Can a Zebra change it’s spots?

Yes, I know Zebra’s have strips and Leopards have spots but Zebra’s can have spots. I’ll prove that a wee bit later, can’t give away all the things right away now can I.

Uganda to Kenya border crossing is supposed to be a fast and efficient process taking about 30 minutes. That is if you are not me, it took almost 2 hours. Not sure what the hold up was but there is no point in getting upset, I’ve learned to just go with it. It’ll take as long as it’ll take. And of to Eldoret. A nice little campsite on the river. I was the only guest, that should have been clue #1. The food seemed really good but the chef was far to skinny, clue #2. No hot water only very cold water in the showers, clue #3. Ok, I was giving them the benefit of the doubt. But the parting gift….that was the last straw. We’ll get to that a little later too.

From Eldoret off to Lake Elenmentatia with a beautiful view and far in the distance the Maasai Mara. The wildebeest crossing was fast underway and I will not see it this time. All the more reason to come back and do a migration trip. Keep that in mind travel buddies! I was to have a bird walking tour with a local Maasai but I was usurped by a larger tour group. Guess it’s just me then for a little jaunt about the place. Do not fret no hairies and scaries out here. Only scenic views.


The next day was to be the drive to Mt. Kenya. A not particularly long drive but a barren drive. Not much bush cover and Maasai everywhere with their cattle. Not the ideal situation for the Eldoret gift to present itself. It made for a drive fraught with danger…of a gastrointestinal sort. That’s all I’m saying about that.

Mt. Kenya, or at least the forest is wonderful. My hiking distance was limited thanks to the gift that kept on giving but plenty of birds that shouldn’t be there, according to the guide books anyway. And even a candid moment with a Colobus family. I had been sitting on the dirt road, as one does when shooting(with a camera) sunbirds, and had been quiet for sometime. I heard them making their way down the trees behind me. It was a lovely experience until the van blasted through. I will come back and hike Mt. Kenya one day. Add it to the growing list.

Cue the birds…

Mambo double collared sunbird. Should be in Congo but here we are.
Mambo double collared sunbird. Should be in Congo but here we are.
So cold he was all fluffed up.
So cold he was all fluffed up.
Tacazze sunbird. The colours are unbelievable.
Tacazze sunbird. The colours are unbelievable.
His good side.
His good side.
Cause it's just so pretty.
Cause it’s just so pretty.
This little bugger is a Turaco. I have been trying to capture one for you all and this is as good as it gets. For now. Green and all attitude.
This little bugger is a Turaco. I have been trying to capture one for you all and this is as good as it gets. For now. Green and all attitude.
Golden winged sunbird, also shouldn't be here but hey he hasn't read the book.
Golden winged sunbird, also shouldn’t be here but hey he hasn’t read the book.
Green headed sunbird - female as she is rather drab in colour.
Green headed sunbird – female as she is rather drab in colour.

After the bird splendor of Mt. Kenya I was finally heading back to the bush and camping. It has been sometime and I have missed it. But first a brief stop in Nairobi. Yup, Nairobi, the very city I said I would avoid and not drive in, I was heading for. Oh dear.

Turns out the key, like with most cities, is not to be driving during rush hour. Even without rush hour Nairobi was a beast. The GPS is calling on roundabouts that didn’t exist and the road splits before the GPS can tell me which way to go. I may have performed a few very illegal u-turns to get to the campsite. Jungle Junction. Nice place to park the car and relax for a day.

I met a very interesting women with her young daughter at the campsite. She is an artist from Holland and had, a few years back, come up with a great story. And decided to make the story believable she must live it out herself. What pray tell is said story? It’s a doozy. She wanted to drive a tractor, yes a tractor, a I can only go about 20 km/hr tractor from Holland to the South Pole to build a snowman. Yup, she’s for real, I can’t make this stuff up. She spent the next 5 years driving the tractor to as far south as Cape of Good Hope. Through Egypt and everything. She had an ice breaker ready to take her the final way but at the last-minute he was re-assigned to head north instead. Unperturbed she spent the next nearly 5 years finding sponsors until she completed her journey last year. She’s written a book about the first 5 years, but it’s in Dutch.

Just wow! A good night sleep and off in the morning for the bush that is Tsavo National Park. Well really Tsavo East and West, two parks divided by the Mombasa road. And then the bank phone alert went off.

Really, it’s surprising this hasn’t happened earlier but long story short someone in Kampala, as I have now discovered, had somehow obtained my ATM card number and racked up about 3 G’s in catering costs. I mean really…so card is cancelled and I’m without direct access to cash for the next almost 3 weeks until I can get the new card in Zanzibar. Or so I hope, will find out soon only a couple of days until I’m there. Anyway that kind of dampened the day and cost a fortune in cellphone conversations. Unfortunately, despite a long conversation the bank, in their infinite wisdom, 2 weeks later decided to approve the charges. Come on…they have since corrected their asinine ways. Off to Tsavo.

Mombasa road, a paved stretch of road that goes from Nairobi to Mombasa. I started later than usual to avoid rush hour and make it out of the city without too much bother. Mombasa road is not to be taken lightly. The trucks, and I mean trucks that wouldn’t be allowed on any road in North America, as they are about to fall apart and overloaded and well you get the picture, have I mentioned the lack of brakes. Anyway, the trucks go way to fast careening past you and towards you in your lane going the opposing direction trying to pass each other. You see one and think ok if I slow down he will make it and I’ll live. But then there are 3 or more behind him and now what?  Single lane highway, right the extra wide dirt shoulder, now I understand why it’s there. I’d like to say that was a rare occurrence but I’d be lying. Regardless I made it, granted a few more grey hairs and wrinkles but done.

Tsavo East and West are divided by this highway. But the topography despite being only separated by a highway is quite different. East was very savanna and open and west is where the lava flows and rocky outcrops are. But as soon as I enter East it’s spectacular. The contrast of the red earth with the hyacinth sky and fluffy white clouds and the animals and birds. I was back in the bush. Heart lighter, at ease, relaxed and at home once again. I have missed it. Enough of the cities for a while let’s play with the fuzzies and winged things.

One night on the East side and I crossed over to West for two nights before back to Tanzania and Marangu. I will preface this that I did not see any hairies or scaries but the rest was awesome. And the first sighting of the Gerenuk.

Gerenuk, yup it really has that absurdly disproportionate long neck.
Gerenuk, yup it really has that absurdly disproportionate long neck.
Because elephant butts.
Because elephant butts.
Morning on the East side.
Morning on the East side.
Superb starling, and the colours are superb.
Superb starling, and the colours are superb.
Von Der Deckens Hornbill
Von Der Deckens Hornbill
White Bellied Go-away bird. They say go-away, honest!
White Bellied Go-away bird. They say go-away, honest!
Blue-Napped mousebirds and they make a mouse noise when they chirp.
Blue-Napped mousebirds and they make a mouse noise when they chirp.
Golden-Bellied Starling. The colours are beyond.
Golden-Bellied Starling. The colours are beyond.

Off to the West and the Shetani Lava flow and other wondrous things. On the West side the elephants decided the water tank at the camp needed to be emptied into their bellies and thus ripped off the pipe connecting the collecting tank to the plumbing and proceeded to suck out all the water one night. It was confusing listening in the dark and trying to figure out what they were doing. Morning revealed all. They are so clever.

Yellow necked Spurfowl
White-Headed Buffalo Weaver. I personally think the orange butt is more of a give-away.
White-Fronted Bee-Eater
Vulture-Guineafowl. So spectacular.
Tawny Eagle a dark morph showing off in the morning sunlight
Rosy-Patched Bush Shrike
Northern White Bellied Bustard.
Nesting Lappet-faced vultures less than impressed with my driving skills.
Martial Eagle all regal in the morning light.
Martial Eagle in this gloomy but rather impressive image.
Again a Martial Eagle, confused at what I was up to. I love when birds cock their heads to the side like that.
The tail end of, you guessed it, a Martial Eagle.
The Shetani Lava Flow. Over 300 years old I believe.
Eastern Chanting Goshawk
The view from Roaring Rocks. Have no idea why they are called roaring rocks but the views nice.


The opposing view and that below and behind the clouds that’s Kilimanjaro or kili for short.


And on my way out of the park I spotted (hint) something odd. A herd of Zebra with three that looked different. Much much darker and with well spots!

Obviously darker. I think they are melanistic and the spots I’m open to explanations on that one. One little one so not sure if those are Mom and Auntie or who but related nonetheless.
Butt view of the spots. See Zebra’s can have spots.


And with that I was off to Tanzania. Which I hope to update in the next couple days whilst basking in the sun on Zanzibar.

Springbok vs. Boda Boda

Queen Elizabeth National Park. What can I say, the campsite was lovely. And that’s about it. Mainly due to the fact that they wanted 150 USD cash just to enter with the car not to mention my per diem fees as well. But when the car was local it’s 30000 schillings (~30 USD). So that amounts to extortion in my mind, especially since Springbok is in way better shape than any of the cars on the road. And it has to be cash, double whammy. Now double that since it’s the same for Murchison Falls which I found out is not drivable in one go either.

But I did get to see enough little things around camp to keep me occupied for a day. Doesn’t take much, lol! I drove to Fort Portal through Queen Elizabeth Park which is allowed on the main road. It looked nice enough. Maybe another time with a local car. And for those of you wondering why not rent a local car. I tried, it would cost just as much if not more than the fee for the car. Defeats the purpose. So I headed to Kampala for 3 nights. I know a city instead of the bush, something must be wrong!

Pin-Tailed Whydah
Golden-backed Weaver
Brown-Throated Wattle-Eye
The colours are unreal.

Kampala – well one must drive through Kampala to get to the respite that is Red Chilli Hideaway. And when I say driving it really isn’t. It’s a snails pace through non-laned roads where anything goes and the roads are full of boda-bodas. Boda-bodas are motorbikes much like the bicycles of Malawi, which are full to the brim. The only rule that I can gather is if you can hold it, it can go on the Boda boda. Goats, doors, building supplies regardless of how long or big or how much room it may take on the road, if you can hold it goes.

Like this for example. I have the right of way, I’m supposed to be going straight but as you can see that’s not going to happen. I was stuck like this for about 20 min.

Believe it or not I enjoyed Kampala. At least staying outside the madness and taking one of those blasted boda-bodas to go to town. I met Aldeit, a young lady from the Netherlands teaching Physics about an hour outside of Kampala. We boarded the boda-boda and joined the madness venturing to the local craft market and coffee shop over the next couple days. Springbok got some minor welding done and repacking, a little respite for him too.

That’s Aldeit holding on for dear life in front. Now imagine bumper to bumper traffic. I couldn’t let go to take a picture at that juncture as we weaved in and out and bloody close to all modes of transport around. And only the driver has a helmet!!!

And as luck would have it my birding has garnered some needed information. Aldeit and I were trying to identify some of the birds above when the manager/owner Katie walked by. And before long my route was reworked to avoid active spots with bandits. Bandits, in this day and age, well apparently so. And a few other options later I was ready to go and saved some money too. Always a plus at this point.

I left Kampala with Aldeit, as I was going to drop her off at her volunteer home. We picked up John, her local english speaking guide and ventured to her town. I had dropped them off and had made it no more than 5 minutes on the dirt road heading to the main road when I saw the boda boda. He was careening down the dirt road way to fast around a blind turn and down hill. As soon as I saw him shoot around the corner, I was slowly headed up hill, I veered to the left and braked. But he had already lost control of his boda boda at this time. He saw he was going to hit the car so to save himself he jumped off and in the process threw the boda boda into the car. Long story short, he’s fine, I’m fine, Springbok’s good looks took a hit but otherwise he’s good. After making sure everything was ok and the locals who saw what happened thoroughly lectured the young driver as I had done, I headed back to talk to John and make sure there was nothing else that needed to be done. Of course like most boda boda drivers here he is unlicensed and uninsured and without a helmet. The trifecta. Nothing to do. Called SouthAfrica 4×4 on the emergency sat phone and after a brief exchange and photos I was off headed for Mbale and Mt. Elgon.

Well that’s where the fun continues. According to the website the campsite I was headed for, Moondance, is at the base of Mt. Elgon and does hikes etc. and looks really nice. Kind of like Red Chilli. I was stoked to go for a nice hike after that mornings events. And then I arrive… to an indian restaurant. WTF. Turns out the camp is rented out behind the restaurant but the “owner” hasn’t been around for months. Which begs the question with whom have I been conversing by email. Eventually I convince the restauranteur to call the man in question. He looked a step away from death and the camp, well it’s not a camp. It’s a grass space behind the indian restaurant with the ablution block being the restaurant WC. Um, no! I peeled out as graciously as I could and went to the next lodging tracks4africa could find. Sheesh. I happily crossed the border to Kenya the next day. Even if the border took 3 times longer than it should have, I was done with Uganda.