21-Mar-2004 -- My first confluence log 2N 34E a week ago was so much fun I decided to see if I could log another. My friend Henry Okiria was quite excited to see his picture on the internet when the last log was accepted, so he was quite energetic about rounding up help for this week's adventure. We consulted our maps and picked out what we thought would be the nearest road to our target. The crew consisted of me, my friend Henry, his friend Tony and Tony's fiancée Stella. We got the car within three kilometers of the Confluence about 2:30 PM, so it looked like a nice short afternoon hike.
In this area of Uganda it is quite lush. There are little paths that wind their way around the edges of the fields. We saw potatoes, maize, mango trees, cotton, papayas, squash, cassava, taro, and several other crops in all in various stages of development. The trails never go quite where you want to go, but you can keep your general bearings and work your way towards your goal.
We were halfway there when things began to get wetter. The crop of choice now was rice. And then we hit the wall of papyrus. This was an impenetrable, vast wall of green, higher than our heads. And we could see no end to it. The other minor problem is that papyrus grows in the swamp, and the longer we stood there looking at the problem the deeper we were sinking into the muck. So we beat a hasty retreat to the nearest compound.
We found a friendly native and asked for directions. Henry is the best man to have around in this situation. There are well over thirty languages spoken in Uganda. Henry's father was an engineer in Uganda who moved around from one place to another, installing cotton ginning equipment. As a child, Henry tagged along and spent months in each village, picking up the language. He thinks he speaks about 20 languages, but he's not quite sure. Henry asked for directions through the swamp. The local was happy to lead us through. So off we went due west, with our destination due south. Our little afternoon walk turned into a major hike through the hottest part of the Ugandan afternoon. All of the exhilaration of a long hike with the added attraction of tropical heat.
One of the highlights of this walk was an encounter with a Crested Grey Crane. This magnificent bird is the national bird of Uganda and it is easy to see why. It stands tall enough to look you straight in the eye. Which it does. It doesn't seem to mind humans a bit. We stood two meters from this fellow and he was quite content to stand there and look back.
About four kilometers into this detour, Tony had Henry ask the obvious question - was there a road nearby on the other side of the swamp? Of course there was. So Tony headed back to the car with another man who could lead him to the road while we continued on foot.
Three hours later, we had crossed through the swamp on a trail that included several places where impromptu bridges had been built of hand-hewn log bridges. Finally we got to our destination. Tired, dry, and totally drenched in sweat. That's when the batteries on the GPS gave out. So we swapped two batteries from my camera with two from the GPS long enough to get the readings! Success at last.
The landscape around you can look barren and devoid of all life, but if you happen to be a white guy in a funny looking hat and you stand in one place for more than five minutes, a crowd will appear magically out of nowhere. While we were letting the GPS average its position, sure enough, here came the crowd. Ugandans are the friendliest people I have ever met. They are always glad to meet you, and happy to help you out on any crazy scheme you might be into. Especially if it means they get their picture taken. And when you leave, there are handshakes all around with smiles and well wishes.
The best part of this adventure was that even though it took us three hours to get to the spot, we just walked up the trail another half a kilometer, and there was Tony with the car!
I would have posted this sooner, but a security guard at a bank in downtown Kampala dropped my laptop, smashing the screen to smithereens. Everything else on the laptop worked fine, but I had to wait until I returned home to get the images off the laptop for posting.