North before East

We woke to a damp morning and because we’d slept with all the flaps closed it was also slightly damp on the tent. The vehicle was no better, our laundry had steamed it up but was a long way off dry. After packing up, saying our goodbyes and making it down through the banana plantations we were surprised to discover the road shrouded in mist.

Visibility was shite, particularly as we were heading directly into the sun, but it was beautiful, a monochrome scene as cars and motorbikes and cars appeared out of the mist.

It soon disappeared as we made our way north. The roads had been great but the judder bars and sleeping policeman had returned (it is the same in Tanzania but they don’t have them in Rwanda) the bumps were huge and sharp but as we’d entered the country unlike in Tanzania where they treat them all with caution and slow right down to go over them in Uganda they bare slowed and bounce right over them, we understand why they needed to be quite so big and brutal – to have the desired effect of actually slowing traffic.

The road stayed pretty quiet until we turned off it, no road markings, narrow because the edges had eroded and first for the first time, potholes. Helpfully that the earth is red made them easy to spot.

We had a long drive ahead so hoped this wasn’t what they’d all be like. Thankfully it was just that one road. When we were past it we stopped and made coffee next to the road.

The day had heated up lovely so we threw our shorts on the vehicle in the sun to finish off. By the time we’d finished coffee they were dry, and we were hot so thankful we could put them on. The rest of our laundry of mainly undies we left on the line strung across the back seats to finish drying.

We saw snow capped mountains in the distance on the way, which we later learned were just the foothills. At some point we crossed the equator and entered the northern hemisphere

We passed through Kigale National Park, the road runs straight through it. It’s like rainforest type jungle and it’s focus is chimpanzee trekking which didn’t appeal to us, however it was a lovely drive and we saw heaps of monkeys and baboons. What we hate though was to spot people speeding it had heaps of judder bars and sleeping policemen. The bumps and constant slowing down and bouncing over them got boring fast. We’d already done plenty given every town and village has them.

We then took a lovely shortcut through a tea plantation. We only got lost once. We’re not convinced they were roads at all, they were just rough tea plantation tracks and people were definitely surprised to see us, but it cut out a huge amount and tea makes lovely scenery.

It was a long hot drive. We were aiming to get far enough to put Murchison Falls National Park with easy reach the next day. Marie picked out a eco lodge that allows camping on the shore of Lake Albert. The lake has the Uganda/Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) border down the middle and is one of the only safe places to be near DRC’s border.

Google showed 3 ways to get there, all turned off the highway at varying points. We just wanted to get there and figuring they’d all be dirt roads, which are slow, we picked the highest which should have been shortest on the dirt.

We navigated our way through a web of dirt tracks, some that looked suspiciously not like a road for 4 wheeled vehicles at all. It was slow and rough in places and we laughed when we finally popped out and hit a perfect sealed road. We only went the briefest way on that before turning down the road to the lodge. It was a really rough steep track, even the motorbikes very slowly picked their way down.

The lodge turned out to be beautiful. Only 3 years old it is designed to look out over the lake and the Blue Mountains of the DRC on the other side – the open sided lounge and dining area, the bar and the pool. A path leads through the garden to a viewing platform over the lake. High end accomodation it’s cottages are super affordable, but we could experience it for a fraction of the price by camping behind the lodge building. The owner and the staff were so welcoming and the manager took us on a tour of the place before leaving us to settle in.

There wasn’t much of a sunset that night but it was still beautiful. We could see some small fishing boats heading out as the sunset. We could only see a small number but one of the amazing things about the place is at night the lake is lit by thousands of small lights from each fishing boat. It looks like a city, it is quite incredible.

We eat breakfast on the road and don’t usually have lunch (too hot) so where places we’ve stayed that do food we’ve most often not bothered with cooking. Their dinners turned out to be 3 course set menus (for a good price) and given it was Marie’s birthday this worked out perfectly. That Emma let slip and this resulted in Marie’s desert being brought by the entire staff in an all signing and dancing African celebration. One to remember.

The Dutch owner had her parents visiting for the first time since covid, an elderly couple there was also a slightly younger German couple staying. It was amazing listening to their conversation at the table across the way from us as they switched seamlessly between English and German. They had also had a few wines and their conversation was hilarious, they had us laughing until we cried.

A thunderstorm had been rumbling in the distance since dusk and the rain reach us during dinner. Thankfully it was just a light drizzle come bedtime. We were totally knackered but slept badly as we’d kept everything zipped up and when it stopped raining we got too hot fast. Still it was definitely a night to remember.

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