Before I start talking about today, last night had a fine end. We came back from Tembo in the Land Cruiser and found three hippos in our garden. They soon moved on when they recognised that we were there, but it was a nice end to a good day.
We were up at 06.30 today as we had the long drive down to Bukorwe. Long-time readers of this blog will remember that Bukorwe is one of my least favourite drives: the marron road surface (although much improved) judders and throws your car about and the scenery is pretty much unchanging for most of the drive. We left the Mweya peninsula and had a real laugh with Jackie as she kept commenting on why Steve Peach talks so much, we dropped her off at Katunguru as she was going back to Kasese with Baby Joe. We then drove up to UWA headquarters and turned right on to the road down to Bukorwe. Although we encountered less than twenty vehicles over the course of our journey, it only takes one to injure or kill you and that nearly happened today.
I’m an experienced enough driver in Ugandan conditions to know when it is safe to put my foot down and when it isn’t and the road to Bukorwe is one of those roads where there is an optimum speed where you have control of your vehicle. If you drive too slow it’s like sitting on top of a pneumatic drill, if you drive too fast it’s like ice skating. To add to the fun, the road is very narrow in places with an extremely steep camber. About an hour into the drive I saw a vehicle haring towards me from the opposite direction. I immediately hit my breaks and slowed down to about 15 mph while moving as much as I could to the side of the roads. He obviously thought he could pass me at full tilt and at the last moment realised he couldn’t, slammed on his own breaks and slid across the road with no control. He must have missed me by millimetres! To say that I was angry was an understatement, but there was nothing I could do about it, the other driver had regained control of his car and sped off into the distance in a cloud of dust. The rest of our journey was uneventful!
When we arrived at Bukorwe Primary School, we were given a very warm welcome by Vicent, the twinning project co-ordinator and Posniano, the headteacher. Like Kafuro, they have recently received solar panels so they were keen to show them off to us. We also met the local priest who had come to the school to prepare the children for next Monday’s feast of the assumption, hear confessions, perform a couple of baptisms and then hold a mass for the whole school. Busy day then!
The children at Bukorwe are not as shy as those at Kafuro or as streetwise as their peers at Katunguru. They are, however, very curious about white people. All three of us had legions of children wanting to hold our hands and touch our skin. Many of the children wanted to play with Mrs Green’s hair. There was nothing untoward about this, they were just curious.
We passed on a package from Mrs Buckle at Clanfield and met with Albert, the community ranger, who is a very impressive young man. After taking more photos, we jumped in the car again and headed north as we had a second task we wanted to complete today.
Our second job was to visit the Tourist Information Centre at Katwe and pass on some information from Amy Peach about Geomission Uganda: a big project with the aim of boosting geological tourism in this part of Uganda at its heart. Steve had told us the approximate location of the tourist information Centre, but when we arrived at the village we immediately saw a sign to a tourist centre pointing us up the hill. Uncertain what to do, we decided to take this option and we soon ran into a group of school children who waved and shouted. What followed next was truly bizarre:
Me: Good afternoon, how are you?
Children: We are fine!
Me: Can you tell me the way to the tourist information centre?
Children: We go to school!
Me: (starting to get frustrated) Yes, well done! (pointing ahead) Is it this way?
Me: (Getting even more frustrated as Mrs Green and Henry are cracking up with laughter in the car. Pointing behind me) Is it this way?
Children: (with even bigger smiles on their faces) Yes! (Cue delirium in the car as Henry and Mrs Green fall about laughing)
Our route to the Tourist Information Centre included an encounter with a prisoner chain gang, a Ugandan Wildlife Institute Centre student who claimed to be from the Tourist Information Centre and finally a man who told us to ignore the student and told us the correct way. When we finally arrived, we were met by Ouma Robinson and we passed on the relevant messages from Steve and Amy Peach. Ouma offered us a free guided tour of the salt pans and a crater lake which is populated by pink flamingos.
The salt pans were absolutely fascinating and, although I’m no chemist, it was interesting to learn about the processes that take place to enable salt to be made commercially for sale. The salt is exported all over Africa and the workers can make fairly good money although there are some associated health risks. Close contact with salt means that wounds can be very difficult to heal and there can also be pregnancy problems. The Germans did actually build a salt processing factory, but used the wrong materials so it corroded. It now stands an empty useless shell. So much for German efficiency.
The flamingos were fascinating to see as they stood in a big group in the middle of the lake. They fly between Kenya and Uganda according to what food is available, but today they were just standing around (some on one leg) to conserve energy.
After the tour was over, we thanked Ouma and headed back to Mweya. As we had a couple of hours to spare and we hadn’t had lunch, we walked down to Tembo and bought a plate of chips to eat while we watched the animals in the Kazinga Channel below.
Tomorrow is our final day at Kafuro where we hope to have the cob oven finished as well as hand out letters and take class photos. We might also get a chance to see how the Kafuro bees are doing. From there we will move on to Katunguru Primary School for a visit before heading back to Mweya to pack. Although our trip isn’t over the Mweya leg is close to completion.