Wednesday, January 9, 2008

No More Baboons Jumping On My Bed

Bundibugyo, Uganda
Volume 2, Issue 28
January 8, 2008

-No More Baboons Jumping On My Bed-
…rhinos, lions, fear, and adventure…

I think many Americans have the perception that there are lions, elephants, and monkeys all over the place in Africa. That’s not true, but luckily Uganda has several national parks with such animals and over the past few days I was fortunate enough to visit one of these parks.

I traveled with Joyce (Ugandan), Pat, Ashley, and Sara (Americans) all over Uganda in a wild adventure of fun and fatigue. Our main destination was Murchison Falls National Park in northwestern Uganda. Though this park looks close to Bundibugyo on the map, it is not. It took many, many hours of traversing one of the worst roads I have ever been on to reach our destination, tired and worn from the journey. Though it was a difficult venture, we were rewarded on the way by coming across a rhino sanctuary. There are only two places in Uganda that have rhinos in the wild, and surprisingly we stumbles across one of them. As fortunate was on our side, of the 8 rhinos in the sanctuary, three of them were very close to the front gate that we entered. As such, we only had to drive 20 minutes before our guide told us to stop the car and start walking. Some days you must drive for over two hours to reach the rhinos!

Yes, I did write “start walking.” Why on earth would anyone get out of their car and start walking towards three very large, very intimidating creatures that could easily plow one over and spear you with one foul swoop?...adventure, excitement, maybe some stupidity too? Whatever the case I found my self walking around some bush when there before me were three white rhinos!!!

Next thing I know the rhinos come trotting out of the bush onto the dirt path staring directly at me with their horns lowered. I think it was around this moment when Sara asked our guide, “What do we do if the rhinos charge?” The reply “Climb a tree.” As I scanned around for the sight of the largest tree I could find, a lifeline if some 4,000 pound animal came charging at me, all I could see was small meager trees that would doubtfully bear my weight and could easily be knocked over with some small amount of force. Luckily for me, the rhinos did not charge, but instead sat down on the dirt path, only 25 feet from were I was standing out in the open. There in front of me, in plain view, were three of the most unique and somehow peaceful creatures my eyes have ever beheld. There is something incredibly freeing and exciting, though fear inducing, about seeing such wild animals in their natural habitat, no fences or barriers between you and them. It was amazing.

After our stint with the rhinos, we traveled onto Murchison Falls. We arrived very late at night, in the cover of darkness, to the Nile Safari Lodge. Though the word Nile is in the title of the location, it was not until I awake the next morning from my bonda that I realized that my little cabin was right on the river! I though I heard the sounds of wart hogs all night long, but quickly discovered with the rising sun, that it was hippopotamuses creating such auditory escapades! As I sat on my porch I watched the hippos’ heads arise from the murky river, only to descend again in to oblivion.

There were monkeys and baboons all around the lodge, and I even saw an elephant across the river. One of the more memorable moments was when I found baboons jumping on my bed…well, sort of. I was walking back to my cabin in the middle of the afternoon when I came upon about 25 baboons sitting on my front porch. As I turned the corner I saw that my front door was wide open and several baboons came scurrying out!!! I hesitantly went inside to check out the situation. I found my bed, that was just neatly made earlier in the day by the lodge staff, was in disarray. The nicely pressed sheets were now all jumbled up – no doubt, those baboons were jumping on my bed!!! And they had the nerve to come walking back up to my porch as I was looking around inside. I tried to use my African English to chase the baboons away, but they did not go far. Instead, they went about 15 feet down the walk way and jumped inside a canoe parked on the river bed. As I looked scowlingly at the culprits they gave me that glossed over “What? Us? Making trouble, no way” look, or they may have just been saying to each other, “Look innocent, maybe he doesn’t realize it was us.” Had I looked closer, I may have seen one baboon covering his eyes, another his ears, and another his mouth. Whatever the case, I can only envision 25 baboons hooting and hollering as they bounced up and down on my bed. I must admit, it was a nice bed.

The other highlight, besides seeing elephants up close and giraffes in the distance, was my encounter with lions – lots of them. Now, if you are still reading, you came across my story about the rhinos noted above. Well, I was not on foot when I was ten feet away from a large male lion, its female companion, and six cubs, but instead I was sitting on top of Pat’s SUV….out in the open air, no barrier between me and the lion’s mouth, only ten feet of distance – one pounce and I would have been lion’s meat!!! It was incredible! After my initial fear and shock, I realized how amazing this situation was. Here I am, ten feet away from all these lions, sitting on top of the vehicle, armed only with my camera. Stupidity – maybe. Dangerous – probably. Thrilling – absolutely.

It was an overall amazing time of reveling in God’s splendor as He wrapped me in His creation, ultimately feeling His incredible power. I am so thankful.

As I returned to the pediatric clinic today, I was again faced with the reality of life here. Children dying, people starving, others scraping by with what little they have. Most locals have never left this region, let alone seen an elephant or a lion. I have the choice to leave, they do not.

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