Queen Elizabeth park



// Nikon D7200 | -1,03556 : 29,77637 | alt. 2359m
Time for the best moment, a border crossing to Uganda ! I went to immigration, but they told me I would have to do everything on the Ugandan side. Now I’ve got a money changer following me everywhere. His rate is a ripoff, so I told him no way, but he kept following me. Well technically at this point, he was guiding me between all those buildings with no name on it.
So here I am in Uganda, doing immigration, getting my Ugandan visa, then across the street to the revenue authority to stamp mr Fox. Ups, this part has to be done in Rwanda ! Walking back to Rwanda….. I gave my carnet to the officer, stamp out, back to Uganda, stamp in, but I have to pay 73500 shillings for road tax (about 20usd). I knew it so I kept a few rwandan francs, and I had to ask my money changer to give me cash for it. 125000 shillings instead of 152000. I’m not gonna complain for a few dollars, I need cash anyway to cross the border.
Time to get out, I fire the engine, and then someone came to remind me about the gate pass. Jeeeeez let me go !!!!
Go to the police station, show all the documents, get this little piece of paper with a code on it, drive to the gate, give them the gate pass, no inspection at all, no question, and I was free to drive in Uganda.

This has already been a very long drive, I’m exhausted and cannot handle the wheel anymore. I went to the back and closed all the curtains to have a power nap. I managed to sleep for a solid 15min before people tried to get inside my car (all doors locked), but they insisted a lot on all the doors…. still asleep, I grabbed the tire wrench, then jumped outside the van via the sliding door to defend myself. 3 people were around and quickly ran away. They didn’t expect that !
Well now my blood is pumping at 200bpm in my body, I can stay awake for some time !

Driving this first part of Uganda was actually wonderful, with beautiful landscapes everywhere, and blue sky dotted with thunderstorms. For the first time in Africa, I found many lookout parkings to stop and take pictures of the views, surprising !!
Obviously, every time you stop, kids are running down the mountain like zombies chasing the last human standing on earth….. it’s a bit scary sometimes 😀

Quick stop in Kabale to get cash and fuel, then I went up to the Bwindi impenetrable forest, home to the famous gorillas. I’m not paying a single penny here (it cost around 1000usd to spend one hour with the gorillas), but it’s free to drive across national parks here, so I can try my luck ! Nothing to see, and I made it in the dark at my campsite. Expensive with no service, tasteless food, staff never available, hard to believe this place is running in an area where tourists are paying thousand of dollars in a couple of days…..
The restaurant was full of tourists in large groups, I was too tired to socialize, and too tired to stay awake, and too tired. I gave up about cooking, and went for their dinner, too expensive obviously. This is where I met Maria from Italy, and we had a lovely discussion that night. Always nice to have some company in the evening, especially after a border crossing day.

On my way out of the mountain, I stopped to take a few pictures, and when I went back to the car, some kids were waiting by my window, asking for money. In fact, whenever you stop somewhere, people will run to you and ask for money, every single time. I didn’t give anything and went away, but this time, those kids kicked the back of the van with something and made a huge impact on the trunk. They missed the rear window by a few centimeters…. Nice kids. This is good training for Ethiopia were kids throw stones at you.

I made my way to Queen Elizabeth park, expensive place to visit like any park in Uganda ( $150usd to get mister Fox in and $40usd for myself….) but, like the impenetrable forest, you don’t have to pay for transit 🙂
First thing, this is probably the only road to get where I want, and then, it’s so worth it !
Nice dirt road cutting vast open plains, and those beautiful trees, classic silhouette of an african landscape. It’s green everywhere ! I spotted a few elephants on the way, first time I could see those giants since Zambia, and it’s always a wonderful experience.
But a storm came in, thunder getting closer and closer, and with this : heavy rains. The water quickly filled all the potholes, and obviously after a few kilometers down this muddy trail, I hit a big hole really hard….. Some new noise from the rear end, and the back of the van is now banging badly….. I stopped, checked around, and realized my left airbag on the suspension was completely empty, the van is now sitting on his wheel….. The storm went away as quickly as it came. I now have this wonderful blue sky, with high mountains in the background and some stormy clouds building up in the distance, what a fantastic sight !

I managed to drive out of the park, and went on the shore of the Congo river to have a better look at this suspension. This took me a lot of time, making sure I would not drive again in one of those deadly potholes…. On the shore, I found a flat spot, with hippos and cape buffaloes bathing nearby, could not get better 🙂 I removed the wheel, had a closer look at the suspension, and a motorbike with park rangers came in. They asked for my permit, and I’m like “what permit ?!” That’s where they told me I was still in the park, and on top of that, I was off roading, which is a $250 fine….. There is no sign, or no limit to see where is the park, and the silly thing is, there is a town 200m away from me, so I’m clearly juuuuust on the edge. So give me a break, I’ve got some damage to assess, I’m not paying any thing, and I made it clear. They gave me 5min to put back the wheel and get out…
I went to that village to find a welder, but people would not listen and only wanted to offer me a tour on a salt lake with flamingos….
Let’s call it a day.

Next morning, I drove to Kasese, the biggest town in this area, and I found a big mitsubishi workshop, sounds like a good place ? Mitsubishi is always a bad place. They didn’t have a single tool, not even a jack ! And we need 2 of them to repair my airbag, one to lift the axle, and another one to lift the chassis from the suspension… so they used what they could. Jacked the van, removed the wheel, and put a giant rock below the axle….. My airbag out, we could clearly see a crack on top. Back in Zambia, I realized this airbag was not mounted properly, and was clearly misaligned causing a lot of stress on top. I realigned it, but the poor piece of metal was already too weak, and finally snapped on impact. Alright, that’s just a quick welding job. Once complete, the airbag was still leaking….. they didn’t even check if they did a correct job, but when I put soap water on top, we could see a few streams of bubbles. Some more welding, working hard under the backing sun, and my airbag was back in working condition 🙂
Now I had to make my way to Kampala, a very long stretch with tons of speed bumps, potholes and slow trucks…….a nightmare to drive in those conditions.

It’s been a really rough start in Uganda, even challenging.

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