Baboons

Baboons

There are cheeky monkeys, and then there are baboons. At the ferry landing, a big male was hanging out by the gift shop of all places, acting like he was waiting for it to open so he could buy a trinket or something. We opened the door to our safari car, and in seconds the baboon shot across the parking lot. We were all sure he was going to steal one of the children in the car (to be fair, the little ones are snack-sized), but instead he reached in a deftly snatched one of the pack lunches. We can marvel for a moment about how aware this baboon was that he could spot a paper bag in a dark car from thirty meters away and know it contained lunch; and admire his ability to go right into the midst of a crowd of people and steal their food and get away with it; but mostly my take-away is that an animal that can do that can really mess me up if it wanted to.

When we returned, the same baboon was leaning against the driver’s-side door of someone else’s car, like a primate gangster demanding protection money.

Continue reading “Baboons”

Nile River cruise

Nile River cruise

The point of the river cruise is to see the actual Murchison Falls, but along the way you get a bonus mini-safari along the river. The river guide tried to his best to explain what we were looking at, but the crowd was a bit noisy, and there were some concerns that if we all stood on the same side the boat might tip over and we’d all get eaten by crocodiles, so I must confess I didn’t learn much. I did, however, see more elephants, which is always fun.

IMG_4241 Continue reading “Nile River cruise”

Murchison Falls game drive

Murchison Falls game drive

It is possible to stay at a resort inside Murchison Falls National Park, but it is cheaper (and, I am told, a bit more fun) to stay at one of the many lovely lodges outside of the park, so that’s what I did. The trade-off, though, is that you have to carefully plan your trip and wake up really early. There are no bridges across the Nile at this point, so to get into the park proper you have to take a ferry. The ferry operates from 7am to 7pm, and it only holds eight cars at a time. And because it is dry season, the animals are going to spend most of their day in the shade and out of sight, so if you want to see one, you really have to be on the 7am ferry. Which means you have to wake up early, have breakfast, and make sure you are there in time to be one of those first eight cars to go across.

Since I am a maniac, I woke up at around 4 and grouched at everyone in my party to get in gear so that we could leave on time. As it turns out, ours was the second car to get to the landing point, and I felt my grumpiness vindicated. Continue reading “Murchison Falls game drive”

Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls

Murchison Falls, just east of where the Nile takes a rest at Lake Albert, bills itself as the “Most Powerful Waterfall in the World.” I have learned not question these kinds of claims, as nothing positive can come out of that sort of conversation. After all, in my hometown the Empire State Building claims to be the world’s most famous building, which can be disputed by a number of other buildings around the world, but who cares, right?

After leaving Jinja I decided I needed to go someplace new, so I am now up at Murchison Falls National Park. I took a riverboat to the falls with the intention of hiking to the top, but then someone told me that you can just drive up, so I stayed in the boat, turned around, and then drove to the summit. Much easier. Here’s what I saw.

Continue reading “Murchison Falls”

Another Nile sunrise

Another Nile sunrise

I spent the weekend at a place called the Hairy Lemon, which is a small island in the Nile about an hour north of Jinja, which has somehow become my go-to weekend destination. The island attracts kayakers, mostly, but I don’t do that, so mostly I sat around drinking, avoiding monkeys, and overhearing people talking about kayaks.

But in the morning, while all of those fit young types were sleeping it off, I had the island entirely to myself, and I spent it trying to capture the sunset. Here are the best of my pictures. Continue reading “Another Nile sunrise”

Happy New Year from the source of the Nile

Happy New Year from the source of the Nile

I returned from the relative cold of Amsterdam to find Kampala gripped by an unpleasant heat wave. I guess it didn’t rain while I was gone, and without me to water them my poor plants have suffered. To think I was only gone four days!

The warm weather, especially after that little taste of cold, has switched my mind into a summer’s-almost-here mode, as if I were twelve years old and it was the last week of May and I couldn’t wait to get out of school. I was driving around town yesterday with my iPod on shuffle, and it seems my iPod agreed, because the playlist was all summer music, offering up reggae, some salsa, classic R&B, and a bunch of uptempo pop hits (a little Leonard Cohen snuck in, too, but it worked.) If Lake Victoria wasn’t infested with hippos and parasites, I would have made a beeline for the beach.

Continue reading “Happy New Year from the source of the Nile”

Backyard adventures

Backyard adventures

I didn’t actually grow up in an apartment in the city, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had access to personal green space and so my instinct is to stay indoors when I’m at home. My house sits on a very nice piece of a land, though, so on Saturday, after an hour or so of trying and failing to find something to do in the living room, I decided to grab my camera and go outside.

My pair of backyard ibises have been joined by a new couple, so there are now four of these goofy birds that roam my yard looking for grubs, and I heard them honking noisily so I thought I’d get the group in action. By the time I came out, though, they were gone. Since I was already outside, though, I decided to make the best of it. After a few weeks of rain my gardens are looking quite lush. I don’t know squat about flowers, so if anybody can identify any of these species, let me know.

img_3320
Palm trees always make me think of the opening scene in Apocalypse Now.
img_3333
These grow high up on a tree that spills over onto my neighbor’s yard. When the flowers aren’t in bloom the tree is quite scraggly.
img_3295
I can’t imagine the evolutionary advantage to growing tiny flowers in the middle of the stem, but they do look lovely. Maybe plants prize beauty over practicality as much as any oter species.
img_3321
This is actually a potted plant on my balcony. I’m sure they guy who sold it to me told me what it was, but I either wasn’t paying attention or forgot. The flowers only bloom in the morning. When I brought it home I didn’t even realize it had flowers.
img_3334
I like the ant crawling on this thing.

Earlier this year I bought some chickens for a downtown chicken factory. They were adorable and I loved them, but in one brutal weekend they all caught bird flu and died.  In September I got around to buying new chicks, these from a farm a little more connected to nature. “Local chickens,” as they are known, are hardier than factory chickens, and I couldn’t have a second chicken plague sweep through my property in a year.

My local chickens, though, weren’t sexed, so instead of six hens I got three roosters and three hens. They’re young enough that they all still get along, but the Internet warns me that probably two of the roosters will have to go away eventually.

Anyway, my local chickens (all of them have names and personalities, by the way) are much more curious than the factory chickens, and explore all over the yard. This time I found them as far from their coop as they could go, hanging out under that purple-flower tree. I took some chicken glamor shots of them. If they were ever in a band, these could be their publicity stills.

img_3288

img_3287
Left to right: Lemon Drop (vocals), Stripe (bass), P.B. (lead guitar), Chain Mail (rhythm guitar), Strawberry Shortcake (keyboards), Slimer (piano), Hey-Hey (dancer)

img_3286img_3285

I learned this summer (or rather, someone who knows about this stuff pointed out to me) that I have four coffee trees growing in my backyard. Apparently, if I really wanted to, I could harvest them, dry them, roast them, and make a cup of coffee or something. It probably wouldn’t take good, since I am doing nothing to maintain or nourish the trees.

A palm tree grows beside my coffee plants. From far away palm trees look nice, but up close I find them, or at least their bases, a bit gross. See:

img_3340

I always appreciate an inviting walkway, and I found a couple not far from the coffee trees.

img_3310img_3341

Before retreating back into my living room (so much time in the sun! it’s scary out there!) I came across this little shoot growing near yet another palm, and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to get a good shot of it. This is the best I could come up with.

img_3342

Rwakobo sunset

Rwakobo sunset

I had hoped to get to Rwakobo Rock at Lake Mburo with enough time to decompress and be excited about taking a night safari (which is apparently a thing), but the road from Bwindi took a lot longer than expected, so by the time I reached my destination all I wanted to do was sit on the rock and relax until I fell asleep.

The last time I came, though, was during a dry spell and the air was filled with dust and haze. This time, after several weeks of heavy rains, the air was clear and the sunset was gorgeous, so I was able to take the photos I couldn’t take before. Continue reading “Rwakobo sunset”