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Losing Our Way Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day I can hear her breathing. --------------------------------------------------------- Arundhati Roy (Indian author, advocate, activist)

weekends away (mi)

UGANDA | Saturday, 11 July 2009 | Views [2190] | Comments [2]

The sun sets over the Rwenzori Mountains that separate Uganda and DRCongo

The sun sets over the Rwenzori Mountains that separate Uganda and DRCongo

during our time at volunteering engagements, ivan and i usually get a long weekend or two to travel to visit other parts of the countries we've been in.  while at St. Paul's, we took two - one to whitewater raft, and the other to visit a national wildlife park - i treasured both weekends, and i thought i'd send a quick word to you on what they were like...

rafting - we travelled a few hours north to the small city of Jinja. although Egypt is often credited as home of the Nile, Jinja, Uganda is recognized as the great river's source. as part of its reputation, the river source boasts Grade 5 whitewater rafting. rafting is something I had never before done, and decided I must try before we left the country – how many times in life do you get the chance to go whitewater rafting at the source of the Nile??! so after our first evening in the African town flavored by Indian merchants (who have been returning slowly and in small numbers after the horrors of Idi Amin), Ivan and I head out for a day long excursion on the river. We were in one among five big red poofy rafts, all full of tourists of all nationalities, all ages, and, rather noticably all fear-levels :) Each raft had a well-trained crew leader, some more rambunctious than others, and we were all joined by a slew of support crew in individual kayaks. for anyone who has not been rafting, i'll describe: Our day out on the river started as it should – with about an hour of rafting lessons. the crew leaders taught us how to interpret their signals, how to paddle with synchronicity, how to hang on when we hit more torrential waters, and even how to fall in case we capsized – which we did....more than once. once we got started down the river, it took all of about 5 minutes for the kayak support crew to earn my unending respect and affection for all eternity. one strong drop loosened my grip and took my balance, and I was tossed overboard – my lifejacket brought me up for air and before I could tell which direction I was facing, a kayaker swooped in and delivered me to a waiting raft. phew.  the day ended with a bountiful campsite barbeque held over a stunning view of the river, mosquitoes, and a late night showing of a video of our day. it was taken by an australian who decided he would kayak around and make videos of the rafters – we couldn't resist sending one to Ivan's nephews and my brother (Note to our parents: We promise it was safer than it looks; we didn't even see a single crocodile!). So besides extreme sports and 4 star Indian food, Jinja is home to a Mahatma Gandi memorial, a gorgeous waterfall (there's a shot of Ivan sitting in front of it in our Uganda picture gallery), bountiful plates of huge grilled Tilapia fish fresh out of Lake Victoria (on which Tangelo heartily feasted), small colorful stores overflowing with local arts and crafts and textiles, Nile Beer, a lot of hydroelectric engineers, a good population of Ugandan students, and tourists and volunteers on weekend.... among other things. it is much smaller than the raging capital of Kampala, a lot more modern than our nearby district capital Kyotera, and cleaner than either. Jinja seemed to me a happy intersection where modern city conveniences meet the slow pace and pleasures of rural life. but nothing's quite like the place you call home, and after two playful days, we head back eagerly to KAASO.

the park - we took another 3 day weekend with Kirsty, one of the Kiwi volunteers (yes, the new zealanders actually do like to be called kiwis), to go together to Queen Elizabeth National Park in the southwestern part of uganda. We took a boat safari and a driving safari and we got really lucky.... besides the tens of hippos and elephants and other sweet animals, we had the gorgeous experience of finding a mother lion and her three baby cubs playing. But even before all that, we stumbled upon, and I exaggerate not, THREE meters from us – a LEOPARD. first of all, the guidebooks are clear - you RARELY ever get to see leopards because they're nocturnal and go alone - but we saw one, OF ALL PLACES, on the taxi drive into the park. the driver, Vincent, slammed on his brakes, hit reverse, and pointed – our jaws dropped and we immediately started flashing cameras. needless to say, we hired the same driver almost immediately to take us on our driving safari for the next afternoon. vincent was good luck - we found the lioness and cubs. after two hours of driving safari, we were all STARING out our respective assigned windows, ivan out the back left window, kirsty out the front left (the cars are english style here with the driver on the right) when all of a sudden out the back right window about 10 meters away i saw two pairs of little yellow round ears sticking out from the tall grasses - i shouted LION!, vincent slammed on his brakes again.... there you go! we even got a video of the mother and 3 cubs (which we tried to upload, but failed - if we succeed in the future we’ll get a chance to share a bit of live elephant and lion action!). maybe the best part of the weekend for me was running into Mary the elephant. so the three of us were taking a morning walk to go check out a campsite nearby, and ran into an elephant on the grounds of the dorms (for student groups who go on field trips to the park). while the staff nonchalantly went about their business, mary walked right up to the outdoor tap, TURNED IT WITH HER TRUNK and proceeded to fill her trunk to take a bath and have something to drink. i flipped out. i knew elephants were smart, but its a whole other story to see one in the wild who's decided to learn how to use a water tap. crazy animals!! leopards, lions and mary... the park felt like a truly magical setting - needless to say, the african sunsets were breathtaking.

we were so taken by the experience that we didn’t hesitate to book a 4 day/3 night camping safari through the Serengeti, Ngorongoro and Lake Manyara this last week in Tanzania. i’ll save those stories for later, but for now, you can find safari pictures in the TANZANIA photo folder on the right side of the welcome webpage. suffice it to say, the serengeti was an experience I never thought I’d have in my life, and it exceeded my most wild imagination. it’s one thing to stand in front of the pyramids and see man’s stunning work – it’s another to journey through the serengeti, and view God’s – the interdependence of everything living, the colors and emotions and play and raw feeding frenzy - it was a humbling, miraculous experience.

i bid you peace, each of you in another corner of God’s magnificently created world.

miral

Comments

1

Just wanted you both to know that we look forward to every update and entry! I have your blog on an rss feed on my google home page so I know right away when it is updated. Your recent picturs are amazing. Our trip to Istanbul was fantastic and has stirred up a traveling spirit. North Carolina feels quite plain and sedate now. But your experiences in Africa are at a whole new level. Wow. Thanks for sharing with us! Love, Karen

  Karen Jul 11, 2009 7:01 AM

2

I haven't logged on in a long time so I was amazed by your adventures. I was going to rub in the fact that you are missing a beautiful Pac Northwest summer but after reading your blog it doesn't sound like you are missing anything!
I miss you both immensely. Be safe and be well.
Holly

  Holly Jul 15, 2009 4:29 AM

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