I've been in Finland for almost two weeks already, but I just couldn't bring myself to write this journal entry… until now.
The trip to Uganda was probably one of the best experiences in my life. I saw and learned so much. It's such a beautiful country, and the people are so friendly (at least most of the ones I met were). I find it a bit difficult to talk/write about what I saw and experienced, because people who weren't there can't fully understand. But I'll try and tell you something.
The flight from Helsinki to London lasted for around 3 hours. Even that felt a bit too long for me, so the flight from London to Entebbe was just pain. It lasted for 9 hours. Watching "The Lion King" helped me feel a bit more comfortable. Around 11pm Ugandan time, we landed on the Entebbe airport. My heart felt like it was going to come out of my chest. I was finally in Africa!
As I stepped out of the plane, I breathed in the warm, moist and "frowsty" air. It was so hot that I thought I was going to faint. Fortunately, the air was better outside of the airport.
We spent the night in a motel's garden where we set up our tents. I didn't sleep well because of all the noise. Birds were screaming, cicadas (or something like that) were chirping. I was surprised by the fact that nature could make so much noise. In Finland, especially during winter, nature is so quiet that you'd think everything is dead…
The next morning, we went by bus from Entebbe to Kampala, the capital city. We had rented the bus (and the driver) for the whole trip. The towns were so different from the ones we have here. There were no big multi-storey buildings, just flimsy-looking shacks. And there was rubbish everywhere, and everything looked dirty. However, most people were wearing quite nice and fancy clothes…
The traffic was different from what I've used to. Firstly, it was left-handed. Secondly, it was just crazy! It looked like there were no traffic rules at all. And they used the car horn all the time. In Finland, people don't use it often, and when they do, the message is "Out of my way, idiot!". I think that in Uganda, the message was more like "Hey, here I come! Do you see me?"…
The Ugandan greeting was also something new to me. People greeted everybody, even strangers. In Finland, I hardly even greet my neighbors… At first, it was very weird when complete strangers smiled at me and said "Hello, how are you?". To me, "How are you?" is a question. The person who asks that question is interested to know how you're doing. But if you don't even know me, what do you care how I'm doing..? And usually they didn't care. They were already gone before I could answer.
On the third day, we left from Kampala to Lake Nkuruba Nature Reserve. The journey took around 10 hours… Children ran towards the bus and waved their hands at us. It felt so… weird.
We spent two days there and listened to what our teachers had to say about the lake's ecology. It was a small but deep crater lake surrounded by forest. I would've loved to swim in it but couldn't because of the parasites, such as bilharzia.
On the fifth day, we left from Lake Nkuruba to Kibale National Park. We spent five days in a biological field station and walked around the rainforest. We saw many primates, for example baboons, black-and-white colobuses and chimpanzees
. It had never even crossed my mind that we could see chimps in the wild… That was an amazing experience.
We saw a dead forest elephant that had been killed by poachers three weeks earlier. There was not much left of the animal, just bones and skin. The smell was unbelievable… as was the amount of carrion flies…
On the tenth day, we left from Kibale to Queen Elizabeth National Park. We spent three days there and saw elephants, warthogs, hippos and many different bird species… But no lions or leopards. The only carnivore we saw was a spotted hyena, and it was so far away that I couldn't take a photo of it.
On the day 13, we left from QE to Lake Mburo National Park. There we saw zebras and antelopes. But no elephants. Our teachers told us that different species are purposely located in different national parks, so that tourists would have to visit all of them to see all the big mammals. For example, there were no giraffes in the national parks we visited.
To see giraffes in the wild, we would have had to go to the northern part of Uganda, but we couldn't because it was said to be a dangerous area…
On the day 15, we went to Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria. The next day we visited a small healthcare NGO called Bery's place. The house was full of girls with sad pasts. Some had been orphaned, some had been raped… My heart aches when I think about it.
On the day 17, we left from Ssese Islands back to Entebbe. The journey took the whole day, and as we arrived in Entebbe, the course ended. We were free to do whatever we wanted.
The next day I went to a zoo with two other girls. There we finally saw giraffes, rhinos and lions. Of course seeing those animals in the wild would have been better. But hey, I had never seen giraffes, rhinos or African lions before, not even in zoos. And the conditions in the zoo were much better than I expected… The animals seemed to be healthy and happy.
In the evening, our group and teachers went to a beach to eat dinner. After the sunset, some kind of mayflies started swarming. I think there were millions of them… After the dinner, it was time for us to leave to the airport.
We arrived at the airport at 21:00, and the flight was supposed to depart at 00:45. But we were informed that because of the weather conditions in London the flight was late. For an unknown reason, we were not allowed to go inside the airport building, so we had to sleep on the sidewalk. The flight finally departed at 05:30, and I had to say goodbye to Africa. I swore I'd go back someday.
I watched The Lion King again in the plane, and it somehow felt different from what it used to feel like. I had been in savanna, I had seen the sun rise above it… But anywhere we went, we saw signs of human activity. "Wild nature" did not exist. Of course I knew that already before the trip, but it was sad to see it with my own eyes. But if there hadn't been roads, houses and electricity, our trip would've been impossible…
When we arrived at the Heathrow airport in London, I could not understand what the problem had been. There was so little snow it was hardly worthy of mention… We had to wait for a few hours for the connecting flight to Helsinki. We got back to Finland at 23:10 Finnish time, and my dad took me from the airport to a hotel. It was freezing outside, and so much snow… I wasn't too happy to come back as I hate the Finnish winter.
Ok… Now I've told you something about the trip, and my brain hurts. I learned many things, not only about Uganda's nature and culture but about myself as well.
I'll upload some photos later. And don't worry, I haven't forgotten about the comic. I'm just having a little art block.