Sunday, July 4, 2010

Safari Adventure

A few weeks ago the community decided to go on a little safari. It has taken me so long to write about it because it ended up being an adventure including car crashes, tse-tse fly attacks, and traversing the hippo infested Nile in a tiny boat. I have just recovered from the 2 day experience and now I share it all with you.

We left Aru bright and early to travel to Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, about 3 hours from Arua, which is about 1 hour from Aru. The sisters dropped us in Arua and we went in search of a van willing to take 6 muzugus to the Park. We found a willing driver and felt it was a good decision since his van was labeled "The Good Guyz." Can't go wrong with good guys, right? So we piled in and off we went on our Safari Adventure. Well, first we stopped for gas. Then the driver needed to buy some water. Then we stopped by the driver's house for his overnight bag. Then we were off on our Safari Adventure. We drove to the Park's entrance where we paid up (a recurring theme in the park, anything you want to do, for example breathe the park's air, costs extra). And lo and behold there were elephants under that yonder tree. We had only just entered the park and we saw elephants!!! This was going to be good. Can you see the elephants? There are really there, I promise!

After we had entered the park we had another 20 km to get to the main center for information and the only place in the park where you can cross the Nile ($$). As we were driving along we started to see lots of animals: tons of grazing types in all different sizes from teeny tiny to rather large, water buffalo, and warthogs. We finally arrived at the Nile (the Victoria Nile, specifically) and came up with a plan. We decided to drive around to see the animals for the rest of the afternoon and take a boat up the Nile to Murchison falls the next morning. We had a quick lunch while our Park Ranger guide ($$) got his rifle and then we were off. We saw more grazing type animals and then ran into a herd of elephants. These elephants were much closer than the ones at the entrance so we could tell they were actually elephants. Then we saw more grazing type animals. Then we drove into giraffe territory and saw many of these tall, elegant creatures. We were slowly driving towards the Nile and I had great hopes that we would be able to see hippos and my lifelong dream would come true. And heart be still, it happened! We stopped by the river and saw a herd lounging in the water, just yards away!! Then things got really exciting (more exciting for everyone else, but for me, wild hippos is as exciting as it gets) when we left the road and drove into the tall grass to see a lioness. She was just waking up from her all day nap and was looking around with dinner on her mind. Here she is:

After seeing the lion we had seen most of the animals in the park (there are no rhinos or zebras, and hyenas and leopards are hard to see). So we made our way back to the Nile where we needed to cross ($$) for our night's accommodation. As we were driving along it started to rain a bit and the dirt roads started to become a bit slick. Out Good Guy chauffeur was speeding along these rain slickened roads when all of a sudden we were flying through the air in a direction decidedly away from the road. After a few terrifying seconds we came to a stop with a thud several yards away from the road. We got out in the now pouring rain to assess our situation and found that the front tires were neatly parked in a muddy ditch making the possibility of moving the van anywhere very slim. Plus the back tire was flat and we couldn't jack up the van enough to put the new tire on. Plus the last ferry for the other side of the Nile, where our beds were, left in less than an hour. Here we are, in trouble:

Just when things were looking the most dismal, salvation appeared. The rain stopped and a truck load of Park Rangers arrived on the scene and took over. They swarmed the van, changed the tire and lifted the front end out of the ditch so the van could back up and make it's way onto the road again. Then then sped off, promising to keep the ferry for us. We all piled back in and were on our way once again feeling that we might actually make it to our beds for the night. The roads were in bad condition after the rain so we were driving slowly to avoid another stuck in the mud situation. However the roads were also narrow, so when another van was coming towards us our driver kindly tried to make room and edged to the side of the very muddy road. The van passed us with plenty of room to spare and then drove off, leaving us stuck in the mud. So we jumped out again and pushed our van back to the road. This was the last adventure and we finally made it to the Nile where the ferry was waiting for us. Our Ranger friends were there too! Here is Stefano with the Rangers and our driver:

So we arrived at our accommodation for the night, tired but happy with our adventures of the day. The camp featured a restaurant and bar so we finished our day with plenty of good food and drink.

Bright and early the next morning we were off again for our second adventurous day (or half day because the park charges admission by 24 hours ($$) so we had to be out by one). We ate a quick breakfast and went down to the Nile for our boat trip ($$) up to Murchison Falls. The falls is at a point where the Nile goes from very wide into a narrow gorge, making it one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. Plus the boat ride promised viewing of lots of hippos, crocodiles, and other wildlife. Well, I was not disappointed by my Nile boat ride. There were TONS of hippos, a new herd every few yards it seemed. I was able to take lots of pictures and just enjoy viewing my favorite animal in the wild:

We also saw a bunch of crocodiles, lost of birds, and a plenty of beautiful scenery as we peacefully floated up the Nile. Near the falls, we left our boat and met the park guide ($$) to continue the trek overland on a beautiful hike to the top. It is a bit hot hiking at the equator, but the views of the Nile and falls were spectacular. Here I am in front of Murchison Falls:

After the hike our driver met us at the top to take us back to the ferry where we would cross and leave the park. As we were getting into the car he told us we needed to close the windows because we were driving through tse-tse fly land. Even through we were all hot from the hike we thought this was a good idea because it is generally not recommended to get bitten by a tse-tse fly, lest you get African Sleeping Sickness. Stefano and Clara closed the back window, and then...thump. The whole back right window fell out, completely out of the frame onto the ground. So we commenced to drive through tse-tse fly land with a gaping hole in the van. And sure enough the van was swarmed with flies and we spent the whole ride swatting ourselves and each other. I think we made it okay because it's been a few weeks and none of us are sleeping. Our 24 hours was about to expire ($$) but we talked to the ferry driver and he called the gate people to clear our way. On our way out we picked up a Uganda rapper and his film crew making a music video with a flat tire who needed a lift out of the park. I can't remember his name, but you could call it a brush with fame. After all this adventure, I was exhausted and slept most of the way back to the border where the sisters picked us up. Our safari may have been only two days, but it was packed with adventure and animals, what more could you ask for?

Besides a fun break and a great chance to see African animals, the trip was a bit of a farewell for our 6 person community. I am now home in Denver visiting for July and when I return Tomas will have left after completing his 1 year of service. In November Lydia will also leave. Then we will most likely be getting two new community members from Rome in the fall. Since the community is changing, this was a great experience for the 6 of us to have together. Here we all are at Murchison Falls:

1 comment:

  1. You picked the best places for fulfilling your mission. You’re lucky you have this opportunity to travel a lot. I, too, would love to travel and be in service to other people. I get to help them and at the same time, I gain knowledge, grow, and become a better person. I would also love to be where you are now and just do things bravely. Keep on updating your blog about your adventures.

    Jordan Hood