When I emailed my Ugandan friends from the conservation field station and told them I was coming back after two years they couldn’t believe it.
I only had a small window to get to Budongo in western Uganda. Uncle Charlie and I have had a pretty mental travel schedule using various buses and staying probably only one night in most towns and cities in Uganda and Rwanda.
Something I’m sure he had not anticipated – poor love – he’ll need time to recover from this holiday when he gets back to Kenya!
Friday morning we got up to hit the craziness of Kampala’s New Taxi Park. Road safety is always sketchy when you ride a public bus, so being the adrenaline junkie I am, I decided we’d also throw speed into the mix as well. We squashed into a Mattatu to race our way up to Masindi Town. The entire route now has tarmac. That is definitely a sign of development in the area from all the money petroleum companies are pumping into the country and all the oil they are sucking out of the ground. The number of articulated lorries I counted was astounding! The Kinyara Sugar Company is also expanding fast – plantations are springing up everywhere.
Masindi is still the mental town it has always been and not much has changed. Money in the area has clearly meant that some places have been spruced up a bit and there appears to be a few more tourists passing through.
After a brief lunch we started out hour drive to Budongo. Pulling into camp I got quite emotional. Goosebumps covered me and it was like coming home.
After a fantastic dinner with all of the students I crashed into bed. I had waited a long time to hear the sound of the tree hyrax. But there was not a peep. Instead the rain fell hard, pounding the tin roof. Then in the middle of the night I awoke suddenly, there it was the haunting and piercing shriek…..building slowly before reaching a climax. I reached under my mosquito net for my head torch. I checked my watch two fifteen, the hyrax was in its element. I rolled onto my side and smiled, closing my eyes.
In the morning, UC and I were meeting Moses Lemi, my old field assistant and forest-husband at nine o’clock. He was bang on time and gave me a rather sheepish grin from under his cap and I bounded towards the Banda to greet him. Giving him a huge bear hug we briefly caught up. He’s been busy. He now has 6 children, the seeds from the apples I gave him didn’t grow, but his garden is looking good he told me.
The three of us went on a forest walk into the nature reserve area of N3 for three hours and the hours flew by. We even saw some adult Cordia trees which made me smile (species I studied in 2012)! It was surreal to be back and to feel so at ease in this beautiful tranquil place that had filled my months in Uganda with so much joy. It really is a very special place.
Before I knew it, we had to pack up, say our goodbyes and jump in a car back to Masindi to catch the bus back.
It was too short and I wish I could have stayed longer…..next time.