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Hear about my travels & running experiences

Recycling collection point that we built for a local school

Nkima clans garden at the recycling centre

Us after being put through our paces by the netball team

Uganda Marathon - Week 1

Sat 26th May

With no direct flights to Uganda & various indirect options I eventually chose to go with Ethiopian airways as it was the shortest travel time & also landed in Entebbe where the transport was there to take us to Masaka. It was 13 hours travel including 3 hours lay over in Addis Ababa. Ethiopian airways was comfortable with average flight food & in flight entertainment. When you arrive at the airport use the cash point to get some shillings as not everywhere takes dollars, which is what I had recommended by the travel agent.

 

Sun 27th May

After a quick stop at the equator & an African massage (that’s driving on the African roads full of pot holes)  we arrived at Hotel Brovad my home for the next week. Time to freshen up & change ready to go to welcome party held at the athletes village where there was food, bar where you could buy alcohol from whilst sitting around the campfire & watching traditional African dancers.

 

Mon 28th May

Up early & met up with everyone to learn more about what the Uganda marathon is all about & got to play some games to get to know each other a bit better. We then got placed into clans with people that have chosen the same charity to support. First stop on our tour was Dembe House which helps give young people freedom from abuse & addictions & we met some of the Street kids that are also supported by the UGM. Next was a walk into Masaka where we visited the local market, stopped at a local restaurant for lunch & the bank to get some Shillings as I didn’t get any at the airport.

 

Tues 29th May

Today we went off in our clans and in the morning we spent it making a recycling point that will go into a local school. In Masaka they burn all of their waste including plastic bottles & so we were demonstrating that with some used bottles, cane & wood you could create something useful. They even let me lose with a machete so this was educational but fun too! In the afternoon we went to a recycling centre where they are trying to collect the plastic bottles from Masaka’s Street, they compact them into bundles & send them to Kampala. In the afternoon we dug gardens & planted fruit trees & plants that will help to feed the local Street kids.

 

Weds 30th May

Today was spent at St Joseph’s school which is supported by the charity House of Love and Hope for Uganda. They work to ensure that no children go hungry while at school by providing free school meals. Last year the UGM provided the school with a fresh water well, which means the children no longer spend valuable time travelling to the water well and so have more time in the classroom. Turning up the school that had over 300 excited children at was overwhelming. The morning was spent building a keyhole garden that will be planted with fruit trees & plants that will help to feed the children. The afternoon we played netball with the children before just hanging out with them. Luckily we mixed the netball teams up as if we had played against them we would of been thrashed! They were all very, very good. One of the most heartwarming days I have ever spent & a day I’ll never forget. My favourite moment of the day was when we popped into the classroom of the kids that had been helping us with the gardening and one of the kids had very cleverly made a pair of glasses out of the fencing wire we had been using, I had to get my picture with them as it was just so funny.

 

Thurs 31st May

Kidsrunwild day! Running is still quite new in Uganda and so this day is great for the local children who come down to the centre of Masaka for a full sports day where there was races, tug of war & musical chairs. It’s an incredible day for the kids.

The afternoon we spent at Lake Nabugabo where you can chill out, swim in the lake & enjoy traditional fish & chips. The fish was caught that morning in the lake & was delicious 😋.

 

Friday 1st June

Today is a rest day in preparation for the marathon, I chose to spend it by the pool chilling. At 5:30 there was a pasta & pool party, with a local dance group performing whilst we eat our pasta or gluten free pasta. This was also an opportunity for people to go into town & get any last minute souvenirs or go out & visit any of the projects.

 

 

www.hotelbrovad.com

 

Look how cool his glasses are!

Uganda Marathon - Race Day

The race started at 7am and so I was up at 5am for breakfast, the start was only a 5-minute walk from the hotel and so plenty of time to get ready and to the start. There was a 10k, half marathon and full marathon, as running is still quite new in Uganda most runners were completing the 10k. In total there were 1500 runners, only 250 of the runners for the marathon and out of the 1500 runners, 150 of them were internationals.

 

The race started slightly late and the marathon and half marathon runners set off on the course leaving Liberation Square and the town centre. The first few miles were flat and so I just concentrated on getting into a running rhythm and getting used to the heat. We were advised when signing up for the marathon to add 25% to our marathon time and so I knew that it was going to be a long day and that I needed to pace myself. After going past the Masala District Administration Headquarters, we hit out first hill, once I got to the top I felt out of breath but once I saw the view it was well worth it. A few more ups and downs and then we reached ‘The Steep hill’ where we could hear some noise from the bottom, once I had reached the bottom I was overwhelmed to see loads of children lining either side of the course shouting ‘winners, winners, winners!’ it was an amazing sound.

 The course then headed back into Masaka and we went past St Joseph’s primary school where I had spent my Legacy day at, the memories of spending the day with the 300 children came flooding back to me and I could see the gardening project that we had done on that day. About 8 miles in we reached ‘The Beast’ I had seen photos of this on the website and so knew what to expect and so walked up it, happy that I had reached the top with enough energy to carry on.

I was hoping that the rest of the lap was going to be downhill, but that was not the case, not long after we reached another hill which they are going the name in the future ‘Heartbreak Hill’ as it really was! After that it was a few more ups and downs and then we were back at Liberation Square and ready to start lap 2.

 Lap 2 started well and I continued the same plan as lap 1 where I ran the straights and downhills and walked the steep up hills. Everything was going well until I reached ‘The Steep Hill’ where I slipped on the loose ground, falling I felt a sharp pain in both my knee and ankle, the next minute I had 2 medics and my friend Hat by my side making sure I was ok, my knee hurt but I was so determined to complete the race so I got up saying that all was ok and carried on with the course. For the next few miles everything was ok but the 2nd time around ‘The Beast’ and ‘Heartbreak Hill’ felt that they were twice as long as the first lap. What was amazing on the 2nd lap is that at various points on the local children would come up and grab your hand and run along down the street with you or they would just be cheering and saying “bye mzungu” (bye foreigner). After run walking the last few miles as my knee had swollen up I finally completed in 6 hours 31 minutes.

The race was won this year by a Kenyan national who completed it in 2:34. The fastest international completed the course in 3:04.

I would absolutely 100% recommend this race to anyone who is up for a bit of a challenge, hands down my favourite marathon and one of the best weeks of my life.

 

Ugandamarathon.com 

Before the race had started

The beast!! 😳

Week 2 - Gorilla trekking & Lake Mutanda

Sun 3rd June

After checking out of Brovad at 9am we set off on our long journey to Mutanda Lake resort, after a few stops along the way we arrived 9.5 hours later (350km). The majority of the journey was on main roads but the last hour or so we got to experience another African massage on very uneven roads. Once we arrived we only had about an hour until dinner, which was delicious & the best food we had eaten so far. Fully stuffed we all went to bed ready for our early start.

 

 Mon 4th June 

We had to be up nice and early for our breakfast & was sent off with a packed lunch ready for our days trekking. Due to rain that had caused damage to the roads & a bridge we took a detour route that took us about 1.5 hours to get to Bwindi National Park. Once there we met up with Patrick who was going to lead us to the gorillas. Earlier in the morning a group of trackers went out to find them & within 30 minutes of walking we were lucky enough to get the call to say they had been found. We met up with them where they took us to where the family was resting & eating. Watching them was just fascinating, to see them in their natural habitat just eating & farting & a young one climbing the tree was amazing. We got to see a silverback as well but he wasn’t feeling it & just kept walking away from us.

We got back to Mutanda Lake at 3pm & so I hired one of their paddle boards to paddle around numerous islands on the lake that were filled with various animals, birds & flowers. The lake was calm & perfect for paddle boarding & was well worth the $15 charge.

 

Tues 5th June

I was hoping to enjoy a nice lay in & another opportunity to go paddle boarding but we had to be up & ready to leave by 7am. The journey back to Entebbe ended up being 12.5 hours as the drivers don’t like to drive at night in the dark so we really did need to leave early, after experiencing the roads already I understood why. If I wasn’t staying in Entebbe for a few days I would of chosen to fly out of Kilgali as it was only 2.5 hours away so a much shorter option. The other option was an internal flight back to Entebbe which I hadn’t even considered, a couple from our trip did this and got back by lunchtime, I was very jealous! For anyone that is thinking of flying back from Kilgali instead of Entebbe please note that you will need an East Africa Tourist Visa which covers you to go into Kenya & Rowanda as well as Uganda & is $100 dollars instead of $50 dollars.

 

www.mutandalakeresort.com

Beautiful caption of mother & baby

Best paddle boarding experience ever

Last few days in Entebbe & chimpanzee island

Weds 6th June

After a long day traveling yesterday I was pleased to receive a text last night from Cimndy & Kevin (the very clever people that flew internally) to say they had a driver coming to pick me up to go to Chimpanzee island at 8:20 which I was very happy about. I had previously looked into going over but as you can only get over by private boat & the cost of the boat is split between the number on the boat I was a bit worried about being on a boat on my own & paying for it all 😳. They had luckily met up with Kim who was a local guide that managed to get us added to a trip booked already to save on costs. We arrived to meet the boat & travelers for 45 mins to the island, passing the equator on the way.

 

Chimpanzee island

Purchased in 1997 the island is one square kilometre of tropical rainforest, the chimpanzee occupy 95% of the island and only 5% is set aside as an eco-friendly workers village, veterinary facility and tourist area. The majority of chimpanzees have been confiscated by wildlife officers where they have been kept as pets or for sale on the illegal market. Paul the caretaker of the chimpanzee explained how there were 49 chimps & that they have over time formed their own families & structures & talked about how incredibly smart they are & how often they like to escape! He told of a time when they all escaped & the island workers had to get onto boats, the only reason they got control back of the island is because they broke into the restaurant & took all the alcohol & got so drunk that they were able to get the drunken chimps back under control. Two tips on this trip, book with a local guide if off peak as if you book in advance you may be on your own. Also be cautious of wearing flip flops like I did, there are some mean ants on the island, not dangerous or poisonous but there bites do sting & they like to hold on!

 

Thurs 7th June

We planned at late start (10am) bike ride this morning to see all the sights of Entebbe, Fred our local guide took us to the fish market, downtown, uptown, local veg market & gave us a general view of the town before arriving at the botanical garden where we met Kim who went throughout every tree & plant there, absolutely fascinating there wasn’t anything he didn’t know. After lunch we we out to a nature reserve to do a butterfly walk, further out of town than we expected & in preparation for another rainforest walk I applied a lot of insect repellent, made absolutely no difference as I was eaten alive 🐜🦗😲 lovely walk still & we did see plenty of butterflies.

 

 Friday 8th June - Last day

I woke up on my last day in Entebbe in the stunning guest house I’ve been staying in since Tuesday the Guinea Fowl Guest House that is owned by Lizzie a former runner of the UGM that has since moved there. Today I packed up & went into town to get some souvenirs, the local markets are packed full of great gifts. After doing far too much shopping I got a motorcycle taxi back, which is part of the Uganda experience 3,000 shillings (60p) saved me a 2 mile walk with shopping. Then a few hours to chill at the very comfortable Guinea Fowl before going to the airport (cost of transport is included in the room cost). I flew the same way back via Addis Ababa & if anyone else doing this route then make sure you have some dollars as otherwise buying food or drink is a bit of a pain at the airport.

 

Chimpanzee island & bike ride organised by Kim - kimlandcity4@gmail.com

Guinea Fowl - theguineafowlentebbe.com

 

Entrance to Chimpanzee island

Chimpanzees just being chimpanzees