Dude, we’re not in Kansas anymore


’Though the sky sure as heck looks like we might be’

I thought I might have to skip a weekly blog post (quel horreur!) but it looks like I have internet here in Uganda, at least for the moment — the key words being ‘for the moment’.

So this’ll be a quickie. Mainly photos, with a witty bit of banter as filler. (Fingers crossed on the ‘witty’ as well as the internet access.)

Let’s start with that picture up top, showing an extremely scary (at least to this Former Midwesterner) sky. Some of our intrepid birding band were actually on board that little mainly-metal lightning-bait boat and insisting upon chugging upstream to clap their eyes on the Murchison Falls—no matter that the sky looked like the one that whipped Dorothy off to Oz. But cooler heads prevailed. Thank heaven for our Hipster Birder Leader, who insisted on herding us all safely to shelter, where some disgruntled mumbling ensued while we waited out the maelstrom. We (finally) did get to chug on up the Nile.

We missed the Falls, but not the boat. Thank you for not making me a Lightning Rod, dear Hipster Leader (the guy at left, not behind me. Duh)

On the Nile, we found plenty to amuse, including crocodiles and hippos. And (of course) plenty of birds, pointed out by our afore-mentioned Leader, who was himself a rare specimen—a birder sporting not only Hipster Headgear, but a beard, a ponytail, and plenty of tatts (though none of birds, I noticed.) He was also really into martial arts.

Our Birder Leader’s back, displaying a description of a martial art called ‘Grappling’ (somewhat obscured by strap supporting assorted essential gear for something called ‘Birding’)

Speaking of ‘backs’, back to the Nile. Where we found plenty to compensate for the lack of waterfalls. Here are a few highlights:

Hippos! Look up to about eleven o’clock past the hat (those are Birder Directions, by the way) and you can just make out a sneaky guy (or gal, who knows?) peeking at us

The Dude checks out the hippos, in between oodles of birds. There were crocs, too — and not the ugly shoe kind, either

The next day, after riding across the Nile on a rather creaky-looking ferry, we ventured into the safari-esque part of the park. (We’re speaking here of Murchison Falls National Park. In Uganda. When I get a chance, I’ll put in some useful links. Cross my crocodile-fearing heart.)

We’ve got the whole world in our hands. Well, in between us, anyway. This globe marks the spot where the ferry crosses the Nile. The Victoria Nile, that is

That safari part of the Park had its daunting moments as well. For one thing, we (mostly) weren’t allowed to get out of the vehicle, otherwise we might find ourselves a snack for a lion (though we didn’t see any) or a charging target for a Chad Buffalo. We saw plenty of those—though no, I don’t have a photo. Maybe The Dude has one. On the camera that never relinquishes its photos.

Okey-doke. But then where do those ruts lead? And why are they there?

Since I have a bit of internet time left before we take off for a bird-beladen (is that a word?) afternoon, let me finish with a few shots from the following day, when we traveled to yet another National Park (name to come when I can look it up). But here is a sign we saw along the way. Check out the bottom admonition closely:

Check out the warning on the bottom of this sign. I’m opting, personally, for the ‘be faithful’ option. Crossing my fingers that The Dude concurs

In this particular park, there is a rather famous road called The Royal Mile. This is because the last King of Uganda (the one who lost to the British in a long war) used this road to do his Royal Birding. Kidding. He used the road to get to what is now known as Lake Alberta. (You can bet it wasn’t called that when the king used that road to get to it, though.)

I’m fuzzy on the details of the war that he lost, but there was something in the story about how this king failed to get all the other area leaders on his side. They turned on him (sided with the Brits, actually) and, well, there you go. Sounds kinda familiar, huh? Hold on to your pride, while the enemy divides and conquers. And now everybody in Uganda speaks English.

The picture is almost as fuzzy as my memory of Ugandan historical details—but this is The Royal Mile, lined with birders with bins instead of bad Brits with guns

There were, of course, zillions of birds as well as other creatures — some monkeys, some chimps, some bugs, even some dangerous trees. Though this one tree was only dangerous to other trees. I think. It’s a fig that starts as a seed that wafts on the breeze to land in the upper branches of some innocent, unsuspecting host. The fig seed then feeds on moss and such, sends down vines, surrounds the hosts tree and, um, strangles it. Gulp.

The tree behind me strangled its host tree. Instead of me

There were bugs, too. I didn’t hang around long enough to find out if they were dangerous. But everybody took a picture of this one. I’m thinking it’s because she (I’m anthropomorphizing here) was so pretty. Fashionable, even.

This bug dresses in Lily Pulitzer, so how dangerous could she be? (I didn’t try to find out)

Well. Time to go. Today we spent the whole morning with a band of chimpanzees. Honest! I promise to tell you all about it next time. Unless another storm gets me. Not to mention a snake or a bat or a gorilla. Yes, we’re seeing gorillas — on Saturday.

The lights at the end of the stormy tunnel. Maybe there’s a pot of gold at the end. Which this is — the end, that is

Kibale National Park, Uganda. May 2018

Out of Africa (but not out of stories)


‘How could I resist sharing these tidbits with you?’

‘Jambo’, everybody! And other forms of greeting. It’s considered less-than-cool to photograph people in Kenya and Tanzania, at least not without their permission. (I’m totally on board with this; I only mention it to explain my lack of people-in-the-scenery shots.) But it is the ‘done thing’ to say ‘jambo’ to everyone you meet. It’s Swahili for ‘hello’, and it’s pronounced sort of like ‘jumbo’, so the first time someone said it to me, I was rather taken aback. But then I got into the swing of things, and was ‘jambo’-ing like crazy.

Little kids in school uniforms got a real kick out of this. They’d wave gaily at us as we passed by in our safari-mobile, shouting back ‘how are you?’. (At least they didn’t shout ‘shikamo’, which is the greeting used when meeting an elder.) Such waving and smiling! I’ve never felt so much like a Clinton County Fair Queen in my life. Continue reading

Zebra Crossing


‘And other signs we’re not in Kansas any more’ 

Not even in New York City have I heard of traffic having to stop to make way for zebra crossing the road. (‘Zebra crossing’; couldn’t help myself.) Though I have heard that elephants used to tie up whatever traffic was happening at three in the morning whenever the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus was in town.

Maybe that's not an official elephant crossing. But who's going to argue? Not those guys on the left, anyway

Maybe that’s not an official elephant crossing. But who’s going to argue? Not those guys on the left, anyway

But this post isn’t about zebras, or even about elephants. Though we did in fact see a very wide range of animals crossing the road whenever the spirit moved them: warthogs, wildebeest, hyena, baboons, impala, gazelle, ostrich. And goats. Many many goats. Continue reading

Spotting the leopard


‘You should have been here yesterday’

First things first. Yes, yes. I know that the picture at the top of this post is not of a leopard. (Though leopards, not lions, according to our Amazing Guide Donald, are the cats one expects to find draped in trees. Though only one at a time. Leopards, apparently, are loners. Lions like being with other lions. There were actually two more lions draped in this one tree. I just couldn’t fit them into the picture.)

'Let sleeping lions lie', I always say. At least when I'm this close to one

‘Let sleeping lions lie’, I always say. At least when I’m this close to one

While lions, contrary to the evidence in that photo, do not exactly grow on trees, we were very lucky safari-goers, lion wise. We saw not only lions sleeping in trees, but lions sleeping in the grass.  And sleeping on these huge rocks called ‘kopje‘. (For you ‘Lion King’ movie fans, that’s where the Big Boss Lion lived.) We even saw lions not sleeping. One rather large male even crossed the road right in front of us. Each of us remained very still, and tried not to look like a warthog, which is one of his favorite foods. Continue reading