Africa, home of the wild! June 11, we boarded British Airways for Africa. Two days later, we arrived at Entebbe, Uganda, airport. There were six of us: my older sister Mikka and her mother Carol, Mikka’s friend Jenn, my brother Za and sister Apol, and of course, me, Indeah.
FINALIST 2010 YOUNG TRAVEL WRITERS SCHOLARSHIP
UGANDA—“The Land of Insects”
June 13-15 – Entebbe/Ngamba Island
My second trip to Africa and I couldn’t be more excited!Out of all the visits, Ngamba Island will remain on the top on my list.On a remote island, where we can go on walks with chimpanzees, we stay comfortably, in the Ngamaba Island Camp of our “luxurious” tents.
“Are you serious?” Apol, my little sister stared down at the miniscule pup-tent that was made for one person, but somehow they managed to cram two pads into it. Auspicious beginning… but we didn’t mind, we kids (Apol, Za, and I) just wanted to see our friends, the chimpanzees.
The next morning it was raining drops the size of nuts. In our soaked jumper suits, we ventured into the pen where the chimpanzees greeted us with enthusiastic hugs. They led us into the forest, jumping and swinging from tree branches.Za thought it looked fun, so he climbed up a tree to join them. The chimps were too excited, and swung from his legs as he desperately tried to keep his grip (those chimps are heavier than we are).
After a while at a steady leisurely pace, our chimp companions halted suddenly. Without warning, they sprang across the path, running at full speed. Za and I were bewildered and started to follow them, when our guide shouted, “Move quick, red ants.”
I wasn’t afraid of ants, so I gleefully followed my brother as he hurtled over a log. I jumped over it too, and stretched my arm out to steady myself with a branch—when I realized it was moving. Millions of ants covered the trees and the forest floor. Every spot was a moving ant. I bolted to where the chimpanzees now stood with my brother—close call.
We saw Apol walking unhurried through the trees and shouted at her to run.She obeyed without hesitation, avoiding the ants as well.However, our other sister Mikka and her friend Jenn did not hear our warnings, and stopped to chat, standing right in the middle of the nest. Within five seconds their legs were engulfed with red ants. Our guide yelled, “Look down at your legs! Move!”With shocked expressions, they looked, shrieked, ran, and began stripping their clothes off. We couldn’t help it—Za, Apol, and I laughed.
ENTEBBE/KAMPALA – “The Tsetse Flies”
“Tsetse flies are large biting flies that inhabit much of the mid-continental Africa between the Sahara and the Kalahari deserts. These wonderful specimens live by feeding on the blood of vertebrate animals and are the primary biological vectors of trypanosomes, which cause human sleeping sickness and animal trypanosomosis, AKA nagana. Avoid them,” our native driver warned. The jeep was silent, and I couldn’t help but glance up at our lack of roof. During the day, this jeep would be preferred, with the excruciating heat, as the wind blows in your face. However, at sunset when the night is cooler… and the deadliest predators are the insects….
“Oh, stop the car.” murmured the soft voice of Carol. That voice was an omen.
“MOM! What are you doing?” Mikka, my older sister shrieked.
“I want a picture of that elephant.” All eyes followed her pointing finger, when a low buzzing reached our ears.
“THEY’RE HERE!” My brother shouted, pulling out his Doom insect spray and aiming at several flies at once. My sisters screamed and cowered lower in their seats, but my attention was on the tsetse fly on my armrest.
“Za! Back here!” I screamed, thrusting my hand in the air. With a blur of motion the Doom spray was in my hand, and with one squirt the fly next to me died.
“Front!” I threw the can to my brother and proceeded to spray the deadly swarm. With no weapon, I took my hat and swatted away what I could.
“Carol! We need to move,” Za yelled, throwing me the can once again, for Apol, our little sister, was in danger.
“I got it,” Carol announced nonchalantly. Ever so slowly, the jeep pulled away from the death cloud and speeded toward our camp. With our final sprays, Za and I collapsed, exhausted.
“Welcome to the Mihingo Lodge.” Our guide smirked.
ETHIOPIA – “The Divided Worlds”
June 18-23 – Addis Abab/Mago National Park/Hammer Bena
Where Are We?
Our itinerary for Ethiopia was educational, flights into six different remote villages that were supposedly untainted by modern civilization. It was extremely interesting, but already well written about. What impacted us kids was the drive from the outside airport into our hotel, in the center of the city Addis Abab.
From the airport into the city, along the road, were houses—at least, that’s what I assumed they were. Pipes were holding up coregated roofed little 6X6 cubicles with a fires outside to cook food, a copper wire strung with dirty clothes… I didn’t know where we were. From my window I could see people staring out our bus, looking inside and pointing. We came to a stoplight, and someone tapped on my window.
“Don’t look at them,” our guide snapped, not looking up from his paper. My sister and I dropped our focus, seeing from our peripheral vision a hundred eyes.
“Why aren’t we allowed to look at them?” The driver muttered something about them only wanting money. It seemed like we were passing through our first “remote village,” although it wasn’t on the itinerary.
We drove up to a big wall with guards standing by a gate entrance. After a couple of minutes of their looking over our vehicle, our IDs, and luggage, they let us pass. Once through the gate, it was like entering the Land of Oz. Cultural shock. It was modern civilization at it’s peak. Everyone wore western clothing. Opulent shops lined the streets all the way to our prestigious hotel, “Sheraton Addis,” where the representatives to the current meeting of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa were relaxing in our suites—they decided to stay an extra day.
RWANDA – “Our Real Africa
June 24-27 – Kigali/Volcanoes National Park
After three hours ascending a 65-degree jungle mass, machete-ing out our path, we saw them—the biggest family of Silverback gorillas, with four full-grown males and who-knows-how-many females and little ones. Za, Apol, and I stood in awe; Mikka, Jenn, and Caroll collapsed in exhaustion. The gorillas grazed, ignoring us.
“Get back!” Growled a man with a riffle, pushing Apol and me into a wall of brush. Four hundred pounds of silver and black hurled towards our guide, who quietly stood waiting. With a grunt, the protective, dominate male batted our guide to the side, turned around, and huffed off. Dominance established, the leader allowed us to observe his family.
TANZANIA – “The Orphans Refuge
June 28-30 – Dar Es Salaam
At midmorning we left the Kilimanjaro Hotel Empiksi to visit a local orphanage, bearing gifts. Congregated in their rough wooden floored, wooden tabled, and smoothed wooden benched lunchroom, we distributed pens, pencils, notebooks, and several choices of clothing to the older children. To the little ones we passed out crayons, colored pencils, markers, and drawing paper. In addition, each child chose an individual gift, plus we supplied the school with several volleyballs, basketballs, footballs, Frisbees, energy bars, and anything we didn’t want to haul back to the states. After that, we headed for the playground!
My brother, an accomplished martial artist, proceeded to teach several adoring youths some basic moves. My older sister, Mikka, and her friend, Jenn, both volleyball coaches, set up a game of volleyball. Apol and I sang and danced with the remaining local orphan children. It was a very heartwarming, satisfactory day.
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