Saturday, May 30, 2009

Day What Ever!

It has been a couple of days since I was able to write. We have not had Internet access for several days. Let’s see…where do I start? We had the best time white-water rafting in Jinja. You would not believe how hard the rapids were. I suppose the real question is why they let beginners, like us, go over Level 5 rapids!!!!! We had three of them on this trip. There were a couple of 4’s and the rest were 3’s. They were a blast. This would never happen in the U.S. There is not a chance any rafting company would take folks like us over that kind of water. But, we prevailed. “We came, we saw, and we conquered.” I suppose this would be a good time to tell you that our guide did most of the work. Actually, our guide did all the work! When we went over the 4’s and 5’s, he made us “hit the deck.” I guess the only thing you might say about us is that we stayed in and never flipped, unlike the raft in front of us. We did the half-day trip and it was perfect. At times, we got out of the boat and floated down the river. It was such a great time. He half-day trip was great; we had several things to do in Kampala before we headed off to Paraa Lodge. The most important thing that we had to do was find epoxy for the bicycle training. We looked at a couple of places and were quite discouraged when everyone told us it could not be found. I knew better. We had not come all this way for one simple thing to stop us from doing one of the most important things we came to do. Deo thought for a moment and we stopped at a store that was one block away from our hotel that is an automobile repair shop. He had exactly what we needed!!! One block away…imagine that! We bought the epoxy and headed back to our rooms for a much needed bath. The Nile is certainly not the cleanest river in the world and we were covered by red dirt. We had a late dinner…again…and went to bed only to get up at 5:00 to head to Murchison Falls National Park and the beautiful Paraa Lodge. The trip to the lodge is long. It took us nearly seven hours to get from Kampala to the Lodge. We stopped at the usual places; first, to see Irene’s mom and Jovia. The Antonian crew who might be following this blog will know who I am writing about. Irene is Deo’s girlfriend. She is a beautiful gal…inside and out! Jovia is her little sister. Katie Gazda and I went shopping for a backback and some goodies for Jovia before we left. I have a picture of that beautiful little girl with her gifts…she was quite happy! Our next stop is always in a town called, Luwero. We buy fresh pineapple and chapatti bread. The young man we buy the chapatti bread from was just setting up so we stayed and watched him as he made the dough, rolled it out and slapped the tortilla-like dough on a skillet. The folks who are lucky there have charcoal to cook with so the process went quickly. Bryan even tried his had at making the delicious bread. I have a video of his culinary feat! I’ll save it for his fiancé to show her that he really CAN cook!? The rest of the trip was wonderful…at least I think so. I am so used to the bumps in the road that I am not troubled by the rough road. There is one part of the road that is being worked on right now and we counted 176 speed bumps. Now, that might not sound that bad, but when they are placed less than 40 feet away…it can become quite challenging to keep a smile on your face. The road into the park is long and very bumpy. There are miles that we had to roll up the windows because the van was swarmed by tse tse flies. That made for one hot ride. We were all a little testy when we arrived in front of the wonderful Paraa Lodge. We were greeted with very cold face towels and passion fruit juice. Our rooms are on the first floor, so we have lovely balconies that look straight into the Nile River. This is really one of the best of God’s perfect paintings! We had a quick lunch and then collapsed in our rooms for naps. We had gotten up early every day and we were still trying to recover from jet lag. We took an evening ride through the park that was not too fruitful, but it was great to get out on the savannahs and see what we saw. We were back at the Lodge in time for a wonderful three course dinner and then bedtime. We had a big day planned for today. The main thing planned was to sleep in…well, we were going to sleep until nine. We hired a boat to take us down to Murchison Falls and it was leaving at 10 a.m. We had their breakfast buffet and headed to the river. The trip was super. We saw “lions and tigers and bears… oh my!” I was wrong about that; however, we did see lots of hippos, elephants, crocodiles, birds of all kinds, water buffalo, wart hogs, and deer. There is a beautiful fish eagle that resembles our bald eagle and they are plentiful. It is amazing to see how many animals cohabitate. We saw pools where hippos, cranes, and crocs lived together in harmony. We could all learn from nature. Our destination was a hike to the top of Murchison Falls. Our boat driver was great…he gave us tidbits of information about the river and the animals and then let us ashore to climb a very, very steep path to the top of the Falls. The views were all spectacular. There is so much energy from those falls. Interestingly, this is one place that all the Nile Rivers (White, Albert, Queen, West, Victoria, and so on) converge. It is powerful! We took lost of pictures there as there really wasn’t a bad photo opportunity throughout the entire hike. Our guide met us at the top of the falls and didn’t understand why we didn’t want to pay his fee. And, it got worse…no one came for us. Deo finally was able to get in touch with a friend who was serving as a guide in the park, too, and he drove 45 minutes to pick us up. Apparently, when people, like us, come with drivers, the Lodge assumes that the drivers are going to pick us up at the top. What they don’t know about us is that when Deo is with us, he is family. He is NOT just our driver…he is our son, brother, and friend. We made it back, in time, to catch the ferry that brings cars and people over to the Lodge side of the river. If it were not for Jackson, Deo’s friend, we would probably still be there! It has been a lovely stay here. The ambiance is wonderful…the food is classy…the service is lovely…and the scenery is breath-taking. But, it is time to do what we set out to do and that is go to Gulu and start the bike training. I think that all of us are looking forward to serving the people of northern Uganda. I know I am! We have so much to do and not a lot of time to do it in. For my precious Antonian team…I miss you all very, very much. I think of the trip we made in March and wish you were here…constantly. I know the people of Gulu will be sad when they realize you are not with us. But, there is always another time. E.P.I.C. is going to do great things here…I just know it. Well, it is time for dinner so I’ll close now. I just wanted to update you since I have been unable to write for a couple of days. The best part of the trip is yet to come.

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