Uganda was beginning to feel more like South East Asia as Big Yellow putted up steep winding roads enclosed by abundant tropical rainforests, banana plantations, heavily cultivated fields and rice paddy farms. We noticed women everywhere working in the fields, shops and markets, doing the heavy lifting and carrying impossibly large bundles on their heads while the men sat around chatting, or pushing bicycles wrapped in bananas up the relentless hills. With the wet season approaching the bad weather made the already bumpy, terrible roads into a muddy obstacle course. Half dirt, half bitumen, broken and crumbling, we peered out of the front window nervously wondering who gets the right of way when everyone just drives straight down the middle. Never-ending road works made the drive slow going, thankfully with Patrick at the wheel we never felt unsafe, with his 15 years experience driving these trucks we new we were in safe hands.
Hugging the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in western Uganda is Queen Elizabeth National Park, a vast wilderness including one of the largest concentrations of Hippo’s in Africa. As Big Yellow bounced along Ntungamo Road in the distance we could see the West Rift Valley, a fantastic geological trench stretching all the way from Syria to Mozambique, and the expansive plains below of the National Park which we were on our way to visit. Standing at the viewpoint admiring the incredible vista extending all the way to the DRC on the horizon and the spectacular Rwenzori Mountains, we spotted our first wild African Elephant, miles away feeding beneath an Acacia tree, a tell tale sign of the animal adventures that awaited us in the valley below!
Finally, on day 367, our African Overland Journey was underway as we left the bustling capital of Uganda, Kampala, joined by two of our fellow overlander’s who had arrived late, New Zealanders Craig and Michele along with our Kenyan guide Kanyo destined for Jinja, a town on the banks of the raging Nile River, to meet the rest of our group. Our anticipation was growing as we tackled the traffic and passed by lush green fields and forests of the Ugandan countryside, through ramshackle towns and onto the bumpy dirt roads to our peaceful camp overlooking the White Nile in Bujagali Falls.
If the cheapest flight from New York to London stopped over in Iceland you would be a fool to pass up the opportunity to visit one of the most photogenic countries on the planet. With a strong passion for anything Scandinavian Treeny insisted on making the stopover despite Iain’s hesitation at the foreseeable dent it would put in our budget. Treeny pleaded her case, “But there are volcanos, lava fields, glaciers, cute Scandinavian houses, Vikings, Norse Gods, did I mention the volcanos”? Her persistence eventually won out. So off we flew, north toward the Arctic Circle, to the tiny little island of Iceland, that isn’t actually very icy at all, and has names so long and complicated only the Icelandic people can pronounce them.
Deep within the South American continent lays one of the worlds most fascinating and enigmatic environments, the Amazon Jungle. Bizarre creatures roam the dense impenetrable forest with alien-like limbs and fluoro skin full of poison, alongside uncontacted tribes of primitive Indians. The Amazon is like an ecological war zone with every animal, plant, insect and organism defending itself against one another, battling for air, sun, water and a precarious place in this untamed wilderness. We survived twelve days travelling slowly along the Amazon River, now that we had hit dry land we were eager to launch ourselves into the depths of the unknown to learn how this fascinating ecosystem thrives.
There is nothing better than finding a quiet place to kick your feet up and relax. Uruguay has this wonderful laid back feel which you really get a sense of the moment you leave the hustle and bustle of Montevideo. The country, in particular, is all about the slow life, living off the land at your own pace and snoozing the afternoon away during siesta time. There is no reason to hurry here, there really isn’t much to do. We came in search of serene beach villages to relax in, and to travel cross-country from the Atlantic coast to the border town of Salto, observing the peaceful country life amongst the rolling green plains and farms of central Uruguay along the way.
Set at the base of Campo Del Hielo Sur, The Great Southern Ice field, Torres Del Paine National Park is considered by many as the mecca of hiking in Patagonia and has been high on our travel hit list since the very beginning. The Park offers well over 100km of hiking trails to be conquered, and has a reputation for having Patagonia’s most extreme weather, with hikers often experiencing all four seasons in one day; baking hot sun, flurries of snow, horizontal rain, and hurricane force winds. A daunting four to five day hike, battling the elements, lay ahead. This was going to be tough mentally and physically and we new it, we just didn’t know just how tough. We were ready for the Challenge.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to reach the end of the world? Well, look no further than Tierra del Fuego the southernmost province of South America and home to the “southernmost” city in the world Ushuaia, Argentina. Everything here claims “southernmost this” and “end of the world that”, it’s all very gimmicky, a nice way to get tourists excited buying up big in the souvenir stores – all that “end of the world” paraphernalia, but, at the end of the day it’s not even the southernmost point, or the southern most city. Across the Beagle Channel in Chile lies a smaller town, Puerto Williams, which is actually the southernmost settlement, and then there is Cape Horn, the southernmost point, and have we just forgotten Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic islands, people live there too? Whatever the classification of the city’s location, we had reached as far south as we could travel on our amble about the world…or had we?
Chile is a long long long country, as it thins out towards the most southern tip at Cape Horn the country breaks up into fragments of isolated mountain ranges and icefields separated by spectacular fjords and lakes. This region is almost entirely undeveloped and uninhibited except for small rural towns sparsely scattered along the Carreterra Austral, the long road which travels from Puerto Montt in the Chilean Lake District into the depths of Chilean Patagonia.
“Are you sure you want to go to South America. I hear these countries are very dangerous”, if only mum could see where we are now! With just a jump over the border from “little Germany” in the Chilean Lake District you will land yourself in “little Switzerland” and the city of Bariloche in the Argentine Lake District. Our “little” slice of Europe just grew tenfold. Not only is this part of South America safe and friendly it is a sophisticated – by European standards – tourist mecca in an enchanting setting amongst bountiful lakes and snow capped mountain peaks. The Argentine Lake District has the best of everything; be it hiking, boating, fishing or indulging in some of Argentina’s finest food. We knew straight away that we would be more than able to satisfy our desire to hike within the world renowned Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. And of course in order to gain sustenance for said hike we arrived ready to eat.