We have been on our travels again, down to Kampala, across to Lira, down to Amolatar which is right on Lake Kyoga and then back to the Nile.
The lake is rich in huge fish (Tilapia) and beautiful, but poor and isolated in everything else. The college principal put us up for the night, ‘real village life’ as he called it. It was a privilege to spend the night with him and his wife and daughter although, as always, some of the protocol was slightly baffling. I still can’t quite cope with the women kneeling to greet me when I enter a room, nor the woman of the house getting to her knees to wash your hands before a meal either. Later, washing (alone this time) under the stars and watching the fireflies dance as you clean your teeth was another, rather special, first as well.
We have already been down to the Nile for a day, to a very fancy ‘Lodge’ where we spotted a herd of Elephants.
Over Easter we travelled further south to Murchison Falls with some friends from Juba, South Sudan. They had intended to fill their cars with produce from Gulu for their return. After some discussion we realised that all the good stuff already makes it way across the border to Juba anyway, where it can fetch twice the price or more. They feast on Ugandan cauliflower, leeks and other exotic vegetables up there, whilst we make do with tomatoes and onions; the operations of the market distort all our lives.
Murchison is the biggest wildlife park in Uganda; exciting scenery. On our trip up the Nile to the fabled waterfall, we saw many more elephants.
Sadly the guide told us that several had short trunks, the ends having been caught in poachers snares, but they survive reasonably well.
Also many Nile Crocodiles; evil looking things.
You can get rather blasé about elephants after a while, perhaps not about the babies. But Hippos are different, there are hundreds of them slowly rising up through the water.
They make wonderful grunting noises and have a fearsome reputation,
but from a suitable distance seem rather splendid.
From below the Falls are appealing,
but from above, especially from the southern bank they are truly impressive,
huge amounts of water forced through such a small gap.
You can see why Sir Samuel Baker (the Nile explorer who ‘discovered’ them) and later Victorian explorers got so excited.
It is always a good idea to keep your donors happy, so he named them after the President of the Royal Geographical Society. Probably no chance of finding an equivalent water feature to name the DFID Falls.
On our game drive the next day ((which is exactly what it says, driving around looking for ‘Game’) we came across more giraffes than were really necessary.
As the cliché goes, they are super models of the big game world, beautiful and elegant creatures batting their huge eyelashes at the world and appearing to do everything in slow motion.
It has been rather hard to come back from such a green and pleasant world
to dusty, busy, noisy Gulu. We are not lulled to sleep here by frogs and crickets and curious bird calls, as we were from our lodge by the river.
The wildlife parks are definitely somewhere we will return to many times I think. Although those Victorian explorer tales (Burton, Baker, Livingstone, Speke et al) of hardship, disease, violence and the ravages caused by the Arab slave traders contrast rather strongly with the luxury of our accommodation and the frivolousness of ‘Game Drives’ and eating fancy suppers as the Nile slips by into the night. More evidence of the unexpected effects of the market I suppose. Time to go and see the market ‘ladies’ and start bargaining over tomatoes and onions.