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
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!