Friday, September 21, 2007

African Safari Series - I

I must confess that while setting out on the East African Safari I hadn't bargained for as much as it eventually offered. I ventured only because it made sense to me to see atleast a bit of the "dark continent" while being posted here. The chance of spending a few days with my wife was a pleasant addendum. Since I will not be able to do justice to the vacation in one post, I propose to intiate a series commencing with the present one.

The plan was to arrive at the optimum balance of liesure and adventure within the limitations imposed by my tight budget.Here is how we went about it:-
Day 1, 2 and 3 :-
I landed at the Entebbe airport (40 km from Kampala) in Uganda where Sudha joined me after about an hour. (This is the same airport where the Israeli commandos carried out a successful clinical raid in 1976 after an Air France plane was hijacked by Palestinian and German terrorists who were overtly supported by the notorious Idi Amin).

We hired a taxi to Jinja, a small sleepy town on the banks of Lake Victoria, halting on the way in Kampala to change money and give an "All OK" report back home. We felt at home while driving down the country side as the vegetation and landscape was much akin to that of Kerala. The road side was lined with jackfruit, banana, papaya and coconut trees as well as hibiscus and bogainevilla plants. There were stalls selling tapioca and fish.The yam leaves (the base ingredient in the recipe of "Patravodo", the patented konkani dish) were in abundance. We checked into a laid back resort called Kingfisher which had refreshing ambience, a lake side beach, beautiful flora & fauna, boating facilities and a swimming pool. Add to it some homely food send across by ammumma and I felt like someone had given me the address of paradise.

The number and variety of birds in this place was amazing. Lanky herons, melodious bulbuls, beautiful egrets, the pied kingfishers, noisy commorants, majestic fish-eagles ... and the list goes on. We even hired a local fishing boat to go to the isolated Samuka island where I suspect some trees had more birds on the branches than leaves. Joseph our boat-man cum guide poured out his knowledge to the extent that we soon felt overdosed.I found the fishing techinique employed by the pied kingfisher very interesting. It would hover a few feet above water fluttering its wings hard and nose-dive into the lake on spotting a fish. I waited for long to get a good snap but was dragged away by ..... you know who.

We had interesting company. A big British family comprising of father, mother and eight kids who were all over the resort (in fact we were so curious that I had to tactfully ask the father wether all kids were actually his, which he confirmed). I loved the concept and spirit of the vacation that this family enjoyed. While the parents and infants had a room, the bigger kids were housed in a tent pitched in the lawn. The family enjoyed outdoors like rafting, kayaking riding and fishing in the day. The father conducted informal swimming and diving tutorials for the kids in the afternoon when the mother enjoyed a book by the pool-side. Evenings were lit up by clebrations beside a camp fire. The older kids always looked after the younger ones. Some other characters in view included a senior lady who kept sitting under a garden umbrella with a book in one hand and coke in the other, some Japanese students who were always brisk-walking across the resort and a local couple who mysteriously appeard by the pool-side after mid-day. To our surprise a swarm of Indans appeard at the pool on Sunday. Most of them were Gujju business familes from Kampala. The scene by the pool was transformed in minutes.Plump Ladies in Salwar kameezes, Sethjis chewing pan and tennaged boys doting Dhonisque hairstyle gave the place the semblance of a marketplace in Surat. For some strange reason all the tourists vanished into thin air.

During out three-day stay at Jinja we also visited the source of Nile and the Bujagali falls. Ganghiji's bust is the last thing one expected to find in Jinja. I quietly nodded my head when the knowledgeable Joseph explained to me that Mahatma Gandhi was an Indian President whose ashes were immersed in the Nile here. One gets tempted to try out bungee-jumping and river-rafting but took my wive's advice not to test the strength of my twice- injured spine. Uganda is one of the three countries in the world which has Mountain gorillas and the offers an opportunity of tracking gorrillas in their natural habitat. We however had very little time at hand as the wild-life in Kenya was awaiting us. In the evening of day 3 we boarded a bus for an overnight journey to Nairobi.

(Some snaps taken during this trip can be seen here)

to be continued ......


15 comments:

dharmabum said...

the gujjus - is there any place on earth where one can not find them? :)

africa huh? lucky u. i soooooo envy you. hope i get to go there sometime too.

sudha said...

This was the most wonderful week of my life.These are "bright memories"of the "dark continent". We had a very nice time in Uganda. It is rich in variety and number of birds, which compelled us to start a new hobby of Bird watching. The vegetation was similar to that of Kerala,felt like we were in a home away from home while driving down the country side......

Srijith Unni said...

Very interesting, Naveen..! Will wait for the continuing posts..!

Have Fun, Take Care and God Bless.!

With Best Regards,
Srijith.

Nanditha Prabhu said...

I am really happy to know that you guys enjoyed your trip.And i enjoyed reading about it too.eagerly waiting for the sequel.family with 8 kids is not uncommon here too.i even read about a family with 17 kids.......

diyadear said...

nice post.. liked the pic too.

Gazal said...

The gujjus the world over know how to enjoy themselves!!!!

no pun intended...!!!!
indeed 'spirited'people!!!
i guess the africans too are 'attached' to gandhiji in some way!!!

'posted'
are you in the army???
thanks for dropping by on my blog.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

Great! I have found some avid bird-watchers! Me too, just a beginner, you know. I rarely come across people who like bird-watching. And Africa! The mother continent of more than half the bird-species! You are sooo lucky. When I grow a little older, I want to travel to africa too...such a great continent in terms of biodiversity. You are lucky you are in Kerala, because Kerala is greener and richer in species than Karnataka. And yes, you seem to be a great traveller, an uncommon one at that---Africa, Tibet...unusual travels.

Lakshmi Bharadwaj said...

PS: How long does it take to travel from here to africa by plane?

Naveen said...

dharma ... hope u get to tour africa too

sudha .. :)

srijith .. thanx

nandukka ... 17 kids !! it's a family or a soccer team with support staff ?

diya .. thanx

gazal ... ya ... the language is a give away ... isn't it?

lakshmi .... thanx .. i'm no bird-watcher ... it's just that i happenned to lay hands on a book on words during the trip .... but i really did like the idea ... may start after retirement .. hope u get to travel too ....

time depends on where u want to travel to in africa ...

santhosh said...

"...I hadn't bargained for as much as it eventually offered"

Boy! Couldn't agree more. There was this trek in the Himalayas that I'd signed up for and did they give me the (mis)adventure???

Suma Rajesh said...

hello vinnannu,
through this post i can show smera the pic of another mammu and mayi .....
its sooooooooooooo nice to c u and sudha onni after a long time and it comes to know that u both enjoyed a lot ....and also ur writting regarding the beauty of nature in Uganda was fantastic....

Maddy said...

all i know about africa is from wilbur smith novels and the south africans i know, hearing me comment so, say - ugh! wilbur smith? he has wrong notions!!

was nice reading about your trip!!

Kalyan said...

WoW...some really beautifully captured shots & it was wonderful reading your safari experience!

MyVision said...

vinnu, have heard about african safari, and read some experiences many years back... when in school and college i was an avid reader of travel experiences, ofcourse malayalam ones... i too hope to see africa sometime... enjoyed reading...

narendra shenoy said...

Loved the post. I hope there are more in the pipeline. Are you a fish eater? Did you try the Nile Perch? I've heard they're very tasty. I'm dying to check out Uganda. Have heard a lot about Ethiopia too and their cuisine.