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Discovering more than just wildlife…

I wake the following morning in my tent and all my chest and shoulders are burning and I feel hot… The rest of me is fine. I’d spent the previous day applying moisturiser with SPF to my face and whilst the temperatures on the Plains were that of a UK spring day, it was very deceiving. I was severely sunburnt for only the second time in my life!

Generally I do not burn, because of my mixed heritage. Whilst I am generally classed as “White British”. I am in fact from African and Mediterranean decent mixed with British. My Grandfather was from Sierra Leone which covers the “Black” element of my heritage and my mother the Mediterranean. We won’t go into this any further as it will confuse things, but just to give you an idea as to why this is a rarity for me.

Back to my photography and journey… I found I wasn’t the only one to suffer severe sunburn. One of the other travellers had also been badly sunburnt. Hayley and I were lobster pink or in Hayley’s case she was heading for fully cooked lobster red/crispy duck.

We packed on the aftersun and with the rest of the group after breakfast, it was all aboard the truck.

The journey continued and I caught sight of a vulture flying (photographed by me above). We then saw the most stunning of the birds, the Ugandan national bird and this was a fitting sight as that is exactly where we were heading to. I managed to get a good couple of shots of the Grey Crested Crane. I was still feeling hot but put this down to the fact I was sunburnt. We carried on and part way through we stopped to stretch our legs.

Hayley and I went for a wonder and ended up close to some Giraffes, we also spotted a Jackal, which I am informed is a rare sight. One of the other girls was screaming in excitement and when we got to her, she had found a frog. We then saw Cape buffalo grazing, witnessed the Wildebeest migration and a pair of Thompson gazelles battling each other.

We continued our journey after a short break and started to get close to our next campsite at the edge of Uganda.

I had started to get an irritating cough and whilst initially we thought it was just a mild irritation, this progressed rapidly into what would be formerly diagnosed in Kampala as chest infection. When we reached camp, I had now developed the shivers and a fever. I was keen to get in my tent and wrap up in my sleeping bag with the hope of sweating it out. My guide offered to put me in a hotel room but I declined, determined not to be beaten and also because I did not want special treatment over a what I deemed a minor virus. It would pass right?

The night was literally cold sweats and the coughing worsened, by morning, I looked like death warmed up. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get medical assistance for at least another 6-8 hours and therefore rang home for advice. A decision I would later regret. We pressed on with our travels to Kampala. Along the way we stopped for another break and here we would have a close encounter with some Baboons.

Baboons are generally pretty peaceful, though you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of one. They are incredibly powerful and have very big teeth. They’re not afraid to use them either. The “thug” of the ape world. These mischievous primates, love to scavenge and they also like to intimidate humans, in particular women (mother natures’ way of trying to teaching us a lesson on respect). This is probably why I kept a relatively safe distance here and was able to get some excellent shots of this one at the roadside.

As we headed on and neared Kampala, I started to notice a few differences, not just that my cough was now starting to break up (I still was still short of breath and my voice fading) but there were some very stark difference to the cities and towns as we passed through them. What you generally see is that one side is a run down shantytown and the other side is like any modernised city or town, you would see in Western countries. I asked why this was, as it was confusing, yet fascinating and this is what was relayed to me. The President did not live or go to that side of town. Nuts right?

We finally reached Kampala to pick up supplies and I headed into the chemist to get some relief for this cough. As I entered I was greeted by this huge female pharmacist. She literally took one look at me and said, “Ahhh Chest infection, amoxicillin, two capsules, three times a day and cough mixture.” My relief at her diagnosis and excellent manner was overwhelming. I just burst into tears. The total for this was $7USD. Yes $7USD, which was less than what we pay in the UK. I hugged this woman as it was better treatment than I had ever received at that point from the NHS and I was in a third world country!!!

We finally reached Jinja, Uganda, in the evening where I was to have a little more disappointment and then some serious soul searching coupled with some interesting revelations.

Morning arrived and I was starting to feel a lot better. I was supposed to go white water rafting on the Nile, unfortunately this would be my disappointment. I was still not well enough to participate, so took to some walking around the edge of Lake Victoria to do some more wildlife photography to lift my mood. There was a gorgeous wood terrace overlooking the Nile, so I went and relaxed there first. This is where the soul searching began and not in a good way.

I found despite being in a group of 27, I felt very alone. I’ve never been the most confident person but at the grand age of 24, here I was wondering what direction my life was going in and what I had missed out on. I had a steady job in the UK, but I hated it and I found I was comfort eating to hide my disappointment. Africa, I found was going to be my next pang of loneliness but also the pathway to self discovery. It would be the start of another journey but this time from within. After a much needed silent cry, I decided to lift my spirits with a walk and more photography. The next series of photography, is some of what I did.

The following morning and spirits lifted. I continued to recover and my 6am wake up was met with the sight of a pair of baby blue testicles. It is true, one of the locals had taken to flashing the campers, turning our morning view into a very different type of “blue”…

This photo whilst bearing my watermark is courtesy of my old friend Paul R Davies.
Paul thought I was joking about these Monkeys. That was until he photographed this at Ngorongoro Crater in 2011. I was only able to capture shots of the females which will be shown in the later blogs.

The camp was teeming with vervet monkeys. The males as you can see have baby blue testicles. This factual sight I have relayed to many a traveller over the years and they generally think I am on a wind up. All I can say is those bright blue testicles made me smile with much amusement. Brings a whole new meaning to the term “blue balls”.

It was another day of relaxation and with appetite back, I decided to pop to the nearby hotel for a spot of lunch. Nile Perch and chips. Now when I saw perch on the menu I was thinking small, like we get in the UK. I should’ve known better. This thing was bigger than the plate, it was more like the size of a car wheel. How the hell am I going to eat this? I thought.

Once I’d managed to complete my rather large fishy meal, which was lush. I popped back to the wooden terrace to relax and take in the view of some of my fellow travellers enjoying the rapids of the Nile. Whilst sat taking in the views, I was hit by what looked like a bird dropping. As I looked up expecting to see a bird, I noticed, it was in fact a rather small gecko. Typical but never a dull moment. Not sure if this is also classed as lucky??

As the day drew to a close, I was in need of a lot of rest as we would be heading for Kisoro the next morning and I had less than 48 hours to get my cough under control if I was to meet the Mountain Gorillas…

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1 thought on “Discovering more than just wildlife…

  1. Superb pictures to accompany this post.

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