After a tour-filled though relatively restful time in Cape Town, it was back to third-world Africa in Uganda. No more brushing my teeth with tap water. Anti-malarial pills. And more bush living.
Frankly, I was very tired of traveling, especially strenuous traveling. Cue in a 9-day G Adventures trip with “participatory camping.” Fuck! I wish I had read the packing list before I left Houston a month before. First thing on the list: sleeping bag. I neither had a sleeping bag nor wanted to sleep in a tent.
Six months ago, when I had decided to join the Bio Bio Expeditions trip in Zimbabwe with my rafting buddies from 2018, I decided to tack on Cape Town, Mozambique, and Uganda since I was “in the neighborhood.” I didn’t anticipate feeling so exhausted from an emotionally draining Burning Man, crazy white water rafting and food poisoning in Zimbabwe, intense dives in Tofo Beach (Mozambique), and a jam-packed 12 days in Cape Town filled with white sharks, apartheid, and hiking. This is sometimes the drawback of planning so far in advance, though I like to plan ahead in less familiar places like Africa so I don’t have to worry too much about logistics.
Anyways, this isn’t a woe-is-me post. I was in Uganda for the first time in 2008 on a house-building mission with an old co-worker from Australia. I chose to visit Uganda again to track the mountain gorillas of Dian Fossey and Gorillas in the Mist fame. To make it logistically easier, I had chosen to do a G Adventures tour with the gorillas. I willfully ignored the rest of the itinerary, assuming it would be budget but reasonably comfortable like the other two tours I had done in Peru (2007) and Costa Rica (2015). My bad.
When the big Lando rolled up at 5pm on the first day, already laden with 18 other people, I didn’t know what to expect. I had just spent two days resting in the luxurious (for Africa) Protea Hotel in Entebbe with a suite overlooking Lake Victoria.
Thankfully, I was able to upgrade every night on the tour to safari tents (permanent tent bungalows with twin beds) and shitty hotel rooms. It was great to not have to pitch my tent, have a warm bed to sleep in, and have solo space. At least, the food made by our CEO (Chief Experience Officer), Caroline, was so healthy, sanitary, and delicious! I never got sick except for the to-be-expected uneasy traveling stomach.
I had underestimated how much solitary Lone Wolf I’d gotten this year and how low on social fuel I was after Burning Man. Usually in October, a month after the burn, is when I feel the real come-down decompression. I’m usually able to ride the highs in September.
On the flip side, I didn’t really know I would be joining people who had been traveling together for 5 to 50 days. It was like high school, trying to break into the social fabric. Nothing against the other campers, they were probably fatigued as well for getting to know tons of new people. By the end of the 9 days, one shared boozy night, and one intense Nile rafting day flipping our boats together, I finally started to feel like I was fitting in. Then, it was already time to go.
In the end, the trip was very satisfying though very exhausting…eight hour days of driving, waking up before 4am for early starts, extreme heat and cold, rain and mud, hiking through the bush, and mosquitos. It was all worth it to to see the majestic and endangered mountain gorillas (around 800 left in the world), track chimpanzees, visit Rwanda and learn about their devastating genocide and how they healed, and raft the Jinja River on the Nile (sadly, there were fewer than half of the rapids I had rafted in 2008 due to dams).
The Nile was the first river I had ever rafted so it was a homecoming of sorts. We flipped so more times than we didn’t–3 out of the 5 rapids! I wasn’t sure whether we were incredibly bad paddlers or our river guide was that horrible. Turns out he intentionally took us down the hardest lines, knowing we’d flip. As he said, “this raft is not a democracy.” It was an exhilarating day and a lot of fun!
I managed to survive the rapids only to hit my head hard on the crazily steep slide back at the river lodge. Damn! It made me really think about my wild lifestyle and to carry around a helmet for water slides!
After 1.5 months in Africa, it was time to head back to the States for 1 (one!) day in Houston before flying to Baja California Sur for a 9-day dive trip with my jet lag, head contusion, and all! I needed a vacation from my vacation life!