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A Lava Tower

We started off our third day in in the morning sun, after eating breakfast. Today I started to feel that my apetite was failing a bit, but I could still get the food into my stomach. Todays highest point was Lava Tower, which is exactly what it sounds like; a tower made of lava. We would be on an altitude of 4630m when we reached there.

My headache was just getting worse for every hundred meter we "climbed" (the beginning wasn't steep at all today). I wanted to save my painkillers for later, because I really wanted to summit the last night, and I wouldn't let a "little" headache stop me from doing it. So I skipped the painkillers and just concentrated on my breathing because the headache got a bit better if I breathed heavy and a bit faster than I usually would. I compared it to the breathing you do when you are giving birth (not that I have experienced that, but anyway) but Robin thought it was a bad metaphore.



Robin above the clouds on our way up.

We continued on with some short stops to get water and put on/off jacket. Now we started to see the last climb upp to Lava Tower which was steeper than the rest of our walk today. When we came to the foot of the slope we passed another couple sitting and having a break. I didn't look at them much, I was just focused on my own feet and preparing myself mentaly to climb the last part before we would stop for lunch on the top. I started to feel a bit dizzy and heavy headed and when we had walked about half the slope I was looking at Robin who looked just as tired as I felt and I started to giggle, because the whole situation was so ridicoulus! But I couldn't giggle because the headache was pounding so I had to sit down on a rock for some rest. 
- I just feel like crying! I said to Robin. My head is a pain in the a**!! 



- Did you see that girl that we passed? She was crying, this is just crazy! Robin replied, and at the same moment he said that, something just let go inside of me. If she could cry, I could cry too! And the tears came under my sunglasses and made black stripes on my dirty cheeks. I cried and laughed alternetly for a while before I thought the headache was going to make my head explode and I stopped and we continued the last hundred meters to Lava Tower.



If Lava towers could laugh, this one would have. At us.

We were sitting eating our lunch for about an hour and afterwards my head felt better and we continued down to Barranco camp, 3980m, where we would sleep tonight. We had some rest before we ate dinner, and I decided to take some painkillers tonight just to get a good nights sleep, and it helped a lot! Tomorrow would start with the Barranco wall, or the Breakfast wall (because the breakfast usually comes up while climbing it), but we had no energy to think about that, it had to be a problem for later.


We were playing cards with our guides after dinner. Here's the rest of our awsome team. They are true supermans!


Our little campsite


Robin and beautiful Barranco camp. 


Taking down the tent. Next stop is Karanga camp!






A cave on 3800masl

Todays walk was pretty short but it was steeper than yesterday. We started off on a rocky road where we had to step on rocks like stairs. I think going upwards is challenging for your breath, especially on this altitude. Going downwards is worse for your quads if you ask me. But anyway, we kept a pretty slow pace and had a lot of photo stops to enjoy the gorgeous views. We had left the rainforest behind us, and the vegetation started to grow closer to the ground, especially the trees are small on this height.


Cold and misty at Shira camp (the mist came and went all afternoon, when the sun broke through the mist it became hot and as soon as it disappeared (the sun) it became cold again.


We came up to Shira camp at around midday. Today we had Robins' favorite dish for lunch, Spaghetti and minced meat. We ate with good apetite and had some rest before we were going for a short hike up to the Shira cave where hikers used to sleep once, but now it's prohibited. I just sat in the cave staring at my shoes for a bit before we continued up to a place where we had a good look over the camp.






Robin tried to lift the cave and I found something interesting on the ground. 


Robin was eager to summit. We had a couple of days left though. 


Shira Camp


We drank a lot all the time, which made me visit the toilets without doors a lot. The first couple times I went I had to bring Robin as a guard to make sure no one accidently stepped inside the little toilet shelter while I was squatting in there. But as the time went on and I became more and more tired and used to the life on the mountain I even skipped the guard part and just didn't care if someone would see me sitting in there trying to aim and hit the target (the hole in the ground).

The night was cold today and I had to wear more clothes, but when I went out to... yeah probably to visit the toilet again, I saw the most beautiful view I've ever seen. Unfortunatley it was hard to capture it on picture because it was too dark, but in the west we had the most wonderful sunset and in the east the full moon was rising next to the top of Kilimanjaro. I guess you have to experience it yourself to understand.





Up next: A crazy walk up to a tower made of laaaaava.





Arriving in Tanzania

So this is it. We are standing in line to get our Tanzanian visa at Kilimanjaro airport. We have been travelling all night, me and Robin and we are pretty tired at the moment. Actually I'm so tired that I used wrong finger when they are taking our fingerprints, instead of putting my thumb on the green screen I put my index finger for some reason. The grumpy man on the otherside of the glass says nothing and I realize my mistake when we are walking out from the terminal. Getting back into Tanzania could be a problem for me, I thought to myself but I had no energy or curage to go back and tell them.

Our ride was waiting for us and we drove the 45 minutes to our hotel outside Moshi. The driver told us that on a cloud free night with a full moon you could easily see "the mountain" from the road. Tonight we saw nothing. One thing that occurred to me was that people around Kilimanjaro seemed to say "The mountain" instead of Kilimanjaro, as if Kilimanjaro was the only mountain around. Or the only mountain that mattered.

After a good nights sleep we woke up to get some breakfast on the porch outside the restaurant. To my HAPPY surprise they had wild monkeys in the forest around the hotel. An even HAPPIER surprise was that the monkeys were Blue monkeys, the speices that the Golden monkey comes from (the kind of monkey I was studying in Uganda one year ago). Do I have to tell you that we had a long breafast, watching the monkeys jumping around? ;)



View from the pool area, monkeys in the trees!

We had one day at the hotel (called Protea Hotel Aishi Machame) and we just took some time relaxing and enjoying the environment after our long travel. Tomorrow we would meet with our guide at the Machame gate, to start the walk towards the top of Kilimanjaro.


Pool and sun was exactly what we needed there and then!


 Machame camp
The route we had decided to take is called the Machame route. Or the Whiskey route. The first camp we were heading to was also called the Machame camp, 3000 masl. The day started with rain at the gate and it took some time before we started the walk through this beautiful environment called rain forest. Of course it's raining, it's a rain forest! I LOVE this kind of nature. The path was slighly upwards all the time, but the walk wasn't too long today, it took around 6 hours before we entered the Machame camp and in that time we also had a stop to eat our packed lunch.



We had some time to rest and change clothes before we got afternoon snack and tea/coffee in the mess tent. And shortly after, the dinner was served and we went to bed early. I was afraid that I would freeze during the night so I put on a lot of clothes, just to wake up in the middle of the night sweating like a pig! My bonfire boyfriend had warmed up the tent to maximum level and I had to strip off almost everything before I could go back to sleep again ;)


Just arrived at Machame hut



Our first campsite.

Next stop is Shira camp! A bit colder but with a beautiful view! Read more in next post!


My last words and a picture rain :)


It’s amazing how traveling can change you as a person. I think I was aware of that this journey would affect me in some way, but that it would have such an impact on me, I could never imagine. But I believe that by experience and somehow testing your limits is the only way to really prove to yourself what you are capable of (and it’s often a lot more than you think from the beginning, believe me).

Ever since my mum died, about two and a half years ago, I've been searching for the old me, the person I was before she got sick. By doing this journey to Uganda I have not only traveled far in distance but I have made a long journey on the inside. It’s not the easiest thing to find yourself when you’ve been lost and out of track for years. These three months have given me a push in the right direction.

Through all the amazing people I’ve met, my confidence and self-esteem have returned. Through all the things I’ve done against all odds, I have grown stronger. By seizing all the small moments I have created new memories and it has given me an inner security I haven’t felt in a very long time.    

I think one of the most important things in life is to never deny yourself anything, but to take all the chances which are given and make the best out of it.

In the end you’ll only regret the things you never did, and that’s a fact.   




This is where I lived during my three months, next to the gate in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, it's like the most beautiful place on earth and If you are passing through Uganda, make sure that you stop here to see the Golden Monkeys, the Gorillas or to do a hike up the mountain, you won't regret it I promise!

I've had the opportunity to meet with these lovley creatures. It's worth every penny I tell you!



This has been my office and I loved every second of it! (The monkeys weren't always easy to see! Can you find it in one of the pictures??) (In one of the upper ones, clue: look for eyebrows).

Me and Helge on top of Muhavura, the highest Volcano (4137 mosl)

I've been to Lake Mutanda a couple of times, It's one of my favorite places around Kisoro. You can spend a day here doing nothing and just enjoy the beautiful environment!

I've seen a lot of wildlife in different ways, chameleons, flowing rivers, stick insects, big mushrooms, and the amazing sunrises over the hills and trees.

We went up.... and down Sabinyo (3646 mosl)

My small accidents this trip (sorry all sensitive readers). I threw in some Gorillos too, they are rare to this area (not confirmed though).

My Swedish community, we've done a lot of fun things together and this trip hadn't been the same without you (I'll miss our crazy nights! haha)! :D

I've met a LOT of people and I don't have enough space to publish all pictures, but I give you a selection and they are all special in their own way ;)





Keep smashing life, stay cool bananas and you will end up just as calm and collected as this guy, Hakuna Matata ;)

This last one is on me, you never have more fun than what you do, that's my motto! ;D





Birding and bye bye

Yesterday was my last day out in the field, unfortunatley, the monkeys refused to come and say good bye to me! We were tracking the whole day without any result (I got to see a lot of the forest though) and in the end we had to give up. Anyway I comforted myself with the fact that I have seen them many, many times during these three months :)

I wanted to do something special this last afternoon in Mgahinga, so me, Ismail (one of the rangers who work with Uganda Wildlife Authority) and Prisca (one of the staff members at the camp in Mgahinga) decided to go birding! We started to walk along the buffalo wall in our search for birds.

The first thing I did was to give Prisca my camera, and after a few snaps at the grass and the sky and the half me she became very good and was our personal photographer during this birding session.

When we had walked for a bit we came to a fence which we had to get over, I was a bit skeptical when I saw Ismail climb the wall, but after a bit of struggle we all came over.






I saw a Hababa Ibis (a big water bird) when I was standing on the top of the wall. Ismail seemed more concerned about where I could step to get down, haha ;)

Me and Ismail took this birding very serious and we even had a bird book with us. 





I had the best bird watching company in the world! :)


I think this was when I saw the green flying chicken, a very rare bird species, endangered to this area (I wonder what Prisca is thinking about...? haha).


Ismail is like the most busy guy on the planet and I was glad that he took some of his time to try to teach me some bird species, I hope I wasn't a hope less case ;)


Happy to be watching birds! ;)


Don't mess with these bird watchers!

So today was my last day in Mgahinga and I started it by taking a walk to the park gate to say good bye to some of the people I've been working with from UWA. Not nearly everybody was there this morning but at least I got the chancce to see some of them and I really hope I will return in the future and meet with them again! I've felt welcome from day one and I couldn't wish for better work partners! ;)

The last thing I did was to have a long breakfast and a nice chat together with Sandra who's been my supervisor during these three months. But everything comes to an end and it was time for me to take the car down to Kisoro to spend my last weekend there before I go to Rwanda on Monday to fly back to Sweden.

I will give you a sum up of my trip in the next post! Keep your eyes open! :D 


Everything comes to an end

For some reason the monkeys have been hard to find the last couple of days. There have been no signs of them such as feeding or sleeping sights. But this happens sometimes and there’s always a natural explanation to it because nature is never constant but always changing. The monkeys are no exception; they might extend their home range and look for other places to feed or move further away because they are disturbed by something.

Anyway, after a couple of days of not finding the monkeys we finally got them this Friday. First only a few of them sitting and resting and feeding in the trees, but then the others came jumping from tree to tree from the upper part of the forest. The fascinating thing is how these monkeys can be so invisible sometimes when the group is as big as it is (somewhere between 70-100 individuals).

What we have noticed is that some wild monkeys (which don’t belong to our group) seem to enter into the groups’ home areas from time to time. This could be an indication of different things, but one theory is that some lone male is trying to get into the group to overthrow the dominant male. This might also be a reason why the group is not acting the way it normally does, but it is difficult to know if these wild monkeys have any specific impact on the group.

We still continue to see signs of poaching. We find more cut bamboo, and last Thursday we also found a wire snare in a part of the forest where monkeys spend a lot of time. This particular snare was set to catch duiker or bush buck, but other animals are still at risk to get caught.


If Sam hadn't warned me I would never have seen this snare and I would probably step right into it and get caught myself! When the snare was unleashed around Sams' stick it got tied very, very hard and an animal wouldn't have a chance to release itself (niether would I for that matter!).


This is a trick the poachers do; they cut the bamboo an stick it back into the ground to make it difficult for us to see if there is a cut tree or just a tree that is a bit tilted.


I'm heading towards my last week in Uganda, but many things can happen in seven days, so keep on looking for more posts! :)


Poaching

To bring anything out of the national park or disturb or destroy the wildlife in any way is illegal by law, but still one of the biggest difficulties that this park is facing is poaching in different ways. Several times a week we can see signs of poaching in one way or another. The most common seem to be the illegal cutting of bamboo, which we can see everywhere we go in the forest.

The problem is that in some areas there are a lot of dead bamboo trees but the poachers want the fresh, strong bamboo. This results in that the old bamboo is left covering the ground which makes it difficult for fresh shoots to come up. That in combination with poachers taking the good bamboo is causing loss of habitat, shelter and food for many animals living in the forest.


One day the patrol came up on a person trying to bring out some bamboo he had cut in the forest, unfortunatly he escaped, but he had to leave the bamboo he'd been cutting. 

Another thing that poachers do is putting snares in the forest. They set snares on the ground to catch bush buck, duiker or buffalo for meat, but all animals that are feeding on the ground are at risk to get caught; like golden monkeys, gorillas, elephants and so on. Only a couple of days ago, a buffalo got caught in a snare and had to be shot.

Illegal keeping of bee hives is also a big danger for the forest, especially in the dry season. What the poachers do to get the honey is to light a fire and smoke the bees to get them slow and dizzy. If the poachers don’t extinguish the fire, it could cause a huge fire that could destroy the forest very badly. There’s not exactly a fire station to call if that would happen. One of the volcanoes was burning a couple of years ago and it took a long time for the people to get control over the fire and the vegetation is yet not fully recovered in those areas.


Poaching is also seasonal in a way. Like now when a lot of new strong bamboo is coming up, the cutting increases. They use the bamboo for construction, firewood and hand crafts. The wire snares increases around Christmas because people wants to have meat at that time which is not normally the case since poachers often get the meat to sell it for quick money. 

These poachers are not beginners, they have a whole network of people doing this together and they are very difficult to catch since they move very strategically. What the people that work in the park can do is to make an ambush on the poachers. When they have monitored the poachers movements (with help of the GPS), like what days they are entering the forest, at what times and so on, they can pick a place to sit and wait for them, catch them in action and bring them to court.

A clear footprint from a poacher on the trail where we walk every day to get to the monkeys. Some poachers also use dogs when they are hunting animals:





Muhavura

I opened my eyes when the alarm started ringing. Six o’ clock. The usual light from the crack in the door wasn’t there, the sun hadn’t started to rise just yet. I turned off the alarm and sat up in my bed, which made a squeaky sound in protest. I put my cold clothes on and opened the door to my banda. As I expected, it was dark outside and I took my torch from the hook and started to walk towards the Buffalo Banda. Three of my newly found Swedish friends came up from Kisoro yesterday to accompany me on the hike up to the top of Muhavura, Mgahingas highest volcano.

After checking that they were awake I went to the restaurant and sat down at the set table. Since it was dark, the staff had decorated the restaurant with candles in every window. By the time I started so take small sips of the hot tea, I began to get a glimpse of the sun rising in the east.

After eating our breakfast we walked out to the car that was going to take us to the Muhavura gate. Of the three volcanoes, Muhavura is the one that lies furthest away from the camp and that’s why we had to get there by car. We began the bumpy ride downhill, with a beautiful sunrise behind Muhavura on our right side.


When you are sitting in a car in the deepest countryside of Uganda you always get very impressed by the skills of the driver and how many times a car can get hit and scratched underneath before it breaks. I’m telling you, the cars tolerate more than you can imagine. We were just a bit unlucky today, after hitting a sharp stone with the front right tire, it got punctured. But no worries, the driver changed the tire to the smallest spare tire I’ve ever seen, and again, things that may seem impossible is somehow working after all.
When we finally reached the Muhavura gate we were almost an hour late so instead of starting at half past seven we started our hike at half past eight. After a quick briefing we started the hike.



The first part was quite uphill but not too much. We stopped at the first resting place on 3116 meter over sea level. We enjoyed some banana and took a classical group photo ;) Our guide told us that; “Okay, now it is starting to get steep”. It wasn’t steep before this?? Obviously not ;P


We found Muhavuras next top model on the way up (a chameleon) :)

We continued up and at this time I started to feel the altitude and that in combination with the fact that we’d been walking uphill for a good couple of hours resulted in a pretty low pace on my behalf. My head felt heavy and it was a bit harder to breathe than before. But slowly, slowly we climbed meter by meter, and after walking downhill for a short bit, we started the last climbing towards the top. And we made it thank you very much! Standing 4137 mosl is a special feeling, I’m telling you!  


Tough kidz, haha.

The top was misty, but it was expected, it seems like there’s always a cloud just around the top of Muhavura, even on the cloud free days. It took us 4 hours and 40 minutes to reach the top, which is not  bad according to our guide, but we felt pretty slow when he told us that when he is climbing by himself, he does it in 2 hours and 40 minutes! :O What a Superman!


Nobody felt like swimming because the lake was way too cold at least for my taste ;)



I thought I'd clown it up a bit this morning by putting the socks on the wrong foot. ;P


We got some nice views on the way down though!


Gahinga and Sabinyo in the distance.




Queens of Mt. Muhavura ;) 

The forest is changing

It’s absolutely fantastic to work in the rainforest, I think about it every time I’m walking through all the different areas. When I see the vines hanging down from the old trees which are covered in moss and when I see the volcanos rise like giants in the distance, I always get an overwhelming feeling of… something like… Perfection? I don’t know, but imagine yourself walking through a forest where you easily could expect to meet a dinosaur. It’s like I’m walking around on the oldest place on earth.

Rainforests, they are the lungs of earth. I believe it’s true because this forest is very much alive. A lot of things are going on all the time. You can leave the forest for five days and find it again in a completely different state from how you left it. A good example is the bamboo. I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw how much it had grown in only one week. I took a picture of Eria standing next to some bamboo shoots and when I came back from Kampala I took a new photo a the exact same place, and, yes, you can see the difference for yourself.



This forest is also essential for the people living here. It does not only bring a lot of tourists to this otherwise very forgotten and hidden place, the rivers are also running from the volcanos down to the people in the community, an important resource of water. That was also a thing that surprised me a lot; in just one day the Ntebeko river and the Nyabiririma river started flowing. Of course it depends on how much it rains, but still. They went from being dry and nothing, to be the only thing I hear when I fall asleep in my banda at night. That is pretty extraordinary.



Unforunatley I didn't have a very good "before picture" but at least you can see the dry rocks under the bridge and that they are completly covered now by the flowing water!



I hope that people realize that these places still exists on this planet and that everyone is doing what they can to keep it this way. Not everybody can work fulltime in national parks, but I do admire these people who spend 5-7 days a week, patrolling, guiding and monitoring, everything very far away from home and from their families. They devote their lives to conservation so that even future generations have a chance to see and experience these amazing places and the animals living in them.    







Kampala

After spending eight weeks in and around the forest of Mgahinga I felt that I needed to see something new. There are five swedes working down in Kisoro at the moment and when they said that they were going to Kampala, the capitol city of Uganda, I wasn’t late to ask if I could come with them.

We went on the Tuesday afternoon last week. From Kisoro to Kampala it takes between eight to ten hours by car. You don’t want to be on these roads when it gets dark, that’s why we drove for a couple of hours and then stopped in a small village to sleep before we continued early the morning after.


I was very tired because I didn’t sleep very well during the night, but sometime during the morning when I was half asleep looking out the window I suddenly see a whole bunch of zebras standing right next to the road feeding on the grass. I become very awake and I see more zebras and also a lot of antelopes! The place we were passing was the national park which lies next to Lake Mburo.


We had to stop and take a true tourist picture at the equator ;)

We finally reached Kampala and we were staying at Backpackers which lies a little bit outside the city. Lucky for us, we had our own private driver Banabus who drove us anywhere we wanted, he’s just too nice ;) Backpackers have by the way the best pizzas ever (or maybe you lower your demands after eating chapatti with some cheese and tuna on it for eight weeks haha)!

The first day we went down to town with a mission: To get a guitar. After a while in what must be the worst traffic jam in the world, we finally found a music shop. When we had been dealing for a while we finally got the guitar and some extra strings for 230 000 shilling. The result of this purchase: many hours of singing and playing guitar throughout the week, so nice! :D


Maja's playing the guitar like a true hippie in the garden of Backpackers ;)

Kampala has a lot to offer and during the week we went to the cinema, a casino, a big hotel which had a nice pool, and last but not least a night club called Iguana where we were practicing our smashing techniques the last night ;) It was overall a VERY good week that differed a lot from what I’ve been doing since I came here.


Just chillin' with my new pants ;)

Now I’m back in the mountains again, and time flies, I only have four weeks to go and I really have to use my time! Since I went to Kampala a lot of things have happened up here. First of all, the rivers are flowing now! And the bamboo shoots are getting very big; I will show you a picture in my next post!

An exciting day

I was out in the field today, after having two days off. When you start tracking the monkeys it’s important to know where they were yesterday and which direction they were heading when the trackers left them. Yesterday they got the monkeys in a place called Ryakajaja and heading towards Twasunzu and Kabacondo. That means that today we entered the forest to start look in Kabacondo.

We came to the first part of Kabacondo, the open swamp. When we stood there listening and looking towards the forest we could hear the dominant males’ call which is very distinct and differs from the other monkey calls. It almost sounds like he is shouting “CHOP!”. It’s very loud and you can easily hear it from a distance.


The call led us to the first open place which, just like the swamp, is called Kabacondo. We didn’t see the monkeys so we walked up to the next open place; Twasunzu. We could see them crossing from a tree in the left end of the place, and continuing further up in the forest. We went in a half circle around the area where we thought that the monkeys might be. It’s important to approach the monkeys in the right way, to give them a good chance to see us and not risk splitting the group.

When we had walked for a while it almost seemed like we’d lost them. Suddenly I see something moving in the bamboo about twenty meters away. It is way too big to be a monkey; Sam takes his gun and points it to the sky before he is loads it and fires a shot. Around five buffalos are starting to run away from the sound, and I’m telling you, the ground was moving!

At the same time the buffalos start to move away in front of us, we can hear the monkeys start to jump away in the trees behind us, the buffalos where not the only ones that got scared from the gun. We had located their direction again. The tracks we found, some fresh bamboo shoots on the ground, led us back to where we came from. 

We found them again in Twasunzu where they were feeding and playing and jumping in the trees. What we noticed today was that the monkeys where feeding more up in the trees and not only on bamboo shoots, which they’ve been feeding on a lot since the shoots started coming up a couple of weeks ago.

Another thing that happened today was that some kind of animal (it could even have been a monkey

from another group) was making noises and disturbing our monkeys. All the monkeys stopped what they were doing, just as if they were waiting for some directions, and these directions came after just a few seconds; the dominant male started to call to his group to come! The whole group followed him to another place. I’ve never seen that behavior this clearly before, it was very interesting.



Canoeing in Mutanda

Ever since I came here I have wanted to go to lake Mutanda for some canoeing. I was lucky, because yesterday a couple of tourists were going to Mutanda and I could join them. We sat/stood on the truck bed and drove on the mainroad towards Congo and after a couple of kilometres we turned right towards Mutanda Ecco Community Center.

Along the bumpy road we tried our skills in the local language, but we didn't get much response from the people, I think they were a bit surprised that a group of muzungos were greeting them in their own language.

When we arrived at Mutanda we went to the dock where three canoes were just laying and waiting for us. Me and Paul sat down in one of them together with the man who was doing the paddling.



For an hour we were paddling along the shore and just enjoyed the beautiful environment. If you ever go to Uganda and Kisoro, I warmly recommend to go to Mutanda. The beautiful environment together with all the different kinds of birds are just stunning and a great nature experience.


I was very okay in the canoe (photographer: Paul)


"Chapati" was also very okay haha!

I was the one paddling of course ;)


When we got back to the dock it was time for some swimming! The water was a bit colder than last time I was here but that was just nice since everybody had got a bit fried after an hour on the lake. I even got Paul to take a swim for the first time (with both life jacket and the Trygg Hansa ring of course)! I have never seen a person that excited in my wole life, I think he got the worst adrenaline rush ever, haha!


Paul was very okay in the water! ;)


After the canoeing and swimming, I enjoyed a sodis on the porch to one of the cottages, very okay!


The cottages differs a bit from each other, they even have a very luxurious cottage that you can use if you're on a honey moon or something :)


A very okay day in general, I couldn't be more pleased! :D




Lost in Mgahinga

Monday was a day off for me and I decided that  would walk from the camp to the base of Mt. Muhavura. When I was doing the gorilla tracking, Lucky told me that it takes about an hour to get to the entrance at the base of Muhavura. Perfect, I thought and decided to go after having breakfast in the morning. I don’t know what I was thinking, because I put on my jacket even though the day was very hot. I started to walk, but after just a few hundred meters I realized that my jacket was way too warm and I hadn’t even brought any water.

-Where are you going? asked a child that was standing next to the path.

-To Muhavura (kid raises his eyebrows)! But actually I think I have to go back and get some water!
So I turned back to switch my jacket for a bottle of water.





I took the mysterious, hidden path along the buffalo wall.

I started walking again and I was thinking that if I just keep the buffalo wall in sight all the time I would sooner or later get to the base of Muhavura. What I didn’t think of was that the path wasn’t going along the wall all the way and after only a couple of hundred meters I was already some distance away from the wall. Anyway, I had walked this way once before and I could recognize some of the places and I didn’t worry much.

Some other kids were running towards me shouting: Muzungo! Give me my bag! That’s a typical thing for this place, if you have something, the kids always wants it, and they make it sound as if you have stolen it from them.

-Yeah, this is a bag! I answer.

-This is Bat! Says one of the kids.

-No this is a B-A-G! I say very clearly.

-And this is bat! Says the kid again and pointing at two other kids. Then I suddenly get it. The two other kids are Batwa! The people that used to live in the forest but when it became a national park they had to move out without being compensated for the land they lost.

-Give me sweet potato! Says one of the kids.

-Yes I have one in my pocket, I answer and put my hand in my pocket. The kids started screaming and ran the other way! I had no idea what I had done but they were obviously scared that I was going to hurt them or something. Anyhow, they came back after a while and followed me for some time before they were saying bye and left me alone again.

I kept on walking, but the more I walked the less I knew which way to go, because the path was splitting like every fifty meters. I was pretty close to Muhavura now and I’d been walking for an hour so I felt pretty pleased with the walk and decided to turn back. 




Great views from almost the base of Muhavura ;)

Which way did I come from again? Hm….? I met an older man without front teeth and asked:

- Amajambere camp, do you know? He didn’t know english so he started to speak in the local language Rufumbira. I understood when he said Muhavura and I said; No Muhavura, Amajambere and pointed towards the way I had come from.

- Give me money I show you! He said with a tooth less smile (he could obviously say that in English haha).

-No thank you, I smiled back and started walking on what I thought was the right way.

 After a while I realized that this couldn’t be the right way but I kept on walking with Sabinyo as an aim. When I ended up stuck in some ones garden I admitted to myself that I needed help. Luckily for me a group of children is never far away in the countryside of Uganda, especially not when a muzungo is wandering around without any clue of where to go. No exception this time.

- Hi! I’m lost, do you know Amajambere? I asked the children (at this point I was standing in some kind of dry river which I was sure I hadn’t crossed before).

- Yes, says one of the boys.

-You show me? I said.

-Yes! He says happily and started to walk.


After about ten minutes we reached a big path that led all the way back to the camp. I couldn’t thank the kids enough and at that point I wished that I would have brought some money for my young guide. I finally got back to the camp, all sweaty and with a pink tan in the parting of my hair ;) 






Some kids saw me taking photos and they wanted me to take a picture of them too (Sabinyo in the background).


When I came back I just sank down into the chair outside my banda and sat there the whole afternoon, haha! Lazy me. I think Max was tired too (you can see him lie behind the bushes).

Volcanoes


This is my every morning view when I step out of my banda (on sunny mornings). There are worse ways to wake up, isn’t it? :) The volcano Muhavura in a purple coat seven o’ clock in the morning.


Eria sitting in the regeneration zone with the volcano Gahinga in the background.


I had a very good day out in the field yesterday. The morning was sunny, and when we came to the first place in the forest, Kabacondo, we saw some monkeys high up in the trees. The morning sun spread a beautiful light all over the place and I just let the moment soak in.


We lost the monkeys after a while, since they move quite a bit faster than us, so we had to start track them. When we’ve been walking for a couple of hours we found their sleeping sight in a place called Kasbihuynira (okay, I don’t know exactly how to spell that one haha).



You can see that it is their sleeping sight from all the feces on the ground. The exciting thing we saw was that there was some tiny, tiny feces on the ground next to some bigger, which hopefully means that the females have their infants now!  

I am surrounded by volcanos and tonight I even dreamed about an erupting volcano. I think I dreamed about it because Max showed me a video of one of the erupting volcanos on the Congo side a couple of weeks ago. But anyway, if you haven't already discovered Andreas Moe or his song Volcanoes you have the chance now, I think it suites the environment of this place! :)


Gorillas in the mist

I opened the door to my banda at seven o’ clock and stepped out in the morning sun. The sky was cloud free and azure blue and I thought to myself that the weather couldn’t be better. In the restaurant, I met up with two people from Switzerland who was also going for the gorillas today. I could feel a bit of excitement in my stomach, even though I’ve seen the gorillas before, I was eager to meet them again.

The trip started in the visitors’ center, where our guide Lucky held a small introduction about the gorillas. People usually have to take a bodaboda (motorcycle) to the other park gate at the base of the Muhavura volcano, but today the gorillas where closer to the main entrance and we could go the first bit by foot.
Walking through the communities on the countryside of Uganda is always a bit special. The people were greeting us everywhere and it’s almost always the same phrase: “Muzungo! How are you??”. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that sentence since I came here almost six weeks ago.

After walking along the buffalo wall for about an hour, Lucky takes out his walkie-talkie and starts to connect with the trackers who’s already with the gorillas out in the forest. We climbed over the stone wall and entered the regeneration zone in the park. I took out my bottle of water and thought to myself that I might had preferred a cloudy weather, we’d been walking for an hour with the sun in our faces, and I started to feel a bit burned.

But as soon as we entered the forest, the temperature started to get lower. And also the climbing began. You have to bear in mind that these primates are mountain gorillas, which means that you won’t find them on a plain, no, no. We were walking up hill for another hour before Lucky told us that we were beginning to approach the gorilla family. Soaked in sweat I felt that the butterflies in my belly started to fly around again.
We could see the gorillas in a distance, they were resting. They had just finished their early breakfast and they were taking a nap. We walked around them and we left our bags and walking sticks some distance away from the gorillas and then we started to walk slowly towards them. The first two gorillas we saw was one silverback and one black back, two males. When the male gorilla gets mature and ready to have kids, he starts to grow the white hair on the back. This gorilla family has four silverbacks, one black back, two females and three juveniles.


We stood and waited for a while, but the thing is, that it’s the leader silverback who’s deciding when the resting time is over, as long as he wants to sleep, everybody else also has to sleep. But obviously the juveniles had some dispense, because after a while when the guides had been making sounds typical for the juveniles, one of them started to move and began to come towards us. He was a bit shy in the beginning, but after a few meters he got brave and passed me just a meter away. He sat down and started to pick up some bamboo shoots from the ground, obviously his breakfast wasn’t enough.


After a while, the other juvenile started to approach us and also the older gorillas. The two female gorillas where watching us with suspicion in their eyes, did they trust us enough to let their young ones be that close to us? They did, and we even got a quick sight of the gorilla baby, only three months old, one of the females was carrying him in her arms. It was like she wanted to show him to us, but still wanted to leave us longing for more, because she only held him visible for a couple of seconds.


Behind the two females you could see him, the big leader Silverback Mac. The width between his shoulders was twice the size of the females and he moved with such security and calmness. Mac is one of the biggest silverbacks in the region. And you can’t avoid to be impressed by his appearance when he slowly moves on his knuckles, looking at us, knowing that he’s got the power.


It’s a special feeling looking into the eyes of a gorilla. You can almost see your own soul reflected in those deep dark brown eyes, it’s like they see completely through you, and reveal all your secrets. It’s like they know that they have some kind of knowledge that the humans will never own. They make you feel small in so many ways. The humans are the biggest threat to the gorillas, but it’s like they feel pity for us, they know that we don’t know better.



The picture of when Mac returned into the bamboo forest, and sat down in the middle of a path with the light surrounding him like a Gloria, is a picture I will keep in my mind forever. It was such a great experience even this second time, and I think everybody who’s got a chance to see these incredible animals should take it. It’s a memory to carry with you for the rest of your life.



Bloody thumb

I bet people are starting to get a bit tired of my bad luck, not a single week passes without me having some kind of incident! But this time it was a pure accident and I can’t blame anything, it just happened.
I had just come back from a day out in the field, a bit tired and annoyed since we didn’t find the monkeys. I went to the restaurant to order some noodles as a small afternoon meal. While I was waiting I went to my banda to change my clothes and take off my sweaty boots.

I had a couple of things to bring back to the restaurant, so with my hands full of things I was closing the lock on my door. I must have held the lock in a bad way because the lock slipped pretty hard the last bit and I felt a terrible pain in my right thumb. Damn it! I had squeezed the thumb in the lock.

I didn’t think more about it, I didn’t even look at the thumb until a couple of seconds later when I was picking up some things and blood was spurting all over the ground. I got a bit surprised and looked at the thumb, the blood just kept pumping from a hole in the thumb. I put the thumb above my head and my index finger against the wound, and I tell you, that index finger wasn’t clean at all… Oh, that burning sensation!

I went back into my banda to try and find some plaster and my scissors, which is not that easy when you have blood that runs down your arm and only a left hand available and I tell you, it’s even harder to cut the plaster with only a left hand available. I gave up quite quickly and started to walk to the restaurant to find some help. I started to feel dizzy and shaky because of all the blood and the thought of going down to Kisoro for stitches wasn’t tempting me at all.

Luckily an elderly couple was just about to leave Mgahinga when I came to the office. They were travelling around in a big Land Rover and they seemed to have all the necessary equipment in there. When they saw the thumb they helped me immediately. The man said that he could even make some stitches if it was necessary, but since the whole piece of skin had come off it was out of question. They had some antiseptic fluid and then we put on some more plaster.


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, but please, this is starting to feel like a conspiracy! Haha! But no worries, I’m going to clean the wound tomorrow and I’ll be out in the field as usual! ;)

I found the piece of skin on the lock of my door when I came back later. Too late to put it back though ;)



Sunbird

I have had two days off and both Saturday and Sunday had a lot of sun to offer so I’ve been sitting outside reading my book and listening to music the whole weekend! And above the perfect weather I finally got a chance to change from my mice banda Turaco to a banda de luxe; Sunbird!


Welcome to sunbird!


I've got a corridor to the shower and toilet, I don't have to go out in the freezing cold morning anymore :)

Talking about sunbirds, I spend my lunch today trying to take a good picture of a sunbird. There is a bush with big yellow flowers right next to the porch where I eat most of my meals (when the weather allows it). This bush is a smorgasbord for the sunbirds and they spend a lot of time finding nectar in these flowers. Unfortunately for me, these little birds are extremely active and they never stay longer than one second in the same spot. Just as I started to get a bit irritated I finally got a pretty good shot ;)



I did not only upgrade my banda, I also upgraded the animals in it, from a couple of mice and a bunch of spiders to a tough guard dog named Max! :) He looks like a jackal with his big ears! I definitely prefer the dog even though he is a bit creepy when he suddenly stands outside my open door, just staring at me and then continues his round, just as if he’s checking that I’m okay, haha! 


Back in the office

After being sitting around doing nothing for one and a half week (I thought I was going mental) because of my foot, I am back on track again! Today was my third day out in the field and it feels good!
The first day started off very good, and we found the monkeys almost immediately when we came to Kabacondo. We sat down to observe them and we were lucky, they were just about to move to another place, and they used a certain branch as a crossing point from one tree to another, which made it easy for us to count them. The counting can be difficult otherwise because the monkeys don’t stay long in one place, they move around a lot and you can never be completely sure that you’re not counting the same monkey twice.

The monkeys were feeding, as usual; they’re eating almost constantly the whole day, with some exceptions when they’re resting. When we’ve been sitting for a while we can hear some noises from a place behind us, and some bamboo trees are shaking. There are three juveniles playing around in that tree, chasing each other around, making noises!

The second and third day was a bit harder. Elephants are very disturbing for the moment. Monkeys don’t like to around elephants, which means that if the elephants are moving around a lot in the forest, the monkeys will do their best to stay away from them, which means we might not find them.

The second day we actually almost ran into elephants but Eriah was able to see them in time and we could turn back. You don’t want to be seen by an elephant, especially not if they have their young ones with them, like this one had. I never saw the elephants but I saw their sleeping sight, which I will take a photo of and put in another post.

Another difficulty is the wind. If the bamboo is moving they make noises that could be mistaken for a monkey. It also makes it difficult to hear the monkeys move or call to each other.

Today we came to a place where I’ve never been; Bigingo. That’s one of the good things about not finding the monkeys; you get to see a lot of places in the forest. I like the name Bigingo, and I also like the name of another place called Kusindi. I think I could name my future pet Kusindi haha ;)

I learned a new thing today. Now since the rain season has started, the monkeys are beginning to look for bamboo shoots. I’ve learned to see the difference between a monkey eating a bamboo shoot and another animal eating it. It’s all about the teeth marks. Small marks are monkeys and big marks could be buffalo or bush buck or something else.


Bamboo shoots


Justus and Eriah sitting and listening for monkeys 


When the elephants are moving through the forest, they make these marks on the trees.




Down period

I think everyone who’s been travelling knows that you can’t avoid some setbacks during the journey, especially when it’s a longer trip. Even though I was hoping that I would keep healthy, I think I knew that some kind of illness would hit me. And the day before yesterday it did.

I went to bed pretty early on the Tuesday night, I just try to avoid being around the people at the camp for the moment, because everybody seems to be catching the flu. Anyhow, I didn’t feel anything special when I fell asleep. At around 3.00am I woke up and had the worst nauseous feeling ever. I don’t have to get into details but I can say that it was one coming both south and north. :P I went to sleep again and when I woke up about six hours later it was the same procedure again.

For the whole Wednesday I couldn’t eat anything, I tried to eat some biscuits and drink water throughout the whole day, but my energy was low and I couldn’t do much more than just sit or lay still and listen to music. I guess half of the uneasy feeling I had in my stomach was because it was so empty, but I still had no appetite.
It’s tough to be away from home alone for a longer time and especially when you get sick. All you want to do is just pop home for a couple of days until you get better. I just feel that I’ve had too much bad luck for the moment, first with my foot and now the presumed food poisoning. But I guess setbacks are a part of the whole experience and hopefully you grow stronger with them.

Today, Thursday, I feel a lot better and I just have to wait for my foot to get fully recovered before I head out into the field again.


I’ve had some questions about how I live, so I’ll give you some pictures of the surroundings!


I guess you could feel nausious in a worse place than this, I shouldn't complain ;)



Entrance to my Banda.



My Banda



The Park Entrance, 30 meters from my Banda. This is where we met up every morning before heading out in the forest.




I sleep alone in the dorm Banda which is kind of luxury ;)



The restaurant where they light the fire every night ;)

Twisted ankle


Last Saturday I was invited to a bonfire party at Lake Mutanda (a lake which lies about 5km outside Kisoro town). I got down to Kisoro on the back of a Bodaboda by four o’ clock, after getting back from the forest.
Sheba (owner of the Golden Monkey Guesthouse and the Rafiki Guesthouse) came and picked us up and we drove the 20 minutes out to Mutanda (it’s a very bad road). When we came, the fire was already set and we grabbed some drinks and sat next to the fire. Sheba is a very good drummer, so he brought seven drums and taught us how to play, very enthusiastically! Haha.

We had some barbeque goat for dinner which was VERY spicy; I probably haven’t had anything that spicy in my whole life! I bet it was the Americans idea, haha ;)

It was a perfect night, good music, nice company (we were about 15-20 people from all over the world) and a starry sky. We could even see the “white cloud”, the Milky Way, very clear.
After a while I suggested that we should go and take a swim in the lake. Since I didn’t get any hook worms or diseases the last time I bathed in Mutanda I was pretty confident (they recommend not to swim in Ugandan lakes since there is hook worms which could get into your body) haha ;)

We went to the dock, but when we got there, nobody wanted to swim because it was dark and according to them, the water was full of otters, pythons and other monsters ;) But since I’m a though Swedish Viking I stripped of my clothes and jumped in. After a few seconds Justin from Canada did the same and the others explanation to this was that we were “the snow people” from cold countries. In fact the water was warmer than the air and I didn’t get eaten by otters so I didn’t buy their arguments ;)

However when I got up I went to change my clothes. Since my telephone was plugged into the portable speakers I didn’t have any light. So when I came to the start of the dock there was a small step to get down to the ground, which I didn’t see, so I tripped and twisted my ankle   r e a l l y bad. The crack was nasty and I thought I’d broken it. I could stand on the foot even though it was sore, but it wasn’t until the next morning I saw how swollen it was. So when I got back to Kisoro, Paul took me to the drug shop and I bought some Diklofenak for about 1,5 dollar ;) Today it is better but it’s still swollen and sore and I probably won’t go out in the field for at least a couple of days :( But no worries, I’ll just rest until the ankle is okay and then I’m on it again! :) 



This "little" lizzard was found in Max room, it was his cat Princess who brought it in. She probably thought it would be a good lunch for Max. Yet I don't think he appreciated it as much as she wanted him to ;) 
It looks like a little dragon, doesn't it?? :D




Sabinyo



The day started early with a nice breakfast, white oat meal porridge and white toast with plum marmalade, the base of every nutritious breakfast here in Uganda hehe ;) Me and Kara sat off to the Visitors Centre to get some briefing before starting our way up to hike Sabinyo, the second biggest mountain in the Ugandan part of the Virunga forest.
Sabinyo has several peaks, which gives it the shape of a row with teeth. That’s also where it got its name; Sabinyo means “Old man’s teeth”.
The first part of the hike was slightly upwards, but not too much. We walked through the regeneration zone and the bamboo zone before we came to the base of the mountain. Now it started to get steeper. In some parts we had to climb these small ladders, which were made of trees from the forest.

The vegetation started to change as well, our guide Lucky told us that some of the trees up here are the same as the ones growing at a lower altitude, the only difference is that the trees on this high level grows much slower. They also never get as big as the same vegetation on a lower level.

After climbing some more, slightly tilted, ladders we reached the first peak. Still two to go.
In the middle of the first peak, you can stand with one foot in Uganda and one foot in Rwanda. We took a short break, and you could actually feel the air getting colder when the mist rolled in over the mountain. By the time people started to get cold from sitting still with sweaty shirts, Lucky said “tugende”, which means “we continue”. And so we did.



To get to the second peak, we had to go down for a little bit and then up again. The ladders were pretty wet because of the moist air and a wrong step could make you slip very easy. I started to feel in my legs that we’ve been walking upwards for almost five hours, sometimes climbing, they were pretty shaky.
 On the second peak, we could see the top. And the ladders to the top. Straight up. Luckily the ladders are pretty newly made and they are far better than the previous ones. To climb upwards is much worse for the breathing and since the air is thinner on this altitude the pulse raised a lot at the steepest parts. The fact that I was carrying a bag didn’t make it easier.

After climbing the last ladders (which they hadn’t changed yet so they were still the old ones) I finally reached the top. Me, Festo and Olivien took the classic photo where each one of us are standing in different countries. Me in Congo, Festo in Uganda and Olivien in Rwanda. When all photos were taken I had the chance to lie down and take a nap. While lying there, I could taste the sweat on my upper lip and I felt how tired my legs were, knowing that I had to go a l l the way down again. Haha. Like Festo said; Going up is an option, going down is a must. Well I could have slept on the top, but they probably wouldn’t have let me do that ;)


But one experience richer we got back to the camp safely without any twisted ankles (see next post though). My next mountain to hike will be Muhavura, the biggest of the three mountains on the Ugandan side of the park. I think it’s over 4000m osl, so that’s pretty cool



The habituated group


Since the group of monkeys I am working with is a research group, the most important thing is not to get as close to the monkey as possible. This group has only been with humans for four years, and it is a slow process to let the monkeys get used to humans. The older monkeys are always suspicious in the beginning, it’s the young ones that are easiest to habituate, and as the time goes, the young ones will have their own babies that are going to be even more comfortable and so on.

Seven groups of Golden Monkeys lives in Mgahinga national park, five of these groups are wild, one is the research group and one is the habituated group. When we are with the monkeys that belongs to the research group the distance can sometimes be far and binoculars are almost a must to get to see their behavior in a good way. That’s why Kara and I decided to go and see the habituated group of Golden monkeys. The habituated group has been with humans for over ten years and they are very comfortable with humans around and you can get much closer to them.

Our morning started with a real kick! When we got up to the visitors center (the start of almost all the activities in the park), we were waiting for Benneth to get ready with the GPS. All of a sudden the bushes right next to us started to move heavily. All three of us became silent and listened.

-  Buffalos, they’re probably fighting, Benneth says calmly and continue to blip on the GPS.
My god, Kara and I look at each other. Suddenly I can see one ear appear from the bushes, and a horn, no two horns, and a nose and…

-  Can you see that…? Kara murmurs. Benneth doesn’t seem to bother. The whole buffalo is now standing about ten meters in front of us and starts to take small steps towards us.

-  It’s coming, I can hear myself whisper.

Benneth looks up from the GPS and slowly he takes the gun from behind his back and brings it in front of him, ready to act if he must. The huge grey brown buffalo is staring at us for what feels like forever. He seems to be deciding whether to go back to his opponent in the bushes or go towards us instead. He flicker his ears before blowing air out of his nose, hard and loudly, returns back into the bushes and disappears.

Okey, I admit, I got freaking scared, hahah! Talk about kick starting the day! The rest of our little hike to see the monkeys went well, without any big adrenaline rushes. We finally found (or Benneth found) the monkeys and got to spend quite a long time with them, which was great!


To track the golden monkey

The banda is cold, but it’s almost seven and I have to get up and eat some breakfast before going out in the forest. I’m shivering as I change my clothes. It’s dark but I have a flashlight to turn on before opening the door and let the cool morning wind get into my banda. I walk across the lawn to the building where the dining room is, my eyes are slowly getting used to light after spending a whole night in complete darkness. The sky is cloudy, maybe the rain is coming? I find me a place to sit and wait for my breakfast which I ordered in advance yesterday.

Hilda comes out from the kitchen, with my porridge and my banana. I eat it all and I go back to the banda to get my walking stick and backpack. In my hand, I have my packed lunch for today; one chapati (a kind of bread pancake), one boiled egg and a banana.

I meet up with Sandra, Boes and Justus at the entrance to the park. We take the first GPS coordinates, place: Ntebeko time: 07.43, and then we start to walk through the Regeneration zone. The Regeneration zone is the part that previously was used for harvesting, but now they have made it a part of the park and the vegetation is still recovering from being harvested. The wall that indicates the border between the park and the community is called The Buffalo Wall.

We’re taking the next GPS coordinates at a dry river called Nyabirima. During the rainy season, the river is flowing, but now it’s dry and empty. After crossing Nyabirima, we enter the forest. Wires are hanging down from the trees, big leafs weaving in the wind and exotic birds singing in every bush and tree. We follow the path, made by elephants and buffalos, until we come out in a swamp, which is also dry now, during the dry season. This place is called Kabachondo. We take new coordinates.

According to where the monkeys were yesterday, we now decide which way to take into the forest. The monkeys’ home range stretches over a big area. We could be lucky and see them from over here; otherwise the decision depends on their previous location.  

Suddenly a male monkey is making a sound pretty close from where we’re standing. BUT since there are several groups of monkeys in this part of the forest we need to be sure that this is our group, the research group, and the only way to figure it out is to go through the forest step by step until we see them.

The forest is basically “build” in plateaus. We need to get up a steep hill to get to the first plateau, then up another hill to get to the next one and so on. During our way up to the first plateau (still called Kabachondo) we find some clues of where the monkeys were yesterday. We are looking for small bamboo leafs, but also feces (poo) and Umuhate (a leaf). If we can follow these tracks it will probably lead us to the group.

And I tell you, to find a leaf that is more like a half a grass straw is not easy when the forest floor is full of dry leaves and other vegetation. Justus and Sandra seem to find them everywhere and they can even tell the age of it. Me myself, I try my best to even find the small leaves and if I can guess the age of it it’s just luck, hahah! For every important thing we find, we take notes on a sheet and put the GPS coordinates to it.

We decide to go to the next plateau, and when we get out of the bamboo forest and enter Ryakajaja, we see some movements high up in a tree. Something yellow reddish, with along tail….



Welcome to the djungle








The first day in Mgahinga was a slow day when we visited the school that I was Teaching in last time I was here. Many things have happend since then. First of all, they have build another building for the pupils, which means that they have more space and the number of students have increased a lot (Pictures are coming)!

Yesterday and the day before, I went out in the forest to track the Golden Monkeys together with Sandra, one guy from UWA (Uganda Wildlife Athority) and a ranger. They always have an armed ranger with them in case of elephans or buffalos. If any of theese animals would become agressive, the ranger could scare them away by shooting into the air.

First day was though! Not just because it was hot and we had to walk a lot, but also because of the altitude and the fact that there is a lot to learn! 

Sandra was asking me questions about the names of the flowers and also some things about primates. I hadn't got many answers and I felt that I should have studied better before I came here! :S But anyway No worries like they say here in Africa. I guess I just have to check things up while I have internet here in Kisoro. 

No monkeys on the friday. It happens sometimes, since they are wild and you can't control them as if they were in a zoo.

But yesterday payed of! After some tracking (which I will tell you more about in another post) we finally found them! We were quite far away and I needed my binoculars to get a good sight of them, but still! We spend almost three hours  watching and listening to them. They all seemed healthy and I learned how the GPS works. 

This is just a short post about what happend in general, I will give you all the details and pictures as soon as I get the time to sit down with a computer! :) 


A nice slow start

Tired I am, it’s been a long flight but finally I’m standing at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda and my tired eyes keep looking for a sign with my name on it. There it is! Festo and Adriana is waiting for me in the arrival hall and in a way it feels surreal, I guess it’s mostly because I’m so tired, but anyway.

We reach the car that’s taking us to Kisoro which takes about three hours. We passes the border to Uganda and I get my Visa, almost no people there. Festo tells me that it is always this empty on Sundays for some reason.

Eating my first goat stick ever ;P

When we get to Kisoro, I get a warm welcome from Sandra, the women I’ll be working with up in the forest of Mgahinga. She tells me I have a room at the Rafiki guesthouse. Two minutes with the car and we’re there.
After a long nights sleep I meet up with Festo and Sandra for breakfast and they tell me that we will stay for two days in Kisoro before heading up to the mountains in Mgahinga.
Monday had a lot of things in its pocket; we started with a visit at a place called “the institute”, which is a school where the students can study some different courses, like tourism, teaching, computer knowledge and so on. The teacher class sang and danced for us! J It’s really impressing to see what they can to with the little things they have. I also had the chance to play some volleyballwith the students which was great fun!
In the afternoon, me, Sandra and Paul visited the big market that takes place on Mondays. All people didn’t like when I was taking pictures so I asked Paul to be my model and I was getting a little part of the market in the background.



Teacher students singing and dancing for us


Sandra and Paul are watching


Paul tries to smile without laughing


Paul is serious (Market place in backgrond) 

Paul tries a shirt that he likes!

Today is Tuesday, and we are going to visit Lake Mutanda before heading up to Mgahinga. Hopefully I can get down to Kisoro for internet during the weekend and then I’ll show the pictures from the lake!

Overall it’s been a good slow start before the work up in the forest begins.