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Hello. I'm Sean and I live in Japan. I'm glad you've come because I need you to do something for me.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Dark Continent, Light Mood (and a video!)

Monkey buisness aside, I have a confession to make. At the start of these blogs, and this trip, I ashamedly felt very much like going home. That is not the confession, the confession is that I am a person rarely satisfied with what I have. I hunger, I want; what I get is rarely ever the true means to my desire. As I sit at home, sheltered, I long for the chaotic, unruly nature that accompanies travel and adventure. Come opportunity, I embarrassingly slant my eyes home bound, drawn by the temptation of comfort, safety and stimulation; plugged into the world from my bed room, behind closed doors.

Therefore, it is understandable that I truly cherish the moments of real satisfaction. Last Sunday, on a whim, Jess decided that a walk down the road was in order. Unfortunately, this spontaneous walk was decided upon about ten minutes prior to a storm, and we found ourselves a kilometer downhill and down road come monsoon. We got wet. We got so wet that the only plausible next step was to strip to my boxers on return and parade around the grass like a mad hatter in the frozen mountain downpour. Funny enough, that was the first time on the Dark Continent that I felt at home; a crazy Muzungu losing his mind in the rain. That was the exact moment that I decided not to waste another second here longing for the creature comforts of a world away. They'll be there when I get back, but I'm here now, and I'll no longer squander the beauty of this land with a bad mood.

Understandably then, this past week up on the hill and around has been fairly good. The rainy season is moving into our little nook of Uganda, while it apparently is getting drier everywhere else. We have been told several reasons for why it is rainy here, and the closest I can figure out is that the mountains play their part. One local was convinced that the weather was unpredictable due to the closeness of the Rwanda and Congo borders. Those darn other countries are always causing that annoying unpredictability.

The vast amount of spare time we have in the afternoon is finally paying off too. Although at first is was a curse, as we struggled to fill the unstimulated hours, it has now provided us with endless opportunities to explore the community.

For example, we managed to finally get into the craft shop shop run by a local woman near the park entrance. Although it was a fairly small operation, the carvings were all quite nice, and I believe Jess and I made her day by dropping $70,000 USH on the little shop. Now if you're curious at home, that is about $35 Canadian, but over a months salary for many of the people here. The woman was literally singing and dancing as we walked out. On a small tangent, in Kisoro there is a craft store that sells similar things - the irony however, is that the nicest traditional craft store in town, but is run by a portly, industrious German woman who is always fervently working her sewing machine.

On Wednesday Darja, Jess and I set off with our field guide, Jared, to visit one of the local caves. These caves are situated around the community, buried and obstructed by farmers fields, and used to be home to the Batwa pygmies.

Now I think we just assumed rather naively that we would have no problems reaching this cave and entering, just the four of us; so we grabbed three weak flashlights and headed off for some spelunking. My gosh, how we were so wrong. As is the way with any walk through the area, we managed to amass our large following of local children; the three Muzungu messiahs and their flock of followers. Such that we arrived at the pitch dark cave with roughly twenty five children eagerly scrambling after us into the blackness. If what you are imagining is comical, then the truth was even funnier.

The majority of my time in the cave was spent shepherding children safely along with the guidance of my ever-dimming torch. Meanwhile, Darja had decided to become a movie producer and was having Jared do several takes when he went to explain things of interest, all the while directing the minimal light and our voluntary all-kid cast to do and say certain things for effect. This was all happening inside a dark, wet cave, somewhere under the surface of Uganda.

The cave itself is rather neat. As it was explained to us, the cave was the home for a tribe of Batwa Pygmies, who used to use it as a location to launch raids on the local populace. The estimates we were told were that it could have housed upwards of 10,000 pygmies. Now you've got to understand, this cave wasn't that big! So how small were these pygmies? Or, how comfortable did they get. The floor of the cave was lined with mud and bat guano, and the ever dripping ceiling meant for constant puddles - not my ideal place to sleep. I'm sure the video that Darja made will surface eventually, and I must say the true quality of it comes out in the forced awkwardness. Jared ending all his takes with "OK?", the children's inability to not look at the camera and myself, constantly with face in palm.

On Thursday we decided for a change of pace, and spent it climbing a volcano. The largest of the three volcanoes, Muhavura, that big and often misty chunk of rock in the background of our daily life here. It didn't fail to be either; big or misty. Wake up was 5:30, boda boda ride 6, sunrise 6:30, and climbing through the hole in the buffalo wall to the isolated UWA rangers station at half seven.

Mountain climbing is an enigma. The whole way to the top is a constant struggle for motivation; "I'm paying for this?". I'm not sure if I just felt a little off, but the climb was one of the hardest things I've ever done. About half way up a cloud rolled in on the wings of a severely cold wind. I didn't have a thermometer, but I lost feeling in my fingers. This new coldness was rubbed in by our guide claiming that he was sure "we were more than halfway", although I assumed we were only seconds from the top. The much needed stops for the ever thinning air offered no respite, as they heralded the arrival of massive shivering - filling the space where motion, and some reasonable level of warmth used to be.

The top of the volcano is adorned with a crater lake. The true testament to how thick the cloud cover was, is that when we reached the top, not three meters from the water, we couldn't see the pool's edge. On a good day you are supposed to be able to see all the way to Goma in the Congo, and it's a real shame we missed out. On the positive side, the crater lake is said to be lucky for those who drink from it, and so I obliged. Yes, I drank mystery water from the top of an African mountain. It is funny how, in stark contrast, the majority of the time going down was spent singing and chatting. The walk down went very smoothly, even if it felt longer than the ascent, and we reached the bottom proud, albeit a little mush in the legs. Although I had regretted paying for the torture earlier, I didn't for a second after touch down.

Today was a lazy day. Late rise, late breakfast and I talked to a crazy guy about speaking with Canada about price equality (I'll just get Canada on the phone!). Our rest stop in Kisoro has been quite good, if maybe not so restful, and I think pork is on the bill tonight followed by a visit to the lake tomorrow!

So I suppose in conclusion, things have been progressing along nicely. I am enjoying myself, and the opportunities for fun and adventure are rolling in as a result. It is truly funny that the thing that bothered me most of all at the beginning, endless amounts of free time, is now one of things I'm beginning to cherish most about this trip. One of my absolute favourite things, is sitting out on the balcony in the afternoon and waiting for the birds to come in. Sitting, reading and waiting with my camera nearby, the birds come in force for endless photo opportunities.

Thanks for reading!

Much love,


1 comment:

  1. I'm glad you're enjoying yourself more now, I guess it was a huge culture shock at first.
    It's great that I can keep up with you guys through these entries.
    Thanks for sharing!
    Love to you both!