Saturday 4 November 2017

Intrepid Travel Gorillas & Game Parks - Day 8

There was a hyena howling in the night, and early this morning hippos chortling nearby in the dark, but the main nocturnal soundtrack was music from a party in perhaps the school hall along the road, which went on until 3am. Friday night is clearly a big event (also, by the way, they specialise in marathon music mixes here: they go on forever). But I’m into the camping groove now, and none of it mattered.

We left at 7am for the long drive to Lake Bunyoni, along roads less interesting today because it was raining and people were naturally mostly indoors – though there was a big bull elephant right on the verge, which was lovely to see. Can you ever get blasé about seeing an elephant? Hard to imagine.

On the bus there was card-playing, patch-working, and device-based entertainment, punctuated by occasional bush toilet stops. We also stopped to buy bananas and avocados from street sellers, who ran up to the window, baskets on heads, clamouring to be the one whose goods were chosen. Bare-footed small children stood in the mud, smiling at us, bicycle repairmen did their work under thatched shelters, new wooden bed frames, displayed out on the verge, got wet.
There was a snack/money stop in the ramshackle town of Kabale, where men with Singer sewing machines did repairs under the eaves of buildings, and motorbike taxis with umbrella roofs buzzed along the main street and the local rag had such intriguing headlines I was especially frustrated that all copies on the stand were stapled shut. Because the rain was so heavy, lots of things got cancelled. Ben our driver wouldn’t risk our big bus up the presumably dirt - rather, mud - road to the scheduled camp on the hill by Lake Bunyoni, where this afternoon we could have rowed canoes or gone bird-watching. Instead, we descended on a by-Intrepid-standards fancy hotel where everybody, in the face of steady, drenching rain, opted for the USD30 upgrade to a room with ensuite (hot water! A proper loo!). Reader, I was one of them. And then, of course, after our very late lunch, the rain cleared and the afternoon brightened.

But it was nevertheless, after a week of deprivation, a huge treat to have privacy, comfort, hot water (did I mention that already?) and a proper bed to starfish in instead of a mummy-shaped sleeping bag. And also wifi – though naturally we were instantly dissatisfied with the speed.

Gorilla fever is steadily building, with note-swapping of Google research, curiosity, excitement and an undercurrent of anxiety that there won't be proper sighting. Most are agreed that that would cause tears. But tomorrow is more about crossing the border to Rwanda and being sure that we aren't carrying any inadvertent plastic bags, since they have, most admirably, been banned there for the last 30 years. I'm keen to see that: Africa without plastic. Now that will be something special.

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