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Why Your Next Road Trip Should Be Through Western Rwanda

A week ago I did a grand tour of western Rwanda that I would rather term as a green belt.

Beyond Nyabihu there’s nothing but volcanic fields, green tea field and  luxury resorts.

For the past decade, travel to western Rwanda has meant sleeping in an unremarkable  hotels and day-tripping to the golden Gisenyi currently called Rubavu, that 130-km circuit of green waves and rolling hills outside of town, and then capping your trip with a pre-departure soak in the lush vegetation in Gishwati forest before heading to golden lake views of all times. All done along-side everyone else stopping over between the Rubavu and Karongi. But newly opened luxury-design lodges 3B Hotels who own Kivu lodge, on the lake—are restoring the fantasy of a Rwandan lunar frontier worthy of exploration beyond a weekend.

 

Kivu Lodge.

Kivu Lodge in Western Rwanda. Part of the 3B Hotels Group.

You could helicopter between their properties between Kigali, Musanze, Karongi and the soon to be opened close to Akagera National park in the east of Rwanda, but consider going by car, driving from Kigali to Musanze on Gorilla safari lodge up to the Rubavu peninsula via the more rugged north, then looping back down to the Blue lake Kivu.  If you spread out the 227-mile drive over four or five days, spending a night or two at each hotel, you’ll have time to take in the haunting volcanic fields and vast plains reminiscent of Rwanda. Out here, you’ll see more hills, vegetation, mind blowing views than people.

GISHWATI TEA FIELDS AND FOREST

Gishwati Tea fields are so amazing for both camping close and tour onlookers

Volcanoes close to Gorilla Safari Lodge where you can start off your journey to the western green belt

Once you land, you don’t have to drive too far to feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. The concrete-and-green adventure is just 1 and 20 minutes from Musanze but seems a world away. Close to is Gishwati forest.  It has an outdoor hot activity for some of you who love birding life, that looks out onto massive green tea covered fields.

There is no artificial light and no noise of any kind (you will only hear bird chirp, since just there are so many trees). The other break from the silence is the gentle hiss of wind waves coming from the upper hills rolling down the valleys. It’s particularly spectacular during a soak of the afternoon, in the fading western sunlight (and even more surreal when you consider sleeping in Musanze at Gorillas Safari lodge and wake up on a mega breakfast to give you energy of stretching your eye lenses to grasp the endless fable mountains).

Luxurious 3B Hotels group restaurants.

From here, continue west to Karongi via Rubengera on the famous Congo Nile trail. Route 1 cuts through mile after mile of sharp bends and hills, but the only traffic you’ll encounter is packs of eucalyptus galloping next to your car sliding backwards. The drive to Kivu lodge Farm is nearly 2 hours, so plan to stop stare, stop, stare and stop to stare at the glamorous west. Packed snack and water is advisable as you will not find much stop centres where you can buy a trusted snack

CONGO NILE TRAIL

Part of the snake soft roads that make up the Congo Nile Trail in Western Rwanda

The 227 Kms long distance has been known as the best product so far to me Rwanda development board has ever developed, for the country that’s yearning for After Gorilla experience packages. I guess this forms part of your experience as you traverse via the western green belt in Rwanda. Here you need to plan for 5 days or so if you are to cycle around. Each stopover will usher you into another one. I did not get a chance to camp or stop a lot but managed to have a brief glance of Mugonero base camp that happens to be close to Kivu lodge where I was staying.

Warning !!!

Please do not forget to pack your camera, summer like wear as the place looks more like Hawaii and those other places you see in movies and celebrity shows. Stop take a photo and you will thank me later

In the next episode I will tell you life on water with Iliza boat courtesy of iliza expeditions.

IliZA House Boat owned by Iliza expeditions. Wait for the Iliza story next.

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EVERYDAY IS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN

By Edmund Kagire

When I got an invitation to attend the Global Conference on Primary Health Care in Astana, Kazakhstan the week running October 21 to 27, 2018, I was a bit hesitant to accept it but then I said what the hell, let me just take it on. After all I am the adventurous type.

I set off on October 21 to what turned out to be a whirlwind week of new experiences, exposure and new human connections. The journey was smooth, taking Rwandair from Kigali to Dubai & then Air Astana from Dubai to Astana. I had never heard of the airline. It is a very pleasant airline with good service -one of the best in EuraAsia, if not the best. It boast of over 30 aircraft in its fleet and operates in at least 64 destinations.

Interesting. In Kinyarwanda they say “Akanyoni katagurutse ntikamenya iyo bweze”, literally meaning that a bird that never flies will never know where the millet harvest is. I had been told that racism is rife in Russia and all Slavic countries formerly linked to the Soviet Union. I expected to be ‘unwelcome’ but it was not the case in Kazakhstan. Kazakhs are very hospitable people and will do anything to help you even though you might struggle to communicate if you don’t speak Kazakh or Russian. Right from the airport to the conference centre and malls, they would go out of their way to make sure that all is well. Occasionally, they will talk amongst themselves and laugh but it all seemed in good faith (I didn’t read much into it) and in line with helping you to get what you wanted. Kazakhstan is a very organised country. The discipline and time keeping is impressive.

The Palace of Independence where the meeting was held is a beautiful piece of architecture and hosts thousands of people. The organisation was top notch. The Astana Opera House experience was out of this world. The opera house, which was right opposite my hotel, was breathtaking. It is said to be the 3rd biggest opera house in the world in terms of capacity. I haven’t seen anything well built as that architectural marvel. The performances were overwhelming. Astana is a young city. It turned 20 recently in June but it looks more established than most cities that are over a century old. The architecture in Astana is unbelievable, almost science fiction stuff. I am working on a travel piece for The East African, you will read more details there.

All in all, I just wanted to say that everyday presents us an opportunity to learn and be more informed on what the world has to offer. My perception of Kazakhstan has forever changed for the better. The more we learn, the better we become as human beings. We just have to be open minded

Views expressed in this blog are 100% an experience of the traveller or writter not of Travel With Darius TV Blog

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HOTEL REVIEW: Mbale Resort Hotel Limited | The Natural Comfort in A Gem of Eastern Uganda

Having decided to have a full Eastern Uganda retreat, I set about deciding where I wanted to stay. Mbale Resort hotel in the slopes of Mt. Elgon was calling, well on the outskirts of Bugisu region it seemed like an obvious choice for a number of reasons. Find out below what we thought.

Of course the holidays for children are getting closer to the end and am one of the most optimistic parents to see them go back. Am a traveler and then think about noise around you, breaking glasses at home, writing on cars. You know better than me. Am talking to seniors in parenting. Am a single parent so where you stop is where I start from.

So what comes to my mind is my next holiday and really needed a place where I will hike more, eat more, sleep more and kick out the stress I have been through the whole month. You know what I mean. On my mind is the Eastern Uganda circuit and what comes to me is Mbale Resort Hotel. I always mind much on the price but whatever the case Comfort also comes handy. So when I read their slogan “The Natural Comfort” all my nightmares were solved.

Mbale Resort Hotel Limited | Your Natural Comfort in Eastern Uganda

Established in 2002, Mbale Resort Hotel is berthed in the tranquil town of Mbale on the slopes of Mt. Elgon National Park.  It’s a private run business which was the realization of a dream that started long time ago combining touristic and urban life facility in the whole of Eastern Uganda circuit. The unique elegant facility is the first of its kind and the only five star rated Hotel in the whole of Eastern Uganda.

The first structures Mbale Resort Hotel started with a magnificent view of the pool and southern part of Mt. Elgon Ranges.

While looking at Mbale Resort trip advisor review page i could tell this is metaphorically what I have been yearning for. What a coincidence? I go hike Elgon and come back to the hotel with ease, go to Sipi Falls Uganda in 20 minutes or less am back at the hotel. That sounds good already. I came up with my 6 days itinerary of adrenaline rush adventure without my usual habits of meeting locals and we dance.

Ohhh yes do you remember Mbale is home to Bamasababa who have the strongest initiation cultural event in the whole of Uganda? Its in high gear and now I can’t miss. I hope they don’t do that to me unwillingly. Am from the West of Uganda where everyone does it willingly but here it’s by force. Lol

The Road To Mbale Resort Hotel Limited | Your Natural Comfort

It’s just a short 10 minute drive from Mbale Town the centre of Bugisu and close to five hours of average speed from Kampala to Mbale town. To be honest there are so many obstructions from Kampala to Mbale. It’s a route that’s has many street food stop overs like Namawojolo inside Mabira Forest, the source of the Nile and much more that are always yearning for you to stop.

While looking at Mbale Resort trip advisor review page i could tell this is metaphorically what I have been yearning for. What a coincidence? I go hike Elgon and come back to the hotel with ease, go to Sipi Falls Uganda in 20 minutes or less am back at the hotel. That sounds good already. I came up with my 6 days itinerary of adrenaline rush adventure without my usual habits of meeting locals and we dance.

Ohhh yes do you remember Mbale is home to Bamasababa who have the strongest initiation cultural event in the whole of Uganda? Its in high gear and now I can’t miss. I hope they don’t do that to me unwillingly. Am from the West of Uganda where everyone does it willingly but here it’s by force. Lol

The Road To Mbale Resort Hotel Limited | Your Natural Comfort

It’s just a short 10 minute drive from Mbale Town the centre of Bugisu and close to five hours of average speed from Kampala to Mbale town. To be honest there are so many obstructions from Kampala to Mbale. It’s a route that’s has many street food stop overs like Namawojolo inside Mabira Forest, the source of the Nile and much more that are always yearning for you to stop.

Darius is swarmed by a group of food venders on his road trip to Mbale inside Mabira forest.

It’s also a major route to Kenya so expect many trucks and buses on the road. Without forgetting stressing endless “STOP POLICE CHECK” points. These one agrrrrrrrr I don’t recount how many they are. Everyone knows the performance of a Toyota Harrier 3000 CC. So to be brief I was skipping some towns like a drone. But stopped a million times too. Don’t try that.

Accommodation at Mbale Resort Hotel

Luxury business suite with a luxury bed that has music, Kitchen area, mordant elegant bathroom, balcony and big seating room.

Time check 15:30 GMT and am received by fresh enchanting environment in the slopes of Wanale Mountain and in the middle of nature at its best. Mbale resort has for the last 16 years developed from a small sized hotel resort of 19 rooms in the old wing to a whooping 93 rooms after adding 74 rooms in.

But I wondered from the reviews how they have made a leap from the few rooms they had.  The baby of all is the biggest or call it the newest complex that houses 2 restaurants, two conference rooms, bars, a mega reception and a tune of 70  plus luxury rooms that include 3 luxury suites. My suite had an almost 360 degrees round bed, wide sitting room, balcony and balcony to enable me have a clear view of the Elgon ranges in the south.

Time check 15:30 GMT and am received by fresh enchanting environment in the slopes of Wanale Mountain and in the middle of nature at its best. Mbale resort has for the last 16 years developed from a small sized hotel resort of 19 rooms in the old wing to a whooping 93 rooms after adding 74 rooms in.

But I wondered from the reviews how they have made a leap from the few rooms they had.  The baby of all is the biggest or call it the newest complex that houses 2 restaurants, two conference rooms, bars, a mega reception and a tune of 70  plus luxury rooms that include 3 luxury suites. My suite had an almost 360 degrees round bed, wide sitting room, balcony and balcony to enable me have a clear view of the Elgon ranges in the south.

The new Mbale Resort Hotel complex that houses most of the conference rooms, suites and other luxury rooms.

And now forget about that other story and I begin the Mbale story now. It was my first time to have a bed that has music in it. Okay! It was my first time to have a shower singing for me. Okay ! It was my first time to have a shower that does massage for you, has various taps, one for the ear, another one for legs, another one for the stomach and another one and another one. Basically each part of the body has its own tap in Mbale resort shower for the Suite. Call me a village man or whatever I don’t care but I have never been in a shower bathtub that massages and soothes me . Okay. Period! It’s a story I will live to tell my grand and grand for good. If you disagree the pack your bags now and go then ask for an executive Business suite. You will come back with a different version of the story like politicians of these days.  Of course they have other suites like the Genius suite under executive B and Presidential Suite. I slept in one these hahaha but I lived all my life in Mbale and now living a bonus. Put jokes aside.

This shower massages sings for you and has over 6 showers for you all in one.

The Facilities at Mbale Resort Hotel

Gym at Mbale resort hotel.

Mbale Resort Hotel has a modern state of the art gym and sauna for in-house guests. To my surprise they even allow Mbale residents to enjoy the facility at the most affordable price. For residents its part of the package but for outsiders you have to part with a small budget to enter.

The things i loved were the playground, the swimming pool, and the large safe grounds to run around for some of you who have kids.

Magical swimming pool for you water lovers.

Mbale Resort Compound in a natural form with added acacia for fresh air.

Within minutes of us arriving at Mbale Resort Hotel I could feel the awe of freshness in Mt. Elgon ranges on this lower side of Wanale Mountain.

Food at Mbale Resort Hotel

Am a fan of food. From street food to posh and luxury restaurants. But I was blown off by one item I found on Mbale resort menu. Its called smoked bamboo shoots. Did you know bamboo shoots are eaten? At first I thought they are just teasing me or some comedy somewhere. Until I hit the kitchen and saw them bring real bamboo. OMG!!! Never in life and never in a five star luxury hotel resort like Mbale Resort Hotel. What a hell!! I said it and I mean it. To go on the menu expecting chicken and pizza and then find these wild plants my granny has been cutting in our backyard for manure and goats to feed on. And now you tell me it’s a high end meal in a five star hotel?

Bambo shoots meal is served with Bananas from the hills of Bugisu.

It’s still hard for me to believe and feel like going back to eat those bamboo shoots. Seems they come from another type not the ones we have at our backyard. Buffets and breakfasts are not only good but a must do for everyone. Don’t remember to have a taste of Bamboo shoots. Sounds funny ,yes  but it’s true!!

Adventure while at Mbale Resort Hotel

Being at the centre of Bugisu region is so far the most reason that made me book there. I  LOVED it. Sleeping and waking up to such incredible fable mountains of Wanale was such a lovely experience and set off my 6 days trip to Mbale in an incredible way. I will share with you some of the places you should never miss especially if you are visiting Mbale for the first time you may want to explore other places of historical interest around the Bugisu, sub region

 GANGAMA  HILL
Gangama hill is to the West of Mbale Town. It is where the late Semei Kakungulu, the veteran Buganda imperialist chief of the 1890’s established his residence in 1917. Astonishing, his residencestill stands.

Kakungulu moved his residence here under duress from the British.  Photo credit: Semei Kakungulu Country Lodge.

The British were intent on reducing his powers after he fell out with them. Kakungulu apparently wanted the British to allow him rule and become King of Bukedi and Busoga.

The British took exception, instead using civil servants to govern the above areas.
Bugisu then was part of Bukedi region.

After his death in 1928, Kakungulu was laid to rest in a mausoleum. To all appearances, the Mausoleum looks far much better than his old residence, which currently is occupied by his great great grand children.

Semei Kakungulu’s Grave in a mausoleumon Gangama Hill Mbale. Photo credit Semei Kakungulu Country Lodge.

Kakungulu’s huge grave inside the mausoleum is a marvel in itself. The grave has the Star of David engraved on it, perhaps a testament to his inclination towards Judaism.

“Kakungulu’s inclination towards Judaism was so strong that in the years following 1917, he started the separatist Kibiina bya Abayudaya or Jewish community in this very place. In the subsequent years, he also wrote and published his 90 page Bayudaya book of rules and prayers,” Explains site caretaker Kakungulu Nambali.

On his grave too is a small basket placed conveniently for visitors who wish to leave a token.
There are 3 spears firmly placed in the ground just in front of the grave, perhaps pointing to his militaristic past.

Just outside the mausoleum, there are a myriad of graves, all belonging to Kakungulu’s kinfolk.

“Contrary to what historians or what other people may say, Kakungulu was given this grant of land on Gangama hill in recognition of his services to the protectorate government. Kakungulu and his 5,500 followers built their first houses not only on Gangama hill but around the surrounding villages. It is from this hill that Kakungulu led his operations against revolting Gisu clans like the Bawalasi and Bafumbo to the north of Bugisu. It was also a tactical center for conquest operations in areas south of Bugisu like Busoba, Bubulo, Bubuda and Magale,” Nambali says.

Gangama hill  Hikers I found at the site  from Semei Kakungulu Country Lodge Mbale.

Gangama hill top is accessible whether you are driving or riding on a boda boda. A car or a boda boda can ably reach the hill top whether you are coming from Mbale town or whether you are passing through Nabweya village.

From town, it will take you roughly 20 minutes to reach the hill apex.

MPUMUDE FORT, NABUMALI
Mpumude is a place closely associated with Kakungulu as well. Kakungulu apparently decided to build a fort at Mpumude, Nabumali to act as his resting place, hence the Luganda name, Mpumude, which in English translates to, I have rested.

“It is from Mpumude that Kakungulu conducted forays into the mountainous far flung areas of south Bugisu like Busoba, Bubulo, Magale and Bududa. He created Bubulo County in 1901 whilst he was here. He however encountered resistance in Bududa. The British however helped him quell the rebellion. Kakungulu later on planted all the Eucalyptus trees from Nabumali corner to Nyondo to Khatwelatwela as you head up to Busano. He also planted many of them in present day senior quarters in Mbale town,” Nambali says.

Though vestiges of the fort have slowly dwindled through the years, therein still lies a small mold of soil from one side of the fort’s wall that in a way preserves the place’s legacy.

What remains of Semei Kakungulu’s fort at Mpumude Nabumali behind are the molds of soil left from the fort’s walls.

Possibly as a measure to further conserve the place’s legacy, a memory stone was erected just in front of what remains of the fort in 2001 by the then arch Bishop of the Church of Uganda, Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo.

As it seems however, Mpumude is at a risk. Somebody needs to rein in on the locals who are still using the site for subsistence farming. In my reckoning, what remains of the fort will soon be destroyed if nothing is done.

Mpumude is also where an entourage from the church missionary society rested after their Gospel preaching expeditions in South Bugisu.

They built a Protestant church here, on top of a heap of rocks. The church still stands.

LUKONGO LWA WANALE OR MOUNT WANALE
Kakungulu had called this Mount Nkonkojeru. Bamasaba elders then however took exception and renamed it after one of Masaba’s sons.

Masaba is the eponymous ancestor from which the Bagisu claim descent. “Masaba had 3 three sons, Mwambu, Mubuya and Wanale. The elders resolved to rename the mountain after Wanale, the ancestor of all Bamasaba living in central Bugisu,” explains local historian Peter Wangota.

Mountain Wanale is the most westward extension of Mount Elgon or mount Masaba. Standing at a height of 6,864 ft, its precipitous cliffs dominate the landscape of Central Bugisu. Wanale’s cascading waterfalls are a sight to behold.

Mt Wanale in the foreground. Its the spur of Mt Elgon and is the most westward extension of Mt Elgon. Its height lets one command a panaromic view of Mbale and other areas of Bugisu.

Namatsyo water falls behind one of the Tourist we found at the site from Semei Kakungulu country Lodge.

Namatsyo water falls for example, fall two miles down from the mountain top and submerges into rocky tunnels deep. The waterfall disappears down in the rocks under. The water reemerges and hits the surface from its underground pathway in villages like Bumboi and Mooni, just near Mbale town.

On the mountain top, one can have a commanding view over the western plains, reaching as far as Lake Kyoga, 50 meters away.

On the mountain top, you will also have a nice panoramic view of the metropolis of Mbale and the homesteads below stretching down the hillsides, out into the valleys and across the irregular countryside of the lower foothills and plains.

To get to Wanale with a special hire car or a personal car, brace yourself for a 30-40 minute road ride.

Take a left turn road after the Mbale high court and follow the road that goes down to Busamaga.

On reaching Busamaga Primary School, take a right turn and follow Bumboi road.
Follow Bumboi road, until you reach the mountain top.

MOUNT MASABA/ MOUNT ELGON NATIONAL PARK
Just a few miles drive north of Mbale town, and straddling the Uganda Kenya border, lies the fascinating and magnificent scenery of Mount Masaba (Elgon) national park.

Elevated to a park in 1993, this place has many attractions. As you make the rounds on your expedition, you will bear witness to some unique flora and fauna (plants and animals) and some hot springs bubbling up to 480 degrees centigrade.

As you read your way further, you can view the highest point on the mountain’s ranges (Wagagai). It apparently goes as high as 8000ft. Wagagai is the second highest peak in Uganda.

For you the first time traveler, I advise you seek help first from the Park’s information office, just before Fairway Primary school in Mbale’s senior quarters, before you embark on your expedition. They will advise on what designated routes are suitable for you.

The Sasa trail which begins from Budadiri town and leads up to a large crater on the mountain top, is easily the most easily accessible and direct route for those seeking a worthwhile sightseeing trip.

The trail crosses the park’s largest area of the bamboo forest and passes the fabulous Jackson’s pool, on the way to wagagai peak.

Tourists cheer up at Wagagi Peak one of the many attractions around the park.

Along the way, you will stand a treat of the beautiful lush montane forest, tacazze sunbird, the mountain’s awesome gorges, small crater lakes, fascinating heath and moorland hyrachs. The moorland hyrachs contain some of the most endemic plant species, unique to Africa like the giant phillipea excelsia.

If you choose to use the Piswa trail, you will be a witness to a variety of the park’s rare wildlife species. To wit-monkeys, buffalos, antelopes, duiker, elephants, defassa’s water bucks, leopards and spotted hyenas.

Reports from the park’s information office, however show that most of the above species, as is the case with creatures, in other forest environments, are far to seek.

If you come during the drier seasons, chances of catching a glimpse of some of the above animals are minimal. Milder seasons like June and August are the best time to visit if you want to catch a glimpse of some of the park’s animals.

KADODI DANCE

While at Mbale resort hotel I spent most of my afternoons chasing community activities and seeing the way people live in society. Bamasaba have the strongest culture in the whole of Bugisu sub region in Uganda. Remember this is the place that has the most cruel male circumcision method of initiating their young males into adulthood. The same region is known for female genital mutilation although am not sure if the latter still exists. Kadodi is a word used to describe the cultural dance within Bamasaba.Its a dance that is used in a cultural ceremony of imbalu (Male circumcision) while initiating them as adults in society. Its more like chest and legs shaking for men and then waist and bums shaking for women. Trust me the fun you get out of the dance will leave you with unequalled memories of a lifetime about Mbale.

Darius enjoys Kadodi Dance.

Darius enjoys Kadodi Dance.

MINGLING WITH LOCALS ON A MARWA POT

Darius hits a snag on his first search for an open Malwa bar.

Darius hits a snag on his first search for an open Malwa bar.

Its 17:50 GMT and am told there is a warm feeling somewhere. My guide decided to lead me to a place near Soroti Sironko junction. From the look of things my guide didn’t have a good idea of which bar was lit at the moment. As we popped in the mean looking bars, life seemed to be boring here. My guide opted we change to a new location that was even much better. This time we were luckier and found a good spot.  A pot of Malwa costs around 10,000 Ugandan shillings and before you push in your almost half a mile straw you must buy one pot or assure them that when theirs gets finished you are adding more or not taking off. Just like a local East African rhythm song from Bebecool and Sauti soul Embozi Zamalwa says, I have never heard the best stories more than the ones I heard that very evening. Ugandans are known to be the most friendly people in the whole world but this very day I endorsed the saying. Anybody who came close to us could tell we have been friends with these people for more than decades at minimal.

Darius having fun with locals in Bugisu on a Malwa/local beer pot.

SERVICE AT MBALE RESORT HOTEL

Mr. Joseph Ndunda the General managerof Mbale resort hotel tells Darius what makes it a tick.

Joseph Ndunda the man in the picture is an exceptional man of all times. I have never seen a general manager who keeps leaving the comfort of his office and keeps checking on his guests. The first time I met him on the reception lobby I saw a young man with a charming smile and inside me my soul was singing Haleluyah you are in the right place. At first I thought he was either supervisor who has no particular shift because he was there all the time. Being a Vlogger who wanted to know the magic of the man or woman behind the incomparable service, I was led to a general manager’s office by one Dickson and to my surprise I found the same man I have been meeting in all corners and corridors talking to sweepers, chefs and security guards.

Darius pictured with Mr. Joseph Ndunda GM Of Mbale Resort Hotel.

The man of Kenyan origin says he has a vast experience for more than 23 years in the tourism industry as a senior manager of big Hotel Brands across the region and on International scene.

Catch up with my interview with Mr. Joseph Ndunda the G.M of Mbale Resort hotel here: Travel with Darius TV meets GM Mbale Resort Hotel.

Mbale resort has the best room service I have got on my motherland. Wait don’t worry about your car. Just go, roll the car and get it much dirty as you want and then they will wash it for you every time you come back to the hotel yard. Okay. To be sincere it was my first time to see my car looking brand new, forget about banana peels I normally forget on the carpets when am on road trips.

Do you want to be at Mbale resort hotel for imbalu festival? If yes, I will tell you briefly about this cultural norm as told by locals

As Bagisu boys grow, they are told by their parents, peers and other influential community members that they will have to pay a cultural debt.

“Bamasaba become men through Masaba’s spirit or what we refer to in the Lumasaba language as “Kumusambwa Kwe Masaba”. Bamasaba boys are expected to execute Masaba’s covenant by losing blood to the land, Masaba gave his children. Imbalu is one way in which Bamasaba express pride in their ancestry and its distinctiveness,” Poi Khaukha, a clan elder in Bungokho explains.

In the past, the Bamasaba took exception to any ethnic labels as a form of identification, preferring instead to be identified by the more honorific term-Basani or men

Our story will continue after Imbalu festival this July to August. Start packing your bags and w meet at Mbale Resort Hotel. Its one of the luxury experiences locals and foreigners can get in Uganda.

I was facilitated for my stay at Mbale Resort Hotel Limited and Entrance to Mt. Elgon National park by Mbale Resort Hotel Limited and Uganda Wildlife Authority BUT all opinions expressed here are mine as the author of Travel With Darius TV Documentaries, Vlogs and Blog.

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HOTEL REVIEW: A Billion Views and Stay at Kyaninga Royal Cottages

My name is Darius. Am the Host of Travel With Darius TV Show. Unlike many of my peers who have no other aspiration than to draw their salary, raise a family and ensure that they keep out of any kind of trouble, I have always had a curious desire to explore my world. For this part of the world rewards travellers with fascinating cultural encounters with the numerous tribes that call this region home. Toro as known by many is home to the Rwenzori ranges

Darius pictured near Kyaninga Royal cottages in the Western region of Uganda.

My most recent trip to Toro, an archipelago that introduced me to the fascinating world of beautiful crater lakes, smart place and service beyond doubt.

Tucked away in close to the Rwenzori, Fort portal is 295 kilometers away from the Uganda’s main city Kampala. My recent stories gave me all the illusions to get on the road and go see this nature’s hidden paradise. As their slogan says, while at this eco retreat you will always enjoy and celebrate the gift of life amidst nature at its best.

A four to five hour drive is worth it as you go enjoying the magnificent views of Mityana tea estates, Mubende rolling hills among many other districts. But the sweetest of all is the Tea estates of Kyenjojo District that will look like Many Old Trafford stadiums put together before premiership games. Wait a minute, as we rolled near a small string of Kibale forest reserve you will always find friends waiting for you on the roadside for a piece of banana and then welcome you to Fort portal.

An 8 km turn from Kitumba town will take you to the magnificent Kyaninga Royal cottage Or call it a place with a billionaire view. What do I mean?

A billionaire’s Views
Ever been in your room and you are have views of a crater lake, Mt Rwenzori ranges or call it Mt. Stanley, and the beautiful plain of Kijura all in one package? I guess you are saying Never. It’s your turn to go and have the best taste of Toro at Kyaninga Royal Cottage. We left the Billionaire’s View and headed for a n quick lapse of some of attractions in the hood.

Darius pictured in one of the Kyaninga Royal Cottages. A good view of the crater lake.

Activities 
Community walks, canoeing on Kyaninga Lake, and cycling on the lake side, nature walks are among the activities most tourists enjoy in while at Kyaninga. Evening sunsets are beautiful after your day to relax and feel the enchanting sounds of nature.

Staff
Ohhh my ohhhh my God don’t mention Joseph, Kharim, Isaac, Solomon and Abwoli as she prefers to be called. A young lady smiling all the time and quick to fix anything that goes wrong in your stay. I breathed a sigh of relief as I approached the parking lane and saw people coming running to meet and welcome me at Kyaninga Royal cottage after whole 5 and so hours on the road. Euchiiiii go check for yourself. My description is just an under description. You will come back with a better version than mine. To me it was warm and engaging and I took it personal.

Food
Okay. This one is so personal. Every place I go to as a TV host I hit Kitchens to film. Ohhh dear the boy challenged me. At first looking at his age reminded me of my other boy at home who doesn’t know how to cut onions. In less than two minutes I had asked him all his CV because of the Thomas in me. Isaac you are such genius. Had he not told me his education level, before starting cooking sessions, I would have asked him how his Chef course ended in some of the world renown universities that train high end chefs. Never seen a local who understands everything intercontinental and local dishes like Isaac

Rooms
On front of each room is the beautiful looking garden, crater lake and some fresh looking trees that attract birds for your nature diet. Each room is served with big windows overlooking either the crater or Mt. Stanley or sorry. Lol call it Rwenzori a name used by everyone. Rooms are big enough for you and trust me whether you are old or young you will enjoy your hide and seek game properly. The room where I slept had a big King size bed more than the one I have at home. Guess what they were two. Meaning I can use one during the day and another one at night or one half a day and the other half a day. It’s my choice, it’s my room. A family room is also available for people with a bigger family.

Kyaninga Royal Cottages – twin rooms.

Kyaninga Royal Cottages – rooms.

Getting there

DISTANCE: Approximately 295KM from Kampala to Fort Portal and 8KM from Fort Portal to Kyaninga Royal Cottage.

PUBLIC
There are many buses leaving every one hour from Kampala to Fort portal and the Most prominent ones being

LINK BUS SERVICES and KALITA BUS SERVICES
Fare is between 25,000 UGX to 30,000 UGX. Private transport can be arranged from any Tour operator of choice.

TIME
Estimated time is from 4:30 Minutes on the fastest speed and 5:00 hours when you make a lot of stop over for food and photography.

PRICE
From USD$100 you celebrate the whole night with breakfast included.

Go have a life, Go celebrate the gift of life at Kyaninga Royal cottage!!!

Check out the review video: KYANINGA ROYAL COTTAGES

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HOTEL REVIEW: Getting Cozy With Bunyonyi Safaris Resort, the Perfect Countryside Retreats

Time check its 7:00 am Rwandan time and I receive a call from one of the world’s best Universities in the U.S.A with an office in Rwanda as Kepler University/Generation Rwanda.

Jane is their administrator who says that her asset is her job and I can choose to make it better or worse if she trusts me. We met and finished the whole plan of Transporting their staff to any cozy place good their team building and end of year retreat. Early morning a look at her face would tell me she waited for so long to get to this day. Seeing me was another promising thing that we have a deal.

Most of their staff are people who have travelled a lot from the States and Europe but when we reached at the boarder in Gatuna-the side of Rwanda, I would tell that everyone had questions. We made all immigration processes and everyone was ready and back on the bus. To cut the long story short we ended at this cozy place. Bunyonyi Safaris Resort.

he Lake Bunyonyi.

Hidden on the shores of Lake Bunyonyi its natures hidden paradise. A look on the lake itself and the many God crafted islands from the furthest point on the hill near Acadia cottages is an assurance that the fun is guaranteed. Before getting to the lake, you will ascend the meandering hills of Kabale on a 10 miles dusty road connecting Kabale town and this nature’s hidden paradise.

A traveler with Travel With Darius TV relaxing near Lake Bunyonyi.

Its exactly 1 pm Ugandan time and we are on what we can’t believe our eyes are seeing. And what’s that? Of course, the massive water body and the sound birds singing for us. Bunyonyi is a local name in the hills of Kabale language Rukiga meaning birds. Basically, this lake was called Bunyonyi meaning many small birds. A look in the neighborhood will give you an impression and all the answers why this lake is called so.

Darius (Red Hat) with a travel guest walking towards their rooms.

Arriving at the hotel we are welcomed by a beautiful looking lady with a glass of Juice made from passion fruits harvested in their own garden in the hills of Kigezi. Sounds sweet already. Isn’t it?

First thing that comes to your mind is the magnificent hotel structure touching the lake shores.

Bunyonyi Safaris Resort has one of the most luxurious rooms and cottages we have never seen in life from any of these places we have always roamed.

To Sandrine it was her first time to encounter even this luxury.

Their cottages are spacious enough that you may think it’s a whole house and to them it’s a room. Wowwwww what a big night we are waiting for !!!

Your evening will never be the same at Bunyonyi Safaris resort. You feel the wind, you hear the sound of enchanting nature. We love life and good life. But most importantly we love good food.

At Bunyonyi Safaris Resort it’s a guarantee not a choice. Their chef will prepare it in the most fastest speed possible

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5 Days with Darius’ Trip to Iliza in Rwanda. Heaven on the Lake!!! Cont….

Iliza House Boat on the docking station at night

Its day four of my 5 Days with Darius’ Trip to Iliza in Rwanda. Heaven on the Lake!!! trip. Well, am finally obsessed by Kibuye archipelago and don’t feel like leaving. Even if it were you, I guess you would be the one doing this testimony. From the food to the enchanting water waves around Iliza, it becomes a police case to leave this nature’s hidden paradise.

I and my twins decide to go on an early morning sail on the lake and have a photo shoot in one of Lake Kivu’s islands and maybe enjoy nature, sunsets and the awe of the rolling hills of Kibuye and Eastern DRC I can’t deny the fact that Rwanda is blessed with such unique tourist destination.

Ngabo Darius Neumann and Ntwali Darius Young on Iliza. Dressed by Top Kids Kigali Store

Few meters from the docking site we landed on the first island that is more and best fit for honeymooners who want to pop the big question from the middle of nowhere. Ever travelled alone and you reach on some place then wonder why you didn’t tag someone along? I guess you understand what am meaning here. Never mind, its language for adults. But to be honest if you are an adult then get it from me and you will thank me later.

Some of the beautiful Islands where you can pop the question.

I mean its paradise for everyone. Even my twins reached there and connected to the world as I meditated watching over them. The island is safe for camping according to Captain Alphonse who doubles as my guide. “Many people come with tents and their food, they camp here for weeks and we keep moving them around touring” Says Alphonse.

 

The same was echoed by Aimable who is the manager for Iliza expeditions of which Iliza boat is part of. We have never gotten any single accident while on the island or on the boat. Safety of our clients is the key. Says Aimable. Meanwhile I came to learn that they actually don’t offer the boat experience but rather many other tour packages that include a 14 days itinerary for touring along Lake Kivu towards Democratic Republic of Congo.

You can Tour on Iliza boat even close to DRC boarder across Lake Kivu

Leaving Lake Kivu without enjoying the sundowners is as dangerous as touching the Leopard’s anus. I mean you would rather face a den of lions than leaving Kibuye without sailing in the evening. Since we were leaving the next day I could not risk sealing my Iliza boat experience with a sundowner. I know most of you are now imagining how you can get drunk on a boat rooftop bar while on water. Yes you are right I also had the same feeling until I found out its even safer to drink from the boat than an urban 4 storied bar. It’s even cleaner as you breathe fresh. It’s actually safer to sail on the boat than driving along Africa’s highways.

Darius enjoying sundowners on Iliza House boat

Kibuye ghost keeps haunting me to go back. Yes I just said so. You will want to pack your bags and go have a taste of this. It’s no longer a secret by the way! See you in the next destination

Ngabo Darius Neuman- Planner and Ntwali Darius Young- Social Affairs, enjoying the Bilharzia free lake Kivu with Darius Dos Santos – Implementer

Please note that all views expressed in this blog are my own and from my experience. They not the views of my sponsors or my partners. Images maybe subject to copyright. #twdtvshow.

Feel free to share this and follow us on social media for more insights of Darius travel experience.

SPECIAL ATTRACTION REVIEW: Heaven on the Lake? Sounds strange!!!!

Yes it is and actually we are here. Just a reminder from our previous blog you can read here Darius Day one on Iliza this time no fatigue, no hunger, no nothing but just smiles all over from me and my twins as I prefer to call them.  They can’t hide the excitement just like father like son and daughter as the saying goes.

Ntwali Darius Young And Ngabo Darius Neumann on pose for a photo on Iliza and One of the Island they visited. Dressed by Top Kids Kigali Store Nyarugenge Market.

Ntwali Darius Young And Ngabo Darius Neumann on pose for a photo on Iliza and One of the Island they visited. Dressed by Top Kids Kigali Store Nyarugenge Market.

Its day three of the Darius’ adventure on Iliza- Heaven on the Lake

Iliza House Boat on Lake Kivu in Rwanda.

We have never done a big boat since the kids were born. We did some small boat tours around East Africa’s smallest lakes like Lake Bunyonyi and the likes. But this type, never!!!

So how was the feeling like this time?

Of course just like everyone they are no exception. But everything was new to us. Sleeping on the boat floating on water was our first time in the whole of our history. To us heaven seems to be a simple or down to the bottom word that anyone can use. I would prefer another word be added in the dictionary for the sake describing Iliza boat and the experience. What would that be? I will come up with one.

Beds

At first sight from the outside its hard to believe what we saw after entering. Saying it’s an in-house boat is an under phrasing and description. It should be called a house on the Lake. If at all, the slogan heaven on the lake had started making sense. Actually a lot of sense. The boat can accommodate the whole family of 6 persons. So to say two parents on the double and four children on the single double deck beds in two different rooms. To Ngabo Darius Neumann and Ntwali Darius Young it was over whelming to sleep while peeping at the lake and night fishermen passing around. Every kid that’s a dream night. To me it was enchanting. All night I heard the voice of sea animals and water flows only.

A luxury double bed on Iliza and Two Decks for children are waiting for you on Iliza House boat in Rwanda.

A luxury double bed on Iliza and Two Decks for children are waiting for you on Iliza House boat in Rwanda.

Seating Room

On Iliza boat there was masses of seating. No issue with where to sit, we moved around naturally. The boat has a big seating space cabin enough for everyone in the family including your dog if need be. We were comfortable the whole time and didn’t feel out of space. A cabin being a perfect place to contain the kids and get some rest if you’ve had a long drive beforehand. Wait a minute, Iliza management has made it a point to include entertainment for you and the kids so that the whole family feels at home. All types of games are there. The seating is much more aeroplane first class style in round sofa set for 6 pax and above.

Ngabo Darius Neumann Picture in Iliza sitting room. Dressed by Top Kids Kigali Store in Nyarugenge Market Rwanda.

Entertainment

There is a lot of entertainment on Iliza boat. Music lovers are sorted out from the rooftop terrace bar and lounge to their seating room and rooms if you want. To my twins as I mentioned that earlier They actually didn’t want to get to bed. All types of toys are stocked in the seating cabin to make them more comfortable and forget all the three months nonstop book life they have been at school or even the other 10 hour, Kampala Kigali stressing road trip. We can’t thank them enough for thinking about my children and mostly my twins. They didn’t want to leave.

Ntwali Darius Young enjoying games onboard Iliza.  Ngabo Darius Neuman show off what she made out of her favourite on Iliza. Dressed by Top Kids Kigali Store in Nyarugenge Market Rwanda.

Ntwali Darius Young enjoying games onboard Iliza.  Ngabo Darius Neuman show off what she made out of her favourite on Iliza. Dressed by Top Kids Kigali Store in Nyarugenge Market Rwanda.

Adventure on the Lake Kivu

Adventure on Iliza is a shock !!! I have always felt dizzy, scared and with a lot of shivers moving down my spine every time I step in a boat, big or small. But this time, Not one little bit. I managed to eat some food and have a coffee And everything was fine. This time not even sitting in the middle as I have always done but rather on the edges with my twins. That’s so mean of myself. I mean sleeping on the hammock with my twins when the boat is moving and connect to the world.

The Darius’s enjoy a ride on Iliza while sleeping in a comfortable Hammock of Iliza. Kids Dressed by Top Kinds Nyarugenge Market in Rwanda.

Of course when we felt like it’s enough of Iliza we had to jump over to the small yellow boats. I just don’t know what had scared the hell out of us to go and even peddle our own. Never had the feeling I got the moment I moved just few meters on our own.  10 minutes later I and my twins felt shocking. Not actually sick, but fairly awful and it was actually flat calm. Not sure what happened but at some point me and my twins felt choppy but the love of adventure was calling all the time. It’s at this point that we felt even immersing ourselves in water and feel the awe of Lake Kivu as we leave our Iliza to wonder around waiting for us.

Kayaking and Canoeing trips are some of the activities Iliza expedition provides. The Darius’s on Iliza small canoes to an Island. Kids dressed by Top Kids Store Kigali Rwanda.

There are many islands on the lake which are good for families especially when you have kids. We visited Napoleon island and from here we did a couple of Photo shoots for the twins. They love posing for pictures. I just spoilt them that way in the last 10 years they have lived on this planet world.

Ngabo Darius Neumann and Ntwali Darius Young pose for a photo in one of the islands in Lake Kivu. Dressed by Top Kids Nyarugenge market store in Rwanda.

Ngabo Darius Neumann and Ntwali Darius Young pose for a photo in one of the islands in Lake Kivu. Dressed by Top Kids Nyarugenge market store in Rwanda.

Food and drinks

The breakfast on Iliza was ok and amazing and reasonably priced. We didn’t feel like we have been robbed which a good start is always. There were quite a lot of options from an A la Carte to snacks and everything in between. There was also someone who was taking care of us in case we needed anything extra off the menu. Her name is Fanny. She smiles all the time you call on her name and listens attentively. And by the way, the captain is also a good cook. Am not a fun of sea food but for the kids it’s their hobby. I enjoyed a lot of good local food from the hills of Karongi including potatoes, bananas greens and some red meat. All in all everything was Yummy !!!!

The Darius’ enjoy local yummy food on Iliza House boat.

I bet even if you are to stay 100 days you would still have enough than you need. The boat has an inbuilt Kitchen so at some point had to hit the Kitchen and prepare coffee of my choice without calling on the waitress or chef. Due to limited space Fanny and Captain Alphonse doubles as the waitress and Chef, Waiter and Captain respectively. What a multi talented team on Iliza. You don’t have to worry about getting off the dock station since all is catered for.

Darius prepares porridge for the young ones inside Iliza’s Kitchen. It’s your choice if you want a meal of your own.

Our story on Iliza continues for Day four and five in our next blog.

Why not share this with a friend now?

Watch Iliza house boat adventure here : https://youtu.be/5foDmvNxymg

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20 Hygiene Must Pack Hygiene Products You May Need to Make Your Trip Successful Whether on Budget Safari or Luxury

Most of the times, there are certain things we take for granted. Recently I slept in a luxury hotel and time came to move. I didn’t have time to go and pass by the shopping mall and so the only option was to pack some of the things this hotel had put in my room for me to use. My friend laughed at me and you could be laughing at me too or wondering why I did that. Well our trip was almost 300 miles away. We woke up early and took our breakfast. You know these luxury Hotels Breakfast tables have a lot and its like everything is calling you “eat me please” So we packed our stomachs to the fullest and packed more for the trip aside. Guess what!! As we got somewhere a nature was calling and I needed to visit the toilet.  We borrowed that private behind room from the roadside local residence. These are toilets where they dig a hole and put strong trees on top of the whole leaving one small whole where you will pass all your shit from while squatting. Some are roofed others not depending on the household income but mine wasn’t roofed at all.

If you have ever pulled over to a far distance maybe with children or adults and nature calls and you start looking around for even an eucalyptus tree branches to help you and nothing can save you then all of a sudden you land on an old receipt in your bag or pocket then you will understand what am talking about. There are many things we rarely take into consideration. One of them is soft tissues or commonly known as Toilet papers while you are travelling.

From my experience as male traveler, in terms of hygiene there are key priority things I put on the list. Of course am not going to include women must carry things here although most of them are universal.  These are things you must pack in a different water proof bag since most of them need to be protected from weather effects of sunshine and rain. These 20 items will keep you going smoothly in any corner of the world and you will be a hygienic traveler. I will not talk about anything you have to wear as of now, maybe in my next article.

1. Sanitizers
These I came to learn about them when I was a guide back in the years. In Africa just like any other part of the world, the culture of greeting using handshakes is quiet unavoidable. Am not going to mention that some people scratch anywhere anytime or any part of their body…Did I say that? Never Mind but as you meet a food vendor you will just not remember to wash your hands. That’s where Sanitizers are handy. Most of them kill 99% of bacteria and you can just wash your hands without using soap and water.

2. Soft Tissues
This is another thing. As I had earlier mentioned this soft tissue or commonly called Toilet par is handy when nature calls and you have to visit what we have always called “back office” There are many brands on the Market but as for me I have always used “CLEAR” brand from Trust industries

3. Hand wash
This is liquid soap like but basically made for hands. Unlike sanitizes this works with water but can eliminate up to 90% of germs that cause diseases. The most common one is from Movit products Ltd in Uganda and Trust Industries Ltd Rwanda. It’s well formulated in a way that is soft on the skin and hands.

4. Facial tissues
These are sometimes called facial wipes. Some are wet with cleansing fluids or even spirit to kill germs and bacteria. But depending on one’s skin you can choose anything you are comfortable with. I recommend dry ones from Trust Industries LTD also with the “CLEAR” brand on it.

5. Mouth Wash. This is another handy product especially if you have mouth infections and small injuries. This helps you to cure that with the fastest spread. I love eating raw fruits especially sugarcane and get small injuries on the tongue and mouth walls. I recommend one without alcohol mixture in it. Please note that it doesn’t cure big cuts. If you get kindly visit a health facility nearby or consult your doctor.

6. Shower gel or anti bacterial Soap or water cleansing tablets
Water purifiers are more important than anything else. You may be travelling and you find there is no nearby shop to buy clean water to drink or even wash your hands. Am suing CLEAR brand made by Trust Industries Rwanda You wanna try it?

7. Hair Shampoo
Okay, to be honest I have a bald head. But to be honest its not all bald. Of course I have hair left. Dirtiness and maybe fun on the beach will never leave you hair the same as it is. So you will need to wash it thoroughly well for relaxation and softness of the hair. I normally carry my hair shampoo. Currently am using Movit hair shampoo which is available everywhere

8. Hair Drier
Of course after washing your hair you will suddenly need to keep it dry and most luxurious hotels or even mid luxury have this service. But wait I did not say they are not available but I said just in case you don’t find them. I have traveled to many mid luxury reports in Africa and only few of them had this. Others would charge for this service. So the most cost effective way is to carry your own and be at peace without necessarily moving out of your comfort zone or paying an extra dollar after the hefty room bill.

9. Shavers, Scissors and Razor blades
Apart from this being useful to keep your hair short where you don’t have time for saloon or where there is no saloon, its even essential to carry them because they are first aid kits. Besides these days there are many rechargeable kits all over the shopping malls.

10. After shave powder and lotions foam
This is very key because bodies react differently after shaving. You will need to apply this to avoid any possible pimples and rush that may develop. I have personally used Gillette brand for after shavers.

11. Body lotions, sun lotions and mouth washing liquid
Travelling to anew weather area can be tricky. Some areas have scorching sun yet others have too much humidity while others are freezing. Basically if you are a fan of water games like white water rafting we did recently at Adrift Uganda please don’t leave your sun and body lotions behind. Mouth was is the same because it protects your mouth from any infections. I swallowed around 5 liters of water at Adrift Uganda white water rafting adventure because of little experience in swimming and so was my co-host Daphine

12. Perfume
I am a man of good smell or scents. Of course I can’t rule out the fact that some people are allergic to some strong scents. So please be cautious of the brand you chose depending on where you want to go and who you want to go with. Personally I have a range of them but if am travelling alone I can use any strong one.

13. Insect repellent
I remember one day when we made a very long trip across Uganda with my friend and customer Mark Metternich in early 2017. Mark is is the CEO of Mark Metternich Photography. Everything was moving well but one small poisonous insect spoilt his mood that was a wasp. It’s a very small insect but the pain you carry after it pushes its sting in your flesh, I would rather carry an elephant and it’s understandable. Of course as a guide when you client isn’t that happy, you are not sure whether your tip will come or maybe listen to what you are telling him. That brings bad memories. But well for Mark he had a lot of humor and that came to pass easily and we were back to our moods. Don’t forget this because many other disease causing insects like flies and mosquitoes are common. You can get many of these in a local pharmacy. The good ones are liquids or sprayers you can use on your body or tent or even your clothes.

14. Sun Glasses
They help you on dusty roads and sometimes weather in some countries the sun is too bright. To most of us its even fashionable.

15. Cigarette bag that is separate if you smoke
Personally I don’t smoke but if you do most national parks and hotels have no smoking areas.

16. Sponge
Ever been to hotels that don’t provide this and you start looking at your pants? Please carry one.

17. Tooth brush and toothpaste
Some hotels do provide others don’t. Better to carry your own

18. Extra body and facial towel
This will be handy just in case you don’t get good accommodation and you have to camp. Most camping sites don’t provide this service.

19. Toilet cleaner
Ever gone to the toilet after the last person and all your problems are solved at the entrance? Some like CLEAR will even solve it better because they kill germs at the same time provide a nice scent since you deserve comfort everywhere on your trip.

20. Washing powder
Well, well once in a while you will need to wash small items. Dry powder is the best because soap may require another water proof container