The days starts far too early: and as we push through Kampala’s heavy early morning traffic we read that Kampala’s Kasubi Tombs, the main historical site of Uganda’s Buganda tribe, has been raised to the ground. Speculation abounds and there’s a tendency to react first and ask questions later.
“I arrived in Uganda with three animals on my wishlist: elephants, lions and chimps, and I’ve seen two of them within 24 hours,” my visiting friend Neil says.
Within 48 hours he’s been baptised Segawa, brother to Nagawa (yours truly) from the Red-Tailed Monkey clan.
In just a week, Uganda has transformed Neil: “I want to get so close that its breath steams up the camera lens,” Neil says – and that bloody great male baboon nearly does too. The baboons at Kyambura are enormous and don’t run off like they do elsewhere. My colleague Patrick tells me very seriously “a boy on a bicycle carrying ripe bananas cannot even pass by there.”
The mountains are breathtaking – if you can see them. And this is one of the wonders of QE. Ten minutes of rain and the landscape is transformed, the barely discernible outlines of hills have metamorphosed into hills and mountains. The night spreads out before us as we scan the floor of the Rift Valley on our evening game drive, elephant-shaped shadows silhouhetted by the sunset behind them.
As we drive on we pass a herd of “Boofalows” as the indefatigable Rashid points out. We sip Amarula around the campfire before falling asleep to the sound of trumpeting elephants (I sometimes wonder whether I’m making this all up).
I’m really lucky that work takes me out to the Bush (Queen Elizabeth National Park) every few weeks and every visit is different.
A couple of firsts include:
a Black Mamba, measuring at least 8 feet, that shoots away from our car like a bolt of lightening;
Stacey and Cathy have a Green Mamba in their shower!
We see two bright green Chameleons, walking very s-l-o-w-l-y along a branch, and we see a Spoonbill, a weirdly beautiful bird. Twitch.
So for the second time in six months, I’m keeping my head down in Queen Elizabeth National Park, far away from the trouble as angry Baganda, sporting strips of the traditional barkcloth fashioned into bandanas, bracelets and headbands take to the streets of Kampala.
“President angered by Kasubi rumours” the newspaper headlines read. So if ‘truth is the first casualty of war’, I wonder whether the tombs are the first casualty of the elections? If not, by the torching, then by the political capital that one or both sides will endeavour to make of