Bidogi Swamp, Kibale Chimp Tracking April 29

We stayed in Fort Portal at the Le Jus Centre, a 
Catholic hotel, and I had African food including chicken
 stew, matoke, vegetables and potatoes.

I went on a walk with guide Jerod in Bigodi Swamp, a 
bird sanctuary, the next morning. The female assistant 
guide, who is in training, was helpful, too. Apparently 
this walk is better ifyou start at 7am than 9am as I did, 
but I was not disappointed. The persistent tinker bird 
caught my ear as we walked down the road to the trail. 
I heard, and hope I recorded, great sounds of various 
birds, all of which he could name. I recorded and saw 
Blue Turocos. I also saw a small green snake sliding 
up into the branches. It was a non-poisonous snake. 
Ugand has a lot of poisonous snakes, like mambas and 
cobras, but they usually stay away from people. Since 
they don't see, they can't very well attack unless 
they are provoked. 
We ended up at a treehouse with a nice view and a huge 
moth in the roof. 
The walk went longer, but I had to leave to get to my 
newly scheduled Kibale chimp tracking to make up for 
the one I'd missed. The female guide said next time 
she would be the one to take me.  We ate lunch prepared 
by women at Bigodi, fish, and other standard African 
foods. It took a while to prepare as usual, but was 
tasty when it arrived. I also had time to buy some crafts, 
a string with four small colorful stuffed animals, a 
small adungu (bow harp or guitar) and some other things.

The chimp tracking that afternoon in Kibale Park was 
quite a hike! Chimps move fast and my guide Alex and 
I spent a couple of hours tracking them with no luck, 
through thick rainforest jungle, sometimes wet ground, 
and threatening rain most of the time. He moved fast 
and sometimes let branches hit me after he'd passed, 
but I can't criticize his dedication in finding the 
chimps. At one point he left me for a few minutes to 
find them, and I was a little afraid, but saw monkeys 
and was able to record with no extraneous noise which 
was nice. The bird that calls "it will rain" was singing
 most of the time, but it never did rain. We crossed 
the road a couple of times, and found foot prints, 
but no actual chimps. Finally he called the office and 
got Larry to drive us down to another area too far to 
walk. We saw chimps running across the road! We got out 
and followed, and it was a while before we heard them. 
The guide said the stridant tone was an alarm call -- 
maybe one of them had been separated from the group. 
We followed it and then saw 3 males. They had found food 
(figs and leaves) and were eating, and making happy 
noises. They let the others know they had food, and 
it was good. The others may or may not join in that 
situation, depending on what they had found. We were 
lucky - four others came on the ground, so we had a 
good opportunity to seem them arrive and climb up into 
the trees to eat. This tracking was 3 intense hours 
and I was glad I hadn't given up after 2. 

Later I recorded near one of the crater lakes, and saw 
a red-billed bird on a branch above the water. Something 
was near the top of the water - turtle? I was too tired 
to climb down and see, and pointed my mic down there. 

Something was leaking from the car, Larry noticed, at 
this stop. We went back to Fort Portal to the gas 
station, and it was unclear if the vehicle would make 
it back to Kampala, but he thought it probably would. 
It could be better fixed there. 
We had dinner there and I had malo for the first time, 
cooked millet which is kind  of like a huge dumpling 
that you break off squishy parts of and dip into stew 
juices. 
It was very good. 

It was a fast drive back to Kampala, and the truck did 
fine. There were a number of police checkpoints, but they 
usually waved us through. This was my longest tour on 
this trip, and I was sorry it was ending already. It 
would be nice to spend several days at most of the parks. 
We were back by 11pm, and I was glad to be able to say 
goodbye to Jim, and exchange stories. He had been 
(accidentally) in the riot Friday, but emerged unscathed 
by going with a local person to the village behind, 
which was safe! Tension has been building since the 
elections, and the demonstrations turned into riots 
in 2 districts of this very large city Thursday and 
Friday. 10 people were killed. I hoped I would not 
have to cut short my trip. I feel protected in the TATS 
space where people know what is going on and understand 
the local language news. I didn't go out the next Monday 
but there were no more problems. Demonstrations have 
been on Mondays and Thursdays usually, but writing this 
on May 9, things settled down last week, as people 
here had predicted. 



About marahelmuth

Composer / researcher specializing in computer music, professor at CCM, at the University of Cincinnati. Embarking on a trip to Uganda April 13, 2011. I will be working with Teach and Tour Sojourners, who arrange tours in the parks and reserves and lectures at universities. On the tours I'll be recording wildlife sound and video, to be used in future compositions.
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