Saturday, October 22, 2011

October 21, 2011 2:30 PM--Mom Visited

I know I haven’t written on my blog in over two weeks, but I’ve been too busy to write. Too busy having fun! My mom finally got to my house early in the morning on Saturday October 8 after having a lot of trouble with her connecting flights. It took her almost an additional day and an extra stop in Nairobi, but she eventually made it without any major disturbances.

So, on October 8, after she slept for a few hours, we left my house and went to Lake Mburo National Park. I thought it would take us about an hour and half to get there, but my calculations were a little off and it took us about three hours to get there, but it was worth it. Even though we were only there for one night, it was totally worth it! We stayed at the Mihingo Lodge, which is actually just outside the park (although you can’t get there without going through the park). It was nothing short of amazing. Up until that point I don’t think I’ve eaten so well in this country. I didn’t even know there was food available in this country that can be so good. Our room was huge. It was trying to portray a rustic feel in the lap of luxury. Many people have told me that Mihingo Lodge is debatably the nicest hotel in any Ugandan National Park and it might be. So, we spent Saturday hanging out and laying by the pool relaxing. Then Sunday morning we got up early and went on a horseback safari. We spent two hours on the safari and we saw many different kinds of animals. Most notably, we saw a lot of Zebras, but we also saw some waterbucks, eland, impala, monkeys, and warthogs. In the afternoon we took a boat ride on the lake and we saw some hippos and crocodiles as well. By Sunday late afternoon we were on our way back to my house in Kinoni, which is where we were going to spend most of the week.

The Mihingo Lodge Pool (it overlooks a watering hole)

Our Room (or tent as they called it)

Our Bathroom

The was our "Tent" (no, we were the only ones in this huge room)

Horseback Safari

There were lots of Zebra

The sunset from our room


And more hippos

On Monday, we went into Mbarara for the afternoon. I gave my mom a nice little tour of the town and we saw many of my favorite places, including the Peace Corps resource room, City Restaurant (for Indian food), the market, the Orange store (for airtime for my phone), and a couple of my favorite supermarkets. Other than that there is not much to do in town because it wasn’t nice enough out to go to the pool.

On Tuesday, I took her to school for lunch and to meet some of my favorite people here. Unfortunately, even though I only gave the headmaster short notice of her visit that day, they still insisted on improving the lunch. Instead of Matooke, we had rice (which is somewhat of a luxury) and they also gave everyone bottled water. This never happens except on special occasions. While we were there the headmaster invited us to come back later that day to have evening tea with him and a few of the other teachers and to take a tour of the school. This ended up being a lot nicer than lunch. We had tea with the headmaster, the deputy headmistress, the director of studies, the head of the business department and the head of the student council. After tea we took a tour of the school. This was the first time even for me to see the inside of the dormitories. We also went down and saw the girls having their dinner. Not only did they love seeing another white person, but they also loved that she brought her camera. Most of them either really wanted their picture taken or some were very shy and didn’t want it at all. The tour ended up being very amusing.

One of the classroom blocks

Some of the dormatories

On Thursday morning, after I had finished my first two classes, we left for Queen Elizabeth National Park. Even though it is only a few hours from me, I had never been there before. I had arranged for a private car with a driver to take us. He even had a safari vehicle where the top opened so we could see the animals better. We stayed at the Simba Safari Lodge, just north of the park, for two nights.

On Friday, very early in the morning we went on a game drive in Kasenyi (a game area in the northern part of the park). At first we were a little disappointed. Other that seeing some kob, buffalo, crested cranes and other birds, we hadn’t seen anything all that exciting. Until…we got a glimpse of the big cats. We saw a bunch of cars stopped looking at something, so we stopped as well. They said they saw some lions in the distance. Even with my binoculars, we couldn’t see very much. So after a few minutes the two of us got back in the car and waited for the driver. When he came back he told us we were going to go out and see those lions. So we drove out to where they were and we were within about 20 feet of four lions, 3 male and 1 female. It totally made the drive worth it!

A Crested Crane (the national bird of Uganda)

In the afternoon on Friday we went out to Mweya, where there is a boat ride in the Kazinga Channel, which connects Lake Edward and Lake George. Our driver dropped us off at the Mweya Lodge to have lunch. When we got there we realized that this is where we should have stayed at. It was beautiful! I started to have my doubts that Mihingo was the nicest lodge in any Ugandan park. After we had an amazing lunch there, our driver picked us up and took us to the boat ride. This boat ride was much better than the one at Lake Mburo. We saw lots of hippos and crocodiles close up. Some of the hippos even rocked the boat. We also saw buffalo and elephants as well as many birds!

Where we should've stayed

On Saturday morning, we checked out of our hotel and started out for Ishasha. Ishasha is in the southern part of the park and it is where you can often times see the tree climbing lions. On our way to Ishasha, we saw more elephants, but when we got there we didn’t get to see any tree climbing lions. I guess I’ll have to try again some other time. After Ishasha we left the park and we took the back roads down to Kabale. This took quite a long time because the roads are made of dirt and they wind around the hills (luckily it wasn’t raining). I thought it was really awesome because this is the kind of route that you will never get on public transportation. It was really something to see. When we got to Kabale we had lunch and then we went out to Lake Bunyoni.

At Lake Bunyoni, I had made a reservation to stay at the Bunyoni Overland Resort. Even though it was an okay place to stay, we weren’t very happy with it. Right from the beginning we had our doubts about it. The guy who checked us in was not very friendly and after a while he seems straight up grumpy. He was also the person we had to deal with for everything. The room only had one towel and he was the one we had to bug for another. I didn’t even want to mention to him that we had only a trickle of hot water for the shower. This was the most disappointing part to me, because not only did the guide book brag about the hot water at this place, but I always look forward to a hot shower. The food at the hotel restaurant was okay, but not the greatest. But besides all these faults, the lake was beautiful and the grounds of the hotel were very nice.

The first place we stayed (The Bunyoni Overland Resort)

On Sunday morning, we took a boat ride on the lake. We could have rented a dugout canoe, but my mom wasn’t that adventurous. So instead we got a small motor boat with a driver to take us to three of the islands. It was a nice ride on the lake and it was nice to hear about all its history, but there was nothing all that interesting to see on the islands.

After getting back to the hotel, we ordered lunch and went for a little walk down to, what looked like, a nicer hotel that we had passed on our ride in the day before. It was called the Birdsnest and it wasn’t even in my guide book. After stepping in the lobby, I think we were completely done with the first hotel. This hotel was gorgeous! Later we found out that it was only built a year ago and that is why it wasn’t in the guide book and in fact, it was still under construction partly. After speaking with the owner, Pablo, and meeting his dog, Pacino, we decided to move from the Bunyoni Overland Resort to the Birdsnest Hotel. We went back up, paid our bill, ate our lunch, packed our things and moved.

The second place we stayed (The Birdsnest Hotel)

The Birdsnest had amazing food, a hot shower, and the second night we were there, I think we were the only guests there. It was nothing short of perfect. So we spent the next two days just relaxing around the hotel and looking at the pretty lake.
On Tuesday, we came back to my house for my mom’s last couple days here in Uganda. And on Thursday she left for Entebbe so she could fly out Friday morning. So far, as far as I know, she has only had minimal problems with her flight. Needless to say, I don’t think she ever wants to fly through Heathrow again.
So now I’m back to the same old same old and planning for my next big trip when my parents come in the spring!

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