Thursday, June 04, 2009

Let Sleeping Hippos Lie

So, I'd seen Lake Albert and, more recently in our last trip to Queen Elizabeth National Park, Lake Edward too. But up until last week I'd never seen Lake George.

It seems all the lakes in Uganda are named after old British monarchs and their family. They were re-named after independence, under Amin, but after his own family members, so that was hardly any better and their old colonial names were swiftly restored after his downfall.

Maybe, a little cynical bit of me thinks, they thought it would be better for their tourist industry. And they'd probably be right.

With me going on about all these places named after British queens and their husbands or sons you'd think the whole place was Little Britain. Rest assured, African and black sporting and political heroes abound in street names and civic building titles (we have an Akii Bua Road, a Nelson Mandela stadium, a Malcolm X drive, Nkrumah Street, and so on and so forth). But the areas of interest to foreign visitors, the parks and mountains, the rivers and lakes, they all seem to have stuck with foreign names. Ah well.

Anyway, I digress. This last trip to QENP, as Queen Elizabeth National Park shall henceforth be known, saw us go to the end of the road (quite literally, there is a sign) and visit Lake George as part of a game drive.

We'd seen the kob, waterbuck, lions and birds, and we drove on past a momentarily quiet salt lake (with the rainy season upon us, the water does not produce the crystals needed to produce salt, being all too frequently diluted by more pure water falling from the skies) onto to a fishing village on the shores of the very shallow Lake George.

We got out and watched the fishermen paddle past in their dugouts or mending their nets. And saw children as young as three or so busy in the everyday task of collecting water. They lifted heavy 20l jerry cans from the sandy shallows to the bank, and some of them used an oft-seen example of Ugandan ingenuity.

Lost your jerrycan cap? Don't worry, simply use a matoke banana to seal the jerry instead. They seem to fit perfectly and are readily available, where plastic screw tops would be hard to find.

When we'd finished watching the fisherman, our sharp-eyed driver Hassan pointed us in the direction of a sleeping pod of hippos a little further up the bank. Hippos are one of Africa's most dangerours animals, easily startled with 12 inch incisors, but we decided, accompanied by our UWA ranger, to sneak a little closer anyway.

Hippos sleep by supporting eachother's chins on their backs. So you are faced with a rather endearing weaving of grey humps and wide-mouthed lumps as the hippos make up their sleeping jigsaw jumble.

We stayed watching long enough for a hippo or two to notice our presence and they started a round of Har Har Har honking which built into a crescendo that echoed across the flat expanse of rift valley all around us.

We retraced our steps to the minibus and left the hippos in peace. It had been a pretty magical moment, but we didn't want to push our luck...


Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Great Blog! I added you to my blogroll, Cancer Blog Links at
Take care, Dennis

Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Open invitation to you and your readers to participate in the Being Cancer Book Club. This month we are discussing “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. “...the lecture he gave ... was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.”
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Danny Daniels said...

I am so excited to find your blog. A friend and I stayed at the Red Chili Hideaway in 2004 while doing some evangelistic work, We loved it. I have wanted to come back ever since. I definitely will do that some day.
I will be checking your blog often.
God bless
Danny Daniels

Anne-Marie Weeden said...

Thanks for both your comments - sleeping hippos at QENP is a strange place for Red Chilli fans and the cancer world to meet, but there you go. All welcome!

Older and Wiser said...

Great blog! What an adventure! Keep up the great writing and keep us up to date. Can't wait to read the next post.