It rained all night Wednesday. I had worked late and got to bed after a shower at 1:30 battling a couple of mosquitos, when the rain started. At some point the wind started to roar in an ascending pitch. I kept thinking it would die down but it just got stronger, until I was afraid the windows would burst. I put the blanket between my face and the right window, and faced a way from the left window. The rain poured off the roof. I My door was ajar when I got up even though I had left it clasped shut. When I got up at 8am, Larry said plans had changed and we were going to Mt. Elgon today instead of tomorrow, and the Lake Victoria islands trip would happen Sun. I asked if it was because of the weather and he said "yes." So we headed out for the longer trip to the Eastern side of Uganda in the safari truck, onto the best road I'd seen in Uganda, with lines on each side and down the middle, and shoulders. There were still many bicycles, and walkers on the side of the road. Many women were in beautiful dresses, some with the traditional butterfly sleeves, more so than usual, because of the Easter weekend holiday. We had Indian food in Mbale, at the foot
- of the mountain, and picked up the guide, Amos.
We drove up the dirt mountain road with much bouncing, jostling and squeaking of the truck. We saw the mountain people who live there, who stared at us and sometimes waved. Goats, cows and sheep were by the road more often here than on the highway or in Kampala. Often they had a leg tied and would be at the end of the rope. We finally got to the Uganda Wildlife Authority at 4:30pm, signed in and started the hike. Larry did not come, but Ellenie joined us. Amos, who carried an AK47, kept saying we'd be back in an hour; our goal was to see some caves. Jim and Amos got well ahead of us on the steep uphill since I was weighted down with recording equipment and the African food I'd been eating since I got here. The first hour was mostly uphill, through rainforest, and passing through some farmland with cows and rows of crops planted. I was breathing fast and hard. It rained a little off and on, and thunder rolled occasionally. Rainforest! Pretty views of the valley, moutains and small farms. After a mostly flat area we climbed again, taking big steps over the boulders on the path. It got rougher, and even scary at times. Approaching a slanted rock wall I refused to go up it, as this had reached my climbing limits. I spent about 15 minutes stewing over it and arguing with Ellenie, who kept saying "you will go, and I will help you. I will be right behind you." She said later teh mountain people had removed some of the UWA's ladders that are usually in spots like this. Finally, since Amos and Jim were not coming back to see what happened, and I realized either I'd be left alone waiting for them while she told them I wasn't coming, or I'd have to climb it, I just decided to do it. It really was not hard, and she did tell me where to put hands and feet so I didn't slip. The main problem was when I grabbed thorny plants to hang onto instead of roots. I started to feel some confidence in her because she could be right under me, hanging on from some impossible place, making sure I, who was on the easiest path, made it. We got to the cave, met Jim and Amos, and went inside. It went about 40 feet back in, and you could stand up in the end part after ducking through the entrance. Jim saw a bat. I took some flash pix, and so could see everyone briefly. There was only one oval light from the entrance in one direction. The reverberation on our voices was wonderful, prolonging the sound. Going back over that scary place again I had Jim, Ellenie and Amos helping, which made it easy. We had to really move to get back before it was too late. It was almost dark when we reached the truck. I'd gotten a few recordings of birds and the mountain people playing drums and singing which we heard at the cave, in the distance. I was really excited to have conquered the fear of heights, at least in this one situation. Jim had bought some staples for the mountain people on the way up, and we stopped and 3 of their homes to deliver the gifts. They invited us in, chatted for a few minutes. It wasn't so easy since the language was different, but I think they got the idea of what we were saying. They were very gracious. At first I was concerned this would seem condescending, but after doing it, found it to be wonderful. I could see what their lives were like, and they seemed to appreciate the gifts. The homes were made of clay with tin or grass roof, with newspaper, often with President Mouseveni's face on the wall. Larry says this is wallpaper. It was dark, but they have candles. I recorded some frogs near one of the homes that was next to a stream. We drove back down the difficult road in the dark, getting to Mbale late and looked for dinner. We ended up, dirty and tired, at a place that took forever, and confused our orders numerous times. At least we got to sit outside. The hotel Ridat was worse. I had no light in the bathroom, and there was no hot water. A guy replaced the bathroom light upon my request, with a disco black light from the attached club. At least the mosquito net was in good shape. Apparently this hotel had "gone down the tubes." This is the first time we had had a negative experience with either food or accomodation and we had some laughs about that and the dinner. The next day we had a decent breakfast at a very nice hotel in Tororo, after driving a couple of hours. The Rock Hotel where the government people stay. I had lionized potatoes (fried with egg). We headed southeast to the Kenya border and parked at Malaba, Uganda. We changed some money, and walked over the bridge of the Malaba River which delineates the border, to Malaba, Kenya. Cars, trucks, carts and bicycles with all kinds of products went over the bridge. I put away my camera when we saw the guards. We saw produce, and many other products being carried over. Several trucks carrying new cars crossed from Kenya to Uganda. Women in beautiful dresses and others crossed on foot. We shopped at the little tourist shops there and I found some colorful fabrics. We ate lunch at the mini-hotel (a restaurant) and I had chapati with rice and vegetables. It was pretty good. Then we came back over the river. There was a hippo in the river, but I missed it with my camera. I climbed under the bridge to record the birds, but it created such a ruckus with people being surprised to see a muzungu (white woman) under the bridge with recording equipment that I had to stop. We then drove west and north to Jinja. Jinja is a beautiful city with nice gardens and buildings. Jim went shopping since he'd been here before, and I went on a boat ride on Lake Victoria/Nile River. This is the source of the Nile River, at Lake Victoria. Walking back up from the boat launch there was a statue of Ghandi, that people stood in line to photograph. The trees around the statue were full of monkeys with little human-like black faces and grey bodies. One jumped down and a guy was feeding him peanuts and playing with him, until the monkey stole the whole bag of peanuts. We stopped in a "bar" supposedly to recording them singing a drinking song, but they didn't. A bunch of people sat around a big bucket with beer (looked like mud to me) drinking out of long pink or green tubes. Next Larry took me to Bulimbaga Falls, while Jim stayed in a small village talking with people. These waterfalls are beautiful, and people go down them in short kayaks. I spent a while shooting video and recording the falls. Soon there will be a dam here and the falls will probably be gone. Larry got a very cool drum on this trip, with a python skin head, which I play sometimes. We drove back in a gorgeous sunset most of the way to Kampala, Saturday night. I recorded sounds in a town before Kampala, but unfortunately the batteries had run out and I could not record these rich pulsing traffic/club sounds. The dinner and shower at the guesthouse were so welcome!