Uganda 2014 day 5: The return to Kafuro

Our first early start since we arrived at Kafuro. Everyone was up at 6.00am and there was a queue for the shower and the toilet. Pouring several bottles of cold water over my head is turning out to be quite a pleasure at the moment as the weather for the last couple of days has been beautiful; clear blue skies and fabulous visibility. We went down to Tembo where I had a rolex again for breakfast; Mrs Green has been getting stuck into fruit platters with toast and honey.

It wasn’t just Mrs Green and myself going to Kafuro for the day. We were joined by Liz, Meg and Bea who were going to be interviewing Janet, the community ranger for Kafuro and also Jess from the Banded Mongoose Project who was going to act as an expert when we delivered a lesson about the mongooses to the children.

I have to admit to having been fairly nervous about driving in the park and on Ugandan roads in general as there appear to be no rules on the road in general and then there is the prospect of running into a herd of elephants. Fortunately, I had driven down to Tembo Canteen on a couple of occasions so had got used to the Moisture Machine and Steve had talked to me about what to do when encountering wild animals so I felt a bit better. It was an added bonus when I found out that he was going into Katunguru so would be with me for the first part of the journey. Carrie and Rebecca were going down south to Bukorwe and wouldn’t be back until the following evening.

The drive to Kafuro was fairly uneventful and I was soon able to enjoy the beautiful scenery. It’s fair to say that the others were impressed as well as they kept making me stop the Moisture Machine so they could take photos. As we reached the boundaries of Kafuro it became apparent that there were a great deal more bee hives hanging from fences than the previous year. Reaching the school made me feel very excited and I could tell that Mrs Green was similarly excited as well. Yowasi came out to meet us and all of the children and staff were waving and welcoming us. It was very humbling. After a drink of warm milk and some sweet bread we were given a brief tour of the school and were welcomed by the headteacher Winie. I delivered a letter and a gift from Mr Burford and she was very grateful.

The school grounds looked spectacular. Shrubs and trees are growing everywhere and an entire block of classrooms has been rendered. Yowasi’s plans to improve the environment are clearly having an effect.

There was a brief (by Ugandan standards) assembly where we all had to introduce ourselves and then I had to stand up and explain about the items we had brought with us. The children were delighted to hear about the money raised by Liss children for bees and I was to hear later in the day how it will be used. They were also delighted to receive so many books that had been donated by children and parents at Liss Junior School. It nearly broke my back getting them there but it was worth it.

One of the biggest cheers of the day came when I got Larry the Leopard out of my rucksack. The children immediately got very excited. Talk about being upstaged by a stuffed toy! Before we knew it we were standing in front of a large group of children in a classroom and delivering our first lesson on mongooses. It was great to see that the children had learned so much from when the Banded Mongoose Project had visited in May and they were very knowledgeable. Whenever the children made a statement that we weren’t sure about we were able to refer to Jess and she was able to give a more detailed explanation. We also asked the children about why scientists study animals and they were able to give some very detailed answers about mosquitos and the threat of malaria.

The school had provided us with lunch which was delicious: tilapia and tomato flavoured rice. After that Mrs Green went to talk to the children on the school grounds while I had a meeting with Yowasi, Winie and Janet. They told me that the bees’ money will be used to purchase six hives and to join a collective that places hives all around the borders of the village. Janet showed me the land that has been put aside for the school, which is only a short walk away and the children can be involved in looking after the bees. The bee hives have been used alongside chilli oil paper to ward off elephants. This year not one elephant has got onto the land of the people of Kafuro and so no crops have been lost. Yowasi and Janet have projections for how much money the project will raise, all of which will be invested in the school. As they receive the hives and purchase bees Yowasi will let us know through the blog how progress is being made.

We left Kafuro at about 4.15pm and drove back to pick up Steve and Jan from Katunguru. As we drove back into the park we almost immediately saw a herd of elephants. Mrs Green was taking some great photos. As we progressed further along the track we were stopped by the van in front of us. To our left, no more than 30 yards away was a leopard who was fast asleep. We had a much better view this time and soon he woke up and started pawing at flies, rolling over and generally showing off. He didn’t take any notice of the flashlights of all the cameras from the trucks and vans that were now rolling up. It was half an hour before someone turned on their engine and scared him away but by then we had some amazing photos and film that Mrs Green says will form the basis of at least three assemblies.

We went down to Tembo for dinner in a buoyant mood and there was lots of jokes and banter at dinner. Steve told me that I was only good enough to be an apprentice safari driver. Steve, Mrs Green and I stayed on to chat with the Tembo staff and only left at about midnight. From there we drove home to Hippo House, but the night sky was so amazing we just stared up at the stars, shooting stars and the odd firefly for a couple of hours. I was convinced that one star was moving about much to Steve’s amusement, but he said it was probably light pollution that was creating the illusion. We finally went to bed at 2.00am. Only five hours sleep until another busy day at Kafuro!

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