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Heading Off on “Big 5” Safari

by Gail Mooney
June 3 2010

We’ve been in Uganda for more than a week now and time passes quickly.  Maybe because little things take longer than we think they will and maybe because we are so absorbed in our environment, we just lose track of the clock – a nice feeling indeed.

Today we’ll prepare to head off to the “bush” and one of Uganda’s parks –


Murchison Falls


Murchison Falls National Park. The “big 5” refers to the game that we hope to see – elephants, rhinos, buffalo, lions and maybe even leopards.  Even though traveling to Murchison isn’t directly related to our project, one can’t come to East Africa and not get out of the city.  So we’ll head off over the weekend to experience a bit of Africa away from the traffic, congestion and pollution of the big city.

Last night we spoke with some folks who had just returned from the park.  One thing I love about staying at our backpacker hostel, The Red Chilli Hideaway


Red Chilli Hideaway


is that the reception/lobby area is like a little U.N. with people from all nations congregating and chatting with each other and sharing experiences and stories of their global travels.  It reminds me of my days long ago when I trekked around the world as a 19 year old.  Of course in those days I was totally disconnected from the U.S., friends, family and any news because I had no Internet, cell phone or even quick access to a land-line telephone call, which left me pretty much isolated from any sense of home.  So, connecting with other travelers on the road was my lifeline to what was going on in other parts of the world.

As I chatted with travelers last night from Australia, Israel, South Africa, Germany, England and the U.S. I was flooded with a lot of déjà vu’s from my past. But I also got some great information about what we’ll be experiencing over the next couple of days.  Some tips I picked up in conversation:

–       Bring a flashlight (or a torch as the Brits say) so when you leave your tent to head to the bathroom in the middle of the night – you won’t run into a random hippo that frequently roam the camp.

–       Don’t have ANY food in your tent – unless you want to be surprised by a visiting





–       Be prepared to slog through the mud as you hike into the Rhino refuge.

–       Be patient – vehicles break down along the way especially this time of year because it’s the end of the fiscal year and most have deferred any auto mechanical repairs until July – the start of the new fiscal year.

And there is one more important tip that I’ve learned since being in Uganda – which I wish I knew before I left the U.S.  I knew that Uganda was pretty much a cash society so I was traveling with U.S. currency.  But what I didn’t know is that the Ugandans will not take any bills that are older than 2001!  So about 1/3 of my U.S. currency was not accepted.  I’ll have to save that for when I get to Istanbul – our next stop.  People are also quite picky about the condition of the bills – if they are crumpled, worn or have any tears in them – they will be quickly declined.

We’ll most likely be “off the grid” for the next few days – but we’ll certainly have some stories to tell upon our return.  And I hope one story I WON’T be telling will be a face-to-face encounter with a hippo.

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