Thursday 2 November 2017

Intrepid Gorillas & Game Parks - Day 6

It was a lively sort of night. Apart from the usual snoring and bladder-driven tent zip action, there was a prolonged session of sleep-shouting from a member of a different tour group, who swore and argued and thrashed about inside his tent for ages probably under the influence of his malaria drug. Plus there was the wildlife randomly howling, screeching and croaking all night. Oh yes, and those occasional large round avocados crashing down from a tree onto the tents below. As I say, lively.
Nevertheless, we were up early again to start our chimpanzee walk at 6.30am, heading straight off into the jungly forest with Debra as our guide, hoping to see some of the population of chimps who live here in Kalinzu Forest. We walked for a couple of hours, nothing too strenuous, and did eventually find some chimps, thanks to a network of trackers phoning in information. The chimpanzees were very high in a tree though, about 50m up (we tried to work out the height from the time it took a fig to fall to the ground but it was complicated. There were parsecs involved. I fell back on my standard technique of picturing the finish line of a 100m race). Anyway, they were beyond the range of my lens.
There were parents with a young chimp and we could see them moving and eating figs, but really they were just distant silhouettes against the sky, that we had to tip our heads right back to see, which soon got really uncomfortable and was also a bit disappointing, especially considering the USD70 fee. But of course they are wild animals, a law unto themselves, and were high in the trees because it was a cool morning. Naturally, by the time we’d got back to camp, the sun was out and it was hot and they would have been retreating down to ground level. The most exciting encounter of the morning, it turned out, was a pretty furry orange caterpillar I discovered busily crawling up my shirt. Apparently, if you touch its fur you get a day of burning pain. Close call.
Then we headed off towards Queen Elizabeth National Park – a huge flat expanse edged by big hills and surrounding Lake Edward. It’s known for its elephants, and we saw plenty as we arrived, feeding on the luxuriant vegetation. That turned out to be our downfall, as it concealed most of the wildlife we might otherwise have seen. But there were hippos in the lake.
We settled in for the night at a lodge/campsite where most of the tour group opted for upgrades from our tents to rooms – thatched wooden huts with mosquito net-draped beds and ensuites. They looked really nice but it turned out they, like us using the communal toilet block, had no hot water, muddy cold water, no wifi, and we all lost mains power about an hour after sunset. Africa! (But at least all the staff wear bow ties.)
I also discovered that even with two mattresses, you can tell the difference in the relative hardness of the ground. Yesterday’s grass was much softer. But never mind, these early starts ensure that it’s easy to fall asleep – and even when you wake in the night, there are grunting hippos to listen to. Hopefully down in the lake, and not wandering through the grounds, which they are known to do…

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