Uganda: October 2015 – Ms Maher’s Blog
We are all home safely. Nurse Lees put in it in a nutshell when she said: “In staff meetings, trip leaders always report back on how brilliantly our girls have conducted themselves and engaged with every aspect of a school trip. I had never quite appreciated to what level they meant until I witnessed the way in which the girls on this trip empathised with others and appreciated everything they experienced. The way they worked together and supported one another was a true privilege to witness.”
As always, I could not be more proud of our Withington girls!
27th October 12 noon
We are at Entebbe Airport. Now for the long journey home! We’ll have a long wait at Dubai and will take off from there at 3am tomorrow morning. ETA in Manchester is 7am Wednesday 28th October.
23rd – 26th October
Friday morning saw us all packing up ready to leave Jinja later in the day. The morning was spent back at Glory Be Nursery where we spent time with the ‘top class’ making masks and wreaths – the latter were used as hats by the children!
Lunch was taken back at The Keep and then there was time for some last minute shopping before we set off for the drive to Red Chilli Hideaway near to Kampala. Arriving in good time after a very bumpy drive and some alarming moments due to lack of road markings – we soon enjoyed lovely warm power showers and pizzas for tea.
Sleeping in dorms proved a bit cramped but everyone was able to organise their cases and decant luggage for the safari into their back packs. Up at 5.45 on Saturday morning, we had breakfast ordered the night before, picked up packed lunches and set off for our safari!
The journey to Red Chilli Rest Camp was long, but our drivers – Sam and John – were fab and organised some ‘rest’ stops. Fortified with cokes and other sugar-loaded nibbles we were soon in raptures of delight and excitement at seeing our first wildlife in the shape of baboons – lots and lots of them – all shapes and sizes. On arrival at Red Chilli Rest Camp, we were assigned to our ‘bandas’ – little huts on the campsite.
Once settled in, we were off again to the Murcheson Falls. Our guide was excellent and took us to all the key vantage points for these amazing falls. Some of the steps were pretty tough but all were pleased they had made the effort to experience such a spectacular sight.
On our return, there were one or two issues with creepy crawlies in the ‘bandas’, but true Withy resilience shone through and after tea we settled down to a good night’s sleep.
Breakfast was pre-ordered and all ready for us when we got up so we had an early start for our safari. Our party was split between two open-rooved mini-buses and another bumpy road and a ferry ride later we were in the Game Reserve.
Our guide – Sarah – was particularly informative. We saw amazing wildlife – warthogs, hippos, buffalo, five kinds of antelope, giraffes … and then … walking along the road nonchalantly towards us – a lioness!!
We all got some amazing snaps – and from such close range. And as if this wasn’t enough – we then came across a herd of elephants who, again, were so close we could get detailed photos and sight of them.
On the ferry back, one group showed us footage of a lioness bringing her kill to a male lion. He then takes it – apparently he gets the best bits and she gets what’s left! Clearly it’s a man’s world in the animal kingdom too!!
Arriving back for lunch everyone was buzzing with what they had seen and the enormity of this national park. In the times of Amin it had been closed to the public and the army had used the animals for target practice. The number of elephants had been drastically reduced and the rhinos actually removed totally. The nearby rhino sanctuary has built up the rhino population again with success. They now have 18 and when they have 30 they will release them back into the wild.
In the afternoon, we left for the boat cruise and saw many, many hippos and a few crocs. Lots of birds too but we soon had a sudden change in weather to contend with as it switched from exceedingly hot and sunny to monsoon downpours. Those who had left their cagoules back at the camp were soon very damp! Back at camp, a cup of tea seemed like heaven.
Planning to leave camp asap to get back to the Hideaway for a swim and chill (and lush hot showers!!) we set off at 6.30am. However, as the saying goes, ‘the best laid plans’ … one hour into the journey one bus ground to a halt! After an hour or so, the problem seemed to have been fixed but alas … we set off only to find ourselves reversing after ten minutes as it had recurred. Adjourning to the garage ‘office’, our bus load had to wait for a further two hours until another bus arrived to take us to a nearby restaurant. We soon perked up as this was a lovely hotel owned by an English lady from Derbyshire!!
We finally got on our way and boy did our driver, Sam, put his foot down! Stopping only for the loo and pineapple purchase we were soon reunited with the others and revelled in showers and clean clothes. Our last meal was followed by awards and charades.
25 October 2015, 7.30 pm
A couple more pictures have found their way through the ether!
The party have now embarked on the ‘safari’ leg of the trip and there are not high hopes for connectivity, so we might not hear anything further for the next few days.
Meanwhile, a few more pictures from previous days have made their way to our ‘cloud’ storage. There are some wonderful pictures of some very happy and healthy Ugandan children!
23 October 2015
Some more pictures to share.
22nd October 2015
Thursday was WGS day – African style. We spent the day at Wanyange Girls’ and we began our visit to with an informal chat with the girls in groups.
We had taken a selection of photos which proved really useful for getting the conversation flowing. The girls then started the craft exercise we had brought – decorating WGS bags! They loved them but just wished we had taken more with us. After this we were seated outside for a dance display. These were quite energetic in a hip-gyrating, bottom-wiggling way!
We all thoroughly enjoyed the display which was followed by lunch in a classroom. This was really lovely too although quite a few of us were not tempted by the yams.
After lunch we were persuaded to the netball ‘court’ where mixed teams were created – thank goodness as many of the girls were very out of practice! Volleyball followed with Lexi providing a huge amount of entertainment with her ‘avoidance of the ball’ tactics! After being taken to the view of Lake Victoria and sharing a chorus of Cheerleader it was time to say goodbye accompanied with many hugs and exchanges of email addresses.
Our evening meal was at a more upmarket rendezvous – Jinja Sailing Club. Sitting in our ‘glad rags’ under a gazebo watching the sun set over the water, it was hard to think of Autumn weather back at home.
A few more random pictures have arrived from preceding days:
The little boy on the right looks quite presidential!
21 October 2015
We had time for shopping first thing as well as putting in our lunch order at The Source restaurant – this is the way to avoid the usual hour long wait – order it 4 hours ahead!
We spent the morning at Jinja Connections which is again for street children (all boys except for one girl) and had a great time tee shirt printing and interacting with them – even playing a frenetic game of football – with way more than 11 a side!
The lonesome girl provided a very sad tale for the girls. Diana had run away after being beaten by her step mother and rejected by her father. On the streets the nine year old had been abused by the many boys there until Jinja Connections found her. She spends the days there and the evenings in a safe house. She is such a beautiful little girl. It just seems so wrong.
Having finished our tasks we got into the bus and set off to clean up before our sunset cruise. How lucky were we?! The weather had vastly improved since lunch time and the cruise enabled us to see the Nile at its best. Soft drinks & nibbles accompanied our jaunt along the river as well as a very eclectic mix of music. A truly memorable night!
(sorry no pictures of the Nile at sunset yet!)
20 October 2015
The day was spent hugging, playing, feeding, bathing & even potty-ing a huge amount of under-threes! The Sunrise baby home is for orphaned babies. After a lovely few hours we had to prise them off the girls – Jess and Sabrina were particularly excellent carers of their little charges – and go for lunch at The Keep as well as a bit of shopping.
The afternoon was spent in a very different place – the Home of Hope for severely disabled children – many having been abandoned by their parents. There were indeed some heart-wrenching stories. The girls spent over an hour providing much needed attention, affection and stimulation. The space blankets & bubbles provided much hilarity and fun.
We returned to 2 Friends for our evening meal and had a really good night there.
19 October 2015
The girls had time to relax at the start of the day – freshening up, lazing in the hammock and being super-Withy girls, some started their day with a bit of study!
There was also a bit of drama with the door handle coming off inside one of the rooms leaving the two girls in Room 7 unable to get out! Mrs Lees proved herself surprisingly adept with a knife at the lock but a handy man finally released our duo. Of course one of them had to be our Issey who just has to be the most jinxed member of this team!
During lunch there was a deluge but as we finished the sun returned in time for us to resume our painting project at nursery as well as helping to plant grass. Well, Talia and Verity and I did the latter – it did not seem so appealing to the rest. Can’t think why! The only way to do this was with fingers and removing of flip flops which got sucked into the sodden soil! Ahh well, we certainly were one with nature!
18 October 2015
We finally arrived but then had to encounter passport control which took ages and then we were on the way to Jinja – in the rain! After a lovely tea accompanied by much yawning at 2 Friends Lodge, we settled in for what was a good night’s sleep!
17 October 2015
Everyone arrived on time at Manchester Airport where the adventures began – especially for Issey who encountered the first of her mishaps – and they came in 3s! Her case decided not to remain closed despite being locked … so after having it wrapped in cling film she then had to have it all removed as she was 0.7kgs overweight. Removing several pairs of shoes, finger paints and various other objects we then re-wrapped it!
The flight to Dubai was in Emirates luxury but Issey encountered her third calamity when a fellow passenger managed to pour Pepsi into her trainer!