Saturday, October 8, 2011

ON SAFARI

I have two weeks off for midterm break.  Bree has only one so she and Lauren shot out of here for Mwanza that first Saturday to meet up with some other volunteers there and generally have a good time drinking and dancing the night away.  I hung around to enjoy some solitude and take care of Poa, the cat.  We had several days that week without water or electricity, but when we had it I was able to wash my sheets and the floors.  Still haven't washed my hair for two weeks.

I left  for Kigali on Thursday, October 6.  It was the usual ride in the taxi for 3 hours with 4 people in the front two bucket seats, then bus for 3-4 hours after crossing the border at Resumo Falls.  I had to laugh when my taxi driver in Kigali almost got a ticket because I wasn't wearing a seat belt.  Tanzanian cars are typically 30 year old Toyota Corollas and seat belts unheard of, for how could you manage that with 4 people in front and 6 in the back?

I stayed at the Hotel Okapi downtown, a bargain for $50 including breakfast, hot water, and wifi in the rooms.  I walked to the Hotel Milles Collines, the real "Hotel Rwanda" from the movie, to see how they could charge $350 per night.  I was disappointed to find a 70's style boxy hotel with metal facing and small grounds and lobby.  It must be the fame from the movie, because I could see no great reason to be there except that it backs up to the UTC mall.


"Hotel Rwanda"


The two days I spent in Kigali they had HUGE thunderstorms in the evenings, the kind that sound like the roof is going to cave in.

On Satuday I flew to Entebbe in Uganda to check out that country.  It was a last minute decision to go, since bookings were full for the things I wanted to do in South Africa and everyone told me how dangerous Burundi was.  I called the day before and set up a 3 day safari to Murchison Falls.  So here I am in Uganda with my own personal car and driver, who picked me up at the airport.  On the way out of town, our brakes slipped on a downhill slope during a traffic jam and we hit a boy who was clinging to the back of a truck and had roller blades on.  The boy was able to walk (roll?) away, so I guess no harm done.  That is the first and only time I have seen rollerblades in East Africa.  I think most people can barely afford shoes. 

Morris, my driver in Uganda, in front of our Land Cruiser


We are spending the first night at Chobe Safari Game Lodge.  On the way in (18 km down a single lane dirt road) I was able to see guinea hens, baboons, and Uganda koe (like a deer).  My surreal moment was when a flock of giraffes crossed the road in front of us and I looked to the side and saw more than 20 giraffes amid the acacia trees, all seeming happy as can be.  Giraffes seem to be one of the few animals that you can feel smiling.  I don't know why that is, maybe because they look just utterly ridiculous so you have to smile.

Chobe Safari Lodge is gorgeous.  It sits on beautiful grounds in the middle of Murchison Falls National Park, the biggest national park in the country, and miles from anything else.  It and two other lodges are owned by an Indian family, who redecorated two years ago.  According to Morris, my driver, the lodge was headquarters for the rebel leader during the civil war in Uganda in 1999.  The soldiers also took over the other lodges and most of the park.  More recently there were problems with soldiers coming over from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which is just across the river from Murchison Falls.  My guide and the state department website both tell me all the bad guys have been banished.


My room at Chobe Lodge.  The hippos are outside at night
Anyway, the lodge is fabulous.  You can get a one hour massage here for $30, but my priority was washing my hair, which hadn't been done for two weeks due to water problems where I live, and I hadn't had time in Kigali.  I then went and sat on the balcony, which fronts the whole back side of the hotel and overlooks the  Nile River, which drains into Lake Victoria.  I sipped white wine ($3 a glass and very good) and chatted with an American who works for an environmental waste management company in Texas.  He is helping them with their recent huge oil find north of Murchison Falls.  The government wants to extract oil while minimizing environmental problems in this sensitive area.  Kudos to them.  As it turned to dusk, we watched the hippos come out of the river to feed on the grass.



The pool overlooks the Nile River

Can you see the hippo?

Breakfast overlooking the Nile River

Dinner was buffet style.  I ate outside overlooking the river and continued to watch the hippos.  My protein starved body enjoyed rack of lamb, nile perch, and pork tenderloin.  The meat seemed to almost melt in your mouth, not like the meat in Ngara that needs several minutes chewing time.  They also had spinach spaghetti with meat sauce, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and some other delicious items and desserts.  Not surprisingly after being on a mostly vegetable diet for months, my stomach actually hurt after I left there.  Worth it though.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

GOODBYE, ROB

Rob shows off his going away present (African material) to his boss, Jacko

Concern staff in Ngara.  Guess which one is Rob?




Breana dancing



Sadly our neighbor and wonderful helper Rob is leaving us and going to a new post in the Congo after a vacation at home in England.  He works for Concern, an Irish NGO that brings good water to the villages.  Concern put on a fabulous going away party at Paradise and invited the Wazungus in town, since Rob is the only one who works for them here and they know he is friends with the few white people in town.  We all ate and danced the night away.

Rob models a Masai blanket, his going away present from Breana