Posted by: Ele Quigan | June 24, 2014

Africa part 1 – Kampala, Uganda 24th June

Lumbering, nobbly kneed giraffes, elegant, ear-flapping elephants, skittish, doe-eyed antelope – how my world has changed in what feels like a few short days.

I’ve been away from London such a short time, but it’s getting harder to connect with what life once was.  The busy-ness and hustble bustle replaced by something else entirely.  Traffic, no public transport, I don’t miss the tube.  But I’m missing those short walks to and from.

Life has moved to much smaller spaces, re-wearing clothes in the hope they don’t smell like sweat, but even that’s changed.  Singlet, and t shirt, I’m wearing twice, three times.

I’m hand-washing items, in minutes my knees ache, and I wonder how my ancestors have done this for hours of their life.  I’m trying to scrub away red mud stains, and wonder why my husband brought so many light coloured things.  At night, while the washing drips dry outside it rains.  Big fat drops that start small and end torrential, we just got things in time.  At 2:41 am.  In the dark.

It’s been hot and wet in the Jungle, but we’re moving onward to the savannah.

Like a photo, the grass and lonely acacia trees against the roiling dark clouds.  We’re lucky again, the rain seems to pass quickly.  The animals don’t scatter at our next safari.  I want to reach out and touch them, feel their soft prints and hides against my hands to again see if they are real.

Herds of elephants in the distance, a search for big cats, a paw print drying in the ground, but the cats are elusive.  The antelope quiet, chewing their cud and seated, “ante-loafs” they’re now affectionately called, hoofs tucked under the bodies, almost smiling as we pass.

In the afternoon, I heard a cross between a hoot and a snuffle, excited I waited to hear it again.  Blows of air by the waterside, and suddenly nostrils and ears clearly outlined behind the fading sunlight.

They’re beautiful creatures hippos.  Their gentle faces and ears above the water, watching.  Waiting.  Raising above and below in a single movement, no rushing, looking with disdain if we dare step into their territory but not too far, or too close.

I want to touch their purple, leathery hides.  Like shiny eggplants with giant hammy legs, you can sometimes see them raise fully out of the water, stretching, yawning, their huge teeth bright white in the sun.

Their blunt faces have an almost smile, particularly in profile, and the babies hilarious, next to their other family members, squishing and sludging into the water alongside, with an occasional inexperienced splash.

The afternoon was a slow Nile cruise up to Murchison Falls, which was another unreal experience.  Herds and herds of elephants on the waters edge.  More than we had seen in the family group in the park drive.

It wasn’t just the gentle grey giants, but water buck, hundreds of warthogs, even crocodiles, sunning themselves in the glorious afternoon light, mouths open, catching the last of the warmth.

An elephant trumpeted, a loud noise, surprising, ears out, and then carried on his gentle water washing, cooling himself.  Another attempted what appeared to be a vertical cliff climb.  How those legs and feet manage that is incredible.

The large giants ended up right on the waterside.  In the swampy elements, drinking and cooling themselves, large ones, babies, whole families, tribes of elephants together.  Somehow more beautiful on the waters edge than seeing them from the confines of a truck.

The falls?  There’s not much to see.  Iceland falls are far more ostentatious, but the epic power behind them was not to be missed, we could feel the strong current against our boat.

The Nile has amazed me these past few days.  The wildlife, the colour, the power, it’s been unexpected.  I’m already losing the grip on the realities of real life, my one luxury has died, an electric toothbrush that I’ll miss dearly, but there’s no concern.  No worry.

I want to wander places and meet people, not be behind a desk.  While sitting for hours in a truck is getting tiring, the 4am start today was a challenge but it’s not from insomnia.  Such a welcome break this place is.

Instead of a tube stopping we have wild animals.  We stopped for a cheetah, then a snake, then for the toilet.  The grass cut my legs, I tried to avoid my toes.

Kampala (where I am now) is a red city, the mud houses, the brick houses, the slowly setting African sun.  While the waterways are sadly polluted, and rubbish everywhere it’s still beautiful.  Children still wave, people still smile.

The smells of a busy city are an assault, dried fish, rotten food, rubbish tipped in places, a constant smell of burning and fire.  Fuel from motorcycles, from trucks, we’re lucky we didn’t get caught in a traffic jam today.

Tomorrow is another journey, “It’s the best time of your life” our tour leader jokes, it’s almost too much moving from one place to another so quickly, not enough time to take in all these experiences.

 

 

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Responses

  1. Great writing Ele. I feel we are almost there with you. Sounds so different from anything I have known. Keep it coming.


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