Jungle Life – Days 7&8

Posted on March 11, 2012


This morning I met up with Moses and another field assistant, also called Moses, who has been brought in to help cut my transect lines off grid. How hard could it be? After trekking for more than 2km we came to the boundary of the protected area N5. Wow, I never imagined the terrain to be so difficult. It took nearly 2 hours with two strong men hacking at branches, thick undergrowth and tough vines with sharp machetes (Tangas) to be able to clear an opening. After much panting and sweating a 1km line was established, but the debris left behind was a carpet at least two foot off the ground. There are many Safari Ants in this area – the worst thing in the jungle – their bite is painful and it’s the thing I dread the most. As I jumped over one line busy marching over a log; my foot was caught in a jungle vine. These vines are so strong, it’s almost like they are waiting for an unsuspecting visitor before the they wrap themselves around you willing you to stay. Nibble foot work is the key to forest trekking. I must try to be more agile and less like a clustz I’m not sure how I’m going to be to lay my plots as either side of the line is pretty much the same picture. And I still have to cut another four!

In the afternoon, a few of the researchers piled into the camp 4X4 and headed to Masindi for the weekly shop. For western groceries like tinned meat; fish; sodas; bread; biscuits; pasta; noodles and condiments most people go to Lucky Seven. Then there’s Masindi market – packed with stalls selling fruit and vegetables. Competition is fierce and the prices are not cheap (in Ugandan terms that is).  I was delighted to find courgettes and carrots as well as the more commonly found tomatoes; cabbages and aubergines. Large slabs of meat hang on hooks from doorways that are tucked into the corner of the market away from the sun. Goat meat and pork is readily available. But with no fridges in this climate, the most important thing to do is to smoke the meat to preserve it, as soon after buying it as possible.

There is one hotel – the Court View – which most people hang out at to use the wireless. But on Friday there was a power cut and the generator was not working. So we took cover in the garden shaded by a very large umbrella. By the time Fred (the driver) came to collect us, his car was already filled with four locals and their luggage. I never expected another three of us to squeeze in with our bags of shopping but somehow we did. Ugandans always find a way, no matter what.

The light disappeared as we made our way back to camp ready to cook up a feast with our fresh supplies.


Nature Reserve – Day 8

It’s Saturday and because most of the field assistants (FA) don’t work over the weekend, I decided to get up early and follow Nancy and Alfred (her FA) into another part of the forest I had not seen yet – the Nature Reserve. She is looking at different pollinators and is keen to lay traps in the trees that are flowering so she can see the insects responsible.

It is so different to where I’d been trekking the last few days. The canopy is closed so it’s much more shaded. As a result there is little understorey and most shrubs are small and easy to negotiate between. We saw some incredible tree species; a huge ants’ nest built off the ground suspended on the trunk of a tree and a woodpecker. I also discovered the quinine tree. My choice of poison is usually a vodka tonic. Alfred cut a piece of the bark for me to try – my Gawd it was so bitter – I could still feel it repeating on me as we continued out of the forest. People have boil this up and drink it when they have Malaria. Best have the bottle stuff, but I leave that to when I fall of the wagon in another 80 odd days.