11-Dec-2005 -- We had an unplanned and rather quick hunt for 1N 34E the day before, and first-time hunters (Linda and Peter) were impressed how fun and easy line-hunting could be. This second hunting trip was planned and turned out to be somewhat complicated. Yet, it will be remembered as one of the most memorable hunts because of time pressure to catch a flight by a member of the hunting party.
Ray had set eye on this point prior to the trip to Uganda, and the only feasible window was the last day of the visit after all the work was completed. The only catch was that this last day had a time limit – a 3:20 p.m. flight to Johannesburg.
This confluence point was located on Lake Victoria about 70 km GPS distance from Kampala. The nearest community, a village called Nansagazi on the lakeshore is 12 km north of the confluence point. We had budgeted an hour and a half to reach Nansagazi and we were assuming that after reaching a village by the lakeshore, it would not be much trouble to find a boat to go to the point. It was also safe to assume that there would be no obstacles on the lake – an hour and half was also budgeted for the water portion of the hunt. The plan was to drop Ray off directly at the airport in Entebbe after the hunt. Like all good plans for line-hunting, it never works out quite as planned.
We left the hotel by 7:30 a.m., and Sunday morning the traffic was lighter than usual. We headed east on the Trans-Africa highway and turned south on a secondary road after 30 km. The series of dirt roads we took heading to the north shore of Lake Victoria were in good condition and we passed a number of small communities and impressive tropical forest. We reached Nansagazi exactly as planned, in just a little over an hour and a half. As it turned out, this was the only part that worked according to our plan. The main catch was that this village was much smaller than expected – only about a dozen of huts near a calm bay. Our initial investigation found few wooden boats but none had motor set up for a 24 km round trip journey.
The first group of fishermen we encountered indicated that there were no boats available to take us out that far. Most of the boats could go one or two km by paddling. Just as we were about to give up and declare that this was an incomplete visit 12 km short of the goal, a fellow named Henry approached us and said he knew someone with a boat who could take us out. Of course, we were perked up again.
The first order of business was to find the boat operator, and according to Henry he lived a couple km back in the woods. We piled Henry in our car and went looking for the boatman. As we drove on a small dirt road, Henry found the boatman walking. After a quick exchange, the boatman agreed but he needed to go home first to pick up a gas can. We continued on the small road further and came to a cleared area near the home of the boatman. It took him almost 20 minutes to show up with his gas can. An hour had passed by the time we returned to the lakeshore.
The boatman indicated that he needed to buy 10 liters of gas and set up the motor, and a fee was agreed upon. After 15 more minutes, nothing had happened and we found him at a shed buying gas but only 5 liters were available. The boatman was not sure this was enough gas to do the 24 km round trip. We decided to give it a try in any event. The gas purchase and discussion consumed another 30 minutes. At which point, Ray threatened to cancel the whole deal if the boat was not ready in 10 minutes. Suddenly a flurry of activities took place, and the motor got moved to the boat, gas was added and we were ready to go under 15 minutes. By then it was 10:45 a.m.
We got on the boat quickly together with Henry who had to come because the boatman did not speak English. Once we started moving on the lake, the GPS indicated the boat was moving at 14 km an hour, which would bring us back by 12:30 p.m., a bit tight to make the flight, but we all came at least 8000 km away, the last 10 km should not stand in the way. There is always another flight to catch.
About 5 km from the confluence point, it was evident that we may not have enough fuel to complete the trip. The only option other than turning back was to take a detour and stop over a nearby island with a fishing village to buy some fuel. Under normal condition, a visit to a fishing village in the middle to Lake Victoria would be a welcomed part of a line-hunting trip. As time was running out, this extra 30 minutes only increased the pressure, or reduced the chance that Ray would make his flight. We paid double the price for these 5 liters of gas and hurried off.
Shortly after we resumed the trip toward the confluence point, we ran into a small storm with headwind and rain. Fortunately, the storm was minor and it lasted about 15 minutes.
We reached the confluence point at about quarter after noon, just as the weather was starting to clear up. We did not spend much time to try to get close to the all-zero point. When the boat was turning around, we managed to get within 12 meters of the all zeros. Not bad for a water-based confluence point reached by boat.
The return boat ride was straightforward and it took about 50 minutes. The boat had a slow leak and was taking water at a rate of 1-3 liters per minute, hence required constant baling throughout the entire journey. We reached the shore a little after 1 p.m. – the normal check-in time for the flight. Off we went.
Our driver, Abu navigated the dirt road and reached the Trans-Africa highway in 45 minutes. But by early afternoon, the traffic on the main highway was slow going. It was 2:45 p.m. by the time we reached the turnoff near Kampala to Entebbe, and there were still 45 km more to go. The chance of catching a 3:20 p.m. flight was like finding snow in Uganda. Since we had nothing to lose, we pressed on for the airport anyway.
The drive to the Entebbe airport took almost 50 minutes and we arrived a few minutes past the official departure time. Ray dashed into the empty departure hall and found an agent still having some dispute with a passenger for the same flight. The agent agreed to take Ray on the flight if no luggage to check in, which was not a problem. The only glitch occurred after getting a boarding pass, Ray ran back to the car to pick up his carry-on luggage, the security screening person refused to screen the bag, claiming that she was instructed not to let any luggage go on the flight. After several minutes of pleading and arguing, she reluctantly screened the bag. Ray managed to sit on the plane by 3:45 p.m. and the door of the plane closed 3 minutes after that.
The rush to the airport did add extra excitement to an otherwise very colorful hunting trip. This was the third time Ray had cut it too close to make a flight in pursuit of a confluence point. In fact, getting on the flight was the best surprise of all. Also, it was the first visit on the Equator. For Linda and Peter, this was their 2nd confluence hunt, and their first visit to a previously unvisited point.
We thank to Alice Namale for charting out the route to Nansagazi and Abu for his expert driving.
Rating of this hunt:
Degree of Challenge: 3 – Getting a boat organized to reach to confluence point and back required strong management and negotiation skills (Scale: 1= very easy - drive to the point; to 5= a death march – glad it is over)
Scenery: 3 – North shore and islands of Lake Victoria – pleasant and tranquil (Scale: 1= not interesting at all; 5= take your breath away)
Culture-social factors: 3 – Fishing villages on the shore of Lake Victoria (Scale: 1=dull; 5= most stimulating)