Monday, June 30, 2014

Weekend Update

Fellow followers,

Apologies for the delayed posts over the weekend - the kids have moved comfortably into their homestays, and the blog upkeep will change slightly since the kids will not have access to a computer in the evenings. Allow me to detail the past couple of days:

Saturday, June 28

Perhaps one of my favorite days of the trip was our initial drive from Kampala to Rukungiri, where over the course of 8 hours we observed the changes in the landscape, the agricultural specialties of each community (displayed on the side of the road), and the gradual transformation from urban to rural. What an amazing drive - even after hours and hours of traveling, there was never a dull moment. Saturday's adventure consisted of similar travels, except our destination was a fishing village called Rwenshama, located on Lake Edward. Needless to say, I was excited to learn what Ugandan gem this new adventure would reveal. So, the kids met us at Bishops High School in the morning, and we loaded up the 14-seater taxis with Groton students and staff, as well as the Bishops High School Prefects and some of their staff.  Talk about getting a taste of traveling Ugandan style – we were packed like sardines in those taxis!

I never imagined Uganda would have such diversified ecosystems – we have seen everything from rift valleys to mountainous regions to marshlands - each environment offering its own natural beauty. The first couple hours of Saturday’s drive was a descent into the rift valley; making our way from Rukungiri’s high elevation to the flat lands of Rwenshama was slow going over winding terrain, and dirt paths that could only be classified as “roads” in Uganda.

We took the long way to Rwenshama, detouring through a section of the Queen Elizabeth National Park, with hopes of seeing some wildlife while driving around the park perimeter. We were fortunate to spot a variety of bird species (Queen Elizabeth National Park contains over 600 different birds!), an elephant seeking shade from a distant tree, a pack of baboons crossing the road as if they owned the place, a few water buck grazing, tons of kob (a more stylish version of deer), hippos wading in Lake Edward, the ugliest and most massive storks you’ve ever seen, a giant forest hog, and a shy family of warthogs. Everyone had their eyes peels for Ishasha’s tree climbing lions, but no such luck – I think we had a pretty successful safari outing for only scanning the perimeter of the park!

Our detour also included a quick stop at the DRC, Democratic Republic of Congo, which allowed us to stretch our legs a bit and take some photos across the border. After the quick DRC visit, we piled back into our sardine can, back through parts of the National Park, and finally arrived in Rwenshama – a village hardly like the ones we have seen so far in our travels. The landscape was flat, the air felt hotter, and the village was settled in a dry, grassy plain. Lunch took place in what seemed like an abandoned building, but was suddenly filled with a massive buffet delivered from the villagers. Tilapia was among the main dishes, and once you got past the presentation (a fully in tact fish head, eyeballs and all), it was quite delicious.

Following lunch, was a presentation by the local performing group – a serious of traditional dances related to the history of the village, and daily life of the people. I was grateful to have a Bishop’s student sitting next to me, translating the songs, so I could make better sense of the performance. Next, we navigated our way down to the shoreline of Lake Edward, where we soaked in a bit of the fisherman’s lifestyle but avoided soaking in the water – it’s not exactly the kind of beach you visit to work on your tan.

Back in the sardine taxis we went around 4pm, and this time a straight shot back to Rukungiri – although, in Uganda, no path is very direct. At one point during our trek home, I wondered how these taxis could withstand all the potholes, grade inconsistencies and constant wheel jerking; and that’s about when our taxi reached its breaking point, as it grinded gears trying to tackle the steep ascend back to the mountainous Rukungiri. About 10 minutes from home, the radiator in our vehicle failed, and we had to evacuate the taxi as it grumbled, hissed and spewed steam. So, that left Tyler, Angus, Kei, Jessica, Diva, Grace, Margaret and I, as well as some Bishop’s students, stranded. I tried calling AAA, but apparently that service isn’t available in Uganda…haha. The 20 minutes in which we were “stranded” was perhaps my favorite part of the day – we happen to break down at sunset, atop one of the highest points of Rukungiri. Amongst the sunset and beautiful African skyline, we joked about pooling our resources together in preparation for spending the night, and laughed about how comical the whole scene was with 14 people spilling out of this ridiculous taxi. All occurring only 10 minutes from home.

Driving in Uganda is an adventure, to say the least.

Will create a new post to update you all on Sunday's happenings.


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