I have cooked pasta with tomato sauce so many times – as have we all – a variant on ‘alla putanesca’ since you ask. But never have I cooked and watched elephants walking down to their watering hole.
We were back to Kidepo National Park in the North East of Uganda, to camp this time on a group of rocks looking down towards buffalo and many, many elephants.
The next evening, (Dal and Cabbage Curry cooked by an Indian volunteer and much better than my pasta) the buffalo moved up that hill. Thousands in a line moving slowly towards us, although the dominant noise that night was not the buffalo but the sound of elephants farting; astonishingly loud, all that muddy water I suppose.
When you camp at a UWA (Uganda Wildlife Authority) site in the parks, you get a ranger with a gun and a small pink tent. He organizes the water, tends the fire to keep the lions away and patiently answers your endless questions. Daniel even coped with eating curry, the Ugandan diet is usually bland and carbohydrate heavy. Most of his answers related to the rains that are supposed to be coming very soon.
The stars were as close and as bright as you might expect in the middle of a huge and people free landscape, touchable almost. Constellations and naming stars didn’t seem to feature for the Karamajong (Kidepo is in Karamoja) Daniel was more interested in the Milky Way, for example, as a weather forecaster; it was so bright at the moment because the rains were coming. The wind was so strong because….and of course so many animals were visible because the waters were so low, but the buffalo were on the move because…
Back in Gulu a week later and still no rain, clouds build up in the afternoon, but drift away by nightfall. Water is running out in town, the dust is thick over everything blown everywhere by strong hot wind, and the heat is so intense even the locals are complaining.
By the way, Sunday 22 March is World Water Day as you move to your favourite watering hole, or even as you cook pasta with tomato sauce, think of those who have to make do with muddy water, often carried huge distances on foot. Unlike the elephant, the effect of that water is far worse than theatrically loud trumping noises in the night.