Monday, July 21, 2014

Are we there yet?

When I was a kid, I used to pack a bag every night, just in case it was the night I could go to another land. In would go a change of clothing, a flashlight (later on, a lighter or two when I realized I'd have to bring extra batteries), a chocolate bar or whatever snack I was supposed to bring to school the next day, and of course, a book. I didn't know where I might end up or what I'd have to do--- Neverland, Camelot, ancient Egypt, perhaps move around the universe by means of tesseract or even find an Indian in a cupboard. I never stopped hoping or wishing for an adventure. 

About four weeks ago, I embarked on a different kind of adventure. One that was as magical and action packed, albeit uncomfortable (insert laugh track here) as any I had ever dreamed of. For half term, I traveled in Uganda and Ethiopia for a week in each country. 

I can continue on with a day to day account of what we did but that might end up with me glossing over the bad roads and disappointing packed breakfasts/lunches we had. Or the time that stupid me sat at the back of the van and almost threw up. 

What mattered was seeing rhinos for the first time at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and arriving at Murchison Falls National Park at nearly sunset to watch the water spray as it hit the rocks and see rainbows in the mist.

Murchison Falls National Park

Yes, I went on a wildlife safari yet again but let me tell you, it's never the same. At least, that's how it is for me - the terrain, the animals - flying, crawling, running --- usually away from us, and the view of the horizon. We had a beautiful boat cruise on the Nile and saw birds, crocodiles, hippos and even an elephant trapped at the side of the cliff (trapped until it found its way back, I suppose).

#midlifecrisis #40yearoldchimp

At Kibale National Park, we went chimpanzee trekking. It was a bit underwhelming as the chimps stayed on branches and were quite difficult to see. The most exciting thing that happened was one pooping and peeing from the branches with us watching odious material oozing from the trees.

my bed at Wagtail Eco Camp
The warm welcome at Wagtail Eco Camp more than made up for our looong drive to Bwindi National Park, where I was given a single room because they probably thought Jeff & Rachel were together. Two whities, ya know (that comment was from Rachel by the way). While they played pool at a local bar, I walked around with some school kids until sunset. Everything I said they found amusing and a boy named Dosh invited me to his home to meet his family.

sunset at Ruguburi

Gorilla trekking started with me hiring a porter to take care of me in case I became too tired to continue. I thought of it as similar to taking an umbrella, you bring one to ward off the rain. It was true enough for me, as apart from carrying my extremely light day pack, he didn't have to do anything else to help me. The rest of our group, were composed of two British couples who won a trip to travel with Ian Redmond, a tropical field biologist and conservationist. We were pretty lucky to trek with them, no complainers among them and all quite interesting individuals. Ian regaled us with tales and information about animals and our guide, Sarah, was very knowledgeable and friendly. We spent a few hours tramping about and saw a <giant> forest elephant while the trackers looked for the Nshongi group. Less than 3 hours after we started hiking, a baby gorilla welcomed us, flower in its mouth, running towards us. It was the best hour of my life so far this year, besides, there was also some X-rated gorilla action.

After our awesome morning with the gorillas, we went to the market with Gordon, one of the guys from the lodge; and then visited their cultural center where we were shown their small museum and two more employees from the lodge, Judith & James, danced for us together with people from their community, a perfect end to our special day.

The next day, four bathroom stops later and our bums aching from the crazy drive over rough roads, we bade Abby, our genial guide, goodbye. 

To be continued...

*gorilla picture taken by Jeff Aspinall