A toad hops towards us as we sit on a stone wall at the Ndere Cultural Centre. I love the casual reminder that He Was Here First: “you can have your dancing troupe and your landscaped gardens, but I’m a toad and I’ll go where I like.”
Am I seeing things? Or did I just pass a man with bow and arrows pacing around in the dark at the side of the road?
Eleven o’clock at night along the main road from Kampala to Namuwongo, I imagine he was looking for an intruder. Our friend’s night guard Wilberforce has a bow and arrows too but it’s the first time I’ve seen someone wondering the streets of the capital city with them.
It’s usually at the point in the day where I think I’m used to the sights around me that I see the most fascinating things. But, almost a year in, and Uganda still has plenty of surprises for me.
I go to sleep to the sound of the drums coming from Soweto, the slum a few hundred metres beyond my compound wall. I dream of hippos.
We did a whistlestop tour to Queen Elizabeth last week to sign the contract for construction of Uganda Conservation Foundation’s first building, an accommodation block for four rangers. Kasese was so hot, even the locals were complaining.
As we drove from Busenyi towards Kyambura Gorge (a staggeringly beautiful view down across the floor of the Rift Valley) we overtook a car full of cow, trussed up in the boot. (I mean how the hell did they get it in there?!) My colleague Patrick and I were both really upset seeing this. We passed some police but they were looking the other way so we carried on driving.
When we told the Uganda Wildlife Authority (U.W.A.) what we’d seen, the reply was: “I expect there was a cow in the back of the car too.”
The Chief Warden told us how they recently found a car stuffed full of hippo meat, and not just in the boot; the owners had ripped out the whole interior of the car, including the front passenger seat so all that remained was the driver’s seat. The empty space was then filled with several tons of (illegal) hippo meat.
When the poachers realised they’d been seen, they dumped the car in the forest. UWA decided to leave the meat in the car; two days later it was a stinking mass of maggots. The ranger laughed as he says “Needless to say, the poachers didn’t bother returning to collect their car.”