“They doing the arm ritual….”, Kampala, Feb 5th, 2011

I am getting used to pack my small rucksack for shorter trips. It’s amazing how little you actually need. But for those smiling now, I still carry my tripod around and I still do ok with my big rucksack as well. What I am not used to anymore is team things and briefings. At 8am on this Monday morning (Jan 31st) at the back packers Kampala we have our Murchison Falls Safari briefing. The group of 10 consist mostly of English girls, either travelling alone or in a group having finished volunteer work, a couple from UK and Switzerland and an American girl. All of them seem nice and it turns out they are. Normally when guys get together the common topic is football and soon things are tied. But what to talk about with girls? Oh, yes, they are English, so its football as well. I could not believe it. Our football conversation went far beyond 45 minutes, it included different leagues and these girls even explained why they like which stadium in terms of crowd, structure and atmosphere. Crazy.

After 4 hours we reached the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary and all of us realised the “sanctuary” part only during the “trek”. Its nice to see rhinos and its nice that Uganda tries to bring them back to their country but in terms of adventure it was not so great. The rhinos just sit there, the rangers have no trouble at all finding them and after 1 hour the pictures were taken. Done. The lunch, sandwiches, were not exciting either and so some first disappointment in the trip started to show. That would change soon. Another 2 hours drive and we reached Karuma falls, quiet a nice waterfall along the Nile. Entering the national park we immediately met Bamboos. One of them tried to fight with me, see what happened to him in the before and after picture below, smile.

The campsite for the night had a nice location in the middle of nowhere. That it was not finished yet did not border and instead of using the tent I choose to platform of a house looking straight into the stars. Dinner was great and we all were in a good mood, laughing a lot.

After an early sunrise breakfast our 4 hour game drive began. Besides giraffes, buffalos and other smaller “stuff” I saw my first elephant group, great. Then our driver and armed guide got hectic, busy driving off road and talking on their mobiles. Bang, a couple of lions. Amazing, maybe about 10 to 20 meters away from the car, later passing by even closer. I was thrilled, besides taking photos I also managed to enjoy the moment. They are majestic and special.

After crossing the Nile river again we had another rather disappointing lunch but nobody cared, I guess we got used to it and the group was good fun. Next was the boat trip down the river towards the actual Murchison falls. Pay close attention when watching the video of the rhino. Smile

Our group did not return with the boat. Instead a one hour trekking tour followed to reach the top of the fall. It was hot, let me tell you, but the reward was worth the sweat. Water at its best, going down with power.

Excited as we were we did silly things like the famous “where is Matt” dance………

A drive of 1,5 hours took us to the night lodge in the middle of the jungle. Accommodation here was great, hot showers and a buffet dinner. For some reason my hot chocolate was also fantastic. The 3 more that were ordered based on mine included chocolate like it was uranium, basically nothing.

We found out that Connie and Kevin are not just on a trip together, its their honeymoon. So we made a poem and Angela presented it before dinner. I think Connie was really touched while Kevin, being a man, did not really know how to react on it and just kept putting food into his mouth. Great. Seven of us started a poker round which we finished around 11:30pm. Regarding the winner I just say, I fell asleep easy and happy, smile.

Wednesday, February 2nd, started early as Chimpanzee trekking was on the agenda. Great breakfast was followed by a briefing of Sauda, our guide. She also split us into 2 groups before we headed out on our 4h tour. It was really nice, pure nature. Even though there was a given path we felt the guides really do have to search for the chimpanzees. First we could only here them, the real sound of the jungle. Listen………………….

Then soon later we spotted one up in the trees, then another one and then two of them way up high. Wow, but it came better. We went off the path a bit into the jungle and there was a group of three (one and two a bit a part) chilling on the ground. I have to say, it was touching especially as you could really tell that they were also watching us. Just one step closer than the guide told us and the animals moved back, getting nervous.

After a while of watching them our guide Sauda got extremely nervous. Her eyes were full of amazement, her body language full of excitement and she almost screamed into her mobile phone to her colleagues: “the arm ritual, they doing the arm ritual” Then she told us that this very rare arm ritual, a indication of love and closeness, has never been witnessed among this specific family and that we are really lucky. Either she has been trained by a tourist marketing professional or we really experienced something special. Of course I believe in the latter. See yourself; at the end of the video the second chimpanzee takes his arm up to the other one, basically responding to the “invitation” of being close and lovely.

On the way back to the lodge we saw some more nice trees and butterflies which got Teresa extremely excited. I didn’t know that a 20 year old American girl can have such a fable for butterflies. But I took a video for her.

After lunch the rather long 4 hour drive back to Kampala began. Sleeping was the main activity but the animal transports we saw in between at least woke us up if not making us become vegetarian.

(Later showing the pictures to Picky, a Ugandan girl working at the back packers she doesn’t understand what is wrong with it and comments as follows: “Why do you feel sorry for animals? There time is up. They must fit as many as possible into the truck to get them to the people that eat them.” This is not to disgrace Pinky but to show how “developed” our / my world is. When your daily worry is how to get the next hot dish on the table I guess you do not really worry if the cows have a decent transport to the slaughter house. The same applies for littering I suppose.)

Back “home”, back packers Kampala, we finished the trip with another round of poker, which the same guy one than the day before………….

Thursday was supposed to be just another washing clothes, playing pool, surf the net and relax day but a phone call made it a thinking day. A very close friend of Angi and my passed away, age 44. What can say, this world trip is so right, don’t delay things that are important to you and please do not let a pissed boss or a dropped sandwich mess up your day. Life is great, enjoy every second of it.

Friday was another back packers day in Kampala with market food and a lot of orga work on the internet. Then we went for a movie, RED with Bruce Willis. Nothing special I guess but being in an air-conditioned cinema eating sweets and all this after 4 months I just loved it. The night ended at the Iguana dance bar but I called it the day “early”, around 3am. Trust me, this is early. Those English girls are partying hard. When on Saturday around 10am I was having breakfast Sarah and Angela came back from the night out. While one of them decided to go to bed, the other one decided to stay up and she did, partying all the way to Sunday morning. No joke. Am I too German or too old?????…………………..

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  • Gabbor says:

    First: Listen to nature and enjoy the silence …

    Second: Animal transports in Europe (developed world?) are as cruel as those in Africa, there is no difference. But they do it this way, because they don´t have no money. We do it this way, because we just want to earn more money or want to buy cheap meat.

    Third: To respect nature is the key.

  • goody says:

    hey mr you are doing great!
    keep going coz my best wish is for you
    guy.let the sky be not the limit.am with you.

  • thorsten says:

    hi franki,

    good stuff, did the same tour to murchison and understand your experiences and feelings. so all the best.


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