all had to go to a bank and change money officially. Linda changed US$5and got 193SHILLINGS/$, and I changed £5 and got 312/£. Quite a difference to the black market rate!
With our official business done, we hung around the truck. Skip and Bron arrived with 2 live chickens, which they had bought in the market, and then they paid a couple of Bernies 200 shillings to kill and pluck them.
We finally left Kampala at 2:30 and drove out to Entebbe Airport, scene of the daring Israli hostage rescue in 1976, to try and track down the three people we were supposed to meet in Kampala. No sign of them so they are going to have to find us! We drove out of Entebbe past a platoon of heavily armed soldiers, and headed up into the hills.
A wonderful pageant of life rolled past us as we travelled through the lush, fertile and intensively farmed hills. As usual there were crowds of smiling, waving adults and half naked grubby children screeching at us and we waved back to their great delight.
A roadside scene in Uganda.
Our campsite for the night was at the top of a hill overlooking a lake with a glorious sunset and the cool evening air full of the smell of the rich land and the music of cicadas.
DAY TEN We departed the quarry at 8:30 and drove. The country we passed through was lush, green and abundant. The people waved and shouted as we passed and several times we were stopped by soldiers with nothing better to do than hassle people.
I had a nasty fright at one point when we were passing a village and I was looking through the camera. A soldier saw me and started yelling for us to stop, the photographing of anything military being a big no-no. Luckily, the guards further on didn’t hear him shouting and we passed by. It would have been dicey though!
We passed through Jinja, which is the point where the White Nile leaves lake Victoria and begins its long journey north. All it is, however, is a power station and a group of soldiers on guard there prevented us from taking photos so it wasn’t very thrilling at all.
We got to Kampala at about 2:30, set up camp then went in search of a black marketeer to change some money. Mike, Scotty and I went, and after a lot of dealing, arguing, being taken up and down the street and in and out of several dress (!) shops, we finally changed £40 at 650 shillings per pound, and US$150 at 55/$. That gave us a stack of money 8 inches high or about 110,000 shillings we went back to camp and changed then went out for tea.
DAY NINE We had a pretty leisurely departure from the camp and headed for the border. As we got closer to Uganda, the roads worsened, with huge potholes and several places where we had to drive off the road to avoid great rifts in the road.
We stopped for lunch on the side of the road and a horde of children appeared from nowhere to watch us. Skip got out the frisbee and we kept them enthralled with that while we were there.
After lunch we continued on along the rutted road and at one point, along a stretch of really big holes and cracks, there was a road toll booth!! These Africans!!
Shoe shiners, Kenya.
We arrived at the Kenyan side of the border at 2:30 and spent an hour there then drove out of Kenya and along the ½-mile of no-man’s land. Money-changers approached us with huge wads of Ugandan notes and Mike changes a bit for fun.
The Ugandan side was patrolled by heavily-armed guards, Kalashnikovs slung over their shoulders, but the officials were friendly and most of us didn’t have any trouble. Unfortunately, the two Israelis, Uri and Yaid, were refused entry. The officials said that Uganda had no diplomatic relations with Israel and they would have to go back to Kenya. So, we left them standing in the dusty, wind-swept yard of the customs compound and drove away. They seemed not too surprised at what had happened and I guess that being Israelis, they would be used to getting the shitty end of the stick.
Anyway, we drove into the countryside, crowds of people waving at us, the country green and fertile. We stopped for a beer at a wayside bar, then found a campsite in a quarry.
DAY EIGHT We were up before dawn & had camp down, brekkie down and truck packed up by 7:45. We left the camp and drove about ½ a mile before the truck broke down! It was judged to be a burnt out generator as Mike and Scotty had put a new part into it yesterday and obviously hadn’t put it back together right!
Hanging around in an African town.
Anyway, we drove into town and hunted round for the cheapest diesel which it turned out couldn’t be got until 2:00 that afternoon. So it was decided to spend another night back at the lakeside camp. We bought some food in the market then Fran, Linda, Bron, Ian, Craig & Me retired to a coffee shop to write letters. In fact, I am writing this in the said coffee shop which is why some of the narrative is in past tense and some in the present. Ian and Craig have gone off to rip a street vendor off and we four are finishing out letters & eating disgusting hot chips. I will write up the rest of the day’s events tonight…
Eventually, the truck came back and we returned to the camp.
DAY SEVEN We were rudely awakened at 7:00 by a Pommie cunt shouting and blowing a whistle. Apparently we had kept him awake last night and he was getting revenge. So we gave him serious shit before he & his mate left!
Most people were pretty crook from a combination of sangria, hash-cake and dope so we all just lay around for the morning. I did some washing and Mike 7 Scotty did some repairs on the truck.
The after-effects of a big night on the sangria.
We spent the afternoon relaxing in the bar of the lodge, which looks out over the lake, and Fran, Linda, Brian and I did a deal with some local women for 7 freshly-caught fish which we paid the princely sum of KSH 100 for (£3-00). We cooked them up for tea wrapped in foil and they were really good.
At about 4:30, another Kumuka truck rolled in. It was a 4-week trip round Lake Victoria but it’s occupants weren’t very friendly so we didn’t have much to do with them.
We had a brief thunderstorm just on dark that didn’t come to a hell of a lot and most of us were in bed by 9:00.
DAY SIX We had a fairly leisurely get-up and were away from the camp at 8;30. We drove up into the town of Nakuru and spent 2 ½ hours there buying supplies. We took turns guarding the truck and we all went for a walk thru the crowded and chaotic market.
The drive up to Lake Victoria took us up into the highlands , through fertile, rolling farmland, the road we were following pot-holed and rough. We stopped for lunch at 9,104 feet and on the Equator. We had to make a hasty retreat into the truck as a squall hit us and we completed the rest of the trip with the sides down, sweltering like hot-house tomatoes.
We arrived at our campsite near Kisumu on the shores of Lake Victoria at about 4:30 and pitched our tents under our dark and stormy sky. There was a big lightning display as darkness fell but, luckily, the rain went round us.
Our camp beside Lake Victoria.
After a tea of bangers and mash we settled down to drink 2 saucepans of Sangria which is a lethal concoction of Cinzano, White Rum, Cane Spirit, Gin, red and white wine, and fruit. We were all pissed as rats when we went to bed at midnight.
DAY FIVE We got up at first light and had breakfast and broke camp. It took about 3/4 of an hour to drive to Lake Nakuru and get to our campsite. We set up our camp then drove out to see the flamingos.
Even from a distance, we could see the edge of the lake was fringed with a lovely pink colour and when we got to the edge of the lake we were greeted by the sight of millions of flamingos standing in the shallow, brackish water. It was a glorious sight and we took a lot of photos. We then moved up to the lookout above the lake called Baboon Bluffs and spent an hour or so there.
Flamingoes at Lake Nakuru.
Driving back down the hill, we took the road that led around the lake and stopped for lunch at a campsite beside some falls. It was a good place to stop as there was a make-shift shower there so everyone took the chance to have a wash.
Baboon Bluffs, Lake Nakuru.
We left there at about 2;25 and drove to the Lake Naivasha Lodge where we had drinks and a swim. As we were getting ready to leave it came on to rain so there was a mad dash to get the sides down¹.
We were about 10 minutes from the camp when we came across a family of leopards eating a freshly-killed waterbuck. Just to see a leopard is a rare thing but to see a family of 4 is exceptional. WE spent 1/2 and hour were photographing them although the light was getting pretty bad.
When we got back to camp we found that a group of idiots had pitched their tents right besides ours leaving no room. To park the truck. Scotty (who we had picked up at the Lodge) backed in right against the nearest tent. The camp cook from the other camp came over and there was a heated argument but it ended with the other lot shifting their camp.
¹The truck had canvas sides with PVC windows. The sides could be rolled up or down depending on the weather. For the first two months of the trip we drove with the sides up unless it was raining.
DAY FOUR Linda and I got up at 6:00 and I lit the fire as no-one on the cooking team seemed inclined to do so. We went down and had a wash in the creek then had brekkie & packed up the camp.
About 20 minutes after we left camp, we came across a lioness sitting on the side of the road. We spent 15 minutes watching her and after that amount of time she got sick of us and moved off. We drove for an hour or so, heading for the exit of Masai Mara, and on the way came across another lioness with her mate, basking in the sun. They are superb animals and weren’t the slightest interested in us.
We left the park and drove through the heart of the savannah land occupied by the Masai tribesmen. Semi-naked children waved & shouted at us and their elders stared stonily at us. There were Manyatta or villages dotted over the land – low, rounded houses made of cow-shit and straw surrounded by a fence of thorns to keep out the predators at night. Their stock are herded into the enclosure at night.
We bumped our way back out to Narok and had lunch there, then drove on up to Lake Nakuru. By the time we got there it was nearly dark and too late to go into the park, so we drove down a side road and camped in a paddock.
DAY THREE We got up at about 6:30 and had brekkie etc then headed off to Mara Serena which is 50 KM away. Being early morning the game was pretty active and as usual there were thousands of gnu [wildebeest] on the move. Above the plain, 7 balloons hung in the cool morning air, their occupants having paid £105 each to be up there having a champagne breakfast!
Wildebeest, Masai Mara.
We took several detours off the road to take closer looks at game, and one detour took us quite near to a group of elephants who didn’t take too kindly to our presence!
We got to the hippo pools in the Mara River about mid-morning. We spent ½ an hour there photographing the semi-submerged beasts. The area is one of the main crossing points for the herds of animals migrating into the Mara from the Serengeti and just downstream from the pools was an eddy where the corpses of the many animals who are drowned wash up. The place was swarming with vultures and marabou [storks] feasting on the carcasses.
Marabou storks, Mara River.
We got to Mara Serena at about 12:00 and had lunch. We took turns guarding the truck and went up to the lodge for Cokes. The lodge is perched on the top of a hill commanding an absolutely spectacular view out over the park rolling away in all directions. The lodge itself is a pretty posh affair full of monied tourists “safariing” in style.
We left there and drove back to camp taking a few detours on the way to watch the ever-present gnus. Had a bath in the river when we got back.
DAY TWO We got up at about 7:15 and got the fire going. A couple of Masai herd boys came along while we were having breakfast and we gave them tea, toast and bread in exchange for them letting us take their photos. We packed up the truck and were on the road by 8:50. I sat up in the cab with Mike and we yarned away while the stereo played “Diesel and Dust.”¹
We stopped for ½ an hour in a run-down town called Narok and were pestered by kids wanting pens and women selling jewellery.
Moving on, we left the tar seal at about 11:30 and drove into Masai Mara game reserve.
The Mara is on the Tanzanian border and backs onto the Serengeti. Our camp is right on the border.
We had lunch, pitched our tents in the heat of the day and had a wash in the creek.
About 4:00 we went on a game drive. There were thousands of wildebeest about along with the usual zebra and impala. There were a lot of Thompson’s gazelle and Topi around too. We came across a herd of elephants but they didn’t hang around and it was getting too dark for photos so we went back to camp.