Making Memories

After getting our passports stamped we arrived in Uganda, it was time to explore country number 5.

Our first stop was 280km from the border. We found a campsite using the iOverland app just outside the capital Kampala. The Nkima Forest camp has an absolutely amazing view of the Lake Victoria marshlands, a perfect place to spend a few days getting some jobs done.

The Defender has been taking a bit of a battering. The rough roads have been playing havoc with the panel alignment. One of our rear side panels shifted forwards about 8mm, so before it started to make contact with the front door, I took the opportunity to strip out the trim, undo the bolts and get everything back in place.

After an extra day to relax, it was time to move to Uganda Lodge. This was a suggestion from a forum member. The members of the forum are always there to help, whether it’s a question about a fuel pump, tracking down a part number or even places to visit in Africa.

We were put in touch with Denis who is in charge of the Uganda Lodge school. The school is funded by a charity and they allow volunteers to visit and help teach the children day-to-day skills. As the service for the Defender was due, we thought it could be the perfect opportunity to get involved. Sadly though the children were away on their Christmas holidays. Non the less, the Defender needed servicing, so it was down to me to get mud on my back and oil up my arms…

After our stay at Uganda Lodge it was time to visit the Mgahinga Nation Park, where we would be gorilla tracking. We started early in the morning and after meeting our trackers we set off in search of the Gorillas. We were tracking the Nyakagezi group and after about an hour we were in luck. There were 8 in the family and we were allowed to spend a maximum of 1 hour with them. This is to limit human interaction and minimise the risk of transferring any disease or illness to the gorillas. It was absolute amazing experience. Something that will never be forgotten.

The day after we decided to hike 3 of the 5 peaks of Mt Sabyinyo. I have to say that after nearly 3 months of sitting in the car, our fitness levels have somewhat deteriorated. We did however make it to the 3669m summit where you can stand in 3 countries at once. But it was HARD work.

With no time for recovery, the following day we were straight back on the road and into Rwanda. We crossed the border and headed to the capital, Kigali.

We didn’t know what to expect of Rwanda, but it seems we stumbled across a real hidden gem of Africa.

In 1994 this country went through a terrible Genocide. In just 100 days 800,000 people were slaughtered. But today is a different picture, it’s astounding what a recovery has been made in the last 26 years. The people in this country have found it within their hearts to forgive one another and have managed to rebuild a very strong, caring community.

Kigali isn’t like any other city we have visited in Africa so far. It looks as if it was built only yesterday. The streets are clean, the houses are modern and everyone seems to take care of their surroundings. It would put many European cities to shame.

With just a quick visit to Rwanda we headed into Tanzania and having been in the country only 20 minutes, we were already experiencing the corrupt police force.

“Sir, can I see your driving licence? You have committed an offence.” this was to become a common phrase to us. Bribery is something that is a problem in most African countries and as an overlander you need to know how to deal with it, or your hard earnt savings will soon be in the pocket of a corrupt copper.

We have a procedure to follow when we are stopped and it goes something like this; First we apologise for the “crime” we have committed. Then we go for the distraction. We ask if they like football, which team do they support, (always “happens” to be our favourite team as well). We tell them we are tourists and are having a wonderful time. Maybe asking them to check the route on our map as well. Sometimes this is enough and we are sent on the way, other times they come back and ask, “so how are we going to do this?” We play dumb, they want us to offer a bribe but they won’t ask directly. We always ask for an official ticket. As this means our fine is recorded and won’t go into the pocket of the officer. We then make it difficult for the officer to extract our cash. “Sorry we only have card” or “we would like to pay directly at the bank.” They usually give up at this point and say, “ok this time I will let you go.”

It is a shame that this is something we encounter on a regular basis. But it’s essential not to give into the corruption and encourage this sort of behaviour. It is one of many hurdles you come across as an overlander but it’s all part of the adventure.

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