Budongo Forest walk that left me worn out

Tuesday July 10 2018

Before setting off: Tourists and journalists

Before setting off: Tourists and journalists listen to a tour guide outside the restaurant at Budongo Ecolodge in Budongo Forest . PHOTOS BY SARAH AANYU. 

By SARAH AANYU

Imagine a city girl trying to rough it in the depths of the famous impenetrable Budongo Forest. In the spirit of embracing local tourism I found myself on the way to Murchison Falls National Park. Until we arrived at the entrance, I was acutely aware of a silence that is foreign to anything else I had experienced before. Was the air fresher too, or was it just an assumption after seeing all this green? After a light dinner, I was encouraged to sleep early since our expedition would start very early the following day.
At 7.30am, we had our breakfast then headed for the forest. The journey from the main road to the forest rails seemed longer for me and i was so relieved to get to the handicraft shop where I sat down for a much needed rest. No sooner had I started enjoying watching the colourful butterflies than we were told to hit the trails again. This journey was not any easier for me but at least the sight of baboons, monkeys, different bird species and tree species made it interesting.
At the Eco-lodge en route to forest
On reaching the eco lodge, we found a number of friendly tour guides who first introduced themselves to us. The one going to lead our lot was Evalyne Bingi. Bingi has all this interesting information that would convert even the most indifferent person into a tourist.
One thing however worried me, instead of sensible shoes, I had worn sandals. One whispered to me, “you cannot survive the crawling insects in those shoes.” Luckily, one of the people we were with had a pair of Wellingtons and he was kind enough to lend me a pair.

On the move
Bingi energetically walked ahead of us and pointed out the sound of the seccada, an insect that only lives for three weeks and making the same sound to the time of its death.
She showed us the poison ivy warning us to steer clear of it as it causes skin inflammation and itching once it comes into contact with your skin. By the time that information was passed on, my neighbour was already a victim.
Fresh air made me wish for extra days of stay. A world away from the city hustle and bustle. The only people you see are those you have gone with. We were told about different types of trees and plants which are medicinal as well as food for the wildlife.
“While in the forest keep quiet because human noise distracts and irritates the chimpanzees. And in return, they might attack you thinking you are invading their territory,” Bingi cautioned.

No sight of apes
We moved for many kilometres before spotting chimps. The first troop we met were on a tree, picking bugs from each other’s bodies while the rest were at a swamp. The tour guide said we could not easily find them because it was their time for resting.
Meanwhile, they ate the bugs from each other’s bodies which Bingi explained is efficient in preventing the spread of lice.
They seemed uneasy and kept staring at us. After about 30 minutes, they descended the tree trunk and walked away. We proceeded in search of more and found them which did stare like they were competing for a prize.

Return
The trail ended and we emerged out of the forest feeling relieved but happy to have taken the nature walk. Apart from Budongo Forest, other tourism sites are Lake Albert and Murchison Falls national parks in the neighbouring areas.

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