Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kasese and Queen Elizabeth National Park

This past weekend, I traveled to Kasese to meet up with friends. The town sits at the base of the Rwenzori Mountains, which form the western border with the DRC (Congo), and the views are absolutely stunning. I actually now, in reflection, find it a little strange that one of the biggest things I remember is the fact that Kasese has a quasi-grid system, so they have actual blocks and street names. Revolutionary for Uganda. That evening, we had dinner at Margherita Hotel in the foothills, and had beautiful panoramic views of the mountains as the sun went down. On the ride up to the hotel, with the wind whipping through my hair, surrounded by good friends and staring at the mountains in the pre-dusk glow, it was one of those perfect moments in life when everything feels right – just pure euphoria.

The Rwenzoris

On Saturday, we headed to Queen Elizabeth National Park. It was so nice to feel like tourists for a day. Along the way, we stopped for photos at the Equator – I was in two hemispheres in one day (actually I jumped back and forth a few times in 48 hours).

The Equator!

Once in the park, we took a $15 boat trip along the Kazinga Channel which links Lakes George and Edward. Definitely worth the money! For a couple of hours, we cruised within meters of hippos (reportedly the world’s largest concentration of them), buffalo, a big bull elephant, waterbuck, bushbuck, African fish eagles, yellow-billed storks, pelicans, herons, egrets, etc. When we reached Lake Edward, the sun was going down and the views of the fishermen on the lake, and the pelicans soaring over the water’s surface, were beautiful. The lake forms the border with the DRC (Congo), and it was insane to think how close we are to a place that is still in serious conflict. Honestly this has been one of the hot beds of conflict in the world – Uganda has weathered Idi Amin and had rebel groups killing people in the north until very recently, the DRC still has mass murder and rape occurring, Sudan to the north is famous for the genocide in its Darfur region and could see more conflict soon when the country votes whether to split in two, Rwanda to the south is famous for its own genocide, and Kenya to the east has had its fair share of conflicts. All the more reason Peace Corps, and other organizations, are here to help re-build communities.

Bull elephant in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Pelicans on Lake Edward

The excitement didn’t end after the boat ride – while driving back through the park at night to Kasese, we literally almost ran into a herd of elephants. Only in Africa – gotta love it.

Sunday was a lazy day around Kasese (including listening to Christmas music – totally surreal when the weather hasn’t changed in months and there is nothing around to remind you that it’s the holiday season), but the real event happened that evening – I was drifting off to sleep when suddenly I woke up to the bed shaking beneath me. We had an earthquake! Apparently it was a 4.9 quake centered near Lake Edward in the DRC, not far at all from where we had been on safari the day before. Crazy!

Random moment today: a boy walked into the clinic wearing a Santa hat.

1 comment:

Kelly said...

Britt, you're amazing I cant wait to read all of this and such!

miss you, keep up the good work!