Spinning Clockwise At The Equator - Uganda Surprises

Posted in Travel / The Honey Badger Diaries

Spinning Clockwise At The Equator - Uganda Surprises

Gurus often suggest that we look closer and more reflectively and be wholly immersed in our immediate surroundings to understand a place’s essence.

Our slow meander through Uganda allowed us to thoroughly savour each district we visited or explored. I liken it to stepping into an orangery or hothouse. The air is cloyingly moist and warm, and the rich compost-mulched soil is loamy like the Geosmin. (that pleasant silky, earthy scent of soil after the rain) heavenly. Windless days let foliage snap at the bark and float dreamily, covering the earth in a thick autumnal blanket. Hidden in the leafy folds, a micro world is captured in the misty moisture: worms, butterflies, and chrysalis. Ants, snails, beetles, and crickets take over to assist in the decomposition process, breaking down plant matter to feed roots, saplings, and seedlings. Bees buzz frantically, trying to capture the sweet pollens in stamens. Hard to spot was the very shy, pretty African Pitta whose loud call and quoip as it jumped from branch to branch.

Colourful bird species are frequently foreign and challenging to identify, forcing us to keep our heads up, eyes focused, and minds intrigued. Brown-headed Parrot songs, the woodpecker’s rhythmic knocking on wood drums loudly, and the elusive white-crested Turaco was an emphatic tick on our list. Leggy water birds and colourful kingfishers keep Butch guessing at the different shades of blue in this sea of green: Malachite, turquoise, and sapphire. Our glasses were given an extra polish to spot the red cheeks of the Red-Cheeked Cordon-bleu, who thrive in luxuriant habitats and Miombo woodlands.


We have crossed the Tropic of Capricorn several times and the Equator a few times from high in the sky, but crossing the Equator in the Honey Badger was a first.

“The Equator passes through 13 countries: Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Sao Tome & Principe, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Maldives, Indonesia, and Kiribati. At least half of these countries rank among the poorest in the world.

Baptism on the line and equatorial baptism, is an initiation ritual often performed as a ship crosses the Equator. It involves water baptism for passengers or crew who have never crossed the Equator.

Since there is more centrifugal force at the Equator to cancel gravity, the centrifugal force on one’s body at the Equator is 0.034 m/s2 times the mass of your body. The centrifugal force at the poles is zero.” Wiki

We wouldn’t be initiated into the court of King Neptune, but we would no longer be Pollywogs but Shellbacks, we claimed.

The Equator line in Uganda is along the Masaka—Mbarara highway at what has become a small town called Kayabwe. This particular spot is a widely known landmark and the go-to for motorists looking to witness the equator experiment and take photos—a popular and informative activity.

For Butch and I, this was a Kodak moment and needed to be recorded for prosperity. With our best foot forward and slimmed down, we posed with the ancient, faded board behind us.


When we finished our photo shoot, the guide set out his ancient, painted aluminium bowls to demonstrate the Coriolis effect.

The well-rehearsed performance aims to demonstrate that water swirls and discharges in an anti-clockwise direction in the northern hemisphere, contrary to the swirl and discharge in the southern hemisphere, which will be in a clockwise direction. Our guide demonstrated how the water discharged straight down on the equatorial line without a swirl.

The guide rattled off the facts and figures about the Coriolis effect in heavily accented English. We leaned in closer to see this phenomenon Butch had heard rumours about. I was suitably impressed and enchanted. His antiquated bowls, pipes, and stands pulled at my heartstrings. I hoped my elbow prodding Butch in the ribs was a clear message that this was a worthy, educational moment. I had noticed the German couple before us had dug deeply into their pockets for remuneration, and we would not be outdone.

Unfortunately, according to all online reports, this Ugandan experiment is bogus. Earth’s rotational effects on horizontally and freely moving objects are greatest at the poles; therefore, the Coriolis effect is more significant there, and the rate of change of rotational speed is zero at the Equator.

Praise be. We would only learn of the entertaining scam later. As I type, I must confess I was impressed and forgive him unconditionally. He is a master at his craft.

We’ll leave that curiosity to clever scientists, whether water courses in different directions or swirls. Our realities are mind-boggling, and the lines between fact and fiction often blur.




Clouds were gathering, blocking the rays of sunshine, highlighting the two seasons experienced at the Equator: The rainy and dry seasons.

Without warning, the heavens opened just as I opened the door to alight the Honey Badger. Across the road was the Absa bank and an ATM. At the same time, I filled our coffers where R50.00 = 10,231.92 Ugandan Shillings; Butch decided to update the Bradt online Uganda guidebook.

After submitting all his card details and the CCV code, he noticed he’d paid Fluffy’s Frivolous Fantasies. To report the fraudulent transaction, stop the card, and request a replacement, he must contact Absa Bank in South Africa, which is problematic.

Firstly, we had to acquire and load airtime for the call; there are no free 0800 calls from foreign countries. Long story short, after a very frustrating (yet patient) sixty minutes of explaining our current location, Uganda, to the call centre assistant, he cancelled the card. He ordered a new card to be delivered to the Absa bank in Kampala and hoped to get the R369.00 refunded.

We later realised that this would be the catalyst for the horrors of foreign travel in the digital age of banking. The credit card was not replaced because Butch was informed that he could not contact the courier company since Absa did not list his telephone number “as an approved number.”


The Rolexes (Roll eggs) we had for lunch at the highly recommended restaurant were cold and disappointing. Was this the result of the bad taste in our mouths after our banking disaster? You may well ask.

We unanimously agreed that no matter how simple our meals are—albeit a fresh tomato, a wedge of cheese, a slice of fresh bread, and a basil leaf—they trump any restaurant. We should stock up at the local market. The produce is fresh, organic, and very reasonable.

Later, I would ask Yvonne to show me how she makes her sourdough starter.

The dead giveaway in a restaurant’s performance always indicates the wait staff’s attitude. Shoving her filthy cloth into her jeans pocket while she tried to scuttle out the door, her flip-flops flapping on the cement floor without eye contact, was the red flag. In her mind, lunch was over, and she was ready to knock off for the afternoon.

I’m sure our cold offerings were reluctantly removed from take-sway boxes. Instead of starting up the whole kitchen for two hungry Mzungus who would know no difference was our verdict as we stabbed our forks into the rubbery chapatti. I must give credit to the avocado salsa; it was excellent. Is this the general attitude in the Northern Hemisphere?


Bees and honey are both hot topics at the moment. Using locally produced honey is always advised to benefit fully from the probiotics and antigens. We have since bought only locally produced honey and eggs to boost immunity.

We have stopped to stock up on our supplies all along the road. Before purchasing, we ensure no water or vegetable oil has been added to thin the product. (Next time you buy honey, read the label carefully; you will find no benefit in honey produced in China.

On one occasion, honey produced in areas where charcoal is produced had a smokey undertone. In forests, we could smell Eucalyptus, and honey sold by farmers had the familiar floral taste of sunflowers or elderflowers.

The pretty garden surrounding the shop selling Kasuba Kikorongo Equator Fine Pure Honey made us stop immediately to replenish our honey supply.

Unfortunately, I’ve misplaced the name of the charming assistant who served me with so much enthusiasm.

His top, top 10 benefits of Raw Honey are:

•           Antioxidant. Honey is naturally high in antioxidants.
•           Prebiotic. Unlike its pasteurised counterpart, raw honey is a powerful prebiotic.
•           Soothing. ... can be applied to burns and suntans
•           Lowers blood pressure.
•           Sugar alternative.
•           Cholesterol reducing.
•           Antibacterial.
•           Healing properties.
•           Nutritious
•           Delicious

I left with a bag filled with bottles of Raw Honey.


In Kisomoro, farmers were depositing huge, heavy bunches of green bananas for markets all over the country, and first-class fruit would be exported. Pavements and roadsides were stacked with fruit, and trucks were awaiting delivery of the green gold.


We couldn’t wait for the few days we planned to camp at Klug’s Guest Farm.

“Situated south of Fort Portal and just a few kilometres off the Fort Portal to Kasese highway, Kluges Guest Farm was initially conceived as a commercial farm. However, over the last 20 years, Mariam and Stefan Kluge gradually converted the property into one of Uganda’s most advanced owner-operated eco-lodges. The lodge features eight bungalows and two large family cottages with 12 double / twin rooms featuring en-suite amenities to international standards. In addition, the lodge locale is complemented by one of Uganda’s most advanced camping facilities. And all that marvel is situated on 70 acres of tropical forest and extensive botanical gardens.

Due to its strategic location, major tourist attractions such as the Kibale National Park and its chimp troops, the wondrous alpine landscapes of the Rwenzori Mountains National Park, and the dense tropical forests of the Semuliki National Park are within a short drive of the lodge. Other regional attractions include the Sempaya Hot Springs and the Amabere Caves, hiking adventures to the nearby Crater Lakes, and a visit to the Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary, adjacent to the Kibale National Park. Fort Portal itself also offers the opportunity to visit the palace and parliament of the Toro Kingdom, the Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of town, and the Fort Portal Golf Course.” From the Kluges Farm website.


We set up our campsite on the bottom terrace of the sprawling garden of Eden. Putting my feet on a flat rock overlooking an indigenous forest, I announced that I would not move for a few days. “What on earth are you going to do?” Butch enquired while sipping his local hooch. A home distilled Gin or Rum? The smell was similar to Rum, but the taste, he said, was Gin. Who knows? It certainly could put hair on your chest by the look on Butch’s face. I’m sure locals would label it as “medicinal.”

Stefan is larger than life, a raconteur, and loves entertaining his guests. In his booming voice, he commands his Kingdom, and it is impossible to resist his charm.

Evenings would be spent around a fire pit where logs chopped from alien trees are used as firewood. The smoke, he says, wards off nasty mosquitoes, and the flames lick and swallow gossip while keeping everyone toasty.

Stefan has adapted to his adopted country like a duck and tells us he was instrumental in rehabilitating the huge, velvety tea plantations blanketing the slopes throughout Uganda. Not of the feint-hearted, he absorbed local customs and traditions and enthusiastically imparted this to his guests.

We were offered spicey, crispy, deep-fried crickets and mopane worms with our sundowners. To not be unappreciative of his hospitality, I did nibble on one cricket but must confess I returned the mopane worm to a flower bed behind my chair. Butch is keen to try something once, at least, and wholeheartedly dipped into the protein-rich nibbles.

Later, we dined at our host’s table, where we were offered a carte du jour of local dishes. I enjoy a taster menu of many courses, tucking into every tasty dish with relish and savouring the new flavours, ingredients and condiments.


On our bikes, Butch and I explored the district of Kabahango, driving through the magnificent blue gum plantations, lousy dirt roads, and children who took up the challenge and rode alongside us. No matter how unsophisticated their bikes were, they would always beat us by a country mile.

In Karambi, we saw subsistence farmers pushing their heavily laden bikes up steep hills and then down declines to get their crops to the pick-up point along the road. Their resilience and determination always put me to shame when I knew I might’ve given up long ago. Hopelessness is not an option or even part of the vocabulary. Here, you knuckle down and get on with whatever needs to be done.

Pearl’s Beauty Saloon beckoned. I whined about what I wouldn’t give for a makeover or a simple pedicure. Butch ignored me while he sped off at top speed.

Fort Portal is a large, bustling city, juxtaposed are modern, ancient and informal developments, simple trading stores, markets, shopping centers and well stocked general dealers. There  are churches, schools, univercities and colleges and clubs. Stefan is an avid golfer and member of the golf club while Miriam is the current president of the very active Rotary club. Like all African cities and towns anything one needs can be found all it takes is asking.

The well-stocked general dealer did lift my spirits. Shelves packed to the rafters stocked every conceivable item, I was sure. I could pick a party mask, buy Christmas decorations, choose coffee from four East African countries, and replace broken glassware while filling my basket with essential items like instant yeast, eggs, stone ground flour, and boxed custard.

We bought four Ceres apples that grown by Du Toit Boerdery in the Ceres valley. Fresh, crunchy apples are still in the carton from the Cape. I couldn’t resist holding my apple to my nose and breathing in its fragrant apple smell. Butch polished his apple to a bright red sheen before plunging his teeth into the firm skin and moist flesh, followed by a misty spray of sweet apple juice, which he wiped off on the back of his hand.

Our reward for our effort in the 30-odd-kilometre ride was lunch in town. The spicy chicken wrap and ice cream were a treat. For our friends, we took home slabs of locally produced chocolate.

With restored energy, the ride home was smooth and exhilarating. If I can do it one way, I can do it again. That is my philosophy.


On alternate days, we hiked in the indigenous forest on the farm. There were magnificent trees, giant subtropical plants, ferns, lichens, papyruses, grasses, and creepers everywhere.

Bordering the forest were acres of banana trees and subtropical fruit trees, e.g., Mangoes, that produce fruit year-round. Litchis, guavas, and citrus trees. On the ground, beautiful, sweet, and juicy king pineapples and covering fences and walls passion fruit (granadilla). A paradise.

With Butch leading the way, we’d go exploring. Up and down the slippery slopes, we’d scramble, stopping to catch our breath and listen to the forest sounds of monkeys, birds, and, far off to the distance, the low cattle moan as herds of long-horns made their way to water or grazing, the herders cracking whips or throwing small stones to keep them in tow.


It took no persuasion for Yvonne to give me a quick sourdough starter lesson. She set me up with a screw-top glass bottle for the starter, a full plastic screw-top canister filled with bread flour, and a tin that perfectly fit into my Air fryer. She promised that I could bake my crusty bread within four days.

Every morning, I nursed and fed my starter, and true to her word, on the fourth day, I baked my first bread. Breakfast was a feast.

Butch and I are very comfortable being on our own, but we cherish the times we’ve spent with our friends Yvonne and Rene, who drove unexpectedly into our lives and have stolen our hearts. They are easy-going and fun, and they enjoy the adventure we’ve embarked on. To have a girlfriend is very special to me, and my girlie chats with Yvonne bring a different dimension to my African adventure. There was a bromance blossoming, too.

We laughed a lot and enjoyed light-hearted conversations, knowing our time together would be temporary. While Butch and I explored on foot and our bikes, they went off with their Go-Pro filming their adventures.

I must add that hearing people’s positive experiences in South Africa is often like a breath of fresh air. Everyone speaks highly of our tourist industry, game reserves and parks, cuisine, and beautiful Cape Town, especially comments on how friendly South Africans are. Politics rarely features, in their opinion, yet safety and security are a big concern. The weak SA Rand (our funny money) is a significant draw card that we should exploit to encourage foreign visitors.

Africans always comment on two issues concerning South Africa: 1. our horrendous Xenophobia, which is disheartening and hard to comprehend when we have been welcomed and treated with such kindness and hospitality. 2. The Jacob Zuma years.


But let’s move on. I find my continuous efforts to defend South Africa tedious and pointless. At least we all agree it is a beautiful country with complex issues and a shocking history.

“We recall our terrible past so that we can deal with it, to forgive where forgiveness is necessary, without forgetting; to ensure that never again will such inhumanity tear us apart; and to move ourselves to eradicate a legacy that lurks dangerously as a threat to our democracy.” Nelson Mandela.


Before we left Klugs Farm, we stocked up with charcuterie from Stefan’s butchery, where he produces delectable salamis, smoked cold cuts, sausages, and wors.

Miriam's love of plants, flowers and gardening shine from the moment one enters the property and as soon as the rain stopped I dashed around to photograph my favourite spots. Roses, sunflowers, exotic plants I'm not familiar with and common old fashioned blooms fill the colourful beds in a happy English garden.

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Soon, I would serve delicious Tapas with my sourdough loaves, which inspired me to make cream cheese, bean patè, and Gazpacho. We were in for a treat.

It was back on the  road again. Eight hours of slow but hard driving to our next destination. Recording our trip with photographs has been my life saver not only do I observe better, i'm aware of my surroundings at all times and I have files of memories to savour later. 


Our next destination was the Kikonko Lodge, situated high on the escarpment of the Albertine Rift overlooking Lake Albert.

The basic campsite’s magnificent view over the lake and the Blue Mountains of the DRC forces one to set up camping chairs, sit, drink in hand, and breathe—slow, deep breaths. Fresh mountain air and a blue vista are intoxicating. Instead of staying a night, we extended our stay to three nights.

Early the following day, we heard Renè flexing his muscles, stretching, and warming up for his run. Later, after our morning coffees, while we watched fishing boats coming from their night fishing and new boats going out to put their nets out, Butch and I prepared to tackle the pass and ride our bikes down to the lake.  

What were we thinking? We were embarking on a ride similar to riding from the Bush Pub before the Bains Kloof Pass to Paarl and back to our campsite.

The downhill stretch was easy, peasy, and fun. We sang along past people pushing their bikes uphill, flew past guys on motorbikes, and dodged potholes. The wind through our helmets was exhilarating, and soon, we were on the flats peddling leisurely to the lake.

We enthusiastically waved to children along the road and dodged a few cattle and goats. We stopped at the shoreline to drink our Lo-Cal-flavoured water, ice blocks tinkling in our Lizzard water bottles without breaking a sweat. After that, we scoffed handfuls of jelly babies. I remember sitting with legs crossed on a log, feeling like a queen.

Our explorations through the fishing village were fun, and the straight, flat road to the waterfall we did with no effort. I could occasionally stop to take photographs and even take a few while riding.

The waterfall was impressive. Megatons of water were released from a hydroelectrical plant high up on the plateau. Water thundered over the cliff face, sending sprays a hundred meters into the air, creating an extraordinary, misty, tropical landscape for the indigenous forest below.

Pedalling past the youngster pushing his over-burdened bike up the hills made me stop to chat while he rested. I sympathised with him, imagining how exhausted he must be, yet I knew he would repeat this arduous chore the next day and the next. Masses of water surrounded him, yet he had to fill his canisters daily. So near, yet so far.

Just thinking about my ride up the mountain sends cold chills down my spine. The foot of the mountain was fine; I had a battery. The mountain road has steep inclines, S bends, and U bends; its surface is gravel, stone, and potholes.

It was sheer hell. I would stop after every bend to drink a sip of water, rest, and calculate the number of steps I had to push my bike to the next bend in the road. Estimating the distance in meters was the only way I could do it. In sections of 300m before I collapsed onto a flat rock to catch my breath. Soon, my Lizzard was empty, my ice blocks were hot drops, and then there was nothing as I shook the bottle, hoping for a minuscule drop on my parched tongue, which was lolling out.

My bloodshot, dry eyes scratched, my hands ached, and my calves burned like red hot coals, but my heavy bike had to return to the campsite. I had no legs to pedal my bike, even with a battery on full throttle.

Little did I know help was on his way. Just as well, I suppose, I might’ve ditched the bike. Butch had reached the campsite and, after replenishing his water bottle, came to assist me by riding the bike home. I struggled on, exhausted, hot, and disappointed I’d not made it home. That’s me.

Like a beached hippopotamus, I collapsed onto the nearest pool recliner and spent the afternoon unwinding at the pool, my open book flat on my tummy while I wheezed and chuffed, easing my aching muscles back to health. From a confident queen to a burnt-out actress in a morning.

Our meal in the restaurant was a treat, and not for the apparent reason that I deserved a night off: the fillet steak was delicious, beautifully plated, served with perfectly grilled seasonal vegetables, and finished with a tasty jus. We have learned not to order beef unless the dish is a stew or casserole. Although the beef is very flavoursome, we’ve been told that the carcasses aren’t aged or air-dried but sold immediately, hence lacking tenderness. Furthermore there's cattle ranching of any note in east Africa.

Butch and I spent the rest of our stay doing as little as possible. We counted the fishermen’s lights on the lake at night and wondered about life in the DRC. During the day I limited my adventures to strolling around the lodge, admiring the décor, colourful local art, the gardens, and the views from my camping chaise.