Thursday, December 25, 2008

Treasure Island

I completely forgot to write this post before.

And now it's Christmas Day, and everyone has cleared out and the camp is quiet, I finally have a chance.

Back in November, with S&J visiting, we travelled to Banda Island, one of the smallest Ssesse Islands just south of the Equator in Lake Victoria.

Banda is the stuff of backpacker myth and legend. You see it written about online, with equal measures of outrage and awe, depending almost entirely on whether or not you get on with it's owner.

Yes, it's a privately owned island. Privately owned by Dom, its muzungu owner. Dom is famous for purposefully offending people he does not like but some people love him. Where would we fall, we wondered?

The place is, in fact, a perfect cross between The Beach and Lord of the Flies. Dom does what he likes, and why not? He does own the place after all.

The accommodation is very basic, but clean and very reasonably priced. We stayed in a small twin banda overlooking the beach, with a box latrine loo and a bucket shower up the track in the forest.

It's full board (or in Dom's words, "very full board" - he throws in all sorts of extras including a rather lethal homebrewed banana based moonshine) and the food is spectacular. Well, apparently not so spectacular if you don't get on. If he hates you it slips right back to beans and rice. On our second night we were upgraded to Pumpkin and Coconut Soup, Fish Paella, Green beans and bacon in soy and ginger, and a lot of the afore-mentioned rum... All the cooking is done on these funky looking solar parabolas.

So I think it's safe to say we got on. We even had a tour around Dom's pineapple patch and Banana groves.

There is little to do there other than eat, drink, sleep. And read. And maybe if the weather's right, take a kayak out or borrow a fishing rod. But you can amaze yourself with how long you can sit and stare out over the lake for.

We spent one twilight looking out over the lake from the roof of Dom's castle. He's been building a rock tower, with a massive great hall style dining room at the bottom. The man is king of his island, and now he has his castle to match. We had sundowners on the roof, watching the sunset and then the lights of the fishing boats come out in the gathering darkness. It reminded me of Goa.

The next morning, I woke early. It was around 4.30am and dawn was breaking. Normally I'd dive for the covers at that sort of time, but I found myself out and about with the camera instead.

They have a resident hippo, that sometimes walks up the beach. When we were there, the hippo came to see us off on our final day, blowing bubbles and rolling around in the water just off the beach.

Banda is a wildlife haven - hundreds of bird species and lots to look at, even if you know nothing about that sort of thing.

Getting there is an adventure in itself. You can get there via the main Ssesse Islands, but the most direct route is via local lake-taxi from Kasanji.

These are essentially massive canoes, seating around 100 people, piled higgledly-piggledly on top of sacks of rice and cartons of water that are getting transported to the islands.

Banda is the first stop, and you hop off into Dom's leaky dinghy to be ferried ashore. On your way back, when you get to Kasanji again, the canoe is instantly surrounded by porters whose sole income comes from earning money carrying belongings AND people on and off the boats. It's 500 shillings a go, which is what we paid, but only after our porter had the cheek to try it on, asking for 20,000 shillings.

I don't mind paying a little over the odds, but that much over the odds? Needless to say, 500 shillings it was.

So if you feel the need to chill, disappear to Banda for a few days. Just be careful to leave yourself plenty of time. It's a hard place to leave.

A Chilli Christmas

So I’m lapsing into bad blogger behaviour and it’s been almost three weeks since my last post. So much is going on, and so much of it is worth talking about, but blame it on the season, blame it on the undersea cables, I haven’t found too much time to get online.

I have spent much of this month up a ladder, in an attempt to finish the painting in the bar. We repainted the bar and restaurant and courtyard areas (it was much needed, with paint peeling in the corners before). On top of the fresh coats of cream and terracotta red with ebony coloured borders I’ve done some ethnic African renditions of animals and fish from the region. Ethnic African Art as interpreted by a Muzungu that is.

We have a giraffe, an anteater (or armadillo depending on your point of view), a large, domineering snake, a gecko, a Nile perch and an antelope (or just plain goat as all the staff seem to prefer). Soon to be added are a tortoise and a crested crane.

The other thing we’ve been busy with on a personal basis is adopting a new cat. We have Panda, our three-legged moggy, and as readers saw earlier this year, we started feeding a wild cat that was remarkable for the colour of its fur. It was blue. The poor thing had been trapped in some building when it was fumigated, or had, in some other way, come into contact with some blue-fur-making chemicals.

Shortly after starting to feed her, we realized why she was hungry. We found her nest of three kittens in between two cottages on the bottom compound. Blue Cat had some children, and thankfully they were not blue. She moved them all into the store in our yard, and we would see them early in the morning through the kitchen window, asleep in a big furry bundle of limbs and pink noses, on top of a single chair in the store.

As the kittens grew up, it became clear that one of them was braver than the others. He would follow his Mum into our house for extra eating opportunities, ducking underneath the mosquito door frame, leaving his brother and sister outside Miaowing plaintifully.

Their mother will always be Blue Cat to us, but we gave the three kittens names. The brave one became Mandu (as in Cat Mandu), the other white one Chairman (Chairman Miaow), and the skinny, scared black one Galore (as in Pussy).

(I know the puns are terrible, but we have to amuse ourselves somehow out here).

One of our ex-housekeepers took Chairman off us the other week, and may yet take Galore (if we can catch him). But we now have a strong relationship with Mandu, who lives in our house most of the time, nestling on our shoulders when we watch TV, and trying to work out how to jump onto a bed that is closely surrounded by a mosquito net. He’s a cute kitten, and Panda has just about accepted him. There’s still the occasional grumpy hiss, but nothing followed up with claws, and sometimes he looks positive pleased to see him.

What with a new kitten, and our other animals, we have quite a growing menagerie. We gained two piglets (male and female – we want more piglets!) a couple of months ago. They are growing fast, but no sign of piggy babies yets. We gained a hen and a cockrel back in September. The hen starting sitting on her eggs and produced seven chicks. The six surviving chicks (one got taken by a black shouldered kite) are growing quite large. The cock may have to go though – he’s taken to roosting outside one of the rooms and we’ve had some complaints about his incessant crowing.

The goats have been doing well, if not a little confused about life. Max, the surviving goatlet of the summer’s twin birth, is a stocky little thing. He and his mother, who we nicknamed Dave, were joined by another female at the end of August. She was christened Nigel by R and I, tho the staff called her Clare. The idea would be that come Christmas, Dave would hit the barbecue for the staff party, and that Max would fall in love with Nigel and make more goat babies to continue the Red Chilli line.

Sadly, nothing so simple has transpired. The teenage Max, despite still occasionally taking milk from his mother, has also been insisting on trying to take her in a completely different sort of a way. Nigel would look on, clearly feeling a bit left out. And recently, Nigel, despite being very much a girl goat, has been mounting Dave – also a girl goat. All this sexual deviancy is upsetting the staff (you have to remember homosexuality is considered downright freakish in this country) and as a result, Nigel/Clare has been slaughtered this morning for the Staff Christmas Barbecue. The pot is full and the staff are licking their lips. Goat, steamed Matoke (plantain), and Irish fried in eggs (Irish is shorthand for potatoes to you and I). That’s a Christmas meal right there.

Back in the kitchen, the staff have been sweating over a Christmas menu targeted at Muzungus. Roast Chicken with homemade pork, apricot and walnut stuffing, gravy, roast potatoes, caramalised pumpkin and carrots and green beans with cranberry sauce. A vegetarian Nut Roast made from pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds, cashew and of course, the ubiquitous G-nut (groundnuts, or peanuts to you and I). Or oven-baked lemon and herb tilapia fillets if you’re feeling fishy. And of course, mince pies for pudding with home-made mincemeat and double cream.

(Image is of Jennifer, one of our kitchen assistants, being camera shy)

I have a feeling we’ll be eating these dishes for days though. The equivalent of leftover Turkey sandwiches. There are people staying – the camp is technically half-full and two nights ago we were full – but it feels like a ghost town – there is no-one around. A lot of people staying are visiting friends or family in Kampala and are off with them for the day. And everyone else, bar a few stragglers, is out of town on safari. Our colleagues up in Murchison are frantic.

So R and I had a roast dinner last night, Nut roast for lunch today, some of the goat as an afternoon snack, and I’ll try the fish tonight. At least that won’t go bad – it was always to be cooked to order anyway.

Either way, we’ll end up as stuffed as we always do. No change there then.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Q: How do you know when you've rats in your office?

A: Footprints on the keyboard*

Living in equatorial Africa does bring with it some new challenges. Including an elevated level of pest control skills required.

Last week we caught two rats in the office with two mice traps, then we caught two mice in one rat trap. We also tried to use something rather nasty called rat glue. You stick a load of glue in a circle on a bit of cardboard and a piece of ham in the middle. Then the next morning you have to be prepared to bash the rat that's now stuck to the cardboard over the head with a iron bar. You tend to do this round the back of the building, out of sight, and it tends to mean you'll skip breakfast. It's cruel but it's generally a more effective way to catch them than the traps.

Only trouble was, when we laid the rat glue trap, we didn't catch any rats or mice. We came in the next morning to find a slightly confused looking gecko, who was wondering quite how his little feet had become so stuck. The gardener looked at him sorrowfully and suggested we free him by cutting around him on the cardboard. I'm not sure he'd quite thought through the whole gecko-on-a-cardboard-plinth look. So we took him round the back and.... washed his paws gently in some soapy water and released him.

Geckos are our friends - what did you expect?

*This is of course, because we have no glass in the windows and the keyboards are always coated in a fine layer of red dust.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Bag Man

For months I've been mulling a plan for running a fair trade craft stall out of the Red Chilli compound. The basic idea is to find a suitable third party we can trust to run it, as long as they promise to pay a fair price for the goods, and plough any profits back into the stall and the community.

In the course of this, I have a list that's getting longer every day, filled with people who have approached me about their community group, their crafts, their products.

One of those people is a guy from the UK called Rick Benfield, who, with his friends, has set up a small charity called Wanna Be Amazin'?,(yes, even he admits the syntax is rather self-consciously twee), and has been working in the field in a small community called Badjo, about an hour north of Kampala.

They are establishing education and health based programmes in the local community there, but one of the things Rick has been trying to set up (the man worked as a consultant for Accenture in the UK) is an income generation scheme for the community based on the handicraft skills they have.

Some of the women weave lovely baskets out of banana grass (as do many communities here in Uganda) but one of the things that makes the Badjo group special is the bag man.

Nathan, the bag man, is a guy who has been making beautiful bags for years. He had previously just made them by himself, and they are made from strips of woven palm leaves interspersed with barkcloth - a material which is uniquely Ugandan and comes from the fibres of the fig tree. It looks a little like tan coloured suede in appearance but feels closer to fibrous paper in texture. It used to made into clothing, and still is for traditional ceremonies of the Buganda.

Nathan's bags are so special, that even I, who had not been in Uganda long when I first saw them, recognised the potential. I'd not seen anything similar in the craft markets here.

Anyway, Rick brought Nathan the bag man and his friends to town a couple of days ago, and I promised to introduce them to some people I knew. The first group is a large Muzungu run North American NGO famous for helping Ugandan women lift themselves out of poverty by making paper beads and selling them internationally. More on them later if this deal with the craft stall plans come good.

The second meeting was with less of a group and more of a friend. Suni is a Kenyan born half-Scottish, half-Hungarian whirlwind expatriate businesswoman, whom I know through the owner of Red Chilli, my boss Debbie.

Suni set up the beautiful Mihingo Lodge overlooking Lake Mburo National Park, and also set up and runs the highly successful Banana Boat chain of craft shops that specialise in fair trade crafts from all over Africa. Anyway, she happened to have five minutes to spare and I wanted her to see Nathan's bags and the potential they had. Potentially.

So on Wednesday, I ended up in meetings with people giving Nathan some highly constructive advice on finishes, labels, descriptors, pricing, etc. It was fascinating, and really rewarding to see people in the craft business have a similar reaction to the bags that I had.

It made me see how much fun, but also how incredibly complex it would be (not to mention how much extra work), a fair trade craft stall would be if we ended up doing it ourselves and didn't hand it over to a third party.

It's tempting, but we have too much on our plates. In the meantime, I'm hoping a certain group will say yes to a joint venture on the stall, and that we'll be able to stock some of Nathan's bags ourselves soon.

Friday, November 21, 2008

No news is good news

Most of the time when I mosey through this new life in Africa, I am very much in blissful denial when it comes to what happened in the twelve months preceding this move to Uganda.

Of course, the vast majority of those reading this know what happened.

But people I meet here for the first time have no idea. They don't look at me and see the stuff that went on little more than a year ago. My hair, whilst I'm still frustrated with it, is longer and looks more intentional than 'chemo patient in recovery'. My scars have healed and look like they could be years old.

So if they have no reason to suspect it, there is no reason it should come up. So I don't talk about cancer much, and for me, I think it helps. While I will no doubt be using this blog as a place to vent some very deep-seated fears come March and my year 2 scans, I will, between now and then, probably not think about it much.

And that is a good thing.

But for two of our customers, who drove in the Red Chilli gates a couple of weeks ago, it's all too front of mind right now. They were on their way round a major tour of Africa, driving their UK registered Discovery with no plans to go back to the UK before February next year.

But the whistle has been blown for S&J. S's mother was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer a couple of weeks ago, and they've been thrown into a whirlwind of skype video calls to find out what's what, when it will all happen, and last but certainly not least, how her mother is and how the rest of the family are coping and responding.

R had got chatting to them about cars, only to discover their news, and he told them about me. The next morning I sought them out to sit down with them for a five minute chat to see how S's mother was and to give her my best wishes and any feelings of confidence I could muster for them about the situation.

Two hours later, three strangers had got to know a lot more about eachother. We talked of her mother's situation, how the lump is small (8mm across) and the fact mine was 15mm across. I think the size thing gave them comfort - at least I hope it did - the fact that my lump was twice the size and I was sitting talking to them in Kampala eighteen months after diagnosis, apparently all okay. We then talked of operations and options, radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and the politics of the situation. The fact that S's father had worked up until recently at the same hospital as her mother would be treated at, but that he was reluctant to accompany her for appointments and treatments as he had been forced to leave due to a personality dispute with several of the staff that would be treating to her. Phew... What to do about that?

The maelstrom of questions, discussions and emotions took me right back to the day I was diagnosed and the increasing stages of fall out and implication as it hit various areas of my life and I announced it to all my friends and family.

S&J were also weighing up their plans versus the urge to go straight home to Mum's bedside. S, in fact,was a physio who helped breast cancer patients recover movement in their arms after doctors had severed muscle and nerves in the course of removing lymph nodes in surgery, so she really wanted to be there to help her mother for that part of the process.

To make matters worse, they were just a few days short of their gorilla permits - they were due for gorilla tracking last Sunday at the cost of $500 each. The timing meant they probably did not have time to re-sell the permits, and S's mother was urging them to stay for at least that part of their trip. They were considering going home for a few months to see her through the surgery and initial treatment, leaving their car with us in the car park, to pick up again on their travels when the worst was over in the Spring of next year. Or the alternative of staying to finish their trip, but missing out on the part of the process that S felt confident about genuinely being able to help with, as well as lot of other key moments she wanted to be there for.

I talked to S a lot about the way I had felt about how people had offered support, and when they did. I received a lot of support, but it is true that like many people going through similarly dramatic problems in their lives (divorce, childbirth, illness, death of a loved one) everyone crowds you and cares for you at a point when you're still in shock and processing information, and it's only the few and the brave who stay it for the long run and know that actually, it's towards the end of the process that you need support the most.

In the course of the last week the two have made some big decisions. They went and saw gorillas, including two 15 week old baby gorillas, but they have decided to cut their trip short for good and they are now en route to Kenya to see about shipping their car home before jumping on a flight at Nairobi.

I feel terrible for them, but hopeful for S's mother's eventual prognosis. I was also plunged into a day of feeling really emotional - all the insecurities came flooding back. At the same time another breast cancer blogger, a few months ahead of me in terms of treatmemt and recovery, got in touch again and I updated myself on her life by reading her blog. She's in and out of consultant waiting rooms still, on various hormone treatments, having all sorts of scans, which have thankfully all led to good news.

Or at least, as is the best we can hope for post breast cancer, the absence of bad news.

Which is all I can ever hope for come March myself. And all we can ever hope for anyway.

So I wish Bette the continued absence of bad news, and S's Mum. Any myself. And everyone else.

Lets all have no more bad news, ever again.


Friday, November 14, 2008

Saddle Up

In early November we had a couple of days off with some friends of R's who were over, enjoying their first African experience.

One of the activities we indulged in was a riding safari down the banks of the Nile in Jinja, courtesy of Nile Horseback Safaris.

The company set up some time ago, by a great woman called Natalie who used to be a safari guide and overland truck driver. When she was pregnant with her daughter she decided that heading off on safari was possibly no longer a practical career choice but investing in a bunch of horses and doing guided horseback rides around Bujagali Falls in Jinja would be.

Now her daughter is two and a half years old, she has 16 horses (each of whom she schools at least 3 times a week), several others to help her guide the rides, and a thriving business.

Having said all that, it's still not something most people do when they head to Jinja for a few days which is a shame. I know I have ridden all my life, but I was with three others who hadn't and they were put on perfectly well behaved horses and had a great time.

R had ridden a few times but all before the age of eleven. He's forty next year so it's a while ago now. The other two had never ridden before, except maybe a pony trek once in the dim and distant past.

They were riding good looking, well fed and healthy horses (always a pleasure to see at a commercial operation) who were incredibly well schooled but not 'old riding school nags'.

As for me, I was on an impeccably behaved but slightly more spritely three year old who had only just been broken in the previous six months.

And the ride was fantastic - two long hours through bush and river-side scenery, riding through narrow paths through maize fields and cassava plots, past the beaten red earth backyards of local dwellings filled with chickens, goats and smiling children, up hills for dramatic views of the river and Lake Victoria, glistening in the distance.

Again, I'm romanticising the poverty on display at every turn. But it felt less voyeuristic than passing through local villages and mudhuts has done before, for two reasons.

Firstly, we were clip clopping softly along the red earth tracks and not speeding past in a 4wd, belching diesel and sending wildlife and livestock bleating to the sides of the road.

Secondly, because the stables put back in what they take out, and more.

As my young steed twisted his neck to tear off a passing maize stalk, I winced in embarrassment and asked Nathalie how they offset the potential damage caused to crops by riding through the fields. Apparently they buy pretty much all the maize from this area, as well as buying up the maize leaves and stalks - a part of the plant that normally gets wasted and is usually burnt. The horses love it (as my mount proved, time and time again, trying to snatch the bit away from me so he could grab a quick mouthful) and it proves a good substitute for grass in the dry seasons. And the farmers love it too - suddenly being able to command a price for what was previously a useless part of the harvest.

The goodwill from the locals was evident, with women, elderly men and young children smiling out from doorways and gardens. Children shouted "Jambo!" (we were further East than Kampala so more young kids will be much more likely to speak Swahili). And the rides are always accompanied by a local rider and guide who can speak to the children in Luganda (or Swahili) and warn them if they crowd a horse known to kick, or behave in any other way which may be dangerous.

The guide we were with had only been riding for two years but had the look of a really experienced, confident rider. I asked him what his family thought of him riding horses for a living. They thought he was a little bit crazy, apparently. Ugandans don't have a heritage or culture of riding, the horse is not a common animal here. The idea of someone riding one is very unusual.

So much so, that when the horse I was on was first out on a ride, local people mistook it for a cow.

But then it is a skewbald, i.e. a 'coloured' horse, as the Western world terms it (oh how these terms sit awkwardly with me now), with large brown and white markings.

Not dissimilar to certain breeds of dairy cow.

Anyhow, here are some of the photos. All in all, it was a great afternoon and something I would highly recommend. A beautifully serene way to see the countryside and byways of Bujagali Falls.

City Lights

When darkness falls over Kampala, darkness falls properly.

Whilst one part of the city looks like the skyline of some mid-western US city - a clutch of modest skyscrapers topped with neon lights, advertising the local beers - another is lucky if one in ten households have electricity and relies on a combination of paraffin lamps and candles to light their homes and businesses.

It's a romantic sight, but probably less so when you're the one straining your eyes to see and all you have is a candle in a jar.

But it does makes for great fun when you're bored on the way back from Jinja with an automatic camera and you're messing about with the effects you get from light trails...

(The yellow lights are generally paraffin lamps, candles and single energy saver bulbs in shacks lucky enough to wired to the mains. The red lights are boda boda brake lights, or perhaps a car's sidelights. The blue lights? Search me - there must have been some neon in there somewhere...)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Wild West (cont)

So, back to reporting on our travels. As I write this we've just got back from eights days upcountry, babysitting Red Chilli Rest Camp in Murchison Falls National Park, so there will be more tales of the road to tell.

But for now, it's back to day two of our travels out West at the end of September. We'd stayed overnight at CVK, a budget community focused tourist spot on the edge of one of the crater lakes south of Fort Portal.

We left CVK after a walk round the lake shore, heading for Kibale Forest National Park.

Just down the road, past lines of tea pickers working the plantations, we entered the forest.

Tall trees towered over either side of the rocky track, and as R looked for potholes in the dappled shadows on the road, I peered into the greeny black darkness either side of us to look for monkeys.

Kibale has probably the highest concentration of primate species in the world, so it was just as well that we were eventually rewarded with the sight of a big black shaggy Uganda Mangabey sat on a branch overhanging the road. He swung away into the trees before I could get the camera out, so here's a shot from wikipedia.

We then headed for the sumptuous Kibale Primate Lodge, tucked away behind the Uganda Wildlife Headquarters at Kanyanchu, where the ever popular chimp tracking starts out from.

Given R and I are on local salaries, we chose not to stay in the $280 luxury en suite tents offered by the lodge. Instead, we'd booked ourselves in the $30 a night treehouse, hidden 800m away down a dark forest track. We sat among the real guests, amused at how our Nissan Micra squared up against their shiny stretch Landcruisers, as we waited for our escort to the treehouse.

Advised to bring a minimum of stuff for our overnight belongings, we settled on a bag containing our key valuables, clean pairs of pants, a pack of cards, our torches and our toothbrushes, and set off after our man down the track. It twisted and turned through dense canopied forest. We heard a monkey shriek to the left, and some chimpanzees hooting in the distance somewhere ahead of us. Winding our way through the trailing trees, we crossed boggy patches filled with huge round waterlogged holes. So uniform in size, could they have been the footprints of forest elephants? There are certainly meant to be elephants in the park, although probably not the small, hairier, more agressive forest elephant species, but nonetheless, elephants in a forest, and that's enough for me.

After about 800m of the tiny track, suddenly it opened out into a small clearing with a far bigger, lighter, forest clearing to the right of us with clumps of tall palm trees dangling weavers' nests like a Christmas tree dangles baubles, and bright green, chest high grass which was gently moving in the pre-storm breeze.

A basic wooden ladder stretched up above us to our room for the night. Twenty metres up, with grass mats for window blinds and a roof, was a tiny room for two. Inside it smelt of tree and contained nothing more than a single bed, a second mattress, a narrow bench with a paraffin lantern, mosquito nets and bedding.

It was perfect.

Rolling up one side of the treehouse's window covering gave us the most exotic view out over the forest clearing. If we were going to see forest elephants anywhere, this would be it.

We didn't.

See forest elephants that is.

But nonetheless, this was it, and it was great.

We whiled away the afternoon gazing out over our forest, playing cards, reading and snoozing. The evening came and saw us splurge $20 each on a four course meal back at the posh lodge. The equivalent of spending two hundred pounds back on a meal for two in London, this felt like true decadence... and it was worth it. It was one of the best meals I've ever had in Uganda. Tomato and herb bruschetta to start, followed by a warm and spicy pumpkin soup, with fillet steak, roast potatoes and vegetables as a main, finished off with what they called 'apple crisp' but what I would have called a crumble.

It was now about 9pm and long dark. We got chatting to Amos, the owner of the lodge, who must have assumed we were staying in a $280 tent. As after twenty minutes of polite chit chat, when we let slip we were in the treehouse, a look of panic crossed his face.

You must go now! he said, looking around wildly for someone to help us.

If you are in the treehouse you must go there soon. Otherwise it will be too late!

What? Why?

It's okay, it's okay. But the elephants. If they come, they come at night. So you must go soon. And I must find someone to go with you.


A man with a stick was duely located and we trooped off again, saying our goodbyes, feeling like children being sent to bed early. We had assured Amos we would be fine making our own way there - we had torches after all and could listen ahead for sounds of elephants. Surely elephants marauding their way through a forest would not be that quiet about it?

But apparently, the man with the stick was an essential accessory for late night forest walks, and once on the tiny jungle track we were actually quite grateful. It certainly seemed a lot further at night, and the turnings and twists looked different under torchlight.

Nevertheless, elephant-free, we made it safely to the treehouse and up the ladder. Once inside we lit the lantern. A warm glow lit up the dark corners of the little room, suspended above the forest floor. Then a periphal flutter caught our attention. We had a bat for company! The tiny creature flew around our heads for a monent or two as we raised the grass mat shutters and gave it an escape route, which it found after only a couple more circuits of the roof.

Then we pulled the shutters tight down, preferring to spend the rest of the night bat-less, and tucked in for the night.

And despite all the weird and wonderful sounds, and waking up several times to the pitter patter of feet on the roof (birds? monkeys? elephants?), we both enjoyed one of the best night's sleep we have ever had.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Monkey See, Monkey Do

Vervet monkeys, over breakfast, on a crater lake rim.

Black and White Colubus Monkeys at Sebitoli forest campsite, Kibale NP.