Friday, Saturday, and Sunday we went on a Safari trip to Murchison Falls National Park. We went through a group, Red Chili, that was recommended by a woman Ann met at the airport (her friendliness to strangers is really helpful!). The trip included a 6 hr drive to the park, sleeping in tents (beds included, don’t worry!) with warthogs, hippos, and baboons wandering around the campsite at night, a sunrise game drive, Nile boat cruise, and hiking to the falls.
We were a little unsure of the warthogs literally wandering around the campsite at first, but got quite used to their ugly little bodies hanging out everywhere after a few hours.
Some key highlights of the trip:
1) Animals: Even though I don’t really like animals at all (I know, I am a horrible person), the coolest things we saw were:
a. Lioness (only seen every 2-3 weeks in the park). She was FIERCE!
c. Hippos- everywhere
d. Giraffes (and the crazy spiky cassia trees they were eating)
e. Crocodiles (largest I have ever seen)
f. Water buffalo (and the old ‘bachelor’ buffalo who were kicked out of the group)
g. Warthogs (quite possibly the ugliest animal I have ever seen)
h. Monkeys- all shapes and sizes
i. Lots of things that all looked like deer to me:) (Ugandan Cubs, antelope, water bucks)
2) Scenery: It felt like we were in the Lion King (minus the elephant graveyard part). The grasslands were beautiful, the Nile was ever changing, and the waterfalls were extraordinary!
Murchison Falls is an extremely powerful waterfall, sending around 300 cubic meters per second of water tumbling through a neck only 10 meters wide. Hiking up to the falls Sunday morning was very humbling. The power and strength of the falls make all else seem pretty insignificant.
3) People! We met some great people on the trip- many of whom were actually great resources of information for our project. (Who said a safari cannot be a working trip?) Some of our new friends include:
a. Abby: the fortunate soul to join the van with Ann, Sean, Olivia, and me. She is a 6th-year medical student from New Zealand, doing her international rotation in Uganda. Great to hear about the nonprofit hospital where she currently works & their systems and processes.
b. Linda: A physician affiliated with Columbia University who is in Uganda for 6 months working with the Millennium Project, the brainchild of contraversial economist Jeffery Sachs. She works specifically with maternity care in rural villages. She had great insight on community interaction and labor and delivery systems in Uganda.
c. Tamoka: Masters in Public Health student at Harvard currently collecting disease data in Kampala. Great knowledge of disease prevalence and advice on not having things stolen in Kampala (her laptop was stolen early in her trip, but the thief was nice enough to take out her passport & US apartment keys, as she might need those).
d. Jacob: A marketing major from Memphis, TN who is volunteering with a Christian school in a village near Jinja. He had about the worst travel experience getting here, and made us realize how fortunate we were to fly out a week after the snowstorm in Amsterdam.
e. Medy: Our bus driver/rock mover/ tour guide/wealth of knowledge. He does contract work for a number of different safari groups throughout East Africa. He was really interesting and helped us learn so much about the animals, history of the park, and other interesting tidbits. If anyone comes to East Africa, let us know. We got his contact information and would highly recommend him!
f. The Phionas: 2 women working in the parks were named Phiona. One was our very friendly bar tender, who we loved by the end of the trip. The other, a guide on the boat cruises who also makes homemade jewelry and other crafts. She brought her supplies up to the campsite Saturday night and taught us how to make beads out of magazines. Of course, we all ended up buying lots of her beautiful crafts too!
One of the most memorable parts of the trip was driving out of the Park on Sunday. Roads across Uganda are notoriously awful, but we hit a spot where they were ‘re-grading’ the roads, but had only pushed a bunch of new rocks and dirt onto the road, not yet sorted or smoothed it. At first Medy tried moving rocks so we had a path to get by, but eventually we just sat and waited 30 min for the grading crew to make their way to the vans that were stacked up waiting to pass. It was an affirmation of why time is so much more fluid here, stuff like this happens, and you just have to go with it! I happened to be listening to the song "Craving pavement" when we hit this area of the park, so I narrated my video:)
We came back with lots of stories, hundreds (literally) of pictures, and great appreciation for the many opportunities we are having here.
Sorry so long- there was just so much to tell! Here is to hoping for a great and productive last 5 days of our trip. We leave at 1AM on Saturday (Uganda time) and will be back in Mpls by 5pm, if all goes well!
-Kelsey (check out the rest of the photos on my facebook page)