Wednesday, January 16, 2008

African Adventure Part IV

Friday, 11 January 2008, Mweya Lodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda. Dinner last night was again, quite good. The appetizer was a tomato stuffed with green lintels. Soup was pumpkin and not terribly good, at least not to my taste. The main course was roast beef (very well done) with a mustardy sauce, very good green beans and carrots and roasted potatoes. Dessert was crepes with passion fruit sauce.

We got up fairly early this morning and drove to Queen Elizabeth National Park. We arrived around 12:30. The drive was long and dusty though the road was not as bad (at least the last part) as the ones we had been on earlier. We entered the park around 11 or so. We spotted lots of antelope and then after we turned off for our lodge a mother elephant and her baby. We got our room and then had lunch. We shared a Thai beef salad and a pizza. Both were good. The lodge is lovely. It overlooks a channel joining Lakes George and Edward. The lobby has a floor to ceiling window overlooking the channel. Our room is quite nice, with air conditioning and a balcony overlooking the channel.

After lunch, we went for a cruise run by the Uganda Wildlife Association on the channel. We saw water buffalo and hippos, lots of birds and three elephants. We cruised down to a fishing village and then back.

Back home again. On Saturday morning, I was not feeling well and so did not go for the game drive. TC went and said he only saw two lions and then only from a distance. We drove back to Kampala. We overnighted at the Serena Kampala. It is a lovely hotel. My room was huge with a large terrace. We had dinner at Hannadi, the Indian restaurant we had visited when we were last in Kampala. We walked from the hotel to the shopping mall and bought apples and then back up the hill and down to the restaurant. I was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I walked up the hill. It seemed only a small hill (it’s fairly comparable to some of the hills in San Francisco). After dinner we walked back to the hotel.

On Sunday morning, our driver arranged to pick us up at 6:45 for the drive to Jinja. We got up and then waited about 15 minutes until he arrived. Then we drove through the early morning mists to Jinja. Jinja is the town at the “source of the Nile”. We arrived at Adrift around 8:30 and then waited for another hour before the rest of the rafting group gathered. Adrift has a lovely bar overlooking the Nile, just after a dam. There is a small rapid below the bar. After a while, everyone arrived and we geared up fro the raft trip. After we got in our rafts, we went through a series of drills. I’ve never had drills before rafting. Our first drill was to jump out of the raft to make sure our vests worked and we knew how to get back in the boat. Then we jumped out again and floated through the first rapid. We traversed through a level 5 rapid and then a level 3. Of course, on the level 3, the raft went sideways and I fell out. The guide (who was the lead guide on the trip) also fell out. I knew I was going in and went well under the water. I opened my eyes and saw only green water. Then I floated up and the water got lighter and lighter. I opened my mouth and gulped air and more water. It seemed every time I opened my mouth I got water instead of air. Finally one of the guys in kayaks came over and I grabbed the handle on the front of the kayak. (Adrift had about 8 kayakers plus an oar boat safety.) I kept trying just to lay back and relax, but my head kept going under water. I didn’t realize it but we were still in the rapids.

I much more enjoyed the floating parts of the raft adventure. The birds were beautiful. Villagers were along the banks, washing their clothes and themselves. Before the last level 5 rapid, we stopped in an eddy. Monkeys cavorted in the trees and a monitor lizard was swimming along the bank of the river with its eye on a bird for lunch. I survived the last rapid. It was a monster waterfall. The volume of the water is enormous. The owner of Adrift was guiding one raft. As they began their descent, the entire raft flipped upside down. The guide managed to get on top the overturned raft. For the last rapid before lunch, I switched into another raft that was going to go around the rapid.

Lunch was on an island. I was surprised at how good the sandwich (ham with cheese, tomatoes and shredded carrots) tasted. We then met our driver and went on to Entebbe. TC stopped at the airport to pick up his lost bag. That took an hour. It was a game of needing one more thing and being told to go somewhere else. We then went to a small hotel near the airport, showered, repacked, rested, ate dinner and waited for our flight. We got to the airport early (KLM had suggested arriving three hours before flight time and we did). One nice surprise was that we received an invitation to the business class lounge because of our frequent flier status with the alliance KLM is a member of. That was pleasant. They had samosas, drinks (I stuck to water), and nice chairs to sit in. Then we had two eight hour flights. We arrived into Amsterdam on time. I wanted Mickey D’s but they were only serving breakfast food and so I just ate some left-over cheese and an apple. We bought water (and had the duty free shop seal it so we could take it through security) and headed for our flight. On this leg, we had exit row seats which are wonderful.

It took an hour to clear immigration and customs. I had hoped to catch an earlier flight home, but with only 40 minutes to clear security I decided it was a lost cause. TC and I had lunch and then I walked with him to his gate. Then I waited around the airport until my flight. I arrived home around 5 pm.

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