Friday, July 20, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012 - Headed to safari 
I really didn’t have any trouble falling asleep last night after our busy day, despite the generator noise, only to be awakened by the barking dog about 3:30 AM.  Funny thing is we don't see many dogs here.  Pets are a luxury few can afford.  BTW - here is a view from my balcony - an inside view of the outskirts of Masaka and, of course, the storks!  These are not the storks that deliver babies!  They are generally referred to as garbage birds and, because of what they eat (absolutely anything!), are so toxic that not even the natives can eat them so they are pretty safe!

Hakuna matata - still no electricity this morning and no generator either, although I did hear them struggling to get it going.  So, I used the light of my laptop screen to navigate around my room to finish packing and to take a shower.  In my infinite wisdom, I figured that taking a shower in the pitch black in this bathroom with all of its lurking dangers (hot water, cold water, wet floor, no sense of location  - you get the idea)  was not a good idea so I carried the laptop around bringing light wherever I went in my little Masaka “home“. 
Today we leave for Myewa Lodge and our safaris.  We gathered all 15 suitcases and assorted other bags and then had to arrange them on and in the jeep with enough room to accommodate the 6 of us and Ronnie, our driver and guide, for our long journey to our safari lodge.   I am looking forward to another adventure!
Our ride to Myewa Safari Lodge took about 6 hours.  We traveled one road through countless little hamlets consisting of the same stores, the same activities, the same level of poverty.  Then again, this is poverty based on my standards.  Understand that the people living in these areas have never known or, perhaps even seen, anything other than their environment and everyone is living in the same conditions.  Their homes are either mud constructed huts, brick and/or scrap material construction, or storage containers and all are very small.  There are a few homes made from scrap wood, as well, but wood is mostly used for burning to cook and the charcoal produced from that is bagged up and sold.   These piles of charcoal are also playthings for children...

These villages have no - or very limited -  running water or electricity and live most of their lives out of doors.  Naturally, there is no refrigeration and raw meat can be seen hanging under tarps or sisal canopies waiting for the customer to come and have a piece cut off  for purchase.  Water is collected in yellow jerry cans and is a daily chore done by all ages.  If the cap is missing from the jerry can, a banana is placed into  the hole to prevent the water from spilling out.  You will see small children carrying smaller cans and bicycles laden with as many of these cans as can be accommodated.  Riding the bike at that point is impossible so people must push these heavily burdened bikes up hills and back to their homes.   There are a few homes with glass windows but, for the most part, there are no windows.  As mentioned before, doors can either be wooden, metal or fabric or missing altogether.   Little children are everywhere.

Another common sight is women bent over at the waist either gardening, cooking, cleaning, washing babies or caring for them.  Their days are  busy and never-ending as they, too, may be collecting wood, bananas for matoke and banana leaves and even walking their children to school.  The latter is not as common as one would think.  I never saw any men doing this work...

We passed a parade on our way to Myewa.  It was a Rotary Parade consisting of youth involved in their programs.  One sign read "Peace Through Service" - loved that one! 

We passed countless little villages and hamlets filled with people going about the daily business of their lives.  Tomatoes, potatoes, and other vegetables for roadside sale neatly arranged in pyramids, stacks of rainbow colored plastic bowls, chairs, and tubs were available, clothing, mattresses, baskets, homemade red bricks and always...always...people carrying jerry cans of water and gatherings of boda-bodas sprinkled with a few goats and steer.

Among some of the other things seen along the road for sale are coffins...handmade and stained simple boxes for the burial of loved ones for those who can afford it.  It was a strange and disturbing sight and I asked Ronnie about it as we saw them quite frequently.  He told me that, in fact, there used to be many more "coffin stores" and that they have been decreasing, as of late.  During their civil wars, the Age of Kony, and the generally unsettled political environment these coffin stores were everywhere, out of necessity.  There was an acceptance of their presence that went unnoticed by the Ugandans but that was not lost on us.  The fact that you could easily walk up to a roadside stand and purchase a coffin being sold amidst clothing, raw meat, pineapples, jerry cans, bananas and baskets where countless little children were playing was a scene that will not be forgotten.  We did see a coffin being purchased and placed on a bicycle to be taken away.  It brought to mind the general practicality of this event - the impersonal nature of it being done so publicly.  Again, a far cry from our reality.

We saw endless  beautifully maintained tea farms on our journey to Myewa, noting that tea is a significant money-maker for the country.  It provides employment and business opportunities for the people and tea leaves could be seen being carried along the road, in addition to the ever-present bananas.

We passed through the Albertine Rift Valley, a deep green and hazy depression resulting from tectonic forces from over 15 million years ago.  Here we would find lakes, lush plains, mountains and a merge of forests and grasslands that support a magnificent and majestic array of wildlife.  Across the valley we could see the beginning of the Queen Victoria National Park, where we were headed for our safari.

What a pretty little lodge we will be calling home for a few days!  The lodge is located right  along Lake Edward and Lake George connected by the Kazinga Channel in the Queen Elizabeth National Park, all extending from Lake Victoria.  In addition to game, there are 640 species of birds recorded, as well.  This is not an area where you will find zebras and giraffe but there is plenty wildlife to see.  We went on a game drive today after our lunch by the pool and were not disappointed.  We saw lots of kob and water buck, both male and female, birds, cape buffalo, warthogs, many elephants of all ages, a leopard and a lioness.  Joanna was the first to spot the leopard and Becca got a couple of great shots of the lioness, one showing her impressive teeth...the lioness's...not Becca's!   It is always a thrill seeing this grand and imposing wildlife in their natural habitat.  Thanks for this shot, Becca! 

This was the only leopard we saw and she was sitting right alongside
the trail when Joanna spotted her.  Truly a beautiful and elusive animal!
It was a good, good day!

Dinner was on the patio featuring a barbecue of beef, chicken, pork ribs and sausage, as well as a plentiful buffet of fresh salads.  There were little yellow weaver birds and assorted others sitting and watching us eat dinner, slowly making their way closer to the table...or ON the table - in the hopes of getting something to eat.  There were signs telling us not to feed the birds...but they were very small signs...

As I am writing this, I can hear the sounds of crickets and unknown creatures and really not much more…except for the roar of a lion in the distance, the grunting rumble of the hippos…and the sound of some loud growling and primal screaming pretty close by - like outside my door!  I have to assume that this is why they tell us to keep our doors and windows closed! But - these are wonderful sounds to hear as we end our day.

This is so much quieter than Masaka.  This Uganda is not noisy on an assaulting level  but one of quiet serenity, with birds chirping all day long and the sound of safari jeeps coming and going twice a day.  It is really a lovely spot to relax in, especially after our busy time in Masaka and Mbiriizi.  More safaris tomorrow...

No comments:

Post a Comment