The last week May 7-12

We left at 5am, I packed 2 pieces of white bread and ate some peanuts. We hit a big white bird at some point, which I felt bad about for a while. I got to see the sunrise off to the right. Budongo is west of Murchison Falls, at the NW corner of Uganda. Sauda was our guide, and Larry also went on this tracking. A Dutch couple was also in the group. We drove a way up the road in the guide’s vehicle because the chimps were believed to be there. Sauda was great, obviously practiced and knowledgeable. She would listen, and then tell us what was going on with the chimps. There were more than one group, and she was trying to figure out if they would meet, or which way they would go, which is unpredictable. There were more vines in this forest than anywhere I’d been before. We were usually on trails in the beginning but later often went into the vegetation. It was not as thorny as Kibale.

I heard something fluttering around the back of my neck and I won-

dered if it was a bat. It made my hair stand on end in a kind of sensual

way. Later a simlar sound happened and I saw the source, a butterfly,

in front of me darting around, I hope it recorded!

We saw 2 chimps on the path ahead, females. Several times we heard calls, sometimes loud, when a baby got away from the mother and

started yelling for her. We saw them several times in trees and once coming down. We also heard various groups communicating.

It was a wonderful and tiring hike, and I think I probably have some

great sounds recorded.

Lunch was in Masindi at De Venue Hotel, where a guy wanted me to help him with an application to a school in England.

Larry noticed the bird had taken off the Nissan logo on the front of the

car. We drove on Gulu Rd again and turned east on Lira Rd, heading

for Lira. People in Lira were turning their heads at me, and I felt

very muzungu!

We hit a rooster. I was playing with my camera and did not see it.

We saw soccer (football) games by the road. There was a naked boy in

a swamp fishing.

We stayed in Siroti, a big city relatively with pretty trees around the

houses. I helped choose the hotel. It was very nice but I had almost no

hot water in the shower and was not up for complaining. I heard something howling outside (dogs?) as I went to sleep.

We hit record potholes on the road from Sirota. I had been concerned

about going in the smaller car rather than the Land Cruiser which had

been vandalized, since we generally drive fast. But this Nissan seemed

to do well in all sorts of situations. Unfortunately the fuel guage got

stuck on 1/4 tank full, and we ran out of gas by the swamps. I recorded

sounds while Larry went for gas in a bus/taxi. Cows came by the road,

hearded by boys who were excited to wave at me. Larry came back

in 1/2 hour with guys with soda bottles full of pinkish translucent


We went on and the road to Sipi Falls turned into a very nice road. We

drove through the tribal lands where the boys are circumcised, to the

tribe where the girls are circumcised, which are south of where

the naked tribe lives. All Ugandans belong to some tribe. One tribe

has women who ride bicycles (I guess this is unusual in Uganda).

The views became wonderful as Mt Elgon became visible.

The walk was not as steep as some previous on the way down, and as

scenic as any. The falls were not huge, but very beautiful and I recorded audio and video with the guide, Peter’s help. He is from a tribe that

came from Ethiopia a while back. He wants to build a

better bridge at the falls, and study video. I really had a hard time with

this hike even though it was not as steep as some, probably due

to the altitude we had driven to this morning, after staying at

swamp level the night before. I had to rest a lot and my throat

became sore from breathing so hard. I thought maybe a bee

had stung my throat as I had choked on something, but it was

probably the altitude, according to Peter. I was unable to do the

2nd and 3rd falls hike, even though they were easier.

We had lunch at a scenic lodge, where I was shocked to get

quiche (the first time in  Africa). Unfortunately it had bacon in it.

We headed back for Kampala, and I was aware this was my last

tour in Uganda on this trip. I tried to stay awake to enjoy the

ride. We passed babboons by the road, and crossed the Nile near Jinja.

Back in Kampala I had pizza for the first time in Uganda, and it was

good, with avocado, green olives and chicken.

I have 4 days left, and leave on Thursday. Today I tried on and picked

up the African dresses, which are amazingly beautiful. Then I met

with Kalungi and did a better recording than last week, this time

at the Art for Social Change school.

I will be trying to create sound for a piece with Kalungi, Livingstone’s

group, possibly House of Talent and the TATs installation before I

leave, which is a lot to do.

Uganda has been wonderful. It has been so good for me to see such different

cultures, such wonderful people and to understand a little about the

tribal peoples and traditional arts, music and dance. I’ve written

mostly about the parks, but the time with people here has been just

as fascinating. In 5 years I’m sure this will not be the same place,

and I’m glad I got to see it now. There are difficulties here for

Americans, drinking bottled water, watching what you eat,

the state of roads, some bathrooms, outrageous gas prices,

crazy driving situations, security and police with guns, etc. But those are a small price to pay for the experience of a unique mix of cultures,

chance to experience wildlife close up, and people who seem to make

a regular practice of kindness.

 crossing the Nile again


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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