Friday, December 11, 2009
Murchison Falls with the Wild Life Clubs
I was able to go to Murchison Falls National Park this past week. The Wild Life Clubs of Uganda hosted a camp for secondary students who were active in their Wild Life Clubs at their schools. Wild Life Clubs do reforestation, plant flowers to beautify areas, run community gardens, and sensitize others about wild life issues. Celeste and I attended as a chaperon with my friend Hellen's school. Hunter also brought two girls from his school. I'm hoping to get a Wild Life Club started in some of my schools next year and so took this opportunity to go and learn more about the program and meet some of the students who are conservationists in their communities. Here is how it went...
Day 1: We met in Gulu and boarded a bus. On our way from Gulu to Murchison we saw many IDP camps, the Nile River, Giraffes, and breathtaking savanna landscapes. Once in the park our driver went too far and we spent an hour trying to turn the bus around on a very narrow dirt trail. You are not allowed to get out of your vehicle once in the park due too the wild animals. My friend Hunter told the Ugandan in charge that it was o.k. and proceeded to get out of the bus and attempt to help direct the driver in turning around. When he came back in he did admit to feeling slight fear that a lion was going to pounce on him. We finally make it to the Education Center around 9 pm. Being thoroughly exhausted from a day of travel (I left my house at 6:45am) I went straight to sleep, skipping dinner much to the horror of the Ugandans.
Day 2: Ali, our Wild Life Authority guide took us on a nature walk. We learned how to distinguish different animal feces and identify their tracks. We followed some hippopotamus tracks and feces we found and gathered near the Nile River to see 10 or so hippos bathing away. They are huge and interesting animals. We also visited a Safari Lodge during our hike. The lodge is used mainly (perhaps sole) by tourists. It was a beautiful lodge overlooking the Nile. The students were enthralled with such a place. After our walk we had the afternoon to ourselves. Hellen, Celeste and I took naps. The students washed their clothes, bedding, showered and spent time together. Students in Uganda sure have different priorities than most American students at camp!
Day 3: We were awoken to a knock on the next door telling the students they had 2 minutes before we were leaving. Then the knock came to our door and we were given 1 minutes. This is at 5:15 am and the night before we had been told we'd leave at 6 am for our game drive. Being Americans, we jumped out of bed and got to the bus within minutes. We found Hunter on the bus and no one else. The students were getting their showers in and slowly trickling onto the bus for the next hour. The game drive was awesome! As the sun rose we saw buffalo, gazelles and antelope, giraffes, elephants, hippopotamus', warthogs, baboons, and lots of different beautiful birds. We bought fresh tilapia from some fisherman on Lake Albert and had that for dinner. It was delicious! After our morning doing the game drive we got back to camp and once again took lovely afternoon naps.
That evening we had a short program. The instructions were to come up with a story/skit/song etc. about wild life, you, and it should be humorous. I think the four PCV's were the only ones to follow instructions. We made up a skit about two tourists (Celeste and Hellen) who were at Murchison Falls and littered. Then a warthog (Hunter) came along and ate the litter. A nurse (me) rushed onto the scene and tried to revive the choking warthog but to no avail. He died. We then rewound and the tourists took their trash with them and the warthog had nothing to choke on. The students laughed and understood the message we were trying to get across. We went first. Then came the students who told riddles that didn't make sense, jokes that were not funny to Americans but somehow the Ugandans got them and laughed hysterically, and performed silent skits that had no point. Everyone had a great time:)
Day 4: We went to Murchison Falls where the Nile River crashes down into majestic falls. We hiked to the top of the falls and then to the bottom. My legs burned a little hiking back up the steep cliffs. Some of the boy students ran up and other teachers commented on their, “excess energy.” The girls on the other hand pulled over to the side numerous times taking time to, “recover.” The falls were on the South bank so we had to cross the Nile River and spent the majority of the day over on that side. As we were leaving the falls our bus had to climb a muddy hill. Unfortunately it didn't make it and we got stuck in the mud. Students and teachers got out to push the bus but that didn't work. So after more than an hour of using rocks, sticks, and bark to pack the mud the bus zoomed up the hill and we ran after it to take us back to camp. Everyone as tired when we got home.
Day 5: We were scheduled to leave by 7 so that all the people traveling far away could return home before dark. When Hellen, Celeste and I went to the dinning hall for breakfast at 6:30 we were informed there was no firewood so the cooks went back to sleep and were only just getting up and looking for wood. Oh Uganda... We finally ate and left at 9:30 am. I got home at 5:30 pm. What a day of travel. But all in all, it was a wonderful trip with great students and friendly staff members.
Posted by ajr at 10:12 AM