On our last night at Primate Lodge Kibale we’re entertained by a group of ten young people in colorful costumes, a choral and dancing group called Snowhead Robin Chat Kibale.  They are named for a bird and also their signature song. They perform a “shaking dance” and invite us to join them.  Nora and I have fun with it.

The next morning we leave at 8 for our seven hour drive back to Entebbe. We pose with Moses and JP and thank them for a great week of their companionship. In the photo, from the left, we are Nora, Melissa, Moses, Mia, Karen, Jean-Paul, Andrea, Carol, Nyla and Melissa. Adventuresome women with another day of adventure ahead as we travel through the beautiful Ugandan countryside.

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In the village walk, Pato next took Carol and I to watch the banana man turn his bananas into beer and gin.  He does it in his yard. It’s a laborious process that results in, according to Carol, a great tasting product that he sells in the village.  His family watches us from their house. His young beautiful daughter has been burned by very hot water. Her mother fears she will not recover.

The medicine man tells us, through Pato, about the herbs and plants that he uses to treat illness.  He tells us up front that he does not treat cancer, diabetes or high blood pressure. “People must go to the clinic for those illnesses”.  His specialty is “removing demons.”He uses the skull and sacrifices small animals in that process.  We ask him what demons cause in a person, and the symptoms he describes sound very much like  depression. He seems to be a kind and gentle man and answers our many questions.  As part of his practice, he gives Carol and I our “pet names.” Carol is Abouli, a steady, reliable person. I am Akiki,  strong woman.

Two women come to the medicine man’s yard to show their baskets and how they weave them. We buy a few.

After noon, JP drives Carol, Andrea and I to the Bigodi Community Center for our walks, Andrea’s to the swamp and Carol and I to the village.  Our guide is Pato and Victor the guide in training.  We walk past the village soccer field and open markets and first go to the school.  The children are waiting for their test results, and they sing to us and tell us what they want to do “when they grow up.” Nurse, teacher, doctor, pilot, guide, driver, and chef are popular choices. One girl wants to be an MP – member of parliament. They begin studying English in Kindergarten. Next we visit the home of the “coffee queen” and she shows us the multiple steps involved from crushing the dried beans to grinding the roasted beans. We sample her delicious, rich, dark coffee.564E0F2E-40D1-48A7-A130-B7398C9038F9

 

Early in the morning we set out on another trek, this one to see the chimpanzees of Kibale Forest.  Four of our group, Andrea, Nyla, Carol and I, ride with JP a short distance into the forest for a half day of trekking. The others are on an all day habituation experience.  Our guide is Jen, who led us on a wet nocturnal walk last night to see the glowing eyes of a few bush babies.  We’re also joined by Mora, a student guide, and David, a tourist from San Francisco.  We begin on a forest road with  many many baboons on and next to the road. Jen and another guide go into the forest and spot a chimp, and our group and three other groups follow them. The chimp is way up in a tree but soon comes down and walks past us, where we get a shot of it’s rump.  It soon finds a tree to sit in, fairly close to the ground,  and the three groups of people gather around to take photos of it eating, grooming, scratching, yawning and making monkey faces.  There are too many people here, so we set off with Jen to find more chimps. There are two more way up in a treetop. We continue  walking on rough, steep, muddy trails, and soon it rains.  Mora finds me a walking stick, and I’m silently wishing for a porter when Jen  grabs my hand and helps me over the roughest parts of the trail. At 11  o’clock we head back to the lodge, muddy, wet and tired.  We saw a chimp; all is not lost! The habituation group searched nearly all day but was rewarded by a large group of chimps romping around them.

 

We come to the marker for the Equator and stop in a light rain for photos and a quick pee, in the bushes on the Equator.  It’s been a long drive and the rain adds to the need.  We’re on a paved road now, the first of the week, and we travel at 100 KPM, soon coming to the town of Kasese, where we have lunch at the Sandton Hotel Kasese, with local art on display. The population is 50,000, and the streets are teeming with people. We take a shortcut to Kibale, back on rough roads but with beautiful vistas and views of the Rwenzori Mountains.  We pass the Lake featured on the 20,000 Uganda Shilling note.  We arrive at Primate Lodge Kibale late afternoon.  It’s truly in the forest and somewhat primitive after Mweya. The generator is turned off at 10:30 PM.

We leave Maweya Lodge for adventures on the way to Kibale Forest.  The Ruwenzori Mountains separating Uganda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are clearly visible today.  Our drivers are always eager to remind us that the Congo “is neither democratic nor a republic.” JP is from the Congo and when asked about the current troubles there he says, “the Congo is a beautiful country full of good people, but sometimes we have bad leaders.”  We tell him we can relate to that.

On the drive we watch for game.  A group of mongooses (no, it’s not mongeese) crosses the road.  Lots of hippo trails appear crossing the road from water to woods, their nocturnal paths, and soon we see a hippo on land, the first and only one we see out of the water.  A herd of domestic longhorn cattle blocks the road. We
pass a farmer’s market.  We stop to pick up Richardson, our guide,  who walks with us to the alkaline flats and ponds with pink flamingos. We drive a short distance to the salt mines, individually owned plots with the workers waiting in sheds for the rain to stop.  Richardson shows us the slabs that are crushed into salt crystals.Back on the road we pass a large herd of Cape buffalo and then a large valley with elephants in the distance, 40 of them!

The  Kazinga Channel is a 40 kilometer long connection between Lake Edward and Lake George in the northern part of Queen Elizabeth National Park.  It’s very wide, lake- like in many places.  Our hotel, the Mweya Safari Lodge, is high on a hill overlooking the Channel and it’s large and luxurious compared to our recent lodging, complete with a lovely swimming pool and hair dryers. We have a quick lunch and then ride down the hill to the boat docks to a double decker, open boat to view the animals.  The Channel is teeming with hippos and Cape buffalo.  We see crocodiles, a large, 5 foot long lizard and birds that nest in tunnel nests along the edges of the Channel. It’s a pleasant ride until we see the rain clouds and wall of water sweeping up the Channel toward us. James, the tour guide, puts the curtains down at the back of the boat but we soon have to turn back to the dock, and torrents of water blow through the boat, soaking everyone. The passengers are mostly Italians on a camping trip and everyone is jovial and in good spirits.