As told by Man On The Ground
Let’s wind back. We arrive from London – with a brief stopover in Nairobi – on Kenya Airways (think comfy bed-seats, a great array of movies and attentive flight attendants).
Our eyes are held open with matchsticks after an international flight. On touchdown, we drive five hours or perhaps it is 500, I am so tired, near Mbale in Eastern Uganda. Our first night is spent there at Mt Elgon Hotel & Spa. The hotel boasts a beautiful view of Mt Elgon. The food is impressive (particularly the tilapia, a local fish…but then what do you expect from Italian owners?) and the Wi-Fi is fast, not always a given in Africa. All in all, a wonderful start to the trip.
Next morning, eyes held open with even more matchsticks, we rise at 5:00am to go camping. The promise of seeing cave elephants is enough to get most people – or certainly me – out of bed early, even though it turns out that the elephants have wandered over to Kenya. A note of warning here. Whenever previously I’ve agreed to such ‘adventures’, I’ve been spoilt with large tepees with blazing fire pits, being snug in a warm blanket, laying my head on a fluffy goose-down pillow etc (you get the picture).
That’s the sort of camping I’ve been lucky enough to do in other parts of Africa. But this sort of ‘Glastonbury glamping’ has not quite made it to Uganda. So I will not sugar coat it. It is not for the faint hearted and remember to bring your own duck-feather-filled sleeping bag, Asprey’s tent and cashmere blanket.
Our quad biking tour near Jinja takes us around the community, through maize fields, past children pumping their water for the day into jerry cans, to a local church and to a Canadian-sponsored football pitch (with a tethered cow mid field). The children – like all kids in Uganda – are friendly, smiley and eager to say hello. A few of them (well more like six or seven but I say a ‘few’ because I don’t want to be fined retrospectively by the village policeman) jump on the back of my quad bike, desperately excited at the idea of hitching a ride. Of course, I agree to take them for a quick spin. At 2 km per hour. It must be a Guinness record: seven (at a conservative estimate) on a quad bike.
Afterwards my companion and I enjoy a floating boat tour, which is to white water rafting what the Iron Man is to sitting. In other words, ‘floating’ is the geriatric version of white water rafting. It is very calming, relaxing and a good way to wind down. With a very long drive ahead, we are very keen not to get drenched. But, of course, even on a Grade 1 Rapid the water comes gushing in. But it’s worth it for seeing the exotic birds and mango trees and having four outriders in Kayaks, our rescue team.