As we did not have very far to travel at all this day, we decided that after exiting the QENP we would head across the tar public road and visit the Kasenyi Plains section again. Plus we only had to exit the park at about midday as this had been the time of our original entrance. We were hoping to break our duck with lions in the QENP, but no such luck although the general game viewing was a little improved earlier in the morning.
We then headed north towards Fort Portal on this public road. It was only 114km from our campsite to Kluges Guest Farm (and camping) in the Fort Portal area on a good tarred road. About 35km from the Kasenyi park entrance we crossed the equator for the second time, with the obligatory photos at the sign. This is about 30km before the town of Kasese where the Rwenzori hikes can be arranged. As one drives north, Lake George is to the east and the foothills of the Rwenzori mountain range to the west. Later one begins to appreciate the full extent of these “mountains of the moon” as they tower above you. According to Wayne, they are very impressive indeed when one gets closer to them as he did when doing his epic hike.
T4A led us straight to Kluges Guest Farm less than 20km from Fort Portal. For those without T4A, I will provide a detailed description of the route in the appropriate section. The turnoffs are well sign posted though. The countryside appears very green and fertile here and there are some roadside kiosks selling lovely fresh produce which we stopped to buy. Anne prefers to buy from these rather than going to the large markets and their associated pestering and haggling. Always double check the prices though as some vendors will take a chance.
Arriving at Kluges we could immediately see why it comes so highly recommended. This large estate has the most beautiful gardens and the verdant surroundings are immediately relaxing. We were well received and directed to the grassy campsite. The ablutions here are bright, airy, modern and clean. Probably the best since leaving home. Hot water is provided by the site attendants via a donkey boiler going for most of the day. We could not resist booking for the supper buffet once we saw the extensive fare on the menu. This was delicious and cost a reasonable US$10. Camping was US$15/ Ug.Sh 40,000 pppn. They provide firewood and there is a firepit. Campers have full access to the bar, pool and dining room (pre-book). There is apparently excellent birding on the farm and there are reasonable remnants of Rwenzori woodland where endemic birds can be found and also colobus and other monkeys. A local professional ornithologist was staying in the campsite and was busy updating the extensive bird list and ringing birds. I was delighted to have my first view of the iconic giant blue turaco in the area around the campsite. For those needing a little cosseting we did inquire about the bungalows, which appeared very nice, these cost Ug.Sh250,000 (R1,000) per double room per night, presumably with full board.
The campsite, which is not all that large, filled up quite rapidly. There are 3 pre-erected tents and about 4 other places with vehicles dependent camping being convenient as the vehicles can drive onto the lovely lawns. We plan to use our time here to once again do some chores and camp maintenance. There is apparently a reasonable small supermarket in Fort Portal, Andrew and Brother, which stocks reasonable meat which was running a little short. Slow Donkey has almost reached 100,000km and I must look in Fort Portal for a Toyota dealer (Stitch and Sew) for this important service. There is also fast wi-fi at the restaurant and I must take the opportunity of updating this blog. I anticipate about 3 nights here which will be no hardship I can promise you.
Anne and I are in fine fettle and we have had no problems other than the unfortunate cancellation of our Masai Mara rendezvous which is still disturbing to me. We are loving Uganda and the people not only generally speak English very well, but are very friendly and helpful. Yesterday evening one of the professional guides, camping whilst his clients relaxed in the bungalows, went through our planned itinerary with a fine toothcomb and approved of our choices of highlights and campsites. He proved especially helpful with the plans to visit Kidepo NP, which he recommended strongly. He was particularly helpful in choosing safe routes to and from this isolated and wild park in the far north of Uganda. Previously there had been problems with the security of travelers in this area from warring and armed tribesmen with their grazing disputes. He advised against any routes too close to South Sudan where the peace was still a little fragile. The wild and wooly Karamajong tribe had been successfully disarmed by the Ugandan government and the situation in the area had been stable for some time. Wayne is also keen to join us for this leg of the trip. Our planned trip here would have been one of quite a number of destinations we would have had to abandon if we had rushed through Uganda to honor our Mara commitment. I trust there is some understanding of our dilemma. I think that you can tell that this cancellation is still rankling with us.