Up and at 'em early today as the Wild Frontiers Land Rover was due to pick Johanna, Pam, Steve, and Cort at 8:00. Wayne and Barbara are off to other locales and we shall converge again in Entebbe on Friday. What a surprise that John, Joshua, Beatrice, and Moses appeared for a final good-bye (see pictures). Our farewell was surprisingly emotional; several of us were misty-eyed, blinking back at each other through the car windows. A fabulous trip up to Fort Portal then west/southwest on the Kasese Road. As we turned onto the road to Fort Portal, a road that we know quite well by now, we overheard an older woman say aloud, "Bazunga abaa kunda abaana." Our driver and new friend Martin (who claims to recognize over 700 birds by sight…and we believe him) interpreted the old woman's words: "There are the white people who love children." Editor's note: bazunga is an endearing term, not disrespectful in the least. A touching and fitting sentiment on our final pass through town. Just north of the equator, Johanna asked to get out as nausea had gotten the best of her. About 12 miles later, she was out again with stomach woes. After finishing her business, she hopped back in and cheerfully exclaimed, "I bet I'm the only person in recent history to have thrown up on both sides of the equator within 20 minutes!" We laughed and cheered and marveled at her spirit. It never dampened her enthusiasm about the beauty that was rolling by throughout.
We pulled into the Queen Elizabeth National Park at about 1:00. You should see this place - in fact see the photos that we hope to post. A five star hotel in the middle of the African savannah, replete with internet access which will allow us to post these entries (although at a much stiffer rate). Warthogs graze around the grounds like tame animals. On our walk we encountered elephant tracks, other evidence of elephants, warthogs everywhere, maribou storks, a Ugandan kob (like a gazelle). As we write this blog, we are high on a cliff on a deck with a pool, looking out at hippos bathing and yawning. In the distance are the Ryenzori Mountains, looming at some 17,000 feet. This is the beauty of the African continent.
Our day of rest, so we slept in a bit, and decided we would attend a church service on the Kasiisi campus. Wow! A three hour and twenty minute service replete with prayer, song, dance, speeches, an auction, gift-giving, culminating with a nice lunch outdoors under a tree. Standard protocol in these affairs include what we have come to call ambushes, i.e. you will deliver a speech in about 3 minutes so get ready. Both Steve and Barbara responded admirably this time. Barbara's was in the form of a prayer which was so good it could have been right out of the Book of Psalms. The auction was an experience, as we high-rolling Americans outbid each other for avocados, pumpkins, an 8 ft. stock of sugar cane, beans, ground nuts, a pineapple, etc. With every cry of "sold!" the drummer would do a triple beat like the kind that accentuates a Rodney Dangerfield joke, accompanied by an organ flourish. After church and lunch, into Fort Portal we headed to visit their Botanical Gardens. Home at 5:00 in a driving torrential hail and rainstorm, with our last dinner at the Makarere Field Station. Professor Kasenene and wife Lydia came for dinner and one last look at photos and final reminiscing.
Saturday, 7/5 (continued)
Life continues without our friends who are off to Bwindi to track the gorillas. Wayne, Barbara, Pam, Steve, Kato (field station manager) and Cort went into town for the afternoon (minus Johanna who was feeling queasy) to gift-shop and have a nice dinner. One of the highlights was that Steve took the fabric he had been given and had it made into a shirt, just in time for dinner at Mountains of the Moon. Fabric and labor at a cost of $6.50! We treated Kato to dinner also. Kato has been our driver, guide, and resident expert in all things Ugandan, so he has more than earned it.