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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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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Three Countries, One Man (all at the same time!)

So, by some stroke of crazy, we made the decision to climb another Volcano. Yesterday morning, bright and shiny, our group set out to tackle the second tallest of the three Virunga's in Uganda: Sabinyo. Although Sabinyo isn't technically as tall as Muhavura (3700m vs 4100m), what it lacks in size it makes up for in difficulty. That is right, Sabinyo is harder.

As you must understand, Sabinyo gets the name 'Old Man's Tooth' for an obvious reason: it's many peaks. As a result, to climb to the highest point on Sabinyo requires the taming of three individual, increasingly higher peaks. Each peak is seperated from the proceeding one by a small descent and an increasingly vertical climb - such that come the third, you are litterally climbing rickety ladders nailed into the cliff face. These ladders have clearly been hued out of the native trees on the mountain, because as is their nature, they are curvy and twisted as alpine vegetation tends to be. Not that I don't trust the craftmanship of UWA officials at high elevations, but some of the wrungs did have the tendency to pull away or snap come pressure and weight. Ah.

Now the bad news is that in my own way of guarenteeing good weather, I left my camera at the bottom. The good news is that the weather was fantastic, and everyone else brought theirs. When we reached the tallest of the peaks we could see clear out across the world. As I have alluded to, the highest point on Sabinyo also marks avery interesting boundary location. It is the exact spot where the Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda meet - such that while I was trying to spot the active crater at Goma, I was illegally crossing a lot of borders. It is funny to mention that the bounderies are so accurate, that upon reaching the top and stumbling breathlessly into what would be Rwanda, our British friend Richard's phone recieved a inviting text saying "Welcome to Rwanda".

What followed was a bunch of silly pictures of everyone trying to be everywhere at once. Although I did not have my camera up there, I will make an attempt to steal a few later for the purpose of your viewing pleasure. I have no pictures to account for the nice weather, but I did pick up a sunburn if you are skeptical and need proof. The walk down was nice, if uneventful, and left everyone in a fairly good mood. I do have to say though, post mountain, that Muhavura is harder. The amount of sheer will power needed to climb Muhavura to the top, made it one of the hardest things I've ever done. Good try Sabinyo, nice attempt.

It is funny the type of things you fixate on while climbing though. For this paticular mountain I had altered the words to a song called 'Mansion of Misery', by unceremoniously editing Mountain into the title. However, I think the quote that was most predominant in my head was a gem from the second Jurassic Park move (Jurassic Park quotes seem to be becoming a running theme in this trip, much to my pleasure):

"Remember that chap about twenty years ago? I forget his name. Climbed Everest without any oxygen, came down nearly dead. When they asked him, they said why did you go up there to die? He said I didn't, I went up there to live. "

I have said before that mountain climbing is an enigma. This quote gives the gist of it. Although I didn't climb anything near to Everest, the effect is the same. The day after you can't imagine having spent your time anywhere else.

Other than that, everything has been fairly tame on the Africa front. About a week ago we walked out to lake Mutunda and were able to go swimming. I don't know if it is the elevation, but I could have placed this lake anywhere in Canada (ignoring the view). The water was beautiful, and the weather perfect. Although we were told that the lake didn't have Bilharzia, I'll have to keep my head up for any symptoms.

I guess the final piece of news is that a group of vets from Spain have rolled into town about a week back. There mission has been to set up spots where the local people can bring their cows, sheep and goats from deworming, as well as their dogs for the snip-snip. All to willing to help, Jess and I showed up at a field near our site one morning to get our hands dirty. What we weren't expecting, however, was for the vets to be delayed indefintiely that day. As a result, needles and other devices were put in our hands and we were sent to work.

Being the trained vet I am, I was immediatley in my element. Drench in hand, Jess and I quickly set to work on the goats and sheep. I guess the best way to describe the situation was organized chaos. As we worked to shove the stuff down the animal's throats, the children would already be off and running to jump and leap on the next group to get treated. Our arrival to a specific herd was punctuated by the bleeting of child-crushed animals, as a government official tried to record names at our torrid pace.

Once we had eliminated the smaller animals, we loaded up our needles of ivermec and stalked the real game. I was previously unaware to how savage deworming could be, but it really boils down to a lot of stabbing with big needles. As five or six local men draped themselves over the cows, we would do the honours of plungeing the syringes into the neck. Although the little cows often fell to their fate, more than a few times the big bulls would't stand for it and ran across the field full gait, with locals in tow like some bizarre trophy.

Later that day as I was walking home from a market, I was hailed down, and asked where I (the vet from spain) would be working the next day. It felt nice to be recognized as something other than a white person, but the irony was that I had no idea where the vets would be. Luckily, some thinking on the feet allowed me to tell the guy to listen to the radio! Saved.

That. That was a good day.

I think I have you all caught up, and must now leave (the internet place is closing). Tomorrow we are heading up to Bwindi for a few days, and then when we get back it'll be time to do some teaching in the schools. I think we are being joined shortly by two more Swedish volunteers; it is always nice to have some new faces.

Hope all is well, be good.

Much Love,


Fun fact: Congo was always my favourite location on the risk board, and I would secure it at all costs. I liked the name. Congo!Con GO! connnn goooo.

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