Ugandan Road Trip Day Eleven and Twelve – Murchison Falls to Lake Albert Safari Lodge – Thunderbolt and Lightning, Very, Very Frightening!!

Time to move on again so it was bags packed, car packed and back on the road to Lake Albert Safari Lodge.  Headed through Murchison Fall National Park for about 25 kilometres and then on dirt roads for miles. The scenery was beautiful, hilly and with great views of Lake Albert and the East African Rift Valley.  We had managed to lose the directions to all of our destinations as Karl had binned them in Kampala – still it made for an interesting navigation puzzle for most of the rest of our entire journey.  But we carried on knowing we were heading in the right direction – roughly.

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You may have to navigate the odd flock of sheep in England, but not these – Ankole Longhorn – not an animal to be trifled with.
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Camp Sahu

We eventually came to a fantastic road – it was beautifully smooth with absolutely no potholes and was clearly very new. We assumed (wrongly, it later transpired) that it was built by the Chinese. Anyway, it was a joy to drive on and carried on for several miles until we saw a sign for Lake Albert Safari Lodge – back onto the dirt roads and then, next to a very small grass airstrip, we hit tarmac again.  On we continued suddenly a sign to the left showed ‘Lake Albert Safari Lodge.’  We followed it for about 3 kilmetres and there we were.  The Lodge  was to be home for two nights: Paul was living the high life in a banda and Karl, Gil and I were slumming it, camping.  The Lodge is situated on top of the East African Rift Escarpment and the small garden – at the back of the Lodge looks out over Lake Albert. On the far side of the lake (35km away) you could clearly see the DRC.  As an aside, we had spent nights so far where we had had baboons wandering around, rhinos wandering around and  warthogs wandering around but this was the first place we had stayed where we had horses wandering around !!

IMG_0668 IMG_0711It would have been rude not to have had a drink on arrival so that’s what we did looking over the lake from on high – literally as there is about a 200ft drop to the lake.  After our drink we were shown to the camping area – a couple of minutes away from all the bandas.  We had the area to ourselves so put up our tent – Karl erecting his with his newly purchased six inch nails acting as tent pegs and went back to the main lodge where we lounged about, drank, looked at the view and generally relaxed, which included doing a jigsaw and playing cards.  In the evening we had dinner – 3 courses – and chatted briefly to the owner, Bruce. He mentioned that one of the waterbuck had been spotted with a snare around his neck and that the vet was coming the following day to tranquilise it and remove the snare. He said, if we wanted, we could join them for the hunt.

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Sunset over Lake Albert and the DRC.
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Electrical storm over the DRC.

 It was then time for bed, but not before witnessing an amazing electrical storm over the DRC 35 km away.  Of course Paul went off to his banda.

In the morning we were up reasonably early, having slept well in the little tent, and headed to breakfast.  After breakfast Gil and I were booked on a fossil hunting trip !!  We picked up our guide and headed through the reserve to a place overlooking a bay on the lake. I have to say it didn’t look very promising at all.

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View from fossil collecting site.

few up.  We then moved about 20 metres further down the hill side and this is where we struck lucky.  Instead of shells we were picking up bits of dinosaur bone and vertebrae – no hammer required.

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Gil ‘Mary Anning’ Sahu

After an hour or so we decided that was enough as it was getting very hot, so we headed back to the lodge in time for lunch. After lunch the vet arrived along with 8 armed rangers on the back of a pick up.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, the rangers seemed not to have enough room on the back of the pick up so we ended up with an armed ranger in the back of our car with Gil and another park worker in the front.  All very exciting!!

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So we headed off into the scrub looking for the injured waterbuck.  As we were following the rangers we didn’t have to stick to the paths – it was off-road all the way.  Great fun but after an hour or so we had failed to find it.  Back to the lodge for a rest and Gil had a quick dip in the pool.  Just before dinner, Karl and I went for a walk to a point where there was a great view over the lake and also some of the mainland – in the distance were some very ominous clouds, beautiful, but ominous as we would find out later.

Dinner was great, beef fillet which was cooked perfectly!  Eventually crept off to bed after playing cards and settled in for the night – NOT!  At 11:40 I was awoken by large flashes and there was obviously an electrical storm approaching. By 00:15 the first few drops started to fall, and they were heavy drops.

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It was soon evident that a massive storm was approaching and in my head I was planning what to do if the tent wouldn’t withstand the rain. By 00:30 I felt the first drop of rain seep through the tent – so I woke Gil and gathered sleeping bags and told him that we had to try and get in the car as quickly as possible. Luckily, the car was only 5 feet from the tent.  In the time it took to get Gil and I into the car my shirt was drenched.  Gil curled up on the back seat and I reclined the driver seat and tried to go to sleep. I have never been so close to a storm.  It raged around us for an hour or so with fork lightning all around the car. Amazingly, Gil had gone straight to sleep.  I couldn’t really get to sleep due to the flashes of lightning which were blindingly white and the noise of the thunder and the rain smashing own on the roof of the car.  I thought that was it but after what seemed ages another storm came, again we were slap bang in the middle of it, another lull, and then another storm – each as ferocious as the last.  I eventually drifted off to sleep amidst the, what seemed to be, never ending storms.  One of the most scary nights I’ve had to encounter – Gil slept like a log !!  What storms??

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