We were up nice and early but unfortunately our chef wasn't; she had gone out with the other volunteers last night to the nightclub in town and was still in bed, Resty was not impressed, but she gave us a bunch of bananas to take with us and we left just before 8am with Wilson driving his beat up Toyota Corrola with the cracked, blacked-out windows and cardboard flooring. We wondered whether or not it would even make it. Turns out Wilson is Amon's brother, but sadly he does not speak the same level of English as Amon. We got 15 minutes down the road before we remembered that we had not padlocked our room. After some discussion, we decided it was best not to draw attention to the fact and simply hope no-one noticed. It's not really that we don't trust them, but more that the lodge staff know we have a large amount of equipment still in our donation cases and the temptation may just be too much. So we decided to leave it and hope for the best - as our friends in Australia would say... "if they steal something, they clearly need it more than we do".
After just over an hours driving to the other side of Mbarara, we reached Sanga and turned off the tarmac road onto a very potholed dirt track leading to the Lake Mburo national park. Another 13kms later and we reached the Sanga gate where we had to pay $35 US dollars per person per day to enter, plus 20,000 UGS for the car. They let Wilson go free of charge.
Another half an hour of very bumpy dirt tracks and we reached Mihingo lodge perched high up on top of the rocky ridge overlooking both Lake Mburo and Lake Kacheera - truly stunning. It was 11am when we arrived and we were met by Nathan and Iddy (assistant manager). Iddy took us to the main lodge bar area while Nathan took Wilson to the drivers quarters.
The place is incredible and it's website simply does not do it justice, the views, the space, the decor and the people could not be more perfect or fitting - a welcome change from the brats doss-house we had come from. Caroline and I tried our best to look as if we fitted in, dressed in shabby unwashed clothes and not having had a hot shower in over a week. But the simple task of having a brew was beyond both of us; Caroline managed to chuck coffee granules all over the smartly laid out tea cups and then, shortly after I had been laughing at her and saying "can't take you anywhere", I managed to do a classic comedy slip, rolling on a twig coming down the stone steps, and threw my entire cup of tea down me. The cup can only have held a couple of mouthfuls, yet I still managed to cover every item of clothing I had on, smash by back into the steps and give Caroline a good giggle for over 48 hours;talk about Karma.
A moment later as I was changing into my one remaining item of clean presentable clothing (that I had been reserving for dinner) Iddy appeared with two glasses of ice cold dry white wine and informing us that our room was ready. She is an angel.
After exploring our room in amazement, shrieking and leaping around like little girls at our good fortune, we returned to the main lodge area for a 3 course lunch of Gazpacho soup, cold meat and a range of salads, keylime pie, cheese and biscuits, all washed down with another bottle of white.... we couldn't move afterwards and retired to our room having booked a driving safari for 4pm.
Unfortunately when 4pm arrived, so had a large number of storm clouds and Iddy had received word that they were burning a couple of areas of the park which they do every year before the rains come to thin the grass. She said it would mean it would be difficult to find the animals and if we got caught in a storm, the truck is open top and so we and our camera gear would get soaked. She gave us the option of a drive to see the hippos at Lake Mburo, or another bottle of wine in the hide 40m from the watering hole at the foot of the hill. We opted of course for the wine, and Chris (the lodge manager) carried a cool box down the hill for us with brief instructions for what to do if we came across buffalo.
The session didn't yield many sightings, and most were a long way off, (Iddy's idea of 40m was clearly out of sync with ours - we reckon it was more like 100 - 150m from the watering hole.) but it was good fun nonetheless, and gave Caroline her first real go at spotting using binoculars.
We returned before dark for blissful hot showers and a change for dinner. Thankfully my tea-soaked clothes had dried and, being a similar colour to milky tea, were passable for another night, (the same could not be said of my socks!). At this point Caroline and I had both agreed we needed to stay another night as we simply couldn't bear the thought of leaving after our horse riding trip in the morning, so Chris radioed the drivers quarters and called for Wilson to come up so we could ask him.
Dinner was divine - Stuffed peppers to start, followed by a buffet style main of chicken legs in sauce with various vegetable dishes and rice, then bread and butter pudding with custard for dessert. Needless to say we were stuffed again.