First Impressions – By Mrs Green.
I learnt my first lesson at Heathrow Airport. Expecting to arrive in a land notorious for hot, humid climates, I dutifully made sure my high factor sun cream and mozzy spray was in my hand luggage, ready for quick appliance in Uganda. What good thinking! As we walked through each section for departure we made it to security. Mr Stanley walked through no problem. I walked through and the kerfuffle started. “Any bottled water, or liquids madam?”, “No” I replied. So all my bags (that had been packed several times without an inch to spare) were unpacked for checking. “You cannot take these madam”, the security guard said as she took away my sun cream and mozzy spray. The 2 most essential items I needed in Uganda, I had lost before we even left UK soil! Not to worry as Mr Stanley had brought enough for everyone.
As we landed at Entebbe International Airport, I was struck by how cool and clean the air was. I wasn’t expecting this at all. It was quite refreshing from the sticky humidity that we left in the UK. I was also taken aback by how green the vegetation was around Entebbe.
After we had met our guide ‘Ronnie’ on the other side of the airport, we travelled to Kampala to drop our bags off. The next thing I was struck by was the wildlife. The most beautiful, colourful birds I had only ever seen in zoos before, were freely flying around us. Exotic insects too. Mostly I saw a dragonfly type creature that had perfect black squares on the end of each wing. Those who know me well, know that I am not completely comfortable around ‘flying’ creatures. But here, they do not seem to trigger the same fears.
Driving on Ugandan roads is an experience to say the least! I asked Ronnie if there were any ‘Rules of the Road’. Ronnie replied, “Yes, there are many, but people do not follow them!”. There is little evidence of ‘Health and Safety’ as we know it in the UK, but equally there is very little to worry about!
As we arrived at the zoo, it was clearly a ‘schools’ day. Many school groups were arriving to visit the Zoo. This was my first encounter with Ugandan people. The children were all ages from babies carried in arms (wrapped in thick blankets!), to young teenagers. All the children lined up in their school groups, regardless of their age. They were extremely disciplined and formed perfectly straight lines, one behind the other. The children only spoke when spoken to and did not once move out of their line, even the very young (2 – 3yrs old).
After we were taken to our Banda’s (round house to stay for the night), we came across the zoo staff brushing the dusty roads with bunches of dried leaves. There is a definite strong work ethic amongst the people here. I also have noticed there is a clear hierarchy of groups. The men being at the top of the tree! Children make their own entertainment with whatever is around them. They look so happy and contented. In our Bandas there was no electricity. As the sun goes down very quickly, the darkness came with very little warning. Luckily I had my head torch nearby.
We travelled to Kasesse and Mweya. On our way we drove through some towns and villages. The shops are all very similar. Huts and lock-ups by the side of the road. You could probably buy anything you needed as you walk down the street. Also using the roads are mopeds and bicycles. Both types of vehicles are over laden with arms of bananas and bags of goods. Mopeds can have 2 or 3 passengers on the back without any one wearing a crash helmet or worrying about the clothing they are wearing.
The scenery is beautiful. People here are so resourceful. There are not many ‘mod-cons’ apart from mobile phones. In Kasesse, there was an ironing service with a man using hot coals placed inside an old iron, next to a lady crafting tailored clothes to order on an old ‘Singer sewing machine’.
After we arrived at Mweya, we sorted our rooms and went off to the Tembo Restaurant. We ordered our food and waited for it to arrive. I now know what Ugandan time really is. Everything happens as and when it happens, and don’t expect to receive what you asked for!
After our meal we came back to Hippo House for bed. We share Hippo House with the Geckos and the ants and lake fly. As I lay in bed, I could hear all sorts of ‘tropical’ noises around me. This didn’t keep me awake for too long.
Breakfast at Tembo and my first chance to see the amazing surroundings. We saw a crocodile swimming across the channel between Lake George and Lake Edward. On the edge of the lakes we saw buffalo taking in a morning drink. My breakfast was a plate of fresh fruit – pineapple, watermelon, passion fruit and a banana. The fruit tastes amazing, more juicy and sweet than I’m used to.
Thanks Mr Burford for your question. Salt was available, but no vinegar was required. Tilapia and chips was delicious and I’m definitely having it again. They do have a luminous red Heinz ketchup there! mmmmm!