November 10, 2014

November 10, 2014

We got up and had breakfast.  Mark had two eggs on top of pancakes and I opted for yogurt and American pancakes.  What we’ve noticed on our trip is that pancakes are more like crepes, so I was interested in seeing what these American pancakes would be like.  Wow, these are about 1 ½” tall and 3” diameter – but they tasted like what I’m used to.  We took a taxi to get to our swamp tour and saw people going about their everyday lives.  As usual, women had wrapped their babies in a large cloth and had the slings, hanging low on their backs.  It’s very common here and must be the preferred way of carrying a baby in Africa as we saw it in Tanzania as well.

It took about one hour to drive on dirt roads from Entebbe to the home of the Shoebill stork in the Mabamba Swamp, about 30 miles west of Kampala.  Mabamba Swamp is an extensive marsh stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with papyrus towards the western main body of Lake Victoria.  The small village where the boats leave from is poor and we’re slightly nervous about the conspicuous nature of our expensive camera gear, but since this is a popular tour site, we are probably fine.  We are friendly and smile at everyone we see.  Our guide is Hannington, and he and another man took us out in his fishing boat.  It had a motor on the back and they used long poles to get us through the crowded grasses.  The day is beautiful!  There are numerous, beautiful, purple water lilies.  We found the shoebill without a problem.  What an interesting looking bird.  The incredibly large beak of the Shoebill helps it to scoop up its prey:  lungfish, catfish, frogs, and water snakes.  They can also use it to store water to take to dribble over its eggs or young during the heat of the day.  It really is an interesting, prehistoric-looking bird.   After we had taken several photos, we started heading back and we took photos of a few other birds.  We saw a Jacana, a beautiful malachite kingfisher, a goliath heron, and a couple of long-toed plovers.  We enjoyed the hour-long ride, but wished they would have kept us for two.  Since the mission of seeing the shoebill happened in the first ten minutes, I think they had decided that it would be a one hour tour.  The taxi had cost us $60 and the boat ride was $52.  We made it back to Carpe Diem and got cleaned up and repacked.  We were ready to go at 9:30 for our midnight flight.  Rogers got us to the airport and we thanked him and bid farewell.

The computers were down at the airport and after standing and waiting with our heavy backpacks and luggage, they started hand-writing the paperwork.  Long lines, weary travelers, over-worked employees.  Oh well.  We finally made it onboard and had an uneventful flight; we ate…we slept.  We made it to Heathrow in London and bought keychains for the kids for souvenirs.  The flight back to the US was just as expected and we survived customs as well in Philadelphia, before arriving back at home, tired, but happy after a 27 hours of flight.  What an adventure.

Now that the trip is over, we can compare and contrast how different our lives are in the US to those living in Tanzania and Uganda.  The kids we saw in Africa appeared to be so happy and carefree.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of fear or over-protective parenting that we have here in the US.  The children played freely outside in their yards and walked next to the highway without fear.  They seemed so joyful.  “Hi, hi, hi, Mzumba!” as they ran and waved with big smiles.  Women washed clothes in the river or in buckets on their porches, with their babies on their backs, and transported whatever needed to be carried on their heads.  As expected, there were varying degrees of poverty.  It was strange to see a Maasai warrior, in his traditional garb, walking down the road, talking on a cell phone.   There were people walking everywhere, sometimes they seemed to have such a long journey ahead of them and I wondered if it’s a daily trip for them.  They have simple houses and if they are lucky, they have electricity.  As we would drive past, we could sometimes see the strained looks from the adults; other times there was a happy smile and a wave, just like the children.  Both countries were so incredibly beautiful.  The different cultures were so very interesting.  The people were beautiful and had a lot of pride.  The animals were also amazing and seemed to have a better sense of self-preservation than the animals in the US.  In Africa, they would jump away from the road as we would fly past.  This was a trip of a life-time and we will never forget it!  Maybe…just maybe, we’ll go back.  Good luck follows us everywhere!  But for now, we have 13,000 photos to go through.  ~ Mary & Mark

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