Category Archives: Uganda

2011: A Year in Review

When I think back on 2011 it will undoubtedly go down as the year where I did more in 12 months than most people do in a lifetime.  If I didn’t personally already defend a thesis, become a published author, move to a different country, and explore 20 countries on 4 continents along the way I would accuse myself of lying because I’m tired just thinking about it.  But I apparently did because I lived through all of it! Continue reading

Travels around Uganda

If you ever want picturesque African scenery of the hill-and-jungle variety, head to Uganda.  It starts off flat near Lake Victoria but quickly rumples in a lush, beautiful way that tends to keep everyone with their noses pressed to the glass.

The first site of note from Lake Victoria- the source of the Nile!  Well one of several, but this is the one Dr. Livingstone tried in vain to find, and is the site of world-renowned Class V whitewater rafting… three months and 4,000 miles from here will get you to Alexandria, Egypt.

We did the whitewater rafting here of course in perhaps one of my best days of it ever.  The particular reason for this was the last rapid, the so-called “Nile Special” after a beer they have here in Uganda, is renowned the world over because of the wave that can develop there.  And we did ride it for 5-10 seconds- it was one of those all the things came together perfectly moments- which I’m told gives me street cred amongst the rafting crowd!

But then it might not last much longer- after years of negotiation Uganda is finally building their own hydroelectric dam over the river Nile, and much of the good rafting will be gone forever.  Lots of people are upset about this because their livelihood depends on the rafting, but when the  majority of the country has no electricity and they get power cuts regularly even in the capital the answer isn’t so easy…

Moving on, the equator!  Where Patrick would like to reiterate that he stands with the South… and I guess that makes me a Northerner?

It’s worth noting that behind this monument some enterprising soul has set up three basins which claim to show the water swirling in opposite directions on either side of the equator and straight down when exactly on the line.  It’s bunk, of course.  While the Coriolis force does exist the cut of the drain matters far more on such a small scale than the hemisphere it’s in, and that applies for your sink at home too.

As I said, the scenery is pretty and it gets prettier the further west you go- behind Patrick is Lake Buyonyi, which is in the southwest corner of the country and so close to Rwanda that you can often see the volcanoes of that country in the background.  Lake Buyonyi is the deepest lake in the country and really a great place to chill for a few days while waiting for your turn to go gorilla trekking, but unfortunately our second day of relaxation was marred by on-and-off rain.  It’s the start of the rainy season, you see, but hey it didn’t rain during our actual gorilla trek so I won’t complain!

I will say the Lake is lovely and will certainly become more touristy in the coming years, but Uganda’s brutal history isn’t far behind in many respects- for example down the road from our campsite was a lovely guesthouse refurbished by a German, and while we were all admiring it and snapping photos we learned that it was actually the former torture house from which the local population was brutalized.  That combined with the fact that president-but-really-dictator (known as “hat guy” because he has a cool one like all African dictators) greets you into the country with a poster that says “28 rebellions have been put down since 1986- let peace work for you!” probably gives you a good idea about the political situation in Uganda.

But anyway back to the lake, here are four crown cranes spotted whilst cruising around Lake Bunyonyi. Crown cranes are the national symbol of Uganda, both because they’re pretty and because they mate in pairs  for life so they have good symbolism.

Finally, because I’m perpetually behind I’m going to double my summary of Uganda into this post and call it a day.  In short I genuinely think this is my favorite country in East Africa- the entire thing is manageably small with great variety in its scenery, I did a successful gorilla trek, and got to briefly teach some wonderful children maths when not hanging out by Lake Buyonyi.  Only thing I’d change about it was spending more time there- Jinja at the source of the Nile was a neat spot, and there are some islands in Lake Victoria that are supposed to be neat- and the fact that you’re not allowed anything but bare feet on the Nile rafting (even taking sandals in a bag on the boat, which I’d never been told before) because climbing up the red African dirt at noontime was hot enough on my non-calloused feet to bring tears to my eyes.  All in all though such qualms didn’t take away from a country filled with natural beauty that I’ll always recall with fondness!

Visiting a Ugandan Orphanage

Here’s a tip: if you ever find yourself at an orphanage in Africa make sure you go with a fresh camera battery!  This is because most of the time will be spent with your camera on not really by choice but because a crowd of kids will surround you begging to be photographed so they can then crowd the viewscreen and comment on how they and their friends look.  Repeat repeat repeat, but of course this works out for some fun pictures as everyone knows there are no ugly children in Africa! Continue reading

Tracking the Mountain Gorillas

About 4 million years ago, a monkey-like creature lived in the heart of Africa that would be known as the common ancestor of gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans. Having such a close common ancestor so recently in terms of evolution is like sharing a grandparent- humans and gorillas share over 98% of the same DNA, making us genetic cousins really. Estranged perhaps, but no one closer in terms of relatives. Continue reading