Friday October 19th, 2007 UGANDA
It’s Friday morning and I’m writing to you from the Marble Arch hotel in Kampala, Uganda. We’re going home tonight but we have a few things to do before we take off on the plane. We’re suppose to meet people in the office and have a quick debrief. I then think Rena is going to take us to Garden City to buy a few last minute things before we head home. So I thought I’d write one last blog before I head home.
We left Lira at 5am today. But we had a heck of a time getting ready because the power went out. So we were able to pack because they turned on the generators for us but in the middle of the night the entire hotel went black. They turned off the generators because they assumed the whole hotel would be asleep. Well as soon as the lights were out, I woke up. It was so dark that my eyes didn’t adjust. It was dark everywhere I looked. I just laid there a bit frozen on my bed. When all of a sudden I heard several rounds of gun fire shot. I didn’t know where it was coming from or from where it was being fired towards. I just knew that it had taken place. So I didn’t want to get up out of bed that is for sure. I was afraid that when I turned my torch on that I would see something in my room that I didn’t want to see. But I had to, to know the time and to start getting ready for the day. It was 4am exactly and I went to use the phone at the hotel and the lines were down. So great. All of a sudden I hear Kristen and Judy knock on my window. They made the rounds to wake everyone up. Just in time I thought to myself. But then they asked me to knock on Martins door and wake up. So I had to go through the lobby in the pitch black to wake up Martin. It was one of the scariest moments of my life. I didn’t know who was out there.
Well we made it safely out of there. We packed our van and took off for the great roads of Uganda. I sat in the front and watched the sunrise over Africa. I saw the sun rise over the Savannah and it was such a miraculous sight. The trees went from a black to a sunburst brown. And the leaves grew more vivid in saturation as the sun got higher. I found myself singing the Louis Armstrong song, ‘what a wonderful world’ and just relaxed. Kept quiet and took in the sights in front of me. This road was particularly smooth and I found myself fast asleep, only to be awoken by a ‘look Liz there are elephants’
We were driving into the Murchison falls to find elephants in the wild. And we saw a small family of them as we were just driving into the park. Spectacular. I had a small conversation with them and they didn’t really seem to want to have my company. They sort of ignored me and kept on eating. The people of the village were scared of the elephants, they saw them so close to the edge of the road that they started to run. They didn’t even take time to admire their beauty. They have a long history of elephants destroying the nearby villages.
We drove into the park and saw so many wonderful things. Ally opened the top hatch for us and we were all able to stand outside and look at all the wonderful things. We spotted so much. At first we saw tons of wart hogs and antelope. Several kinds of those. But as we got deeper into the savannah we started to spot oxen and birds. We drove all around the park looking for all types of animals and trying to figure out how our van was going to make it through some muddy watery spots. It was all part of the glorious adventure. Then all of a sudden we spotted a giraffe. He was all by himself, and had weird marks on his coat. Ally and Rena said he was alone because he was probably going to pass away. Everyone automatically saying it’s the call of the wild and that’s the way it goes. I don’t think we should have talked about such things in his presence. He was magnificent to me and was kind enough to allow me to take his portrait. He was a handsome giraffe.
We kept driving and driving in search of my elephant or a simba. Nothing. We went up another path to find one, and still nothing. I kept telling the driver that I can smell them by the delta. They’re at the delta drinking water. I just knew it. Ally kept telling me that I was smelling ox not elephant. Now if you’ve ever been to the circus you know that elephants stink and that they stink distinctively. I know the smell. So finally they agreed to go to the delta, and as soon as we made a left turn there they were. The whole bunch of them. About 20 or so all down by the delta, or at least heading towards it.
A tear came out of my eye because I was so happy to see them. That had been a dream of mine ever since I was a little girl to see a wild elephant in its natural habitat. And then I got to see the whole family. They were off in a great distance from the van and I was using my telephoto lens to see them, but they were all there. The matriarch and her sisters with the babies, and they were all happy. Ally decided to keep on driving but I wanted to see the elephants longer.
I looked over to the left and there was a school of giraffe running through the plains. Ally followed them and then stopped the vehicle. They were all around us. We counted how many giraffe and there were 19 of them. 19 giraffes. Wow.wow.wow. I’ll never forget that moment. The van is shorter than their legs they just tower over us, and their coats are so shiny, they look almost metallic. Amazing creatures. And then the safari continued. We drove further down the delta of Lake Albert and then decided to come back up around. And to our left the elephants had come up from the delta. The whole family were shaded under a huge tree and just stayed huddled together. I talked with them and wished them well, and just asked to sit and keep company with them for a while. After I had asked permission to take their portraits they started to turn around and face us, but until then we just got butts, nothing but butts. We stayed there for a moment longer and then took Martin up to his fancy-shmancy lodge. Apparently it’s so famous that Hemingway stayed there. Martin one of our team members decided to stay on safari longer so we dropped him off and he stayed in one of the most remarkable hotels ever. A gorgeous lodge with hot water and internet. They had a pool that overlooked the Nile River and you can have breakfast to the sunrise. Only 100 bucks a night. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Kampala but only 100 bucks a night. We stayed there and had a soda pop and then quickly got back in our vans to cross the Nile on the ferry. Yep, I did. I crossed the Nile again. Twice in one week. I’m blessed. We had lunch at a lil tiki tiki place on the other side of the river and took in the views once more. And then began our journey to Kampala.
The road was no road. I think Ally made up road in areas that it never existed. It just looked good in the eyes of Ally and we went that direction. He just kept saying it was part of the experience. We just kept driving and driving. We went from hot 100+ weather to rain and fog to night. Crazy weather changes in one day. But we didn’t get to our hotel until 7pm.