Day 3 of the Northland Challenge is over and I’m in my tent listening to a discordant chorus of hippos barking and roaring. We’re at a campsite in a wilderness park on the shores of the Ishasha River, which is the narrow divider between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The river is loaded with hippos, which can stay underwater for 20 minutes or more, so if you see 5 or 6, there are likely at least 5 or 6 more underwater.
And they’re not exactly friendly. As one of the guards at our camp told me, “the hippos will collect your visa if you try to cross the river.”
Three armed guards carrying AK47s (vintage, I’m told) patrol the campground perimeter.
They’ve been busy. Earlier tonight a hippo strolled through the campsite coming within 30 feet of the campfire and 27 challengers. Flashlights and guns in hand, the guards escorted the enormous animal past the campfire and us.
Before we headed off to Ishasha most of us enjoyed self-guided safaris through Queen Elizabeth National Park. My partner, Guy, took off very early with Jim in search of lions, while I had a more leisurely start to the day. I had a chance to ride with Edward, a safari veteran, who suggested I open the sunroof and ride on the roof of the Rav4 to get a better view.
Some view: We spotted elephants, warthogs, water buffalos, and lots of antelope. I was a little leery of elephants after Vivian and Tim’s encounter the day before, but we stayed a safe distance from the elephants.
It was George and Eric’s turn with the elephants today. “We made a mistake and really stumbled into the herd,” George said. “So, we sat there and tried not to give them a reason to attack us.” Several minutes later the elephants moved on. It was a vivid reminder, George said, of “the difference between animals in the wild and [animals who are] contained.”
Ishasha is the southern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park. On our way to Ishasha, Edward and I caught up with several other teams who’d stopped by the side of the road for lunch and we joined them (Cesar and Amanda, Andre and Joseph, Jim and Guy) in what was supposed to be a two-hour drive to the campsite.
The landscape of the park is exactly what I pictured Africa to look like, a savanna dotted with green flat-topped trees.
The delays commenced with our arrival at the Ishasha park gate (chatty gate attendant) and followed by a flat tire in the savannah.
Can't find the campsite, and Jim and Edward have a flat tire.
Cesar and Amanda decide to go find the campsite while others fix the flat tire.
Fixing the flat
It wasn’t far away, but it took another two hours before we found our way to the wilderness camp.
Terrry, James K, and Paul put up a tent
Kirsten said this was her favorite night because she hadn’t slept in a tent except in her backyard. She liked the fact that Terry took over as chef of the REI-freeze-dried pasta dinner and that Rob did a backflip off of a picnic table.
Drew, James C. and Eric
“I liked being disconnected. It’s just you and everyone in the group sitting around the campfire,” she said.
The campfire overlooking the Ishasha River.
For more information about the Northland Challenge, check out these links:
The Northland Challenge: Security, service and globalization
Northland Challenge Day 1&2
Pierre Trapanese's blog