September 23, 2010
Uganda – Day 5 – Ishasha
In the morning, we headed north to Queen Elizabeth National Park. We entered the park at Ishasha, which is known for having tree-dwelling lions. Unfortunately, we did not see any. Predators are a rare sight, and it didn’t help that there had been lots of burning in that area of the park. We put the top of the van up for the first time, and stood as Dominic drove off-road.
We saw lots of antelope: Kob, which are Uganda’s national animal, waterbucks, and topi. We saw a large herd of buffalo in the distance, and saw the signs of elephants (dozens of smashed and uprooted acacia trees), but did not see them. We found a troop of baboons in a tree, and a group of what Kristi called “varmint” monkeys, which are small and generally considered pests, and which Dominic didn’t even bother to slow down for. I was a little disappointed, because I hadn’t seen them before, but I figure it’s be like bringing someone to New York and them wanting to stop and take pictures of the pigeons.
Dominic would stop and study the antelope through the binoculars to see how they were moving. He said that you could tell when there was a predator around because they would all move away from a single point. But he didn’t see any indication of one.
We turned around when we got in sight of the border to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and headed toward Mweya, where we were staying. As we got closer, the landscape changed. Where Ishasha had been grasslands punctuated by numerous trees, the area around Mweya was much more bushy. The dominant plantlife was a kind of cactus that looks like a tree on the bottom and a cactus on top. Here we saw many warthogs, more waterbuck, and (briefly) a few wild boar.
We got to the hostel at Mweya, and immediately wanted to stay at the fancy lodge just down the street. We called, and the only double room they had left was a luxury one for $360/night. We decided that we didn’t really want to stay there that much, and settled for the $18/night hostel. The upside of the hostel is that it had a family of warthogs hanging out and keeping the lawn short. They are such funny creatures. In order to eat the grass, they’d bend their front legs and kneel on their elbows, even the baby. It was time to wash our clothes, so we got some plastic basins from the bathroom and went over to an outdoor water faucet. Handwashing clothing is hard work, but forty minutes and two beers later I was willing to call my stuff clean enough for government work. We hung them up and cleaned ourselves up for dinner, which we decided to have at the nice safari lodge.
It was excellent food, and the view from the balcony was fantastic. It looked out over the channel between Lake George and Lake Edward, and we could see a herd of dozens of elephants walking along the shore across the channel. We resolved to eat all our meals there.
When we got back, it was well after dark, and our clothes still hadn’t dried, so we brought them into our room. The nice thing about mosquito nets is that every bed is a clothes-drying rack.