Raphael Kessler

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South East Asia 1999

  1. Vietnam - February 1999
  2. Thailand - April 1999
  3. Malaysia and Singapore - May 1999
  4. Indonesia - June 1999
Africa to home, the long way
- Africa
  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia and Botswana
  3. Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and Kenya
  4. Uganda
  5. Ethiopia
  6. Egypt
- Middle East and Balkans
  1. Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey
  2. Balkans
  3. Turkey
  4. Iran
- Asia
  1. Pakistan
  2. China
  3. Tibet
  4. Nepal
  5. India 1
  6. India 2
  7. India 3
  8. Sri Lanka
  9. Bangladesh
  10. Myanmar
  11. Thailand
  12. Cambodia
  13. Laos
  14. China, Macao and Hong Kong
  15. Mongolia
- North America and Caribbean
  Caribbean, USA, Mexico and Canada
- Scandinavia and Eastern Europe
  1. Russia
  2. Sweden
  3. Baltics
  4. Poland and Czech Republic
South America 2002
  1. Brazil
  2. Argentina
  3. Chile and Easter Island
Central America and Mexico 2002
  1. Panama
  2. Costa Rica
  3. Nicaragua
  4. Honduras
  5. El Salvador
  6. Guatemala
  7. Belize
  8. Mexico
South America 2003-4
  1. Trinidad and Tobago
  2. Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
  3. Venezuela
  4. Colombia
  5. Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands
  6. Peru
  7. Bolivia
  8. Argentina
  9. Uruguay and Paraguay
  10. Bolivia 2
  11. Peru 2
Specific Pacific
  1. California to Fiji+ French Polynesia & Cook Islands
  2. Samoa, Niue and American Samoa
  3. Tonga and New Zealand
  4. Australia 1
  5. Australia 2



As you all know, since leaving the truck last Saturday I got some bits sorted in Nairobi and decided to go to Uganda. En route back to my hotel to get my bags and a cab to the bus station, Daniel Arap Moi (president of Kenya) tried to knock me down in his limo. I think the bastard was aiming as well. Anyway, from that close escape I got to the bus station where after some delay I managed to get on my bus to Kampala, Uganda. Met a decent Kampalan fellow called Sam who I chatted to for a while and who made sure I was okay all the time. We eventually left Nairobi at about nine p.m. and got to the Ugandan border at about seven the following morning, arriving in Kampala about two p.m.

In Kampala I got my gorilla tracking permit and slept, the following morning I had another arduous bus journey, instead of eight hours was supposed to have been it became fifteen to get to Butogota, from where I got a "taxi" to Bwindi Impenetrable forest Nat. Park. On arriving I noticed the place was awash with soldiers, knowing that the security had been tightened since some tourists were killed by Congolese rebels last year, I presumed that was all it was. Abdul my driver said that it was actually because Yoweri Museveni was staying at the camp that night. Museveni being the president of Uganda. I managed to secure lodgings in the store room of the canteen as all the other accomodation was being used by Museveni and his entorage.

So, yesterday morning I got up to go and track some gorillas. I noticed I was the only tourist in town, this had some advantages as will become clear. Several folk came over and chatted to me including the local commander of the forces ensuring security there. Then this big fellow comes up asks me how I am etc. and where I'm from, when I told him I was a Londoner he decided I was London tribe, nice enough guy but a bit odd, when he said hello to someone else, they were all sycophantic yes your excellency, no Mr. President etc. So, apparently this was the big man himself.

Anyway it was decided that the pres. would come tracking with me, his whole entourage, reporters, TV cameras and the BBC world service. Oh well, could have been worse, he could have been German. It was quite funny amongst his entourage were servants in formal wear carrying a cool box full of drinks etc. to keep him refreshed.
So we went off stopping every so often for him to address the locals or just to take a break. When we stopped we often chatted about this that or the other. For some reason he had an obsession with my walking boots deciding he must get some. He got his secretary to get the details of where he could get some in London and made the photographer take numerous photos of my boots so they got the right ones. (See Granny must be good). Anyway after being interviewed by the ugandan TV folk (bringing my total of countries I've been on national TV to four (UK, Israel, Thailand and Uganda)) and the BBC world service and several hours trekking we got to where the gorillas were. It was marvellous there were eleven or twelve there ranging in age from little babies through adolescants to one huge silverback with a head as big as many peoples torso. It was marvellous the pres. only looked at them for about ten minutes and then went off. As my permit (all 250 dollars of it) entitled me to one hours viewing I wasn't going to be short changed. I watched and took a roll and a half of photos, hopefully some will come out well as the light was very poor. We could get very close to them, although one isn't supposed to go within five metres the gorillas would come toward me. It was great to see that many of these beautiful creatures. There are less than 650 left in the world so to see a dozen at once was really exceptional, playing, eating, beating their chests, the whole range. Once I'd had my hour I walked back up the hill a little bit where the president had been waiting for me for the past forty five minutes. I apologised for keeping him waiting, then sat down and had a rest and chatted to him for about quarter of an hour before we set off again. I must say the whole thing was a unique experience. I was re-interviewed (both by the BBC and Ugandan TV), and we went back to where the cars were parked at the beginning of the trek where a huge gathering had appeared to welcome the pres. with drums and dancing etc. He made sure I had a drink whilst he had a dance with them, then gave a speech. We then went back to the camp where I managed to get him to shout me lunch as I was running very low on Ugandan Shillings. I said goodbye to him, he went off to get a helicopter I waited for someone to take me to Butogota so I could get a bus this morning. En route Abdul the driver decided to show me R.D. Congo (formerly Zaire). He took me down to the border where I had a little stroll over into the Congo. Looked just like Uganda to me, so no point going there then.

Just to finish off, the bus decided to leave an hour early this morning so I got a Matatu to Runkihihi where the bus was for the schlap back to Kampala arrived here this afternoon, knackered. Got something to eat and chilled out a bit and now writing this e-mail. Fortunately there is bugger all I can do on a Sunday so I can chill properly, after forty seven hours on buses in three and a half days I need to.


So still in Kampala, this place is not bad, but the only birds flying around town are Marabou Storks, one of the most sinister looking creatures you have ever seen. The whole place is awash with them, like pigeons in Trafalgar square,just bigger and uglier, adds character to the place I guess. So I got a moto-taxi (moped and driver) for the day and first went to the Kisubi tombs, where the Kabakas (kings) of Buganda (a tribe) are buried. It was actually very interesting as the entry cost includes a very knowledgeable guide. From there onto the Kabaka's palace. Now I have to say this is not quite what I expected, to be frank, it's a bit of a hole. That said it's a very big dump in probably the best location in the city, three square miles of crap dead in the centre of the city. The actual palace (nothing special, nicer buildings in Bournemouth) is still being finished and the rest of the place is either waste ground or being used to grow some crops. These Bugandans are obviously a funny bunch. Went past the Makerere university - it was the best university in East Africa before Amin. Onto the Kampala museum, the moto bloke decided to come with me to have a look round, it's good to feel like you're encouraging education. The museum is quite good and interesting although quite run down. It doesn't look like most of the exhibits have been dusted for a number of years. After that I got him to drop me back in town where I went to get lunch.


So after doing the rounds yesterday getting hold of photos from my outing with the president, the other national neswpaper "The Monitor" has done the right thing in plastering a picture of me and Museveni on the front page, and both of us are facing the camera. I knew it was only a matter of time before they realised who they were dealing with.



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