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Mountain Gorillas at Mgahinga National Park

Mountain Gorillas, Jungle VIP!

Seeing the endangered mountain gorillas in Uganda, was one of the much awaited highlights of our biking tour – although we did not take the bikes into the forest/jungle here!

The Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is part of the Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Area, bordering Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda. Mgahinga Gorilla and Bwindi Impenetrable National Parks provide a home to half of the world’s remaining population of mountain gorillas in South Western Uganda. Currently the population of the mountain gorillas stands above 300 in Uganda

Farmers right next to the Gorilla forest

There is a fast population growth leading to increase to intense farming around and up to the protected areas edge that leaves no buffer zone at all. The border between the farms and the jungle is like drawn with a ruler – dense forest starts from the side of the crop field. This population sometimes suffer negatively from results of conservation activities like wildlife crop damage which infuriates them and sours relations.

They will also carry you, if needed!

The farmers are also not allowed to enter the jungle and look for the gorillas. This is a job for special rangers, who daily look up the area where the gorillas are and visit them daily regardless of tourists. Just to keep the friendly connection alive.

Gorillas are strictly protected by law. We were told about a man who had shot a gorilla dead in self-defense – being sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Walking sticks in good use

They are not called mountain gorillas for no reason. we started our climb on the side of the mountain, entering a dense jungle led by the rangers and helpful assistants ensuring that we actually can reach the gorillas.

Through the jungle

We used walking sticks to help the climb and to maintain balance but as soon as we were close to the gorillas, these walking sticks were collected from us. The gorillas may mistake the sticks as weapons and act accordingly. We did not want that as some of the are BIG! And all of them are strong!

Gorillas allow you right next to them. Closest I were, was 1-1,5 meters!
Now I’m the king of the swingers, Oh, the jungle VIP -Jungle book
Packed lunch after the gorilla trek and ready to rumble again!

 

The Beautiful People of Uganda

The People in My Mind

As many say, it is the people that make the travel worth while. I do subscribe to that view as well. It is always fascinating to meet different people from different cultures and although one meets only a small number of the people in any country, somehow in one’s mind a picture starts to form.

I like to take pictures of people and usually people are happy to pose for me as well.

African Song and Dance Surprise

Surprise Performance

During our stay at the Katara lodge in Uganda we were very privileged. A surprise performance was given by the kids at Kichwamba Orphanage, Rubirizi district Uganda.

To raise funds,  this fantastic team of kids are doing an African dance and song performance. They entertain the visiting tourists at their local hotels and other venues. As Covid-19 has greatly reduced tourism in the area and the orphanage relies on charitable contributions, they need all the help they can get.

Their website can be foud at https://kichwambaorphanage.org/

Recorded at Katara Lodge, Uganda June 2021.

Uganda – The Pearl of Africa

The Pearl

Why is Uganda called The Pearl of Africa? It is commonly believed that the originator of this reference to Uganda was  Sir Winston Churchill who described Uganda as The Pearl of Africa in his book “My African Journey” in 1907.

What is known for fact is that he at least made it famous but he may have borrowed the phrase from Sir Henry Morton Stanley, the Wesh explorer. Yes, this is the man who also famously said: “Dr Livingstone, I presume”, when he found missionary and explorer Dr David Livingstone looking for the source of the Nile.

Lush, green landscape after the rainy season

Having now toured the country right after the rainy season, the scenery was magnificent everywhere. Green and lush, animals I had only sen in books and zoos roaming free. And of course, the great people! Clearly the Pearl of Africa ingredients!

Another friendly face!

Uganda (or Buganda) and the British have a long colonial history, which for the purposes of this blog, I will skip. Then again, my trip was made considerably easier by the fact that English is now widely spoken in Uganda.

I will write more about the trip soon…

In the mean time, do check my YouTube and Facebook

 

Stopped for a drink and a photo by the crater lakes – Pade, Jussi and myself plus three XR 400’s

There is Snow on them Hills

Großglockner Hochalpenstraße, Austria in July.

Woke up after a good night’s sleep at Edelweißhütte Berggasthof at Grossglockner Edelweißspitze.  Last night we arrived in thick fog and drizzle, when the evening was turning cooler.

At the parking area just below the last ascent to the Edelweißhütte, one could not see the other side of the area and I had to carefully circle the empty car park to find the small cobblestone road leading further up towards the Edelweißhütte gasthof, which I knew was on the top. Just was not sure if this was the right car park in the fog. I remembered the route from memory and just was not sure.

After some circling, I managed to find the cobblestone track. We could only see a few meters, but we took the path. Once you take this narrow track, you commit to it. It is virtually not possible to turn back on the narrow, steep and slippery cobblestone road. Not on our heavy Harleys, nor really on any touring bike.

Upon arrival, I guess we took the host family by surprise as they were not expecting anyone to come through the weather and there were no other guests. Regardless, we got a very warm welcome, beer, good food and garage for our bikes and a room for us to stay.

In the morning looking at the window expecting to see the mountain view, I noticed the window being covered with fog after the night’s heavy sleep. Still tired, I opened the window and to my surprise the view did not change – still foggy. Looking more carefully, it was SNOWING! In JULY!

The drizzle had turned into snow during night and we had about a foot of snow on the ground with more coming. The stay at the Edelweißhütte turned out to be one of the most memorable days of our trip. Lazy morning, snowfights and general amazement about the unexpected turn of the events.

The snow is not uncommon even during July and I have now been stuck at Edelweißspitze twice due to snow in July.

Even though the snow was as thick as 20 – 50 cm, the summer snow only covers the mountain top and as one descents just a few hundred meters, the snow quickly melts away. The key difference to winter is that the ground under the snow is not frozen and once the snow is cleared, the ground is only wet, not icy. Well, the cobblestones still were slippery and the ride down from Edelweißhütte was exiting. The snow was cleared by using a broom sweeping a narrow path down the track for us to ride.

And once at Edelweißhütte, it was 25c warm with the place busy with biker groups and vintage cars, etc. I must say I prefer the snow and the forced lazy mornings in the beauty of the snowy mountains in July.

Stelvio in Italy is no Stranger for Midsummer Snow either

Stelvio, Italy June 30th 2017

Oh Deer! The Very North of Finland and Norway

Reindeer on the road

The route

What a treat! Touring the Nordic area above the arctic circle is a treat indeed, a world of its own.

Route Oulu – Kuopio

Covid-19 this year dictated the direction (i.e. north). Besides, I really enjoy the vast open areas, free roaming reindeer and friendly people in the Finnish Lapland and the equally friendly Norwegians, and their mountainous coastline with bare fell areas.

White fish at Kukkolankoski

Must also mention the great food, which you have available everywhere. Reindeer stew prepared the traditional way plus reindeer in many forms, salmon and the latest addition, king crab. Nowhere has king crab tasted better than in Honninsvåg at Nordkapp.

River Logger statue at Kukkolankoski

On your way north, a must is the white wish captured from the Kukkolankoski rapids of Tornio river, the largest free flowing river in Europe. This is just north of Tornio. There are several places for this white fish flamed on open fire but if you get off the main road and do not stop at the first tourist trap but continue a few hundred meters, you come to the traditional trap(?) with a statue of a river logger just outside.

How to get there

When heading north, Oulu is a good starting place. A lively university town a long day’s ride from Helsinki. But first you need to get there! My recommended route from Helsinki would be Helsinki – Tampere – Virrat – Kuortane – Vimpeli – Kaustinen – Ylivieska – Oulu. This avoids many of the bigger arteries, crossing the scenic country side and has no fixed speed traps either.

If you have more time to explore, particularly if you come through Turku, the coastal route is also a nice alternative but more heavy with traffic.

When going up on the western route, it is worth exploring the lake district of the eastern Finland as well on your way down. You can choose  between the tranquility of the lake area or party at a harbour market of any town. Lappeenranta, Kuopio, Savonlinna to name a few… Plenty of culture, lake cruises, etc  available as well.

Very North in under Nine Minutes

The video below takes you along our route. You will see what the roads are like and the scenery along the way. It answers many question regarding riding in the very north.

Nordkapp aka North Cape

Continue reading Oh Deer! The Very North of Finland and Norway

… that elusive day we keep putting good things off to…