Sorry for the shortage of posts lately. Ethiopian Internet connections leave much to be desired. When we last left our fearless hero and her husband, they had just taken a small gorilla out of Rwanda in their luggage and headed for Uganda. And that is where this post finds them.
We thought that Rwanda had gorgeous hills, but it turns out that southern Uganda is even more beautiful, especially at sunset as the fog starts to burn off in the valleys. They terrace almost every available inch of hill to plant crops.We quickly proceeded to Kampala, that incredibly chaotic capital. After making plans for an organized tour for a couple of days later, we were off to Entebe, the quieter, gentler city close to Kampala. There we visited the Wildlife Center, which promises that it is not like any zoo and that the animals are all confiscated or rehabilitated. As it turns out, it is like most zoos that we have visited. But this very male vervet monkey did greet us. He seems a little blue about his relations with the females...
One of the primary reasons we went to the center is to see the shoebill stork, which we hoped to see in the wild, but it is rather endangered and we never saw it. They are really great looking birds. I tried to get into the cage and hold my shoe next to its bill for comparison, but couldn't get over the fence.
Many of the azaleas have massive spiders of this species on them. I took about a dozen pictures while Tara was running around screaming like a little boy.
Back in the crowded, dirty, no-traffic-rules city of Kampala, we discovered that the Ugandan National Contemporary Ballet was having a show to celebrate its third season. As it turns out, there were about 20 white people and 2 locals in this rather small national theater. The ballet company was started by this crazy French woman who dances ballet about as well as I do, and she choreographs even worse than I would. Since she choreographed everything, it was rather bad, but many of the local dancers were really spectacular. If they sacked her and got a real leader, they could be an amazing group.
The parliament building has this sign that looks to me as though they took an ad for Parliament cigarettes and added some words.
We took a three day tour to Murchison Falls National Park. On the way, we stopped at a rhino park and I got to pet their pet orbi. I think his name was Henry or something like that. Fairly certain that I could only pet him because he was preoccupied with food. I know that is the only time when I let strangers pet me.
The rhino park is meant to breed white rhinos to release back into the wild of Uganda. The last one was killed decades ago in Ugandan Civil War XXV. Okay, they don't really number their wars like Super Bowls, but it would make the history easier. Here is the biggest male taking a nap. He is Kenyan, and his first baby was Obama, whose mother was American. Cute, eh? Like the real Obama, the whole family have 24 hour armed guards.
At Murchison Falls, we had to wait a few minutes on the ferry, but they had this nifty globe with which we could play and plan new routes. I discovered that we could go through Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and North Korea in a nice route eastward!
Murchison Falls Park was really, really green. Rainy season is just ending, and it makes for some breathtaking scenery that is much different than the drier parks that we visited. The park has tons of Rothchild giraffes, which are one of the rarer subspecies. Here are some out for a stroll.
Tara took some great sunrise pictures while waiting for the ferry. This one was especially nice with the clouds and the river. This is the Nile, actually.
The park has many Jackson's hartebeests, which are also rare, but they are skittish, so I only got them running from us. Like other hartebeests, they have crazy shaped faces.
This is the Ugandan kob. I remember a guide in Southern Africa going on about how there are five types of kobs, but one of them only exists in Uganda and that he really wanted to see it. I thought that his knowledge was impressive, but that he was incredibly boring. Well, thanks, boring guide--it made it much more fun to actually see this antelope.
Speaking of kobs, this is a Dafassa waterbuck and waterbucks are also a type of kob. See the resemblence to its cousin above? Right, they both have horns. And fur.
We came upon this group of lions and about five other cars watching them. Our driver, despite having a park ranger in the car, proceeds to drive our minibus over massive bushes and rolls up about ten feet away from these lions, completely blocking the view of all the cars behind us. We didn't know whether to laugh or tell him to be more polite, but we all took some nice pictures before telling him to move.
Some cute lion cubs. Three lion cubs were there. I named them Simb-A, Simb-B, and Simb-C.
An African Hawk, I think. It let us get closer than most hawks, so it is being rewarded by having its picture posted to our blog. If you are reading this, Mr. Hawk, feel free to let us know your name.
A massive monitor lizard running away from us. We have shots of this same species from Southern Africa, but this was a nice picture. I like his crazy stomach pattern, which you can't normally see when they are sitting still.
Some of the olive baboons are not at all scared of people, but they are much better behaved than other baboons--they know not to attack people for food, but will happily take what is offered or pick through the trash.
Here we are with Murchison Falls in the background. Billed as the most powerful falls in the world, all the force of the Nile (granted, the Nile not far from its source) is pushed through this little canyon.
As if to emphasize the power of the Falls, some crocs lay nearby waiting for a tourist to accidentally step into their mouths. Actually, they open their mouths to release heat, much like a dog pants.
Looking downstream from the top of the Falls, the Nile starts to look like a real river.
Can you see the baby buffalo in the mud? The whole little buffalo family was wallowing in the mud to keep the awful, awful biting flies away, but this little guy could barely reach the bottom.
The next day, we went chimp tracking. All the "tracking" activities prior to this were more "trekking" with someone knowing exactly where the animals were. Not so with the chimps. After about two hours of wandering around and only hearing chimps in the distance once, I started to bore and take pictures of fungi.
Maybe as good as the fungi are these terrific berries. Looked like they would be a great treat for a chimp, but the chimps apparently disagreed.
Finally, we spotted one! This picture is only slightly worse than what we actually saw. The people at the back of the line of six people didn't even see this much. You can see the chimp butt if you look hard!
Back to animals willing to pose. Look at this nice butterfly. I didn't even have to kill him to get this picture.
As I mentioned earlier, we have debated a lot about whether you can call it "tracking" and animal when the guide just radios someone and asks where to go. The chimp place further confuses the issue of whether it is tracking or trekking:
And that wraps up our time in Uganda. The country has tons of other places to visit that are supposed to be nice, but we are starting to run low on time in Africa, so we had to move on. We were not big fans of Kampala, though it appeared that the city does have pockets of calm. The rest of the country was very nice, though.