We've had a traumatic few days since I last updated you. Very sadly on Monday Sue's Mum passed away and her and Samuel have now returned back to Australia.
All of us here would like to pass on our love and sympathy to her family.
They should be enormously proud of Sue and Samuel - Ruby sure did raise an amazing daughter and Sue an amazing son! I can't tell you what an absolute privilege it was have them here.
To watch them enjoying all of this together and sucking up every last experience was a sheer pleasure. Sue and I are Ugandan sisters now and I know that in the not too distant future the Brown and Neale families will be back in Uganda together again!
So here's what else has been happening................
On Saturday after spending a night in Masaka Town in what felt like absolute luxury we set of for Fort Portal. We looked at the map and thought that the first part of the day looked like it would be the easiest because we would be traveling on tarmac roads from Masaka to Mbarara.
No such luck - the roads were horrendous! In the Ugandan governments wisdom they have ripped up almost the entire 140km of road so it could be re-sealed! We bumped around for hours before finally arriving in Mbarara for lunch and a pit stop without the now familiar pit - flushing toilets - yippee!
The next part of the drive looked challenging on the map as we would be changing to dirt road. It actually proved to be considerably easier except for one section where we almost got bogged.... but David expertly saved the day with his fabulous driving skills - Well done Mr Ssemogerere!
As we approached Fort Portal we stopped many times to get directions from the locals so we could find our way to the community run project (Enfunzi) we were wanting to visit. The boys and I had visited there last year and I was keen for David and I to talk to the people who run it so we could pick their brains on what has worked for them and what hasn't. Finally around 5.30pm we pulled into the campsite.
Sunday we visited the orphanage connected to the community campsite and spoke to the pastor that runs it. I'm sure both David and I learnt much from this experience, both good and bad. We spent much of the afternoon discussing what we had seen.
We both agreed that Suubi needs to run very differently from Enfunzi. By taking only the best bits from other projects we visit and moulding them into the vision we have for Suubi we will achieve the best outcomes. While we were doing this Annette, Yvonne and Sue took a guided walk to 'the top of the world' while Ashlee and Samuel took time to relax and learn drumming from some of the local teenagers.
Ashlee and Samuel "The African Drummers!"
At the end of the day we were all entertained by children from the orphanage with their brilliant singing, dancing and drumming.
Some Orphanage Children Dancing up a storm!
As I said earlier, Monday was a really tough day for everyone. Sue was trying to stay incontact with her family as we travelled through some remote areas, where the mobile coverage was intermittent, as we drove from Fort Portal to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
After what seemed like days, but in fact was a few hours, we finally arrived to discover that we couldn't get any rooms in the hostel! By this time David was also quite sick with malaria! He rested in thecar while we all had a late lunch.
I was really getting quite concerned about him when Sue suggested he might be able to take the tamiflu we had bought with us in case any of us got swine flu. This reminded me that I had medication that you should take if you get malaria in my first aid kit!
Ishmael dragged my bag down from the roof rack and David took the 6 tablets I said he needed. He said he couldn't remember the last time he had malaria and he hadn't taken tablets for a number of years but I think he felt so unwell that he would have tried anything at that time!
By 3pm in the afternoon we were setting off on a cruise down the Kazinga channel that Annette had organized. David wasn't well enough to drive us there so Sue expertly took over driving the delica.
Sue our expert driver.
As we floated along there were many elephants, hippos, water buffalo, crocodiles and bird life that everyone was excited to see for the first time. After almost two hours as we climbed off the boat we had a guy from the hostel waiting there to tell us that they had a cancellation and we had a room for the night. We were all extremely relieved as it turned out to be a small house that suited us perfectly!
Very early Tuesday morning we set off on a game drive with a guide that we would drop off at the park gate as we headed out. Samuel, Ashlee, Annette and Ishmael climbed up onto the roof rack to get the best view and our driver extraordinaire, David (who had made an amazing over night recovery), expertly negotiated the park tracks without tripping them off!
We hadn't travelled very far before we were came across a large herd of elephants grazing with very tiny babies.They were very close to the track and at one stage turned to come towards us! David took off!!!
The guide calmly said, 'do not fear, they will not harm you!" We had to travel 40 kms into the park so the guide encouraged David to drive a little faster and by then the adventurers on top were getting used to hanging on! As we were driving along we came across four very old men pushing their bikes along the road.
They excitedly explained to the guide that there was a lion on the track ahead where they had just come from!!!!! !!!!!!!!!! Oh my GOD!!!! They didn't seem inthe slightest bit worried!! We slowly drove forward and pulled up right next to it! I can't explain what it felt like to have a lion staring me down through the open window of the car!!
Eddie,our guide, said "it is not a problem during the day, but if you were to meet him in the night when he is hunting you would become his dinner!!!" Even Eddie was very excited to have had such a close encounter with a lion! We continued on through the park spotting many wart hogs, cobs and other antelope.
Our very first Suubi Safari game drive was indeed a huge success! As we left the park we dropped of the guide at the main road and were just discussing what a great morning it had been when we came across a family of baboons sitting in the middle of the main road - only in Africa!
Lunch on a plate for the Vultures!
Ummm, everbody, he's coming this way you know?
A Happy Hippo. Just leave me alone, OK!
Yes, I can see you, and I am hungry.
Antelope are very grateful when the Lions are distracted.
These Baboons just do not seem to care at all! Whatever.
The very first Suubi Safari Crew!
From there it took us about an hour to reach Bushenyi where we dropped Sue, Samuel and Ashlee (she had decided to return to Bujagali for the last week of her trip) off to catch a bus back to Kampala. (I'm sure that would have been another Ugandan experience all of it's own!)
After seeing them off we set off towards Lake Bunyonyi where we would be staying the night. When we reached Kabale, Ishmael inquired about how we could catch a bus to Rwanda the following day.
We soon discovered that it wasn't going to be that easy! David and Ishmael suggested that we should drive to the boarder to organize a special hire from there and get all the information we needed about crossing the boarder.
This was quite an experience in it self as we watch them negotiating with a number of different guys that surrounded the car. As I watched Yvonne lean forward to lock the doors of the car I thought to myself,""She has grown so much in confidence since we arrived but this will test her!" Of course she survived this as well! As we pulled into beautiful Lake Bunyonyi that night I think we were all glad to see the end of the day.
Wednesday proved to be one of the most harrowing experiences I have had since first venturing to Africa in 2007. We made the trip into Rwanda (without David as he had left his passport behind) with a guy who spoke barely any English, to the genocide museum.
I have no words to describe how confronting it was to learn all about the 1994 massacre of more than 1 million tustsi's during the100 day conflict with the hutu's. To think that this only happened 15 years ago and the world stood idily by and did nothing made me sick to the pit of my stomach. Pictures, videos,written stories and various information vividly describe what had occurred during this time and told of over 2 million people being left displaced.
Other areas of the museum also told the stories of genocide in Namibia, Nazi Germany,Cambodia, Armenia and the Balkens. It appears we have learnt nothing from these past atrocities as the same thing is now occurring in Sudan!
The last part of the museum was dedicated to the children that were lost. Photos and information about many children who were slaughtered were displayed around the room and as I walked through I felt like I was suffocating as I imagined them being my own children.
The museum left us all feeling absolutely exhausted! That wasn't the end of it though......we travelled on to the church at Ntarama where more than 5000 people were massacred in one day! Inside the bones, skulls, clothing and personal belongings of the victims were displayed on rack after rack. As we walked through I thought to myself "that is the entirety of the town where I come from (Kyabam) being wiped out in a single day." I felt physically sick!
The Genocide Museum in Rwanda
The flame burns for the 100 Days of the Massacre every year.
..................I don't have any words left....................
As I said at the beginning it has been a traumatic few days!
I am looking forward to getting back to 'Suub'i where we are helping to create 'hope' and a positive future.
An extra big HUG to you all tonight.