- Despite the challenges encountered in the country, I really enjoyed the act of camping. Felt very cocooned in my tent with all my stuff somewhat organized around me. Didn't enjoy packing up and taking everything down frequently. Am definitely more of a pitch a tent and stay put type of person.
- My back felt surprisingly good sleeping on the ground. I had some concerns with developing back pain but fortunately nothing manifested. Prior to my arrival, I even practiced camping in my living room -- That's just how committed (crazy...) I am!
- Others I met would literally just stay one night -- Arriving later in the day and then up at 5 - 6 am to pack up and go. Some of them have been on the move for at least a month, doing jeep or motorcycle touring across an impressive amount of the continent. Covering a ton of ground, that's for sure, but not something that would appeal to me at that pace.
- It did feel weird being the one left behind though, being the only one not packing up and moving on. Felt seriously let down for a while, like I was missing out on something really cool. Something I hadn't expected to feel, considering how far I had already journeyed to get there. Peer pressure!
- There is definitely a certain "breed" of people who tour Africa for long periods of time. Not scientific but there seemed to be a good number of introverts. Because of the sheer size of the continent, you spend an inordinate amount of time on the road. I've never done a road trip that lasted more than 3 weeks. And certainly none under such harsh conditions. I don't know how relaxing it would be given the pollution, noise etc. Those people are far more hard core than I think I could ever be.
- Wouldn't do another safari again. The opportunity came up last minute and I made some changes to make it happen. Once it got going, I realized how much experience I already had with respect to seeing the various animals compared to others in my group. I couldn't believe that some had never seen a giraffe or elephant before!
- The amount of sitting and the long days ( 6:15 am - 6 pm for 3 days) made me glad to get back to camp each night. I would have be totally happy just staying there, keeping an eye out for the hippos and warthogs and taking walks down to the river. There were surprisingly few bugs at the safari camp.
- Lots of expats in the country working for the very numerous NGOs, UN based agencies, in development, healthcare (very inventive and smart HIV/AIDS poster campaign in central Kampala), human rights. For the majority of them, this was their first placement -- Not what I would consider a soft landing.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016
Sunday, July 10, 2016
- The traffic was pretty atrocious. And when there isn't air conditioning, it meant windows were all open (mosquito nets at night) and everyone gets to breathe in the not-so-nice air and exhaust for hours. I had to leave at 4:30 pm to catch a 11:35 pm flight, just because it was rush hour. Only to travel 51 km!
- The airport in Entebbe had multiple layers of security. Stage 1 was at the entrance to the road leading into the airport where everyone gets out, car gets checked, walk through metal detector, handbags checked. Stage 2 was outside of the airport, passport check only 2 hours before flight when the airline instructions were the usual 3 hours prior, so lots of people outside waiting. Once allowed in, xray and metal detector again. Stage 3 was passport control after check in. Stage 4 was pre-boarding 2 hours before flight with yet another xray check and then they take your boarding pass and you sit in a secured room...No wonder the duty free shops and coffee shops looked so empty. You basically have no time to wander.
- As much as the above may sound intense, it really wasn't -- Just tedious. I didn't feel like their procedures made me feel that much safer. The security officers were nowhere trained to what you'd find at Ben Gurion.
- I was fortunate enough to have lounge access, so I was exempt from being herded into the room prematurely. And I got even luckier on the way to Africa as I was upgraded at the gate by KLM to their world business class from Amsterdam to Entebbe (10 hrs). A great experience and a touch of luxury before my adventure. Priority luggage did not exist, at least for my particular flight. It was one of the last to come out. At least it wasn't covered in shampoo, like many others were as someone checked 2 large containers of the pumped stuff, but did not think to lock the pump...
- This was the first time I saw a separate area of the airport just for UN planes. It was impressive. Throughout the parts of the country I got to see, there was so much UN presence in terms of development of land and various programs. Their plaques are everywhere -- I have an appreciate of the extent of the need but it was almost disturbing, like the country has lost its identity. Couldn't help but think of the word "colonization".
- Voluntarily contending with no air conditioning, hot water, erratic electricity and pervasive red dirt/dust was also new and challenging. The strong sun was tiring. And breathing in heavy dusty warm air takes effort. The cool shower at the end of the day was very much a relief.
- The heat did get to me. Got to the point where I almost couldn't move anymore and had a lot of trouble getting my breathing and heart rate down. And even scarier were the thoughts that started to come to mind. Thoughts like " I think I'm in trouble", "It would be a good idea to yell out for someone", "Don't sit down!". And the scariest thing was the feeling of numbness and detachment that started to come on where I didn't feel discomfort, which made it all too easy to want to sit or lie down. I was on an uphill trail, full sun.
- And to think it happened 3 days after I couldn't sleep because I felt too chilled. Just when I thought I was getting the hang of this heat thing... I do feel some weakness from that day. As D puts it, I'm still spinning the right way, but have been knocked off my axis a bit. Will have time this summer to heal up.
- Tsetse flies, schistosomiasis/bilharzia, yellow fever, malaria...A sample of the tiny sized things found in Eastern Africa that can make you very ill. Makes me super appreciate living in a 4 season climate.
Tuesday, July 5, 2016
- Uganda was tough on my system. Took a week for my lungs to detox all the soot and dust and pollution from my lungs. Hadn't anticipated the amount of plastic being burnt at all hours every day of the week. It was relentless and deeply bothersome. It was enough that I would not consider a long term volunteer placement there despite really connecting with the people and issues.
- Learned an awful lot about what it is like to exist with unreliable energy (think generator) and climate fluctuations that had me both near heat stroke and unable to sleep from the chill. Who would have thought that a low of 16 C would have me wearing hats, gloves, merino and 2 pairs of socks??!! Luckily I was able to rent a blanket for the next night. The level of discomfort was really distressing for me. It was my fault for deciding last minute not to bring a light sleeping bag, just a silk liner. Did have both a foam and blow up sleeping mats though. Never considered an emergency blanket or bivy for what I thought I was getting into, but believe me, I have pretty much everything now!
- Despite not having camped for decades, I think I did pretty well. My tent and footprint did great. Lived through rain, thunder, strong winds (super surprised as how persistent the wind was there). Found out the North Face duffels are quite insulating. My chocolate did not melt despite daytime highs of 27+C and even hotter in my tent. I couldn't stay inside much after 8 am and could not re-enter until almost 4:30 pm. There was very little shade found. Most trees are surrounded by 6+ ft termite mounds and I was not going any where close to those.
- The ground was crazy hard. I could not get my tent pegs even 1 cm into it. Luckily I got some help before the winds came and ended up having to use a rock that took both hands to hold to get the pegs in. Bent more than a few and seriously dented the rest. Mental note to look for better pegs for different conditions to have on hand.
- Decided that I'm not a fan of carrying heavy gear. I'm an ultralight packer as it is, so this will spill into future trips like this. Don't think it will be a huge issue as the places I'm planning to go will not involve long traverses weighted down. I really admire people who walk around with huge packs like it is nothing. I'm small boned, so it doesn't take much to make up a significant percentage of my body weight.
- It was no fun having to worry about not having electricity to charge devices and batteries running out prematurely. A couple of girls in my group had battery back up and solar solutions. Am well on my way to building my own. Am not going to be caught out like that again. The learning continues...
- The Sound -- I found the country to be So Loud. Ear plugs became a norm at nights. I found the decibel level of regular conversation too high for my comfort. On the other hand, I love listening to the sheer amount of singing that occurs daily. I had no idea what the words meant but it was beautiful and uplifting to witness.
- After 12+ years and many miles in the air, my Bose noise canceling headphones have taken their last breath. Am quite sad about it because it has done so well for me and still look so new.
- I turned them in for what I had originally decided as the QC 25 but after another trial listen, I went for the ear bud version QC 20 (same price), because they simply sounded better (love them!), despite some disturbing reviews. I just couldn't spend money on something that didn't wow me sound wise. I'll deal with any consequences of that decision. You receive about $111 towards the new set when you turn in your old one. Something they absolutely do not have to do.
- I've finally added captions to the photos in my last post.