Bad way to end a good trip: Riots in Uganda

We were on our drive back from Bwindi to the the capital. On the way the traffic slowed and I (Cody) stepped out of the car with the camera to see what was happening.

The local village had barricaded the road, not letting traffic through either direction. There is no way around. We found out later they were protesting the land being sold to people within the government system who were taking out all of the sand, a valuable and free resource to the village until this moment.

The police were there and tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas.

 

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The crowd begins to disperse looking for water to wash out their eyes. The traffic stuck in the middle of the town is released and I make my way quickly back to the car. It seems we are on our way through this mess.

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It was surprising to hear all of the Ugandans around me making jokes and giving the police a hard time. For us, this was scary, and unknown. For them, this was a mild occurrence. Our later conversations with our driver shed some light on how people were affected during the multiple regimes that terrorized this country.

We moved on going first into the village as stones were being moved by police. Once we reached the middle of the village, the protesters regained their strength and closed the road behind and in front of us. We were the only car in this area at that moment, surrounded by angry people mostly young men banging large rocks on the hood of the car and yelling at us. Out driver, super calm, talked to them in almost a playful way as we crouched inside the old Land Cruiser.

With the protesters still surrounding our car, the military and police made there way into our area and started firing just above head height around our car. Most were carrying AK47s and firing them within about 5-10 feet from us. Everyone ducked down in the car as they dispersed the protesters around us and chased them into the interior of the village.  Our driver took off driving around the boulders and off road to get us through to the other side. He seemed completely unfazed by the ordeal, and offered us some solace that we were never in danger because they were not shooting at us, and that only the police had guns. Laughing it off, yet apologizing in the hope that this would not change our view of Uganda.

 

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The next day we flew back to Tanzania. Happy to be home.

Gorillas of the Impenetrable Forest

The main reason for this trip centered around the chance to see gorillas in the mist. The drive up to the Impenetrable Forest was  chilly, with the clouds laying deep in the valleys showing off the tops of the hills.

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The winding ride filled us with anticipation, we were going to have only one chance at this. A slight rain started so when we arrived we grabbed our rain gear, our hiking gear, and of course our cameras.

 

Rorey and I decided to get a porter for our trek. Creating protected parks has been somewhat of a tradeoff with the local populations. If they are expected to not farm in the area, or tolerate the local wildlife populations destroying crops, they should have some extra incentives. Many people in the area benefit from tourism in different ways. Porters, in many places we have traveled to far can earn a decent living, and often provide a great service. As we found out, our lovely porter helped get the entire crew up and down the forest as we tried to locate and follow a specific gorilla group.

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We could have been better prepared with our gear. Rorey’s running shoes didn’t quite cut it and she took a fall into a group of Army Ants.

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Finally we (trackers) found the gorillas and we started our countdown. Once you locate the gorillas, you only have a certain amount of time with them. Even if they are moving around. It was a series of stop to watch and then hack through more forest and move up and down the hills to catch back up with them. Only the babies paid us much attention.

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One of the big Silverbacks was munching in a tree full of vines when he started to fall. Amazing how graceful theese big guys are even when falling.

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Just an amazing trip. Including our quick stops on the road out of the hills.

 

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Uganda: River Safari

Here is just a little bit more from our amazing Uganda trip. Hopefully we can finish these off and start posting about our next adventure.

This River Safari was amazing. Beautiful landscape, lots of great noises coming from the animals, and birds everywhere.

 

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Chimp Walk in the Kibale Forrest

The rain was light and the mud was everywhere, but we suited up and started off for our adventure. Honestly, I was truly excited about coming face to face with a chimp, but after the “briefing,” as we approached the entrance of the park, all I could think about were elephants. I was not excited about seeing an elephant. In fact I was rather terrified, since elephants are actually quite scary creatures. But I trudged on behind the group with those thoughts staying carefully tucked inside my head and we crept along listening and searching for chimps.

Our first clue to locating them was the sound of screeching. Our guide led the way and we found a group way high up in the trees. There were about 8-10 of them climbing around eating fruit way high up in the canopy. With the contrast of white cloudy sky and the dark forest, the chimps were really hard to make out and pictures were even more hopeless, but we patiently looked through the binoculars and listened in amazement.

We were told that it was very unlikely they would come down from the trees because they don’t like the rain or the wet ground, but all of a sudden, a large male, climbed down and started lumbering through the trees. Bego shouted and we were right on his tail. Our guide led us in a zig-zagged line trying to keep up and within 3 minutes, he slowed down in a clearing. Amazingly enough there were about 7-8 other chimps hanging out on fallen tree trunks grooming each other. There was even a baby around. From that moment on, my mind was on the chimps. No worry about elephants, no worry about snakes, just pure bliss. It was an experience like no other and it will stay with me for eternity.

After meeting Jane Goodall last year and seeing her life’s work, it all makes sense. She really had it all figured out. As you scroll down the photos, you will notice a chimpanzee without a hand. This happened in a snare set out to catch local game. This is still happening throughout East Africa. If you have a change to donate, visit, teach others, or anything else to help, please do so. The world will be a better place for it. Enjoy!

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Uganda First Impressions

Last week we were lucky enough to fly to Uganda and spend a week traveling by car to many different parts of the country. Upon first arrival, I noticed that the people were wonderfully friendly and the air was crisp and cool. Stepping off of the plane and walking across the tarmac into the terminal we could see Lake Victoria in the distance. The sun was setting and I knew we were in for a treat.

Our driver, Musa, picked us up and drove us to our guest house, Gorilla Tours Airport Guesthouse in Entebbe. When we arrived, we sipped a cool welcome beer and heard the itinerary for the next few days. I had been so busy with work leading up to the trip that I really had no clue what we were going to do exactly and where we would travel. All I knew was that we were going to see gorillas.

The next morning, after breakfast, we hopped in the car and headed west toward Kibale. The drive was beautiful and it was wonderful to look out the window and see the rolling green hills, tea plantations, crater lakes and smiling faces. I got into taking pictures of the advertisements painted on the sides of buildings.

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People were out visiting with each other and working to get tasks done before Easter. I couldn’t wait to see more.

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Christmas Eve in Tenerife

Our Christmas Eve was marked with a family walk on the ocean, smiles from Bego’s niece, dinner and drinks. It was lovely and could not have been a better start to Christmas. The nativity scenes were out, there were lights everywhere and mood was merry. We even got to see some traditional music from some street performers.

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