Cycling with elephants

Cycling with elephants

Because of our busy afternoon and evening of celebration, I hadn’t had much time to enjoy the Homestay itself, so I was invited to stay an extra day by Wilfred and Nice. We had a great chat about how they would like to develop their project to improve the quality of life of people in their community. They certainly have the nicest spot on the lake, but they really need support to teach the kids, develop agricultural training and add additional cottages. Anybody interested?

Leaving Lake Bunyonyi

I reluctantly left Lake Bunyonyi, and followed a beautiful road along the lake, to finally reach tarmac briefly, and back onto dirt roads and much, much climbing. Especially once I entered Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. I worked very hard but I was very much enjoying being alone, with the odd vehicle going by at times. I didn’t see any gorillas (why would they hang out along the road anyway?), but I did see one monkey…

Beautiful road into the forest
A few quiet moments

Then down to a small village called Ruhija, where I spent the night camping at Bwindi Gorilla Friends Campsite with 2 groups of French people.

Well, I can say that I saw one gorilla…

The next day was mostly downhill (2000m), but it was not easy. The road was so rough that it took me 4 hours to do 40 km. I ended up with blisters in my hands! But Laf handled it incredibly well.
It’s amazing how populated this country is. There is rarely a minute while I bike that I don’t run into people. They have one of the fastest growing population, with an average of 6.6 kids per family. Very concerning for the future when all these little ones will need land, jobs, etc.
I arrived at a small village called Butogota. Nothing exciting, except maybe a incredibly dusty road. I already missed the quiet village roads, and even more so the parks…
But the next day I reached the beautiful Enjojo lodge, at the entrance of Queen Elizabeth Park. On my way I took an alternative road that a Ugandan driver had told me about and it was probably much nicer than being on a busy road. And certainly more hilly. But still full of kids… Mzungu, Mzungu… You just need one kid to start saying it and it’s like a relay through the whole village.

At Enjojo I enjoyed a very quiet afternoon in my hammock, great evening with other French folks and a good night sleep interrupted at 4:30 when they started shooting in the air to chase elephants that were coming to close to the lodges… At least they had told us about that possibility, being so close to the DRC, gunshots could be worrisome!
And so this morning I left at daybreak, to bike across the park. A good, flat road almost all the way. Local people don’t like to get up early, so the first hour I had the whole road to myself.

The road through Queen Elizabeth Park

Well, not quite… Soon I ran into a group of elephants. I let them cross, and waited another few minutes to be sure they would not charge me. They can be territorial. I was so excited that when I ran into an Ugandan man on his motorbike a few minutes later, I stopped him to tell him that he was about to run into them. He smiled and told me very politely: ‘Here we are used to them’.
Later I saw gazelles, antelopes, baboons, monkeys and another group of elephants. And luckily, no lions. Yes there are lions in that park, but I figured it’s like our bears: they can be on the road too, and dangerous, but lions usually don’t eat cyclists, especially the ones here who are sometimes found in the trees, a rare thing for lions.
A lovely day of cycling, enjoying some flat ground after days of nothing but ups and downs… and it really felt like I was cycling in Africa!

Hard to see but there are some Ugandan kobs, a type of antelope. They looked relaxed so I figure there was no lion around…

4 thoughts on “Cycling with elephants

  1. Allo Catherine
    Quelle énergie tu as pour faire tout ce pedaling et maintenir ton blog! Ça m’épate, moi qui n’ai pas trouvé le temps de répondre à ton dernier blog sur le Lake Bunuonyi . Je suis content de constater que tu peux grimper de telles altitudes sans que ton genou se plaigne trop fort. Bravo! Prends en bien soin. Ménage ta monture, comme on dit, si tu veux pouvoir connaitre encore d’autres coups d’œil exceptionnels. Ce que je te souhaite de tout cœur. Bisous, Fernand

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