My alarm went off at 6.30am this morning and getting out of bed was a real struggle. We had to be at breakfast for 7.00am because the events for World Ranger Day started at 08.00am. Breakfast was rolex for me and fruit platter and toast for Mrs Green. She has brought a small pot of marmite along with her. I have to say the marmite is a really nice contrast to the sweet bread.
We left Mweya and drove down to the UWA headquarters at Katunguru. Steve Peach had worked hard with UWA to organise a series of events to celebrate the day and the first was all about corporate social responsibility. This would involve clean ups of a small village just the other side of the equator and Kyambura, about 10 miles back south of the equator. Things soon took a bizarre turn……
Firstly, as we drove north we passed some big bushfires, which covered the road in smoke. This was not pleasant to drive through. We arrived at the equator to be met by a big group of rangers, a brass band and a troop of acrobats. What we were going to do was to walk over the equator in military rank, clean up the village and then walk back again. The same thing would happen at Kyambura. Mrs Green, myself and all the other Twinning Project members joined the ranks and we walked in some kind of strange military Mardi Gras scene to the village while the acrobats performed somersaults, juggled and breathed fire. Any cynicism I might have had was soon blown away as the locals embraced the clean up and were singing and dancing as they cleared up litter. We left the village a good deal tidier than we found it.
The drive up to Kyambura was a nightmare – it is still the worst road in Uganda in my opinion. We gave a lift to Ronald, who is the tourism warden for Queen Elizabeth National Park and he told us that work had begun at the other end of the road, which was supervised by the Chinese. I’ll believe it when I see it. There was a similarly positive response to the clean up from the population of Kyambura and it was really nice to see the police joining in with the UWA and the locals. By now, some of the acrobats were getting a bit carried away. One of them – not satisfied with breathing fire – started pulling a flaming taper all over his body, which got a big round of applause from some of the local ladies. Suitably emboldened, he decided it would be macho put the taper down his trousers. Unfortunately for him, he must have singed his nether regions as he gave a howl and went off to lick his wounds for fifteen minutes. I haven’t laughed so much in ages.
Both clean ups were a great success particularly in getting communities working together with different agencies. The wider issue that Uganda as a country needs to address is how to make waste disposal work effectively and encourage recycling. At the moment there doesn’t appear to be the infrastructure to do this. What happens is that the waste gets incinerated which releases toxins from the plastic and damages the atmosphere. There is still lots of work to be done.
We returned to Katunguru for a set of speeches, but unfortunately the guest of honour was late in arriving so we spent the best part of ninety minutes being entertained by the band and the acrobats again. When they took a break, a selection of country music was played over the PA system. I have to admit that the twenty minute ‘Megamix’ version of Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler had me questioning the existence of God.
The speeches when they finally began were very long and there was plenty of them. Some really good points were made and there were some interesting demonstrations such as how to catch a crocodile – I won’t be trying this anytime soon! We also had the brief spectacle of seeing a twister about 70 metres away, but it wasn’t very strong. By far the best speech was given By Steve Peach who said in five minutes what it took others half an hour to say. Mrs Green and I were both shattered by now and four and a half hours of sitting in the same place gave way to short naps! However, after the final speech and the final playing of the national anthems some food was served and very nice it was too.
The final act of the afternoon was the distribution of loads of ranger kit by the Twinning Project. Steve had organised for loads of kit to be sent down from Scotland and between them the others had managed to transport it out. To say the Ugandan rangers were excited would be a massive understatement and it didn’t take long for all the kit to disappear.
Overall, it was a very successful day and massive congratulations must go to Steve and his team for organising such a successful event. We returned home very tired, but excited about the prospect of our first day at Kafuro tomorrow.