Tuesday, July 26, 2011

India so far...

has been amazing. Eating amazing food (with flavor!), drinking chai so thick and hot and spiced and sweet that it tastes more like chocolate than tea, receiving wonderfully friendly welcome by (most) local folks, riding trains and camels trains, getting all Lawrence of Arabia'ed out in 800 year old forts, being head-butted in the butt by a cow and head-nuzzled in the thigh by a calf... just the usual.

While attending to some business at an internet cafe, I managed to upload the first fraction of my photos (including a last few from Kampala that slipped in there):


I'll upload more if/when I can.

I hope all is well with each of you wherever you are!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Funemployment begins!

It finally happened: I finished work. As of a few weeks ago now, I am officially unemployed... and loving it.

I'm not sure I'm yet prepared to make broad sweeping statements about what the past nearly two years have meant or will mean in my life. Along the way I've spoken with many of those of you who would be reading this about what I've been living and working - if only I could re-collect all of those conversations and collate them, I would have a beautiful stream of developing consciousness about the many topics I've confronted over this time. Unfortunately, I don't think you all would like me to borrow your brains, eh? I'm hoping to do a bit of writing soon, in order to put down the thoughts I have and hopefully thus hang on to them, and if I do I will be sure that writing winds up here.

One easily recorded and easily accessible way of memorializing these past years, at least:

View Oh the places I've been (in Uganda) in a larger map

The places I've spent time in Uganda - for work or for leisure/pleasure.

In the meantime, however, the great questions looms: so what's next?

Well, rather than launching myself straight into the next career sort of step, I decided I need to do a little (or a big) something for me. Being already about halfway around the world from home and with no firm date I need to be home, why not take the (very) scenic route? So far I've spent a week in Southwestern Uganda camping around the Crater Lakes, a weekend in Nairobi and a couple days in Kigali. On Thursday begins the grand journey: a month and a half in India with Natalie! I will then swing back through Uganda to pick up my luggage and hop on my flight (towards) home. But on the way, I'll take an extended layover to spend a couple weeks in Germany with my brother and then a few days having a look around Istanbul. Homeward bound, step by step! I'll finally reach home in late September - and then begins the attempt to answer what I think most folks are actually asking when they ask "so what's next?". But let's wait and cross that bridge when we reach it.

But, lest you thought this was a words-only sort of post, let me prove you massively wrong with a ton of photos from the Crater Lakes region!

To celebrate our new freedom (some people call it "unemployment"), Natalie and I decided on a five day camping adventure in the Crater lakes region of Southwestern Uganda



Public transportation

In Fort Portal, the main town in this region. I like this map.

Rented incredibly janky bikes to head out to Ambeere caves. In hindsight it was a less-scenic ride than I'd hoped for

All sorts of fun roads

The caves are on a guy's private property, as is this gorgeous guesthouse

Through pastures, to a little gate

And, like Alice in Wonderland, through the little gate was a different world: the jungle!

We went through,



and all sorts of other prepositions in the jungle

to a beautiful little waterfall

The "caves" were... less than cave-like

Learned why they're called "jungle gyms"

Got some Tarzan action on

Out into pastureland, around crater lakes

At least someone was hard at work

Photographing poop is serious business

Up, up, up

A "flame tree". Prevalent in Western Uganda, and gorgeous.

Our guide showed us how, as children, they would harvest the flowers of the flame tree and, with the addition of a twig to each flower, make themselves great make-believe poultry farm magnates

As well as how another type of local leaf could be used as velcro - ideal for building leafy sun hats

Having finished our trek, back to Fort Portal town we went

To reward ourselves with a shockingly good dinner of pizza and delicious Italian wine at Pier's Italian restaurant in Fort Portal

The next morning, up and at 'em, out of Fort Portal town southward toward more Crater lakes and Kibale National Forest.

On their way to school...

at Nkuruba Lake to check out some campgrounds and, straight off, MONKEYS!

This summed up our shared sentiment well

We wound up staying at a different campgrounds, though, because they were quite nice. Natalie did the heavy lifting in the tent set-up

Not a bad spot...

The next morning we decided to walk back, through village roads, to Lake Nkuruba to have a look around.

Tea plantations are all over this region

Stopped at Rwehambra (?) trading center for some breakfast

Not bad for about $1

And the nice lady through in some chillis for free


Working the tea fields

Coming upon this scene made me happy. A grip of ladies and gentlemen out digging their fields, chatting away and laughing, laughing, laughing

Oh how far we've come

Back to the Lake Nkuruba campsite, where our friends also returned.

The run between stands of trees

With a passenger!

One by one, they all made the risky trek

And, once safely there, the fun began. Fly monkey, fly!

We wandered down through the dense vegetation toward the lakeside

And found a nice little path going around the lake

Hark, what be that in the tree?

Another monkey!

Go monkey, go! Flyyy!

Through the jungle

To a nice little rock in the lake


On the way back, we found this creepy little bungalow built into the hillside

A beautiful flame tree on the boda ride home from Lake Nkuruba

The next morning, on our way to another lake we stopped by the "Top of the World" hill

Stopped by Nkuruba for breakfast

Some different fauna this time: hornbills

And on to the gorgeous Ndali Lodge

Back on the trail

Nice tree...

for climbing!

Down a windy little trail

to a bustling harbor

She leaves her mark

and back up

to a slightly different ecosystem

Wandering through village paths, wound up traipsing through a homestead

I was pretty nervous about hanging around for a minute to snap a couple quick pictures, due to the fearsome...


Continuging along. I love the blue borehole gate

Natalie was inspired to show off her ninja skills

Then I decided it was a good idea to follow a "trail" down to the waterside again.
Natalie was less than entertained.

Finished out the hike by trekking through a different sort of "jungle": a primary school

...where we picked up an entourage

Finally they went their way and we went ours

There's a storm a-brewin'

The next night I discovered our tent was under close guard from all birds, small primates and other intruders. The next morning I made friends with our guard.

We decided to drive into Kibale Forest a bit.

Lousy photo, but we learned that the locals have some interesting habits

Stopped for some breakfast on the other side of the forest. Mmm, katogo (sarcasm...).

Passed by this nice looking place.

But wait a second, is that...

Whoa now!

Some more locals having a drink

Baboons everywhere! They're considered quite a pest in this part of the world. The babies are still cute, though!

There must have been about 50 of them at this point. Kinda spooky.

Didn't want to run out of fuel around the baboons, so stopped at a petrol station

Picked up a bit of a DIY dinner

Hey little guy!

Next morning, Into Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary

At least somebody's hard at work

Get a room, you two. This is a family show.

Passed by some interesting exotic fauna. Notice how the body covering is carefully selected for maximum African-jungle-trekking-suitability and REI-supplied awkwardness. Me? Judgmental?

Guarding neighboring crop fields from monkey invasions (seriously...)

Back to Fort Portal. Damn traffic jams.

And that's all she wrote. My internet access for the next couple months is going to be spotty, so no promises... but I'll post if and when possible.

Here's to the next part of the adventure!