It is Hero’s day here in Uganda and that means a bonus day off. I assume this day is in honour of real war heros or those who are celebrated for the part they played in the history and freedom of their country. Or perhaps we could take the time to consider all the real heros in this world who selflessly give up mountains of time to dedicate their lives for the well being of complete strangers. Okay I tip my hat to those variety of heros. Done. But to be completely honest with you I feel a bit like a hero at this moment and I am taking this bonus day off as a celebration of myself and all the heroic feats I am accomplishing this week, last week and the two weeks to come.
As you might have noticed there has not been a whole lot of blogging recently. However there has been a whole lot of marking and report writing and yearbook editing and adolescent rearing and photography club exhibition preparing and clothes sorting and sorting through the bureaucracy of car selling.
And there has been this: ( for all Heros deserve their just reward.)
Last week there was another national holiday here and this one was called Martyrs Day. We celebrated it with a day up north on the banks of the wild Nile, sipping wine to the tune of Hippo grunting, jumping into the best pool ever and gazing over the sunbaked stretch of stormy water waiting for the majestic sun to set. It felt a bit sneaky and spoilt driving 4 hours north for 24 hours just because. We wanted the Nile, one last time, and we wanted it with good friends in some luxury. And it delivered. We even squeezed in one last game drive and a squeeze it was. There were 9 of us shoved, sardine like, into a car intended for 7 and the windows had to stay sealed shut due to the extraordinary quantity of Tsetse flies swarming us. More on those later, my tale of martyrdom at the hands of a Tsetse still to come.)
One of the passengers in the car was the UWA ( Uganda Wildlife Authority) Ranger who was there to show us the way and hopefully find us some animals. As is customary for all rangers he came bearing his gun, well slung over his shoulder. Not wanting to be difficult, yet conscious of the small baby who would be sitting next to said gun, and all the other children in the car, I did ask, politely whether it as absolutely necessary for the gun to come along.
“Oh don’t worry Madam, this gun is very friendly!” He replied, big smiles all round.
And friendly it was. It remained cold and unwanted, un touched and nearly forgotten on the floor of the car. Still, a gun, friendly? I smell an oxymoron.
We drove, in the steamy car, shut up like sardines we were, breath pressed against glass, bottoms on laps on chairs, and we peered longingly out of the window looking for animals. This side of Murchison is not known for its Wildlife, it is densely forested with no savannah for cats to bound, hunt and pounce. Still we spotted three giraffes through the trees, one a triangle as it bent, head between legs to drink. Then we saw a group of highly suspicious buffalo who wagged ears and flicked tails worriedly as we stopped to look. Then much excitement as Princess yelled “Reverse the car! I saw something in the grass!” It was a turtle. Yes, a turtle.
Tired and dreaming of a sunset sundowner we turned to go back to the welcoming arms of our lodge. Never mind, we hadn’t been lucky this time.
“One last turn!” The ranger with the friendly gun, called out from the back seat.
So we did. One last turn, just seconds from the gate of the lodge. How could it hurt? Just 5 more minutes of squashed bums.
And then we saw it. And elephant crossing the road right in front of us. I saw his trunk first, then his ears, as he crossed through the foliage on one side and loped over to the other. “ He must be coming back from the river,’ we whispered.
And then another and another and another. And they just kept coming, one after the other until the road before us was grey with massive elephant, the wonder of it filling the space before us. Some smaller, and even babies, clustered in the comfort of their mothers and some enormous, old grandfathers grandmothers, the great, the old, the brave returning from their Nile bath. There must have been 50 elephants passing in front of us, this was the greatest elephant sighting so far in Uganda, and this, my safari swan song.
Then a maternal beast, shoving the bottom of her baby with her trunk come out from the trees and spotted us. She turned, lifted one thick foot as if to charge, raised her trunk in anger and flapped her enormous flag like ears.
“Reverse, Now!” called out our ranger. “She is not pleased.”
And so we did. For a bit before we felt brave enough to approach a little closer, again, after a time. One more, than another crossed before us. One with a “fifth leg” as the children called it, I thought “ oh the trunk of the one behind is between that one’s legs!”
But it wasn’t. He was just a little frisky. The ranger laughed and called it his “Roucka!” The girls giggled. The boys blushed.
And then home to our lodge, filled to the brim with the magic of what we had seen.
And time to watch the sunset from the porch of our tent, perched over the Nile so the water was the music of our night.
Oh Africa. Oh Africa.