Lake Mbura Tues April 26

Monday Jim and I went for a long walk past lots of businesses in the area, and I bought EVERYTHING on the list! (and a few more impulse buys, like a shirt, gum, Stony ginger beer, etc.) The big surprise was finding a microphone cable, since one of mine had disappeared in the comings and goings from the safari truck. We had asked at about 10 places and everyone told us to go downtown, but then Jim spotted a guy with a pile of cables moving large speakers, and it turned out he had one to sell. I paid about $10 for it, which was well worth it since it could have been a huge project to find one otherwise. You can’t just google audio equipment in Kampala.

I have been doing short sessions for the Stawa class at 5pm, on electronic music.

Tuesday morning Larry drove us west toward Lake Mbura. I saw green papyrus puffballs. At a gas station Jim made friends with the female employee, who shook my hand before we left. Shops you see by the road are often the most primitive structures, corrugated tin roof and clay or brick walls, with the most sophisticated technology inside: cell phones, videography services. Cows were sleeping on the median grass in one place.

We stopped near Mpabire to check out the drum makes by the road, who give demos of drum construction, and sell very reasonably priced drums of wood and cow hide. I bought 4, that had different sounds, for around $50.
We passed the equator and took pix with our each food in a different hemisphere. I paid 200 UGX to a boy to use the restroom and bought some things. Now in the southern hemisphere for the first time, there was a lot of road contruction to widen the road. I had the Uganda version of MacDonalds (in my case roasted chicken on a stick, and roasted bananas) which was stuck in the window along with many other possibilities. It tasted excellent. You can also get corn (roasted, slightly smoky, dry and substantial, which is a really good snack), beef, pork or chapati this way. It’s cheap, healthy and good. You grab what you want, and pay a minimal amount. The bananas here are amazingly good, roasted or raw. They have so much flavor: tart and sweet at the same time, and a fuller texture than in the US. The little ones are also extremely good and sweet. The matoke green staple bananas are not sweet, but they are good with beans.

The wide road turned into a narrower road, and we made a left turn (south)
to Lake Mbura. It was a long hard road with many animals — my first view of zebras in the wild! IT was a wonderful drive with many wart hogs, water buffalo, antelope, especially impala. Waterbuck and babboons were in the distance. We had a slowly cooked dinner by the lake, unable to help a British group with car trouble as neither of us had jumper cables. The great-tasting fish with chips took over an hour to cook. I photographed a monkey by the kitchen, heard a hippo in the water, and recorded warthog snorts and bird song. We found a magic place on no trail, on one of the recording sessions, a pond with many birds and lots of sunlight. Another beautiful Ugandan park.

At one point a bunch of cattle had gotten into the park, and a herder was trying to get them out as he was in trouble for it with the Uganda Wildlife Authority. So there were 100 cows with horns on the road in front of us, meaning another great recording session.

On the way to the hotel at night we saw a leopard briefly on the road! He ran away quickly. My first wild cat sighting. The hotel was pretty nice. I heard howling dogs or coyotes, but I was too tired to record.

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Lake Victoria Islands Photos

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Lake Victoria Islands Tour April 24

Easter sunday Jim, Larry, Anita (a student who works for TATS) and I went to Lake Victoria islands. I got the best recordings of the trip so far! I had no idea how extensive the islands were in this huge lake. The drive took about an hour to the wharf and fish market. Larry arranged with a guy to take a boat out for most of the day, and we headed off to Sowe Island, seeing many birds, including egrets, cormorants and white storks, not the Kampala type. Anita was familiar with this first island, and showed me around. Jim is a child-magnet and after a few minutes had an expanding group following him around. I met the school teacher, stopped by the church to record some music, and had a good recording session on the other side of the island, with the children following me being very good and quite while I recorded. Larry got some fish and we went on to Paradise Island, which was aptly named. After losing the “security” guy who kept talking while I was trying to record, as Jim went with him, I got wonderful recordings and video of egrets and other birds, mostly in the trees.

Kings Island was had belonged to the King of Buganda, turned into a commercial vacation spot now. Dragon flies circle you as you walk. Waves lapped up onto rocks with cormorants and egrets perched on them. You have a perfect view of this from the tables covered by grass roofs. There was even a great rest room. In the middle of the island was grass-roofed bar with couches, audio system and sculptures. Behind this was a grassy area with a few trees and an amazing number of birds and a few cows. In the grassy/treed area I got great recordings. I ate a whole tilapia freshly caught and cooked and with the chili sauce.

We saw otters in the water, briefly. The final island we stopped by in a forested area and I had to walk through a big tree branch to get off the boat. As soon as I looked up there were huge spiders all in front of me. Of course I freaked out, spiders not being my favorite thing, and it was a while before I got up the courage to follow Jim up into the brush. There appeared to be a path, but it didn’t go anywhere, and we still heard the loud waves and loud music from across the lake. I got one bird call recorded. However it was probably good this happened because I learned that Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where I’ll be next week, will be even thicker forest than this, and  have these same harmless but large spiders.

We had dinner at the Kabira country club, which was really nice. I had chicken biryani and part of a death by chocolate cake.

Easter Monday is a holiday in Uganda, so nothing was planned. Jim and I went shopping and managed to find a microphone cable, CDs, a map of Uganda, Stony ginger beer which is quickly becoming a habit here, batteries, and other useful stuff. Larry, Jim and I had a great Ethiopian dinner at the place that was bombed last summer. You would never know that happened, except that we had to go through a security check on the way in. The prices are so reasonable – about 10000 (around $5) for a huge platter more than enough for 1 person. We split 2 for 3 people.

Pix will go up later. Tomorrow (Tues April 27) we go on the longest tour, Lake Mburo, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (gorilla tracking), Queen Elizabeth (tree lions are there), Rwenzori Mountains and Bigodi Swamp bird sanctuary. I will be back late Friday.

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Jinja Photos

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Malaba Uganda, Malaba Kenya border Photo

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More photos from Mt Elgon

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Mt. Elgon, Jinja and Source of the Nile tour


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!
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