We had an incredible time this week as two of our great friends, Bryan and Jenna, visited from the States! During our last night together, I asked them how they were going to respond when they got the inevitable question: “So, how was Africa?” Bryan’s answer was something along the lines of, “It was a great adventure!” And I think that pretty much sums up our week - a great adventure with two of our favorite people!
Bryan and Jenna were our third set of visitors to Uganda, so we *thought* we knew the ropes of traveling with visitors well enough to prevent any major adventures! Little could we all imagine the adventures the coming week would hold...
Ryan and I had been in Kampala for a few days leading up to when B & J were supposed to arrive. We didn’t have any real plans on the day they flew in, just intended to get the the hotel and airport in plenty of time to be ready for their plane to land. However,Thursday we were surprised with a crazy offer - to attend a private visit Friday afternoon from our beloved Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the US Mission in Uganda! Our answer - YES! The event was supposed to be very brief - a quick speech, handshake, photo opp, then off to pick up our guests! However, even within the embassy compound, Ugandan time reigns! Madame Secretary was hours late, and although her speech was incredibly brief, we were still scrambling to get to the airport in time. As we raced to Entebbe in the back seat of a taxi, I realized that Jen didn’t have my phone number, the name of the hotel we were staying at, anything! I prayed to myself that they wouldn’t feel like being adventurous and would just stay put until we got there! And...they did! They beat us to the arrival area by mere minutes, so everything worked out just fine!
During our week together we had quite the adventures. We saw dozens of incredible animals in Queen Elizabeth National Park - a momma lion and her 3 cubs, leopard, hyena, giant forest hogs (very rare!), waterbuck, crocodiles, hippos, birds, kob, elephants, and many more. Our encounter with the elephants was among the most exciting. As we approached the road where they were, two safari vans full of tourists were totally blocking the road. We slowly drove nearer, and found a baby elephant all by itself. Our friend and guide Benjamin began to slowly back away - and we all understood why! If there is a baby, there has got to be a mother somewhere near by! In the end, the momma elephant and about 10 others emerged. No cars were trampled and, for better or worse, all tourists were safe! We stuck around for a while and ended up seeing one particular elephant about 10 feet from the car window! Benjamin also told us a story of how in 1992 the head conservationist at Queen was killed by a mamma elephant who had lost a young one and turned over and trampled the car he was riding in because she was so upset. Shortly after the telling of the story, we heard a strange noise behind us and Benjamin floored the car! All of our hearts tensed up and the look on Benjamin’s face was utter terror. In the end, it turned out to only be the muffler! Yes, in one afternoon we narrowly escaped an encounter with a dozen or so elephants and...a muffler.
Another memorable adventure occurred the day we toured a coffee plantation, to give Jen and Bryan (serious coffee lovers!) a taste of the coffee world from the Uganda side of things. In the midst of driving to the plantation, we had a breakdown. So, Benjamin got us set up with a colleague of his and went to work on fixing the car. He told us we were in for a one hour, low key visit to a coffee plantation where we would see the growing, picking, and drying process of coffee cherries, and learn about the husking and selling of the beans. So, off we went!
Long story short - our one hour coffee tour turned into a 3+ hour incredibly intense hike during the hottest time of the day through coffee fields, people’s backyards, rocks where ancient people made sacrifices, down and back up unbelievably steep bluffs (we cant’ possibly be headed that way....we *are* headed that way!), into an apiary full of very upset bees, and through fields where elephants had trampled everything in sight, including the coffee trees that were supposed to deter them from decimating the local people’s farmlands. At one point, I stopped to take a picture holding some relatively fresh elephant dung (the stuff was *everywhere*) and one of the guys asked how our guide could be sure that elephants wouldn’t come back through the area while we were hiking through. His answer: I just predicted...?!?! Luckily, despite our complete lack of preparedness for what we ended up enduring - terrible footwear, no water, no sunscreen, and Bryan was injured - we arrived at the tourist lodge at the end of the trail relatively unscathed! We tromped up through the resort, looking like a group of dusty nomads, being stared at by all the comfortable tourists sipping icy glasses of water and enjoying the view - at least until we appeared in it! I will never forget the looks on their faces as the four of us, disheveled and utterly exhausted, dragged ourselves up to the bar for some water.
Other adventures during our week included political riots and teargas, bumpy bus rides, trying to avoid Ebola, playing nerdy strategy games by candlelight, and Bryan walking around Uganda with a cane...priceless! And, of course, we had many, many incredible conversations and times of laughing so much we could hardly speak!!! It was an incredible week!
I’m so thankful for friends like Bryan and Jenna with who, no matter how long it’s been, we can pick up exactly where we left off! I’m so thankful to the opportunity to catch up on their lives and share a bit of our Uganda with them! (Love you guys!!!)
Here's the link to pics of our week together!
We love and miss you all!
PS - Beware: Where there is fresh elephant dung, we hear there are likely fresh elephants!