Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Oh my, we're stuck in a swamp

Our second day in Murchison Falls NP started off well enough.  We got the early ferry across the river - 7.00am.  There were a few other safari vehicles behind us in the queue, but we were waved through the security gate first and headed off into the savanna.

We had a breakfast on the roof of the car, watching a family of elephants walking through the long fresh grass.  At a junction in the road, we headed down the Buligi track - not worrying too much that all the safari vehicles were heading the other way.  We passed a few workman busy on road repair duty, but the track soon deteriorated into a very rough and rutted path.  We had been following some other vehicles tracks, but these soon disappeared- where to we'll never know.

The driving was pretty difficult, but I was feeling confident enough with the car as it seemed to be coping fine with the ruts and puddles.

Until of course one puddle turned out to be a lot deeper than expected and the car ground to a dramatic and noisy halt.  No need panic though, I mean this is only a lion infested swamp after all.  Getting out of the car is not that easy, as there is foot deep water all around.  Having a quick look into the water reveals the leeches swimming around, and plenty of insects.  Mmmm, don't fancy wading around in that too much.

Karen exited her door out the window and along the bonnet onto a dry bit of road - I managed to find a drier bit and followed her out the driver's door.  A quick inspection of the vehicle showed that it was well grounded, with the right front and rear left wheels off the ground.

Its about time I admitted that I'm not much of an off roader - so I don't know of many ways out of this kind of situation.  It's also not the kind of place to go wandering off looking for help.

We could hear hippos in the river nearby, we knew that there were lions in the area, we spotted a 6 foot monitor lizard, there were leeches in the water and plenty biting insects.

This was at about 10 in morning and it was a bit hazy so luckily it wasn't too hot.  I tried pulling a few acacia branches out of the undergrowth, without going to far from the safety of the vehicle, and sticking them under the front wheels.  No effect.  We then gathered some stones and gravel from the road, scraping with our hands in the absence of any useful implements.  Again we put these under the wheels, but again this was pretty useless.  There just wasn't enough loose stuff around.

While we did this the clouds began to clear and the day got warmer and warmer, eventually forcing us back into the vehicle with the heat of the sun. We used our maps to improvise a windscreen shade and discussed what to do.  We knew that it would be best to stay with the car - plenty water, food and it seemed likely someone would come along the track.  After all there had been quite few vehicles at the ferry.

We checked the mobile phone - but no reception.  So I risked a walk along the track for about 50 yards to see if this would improve.  Hey hey - we got 1 bar.  So I dug out the phone numbers for the vehicle hire company - no connection. I then tried the Red Chilli rest camp, again no connection.  Obviously I was doing something wrong.  A hunch made me try a simple mobile number for the Red Chilli hostel in Kampala, without using any of the international dialing codes.  Someone answered - a young Irishman, who listened to our tale of woe and said he'd get in touch with our rest camp and someone would get back in touch.

About an hour later a text came in to say that the rest camp had informed the park authorities and that a grader would come at some point and rescue us.  The text also told us that others in the park were also stuck.

Time passed.......

Temperatures rose.....

At 2.45 after being stuck for nearly 5 hours, I sent a polite text back asking if we had been forgotten about. No no, came the reply, someone is on their way.

We sat back and relaxed again.  A troop of baboons, passed by - the alpha male spotted us, panicked slightly and had sex with the nearest available female. Three quick thrusts seemed enough in the afternoon heat. Vultures circled, and hippos bellowed in the river.

At 3.45 we were most certainly unrelaxed.  The heat in the car was unbearable but we had noticed that the water level in our pool had dropped by a couple of inches.  We decided to see if we could bale it out.  Half an our later we were incredibly hot and sweaty and our pool was just as deep.  Probably being fed by the Nile which was all of a few yards away.

What to do now?  At this point we are almost resigned to stay the night in the park - how scary is that going to be?

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