Friday, July 18, 2008
by Dave Peters
We have been on the go for almost four days now. We are all very tired but we are well and are having quite an adventure. We arrived in Uganda late in the evening Wednesday (after 25-27 hours of travel) and spent the night in Entebbe before heading west to Fort Portal Thursday morning. About five hours later we arrived in this beautiful, mountainous area not far from the Congo border. Thanks to the cool, moist winds from Lake Victoria the region is cool and lush. In the afternoon we toured the 15-acre farm of Mwesigwa Kamanyire James, the project coordinator of Sunrise House here in town. James grows bananas, papayas, guavas, sugar cane and coffee beans (which have wonderful small white flowers that smell like gardenias). He also raises chickens and dairy cows, as well as tilapia in his aquaculture ponds. We received a wonderful sampling of some of his fresh fruits and honey from his bee hives.
Later in the afternoon James took us to Sunrise House, an orphanage that houses 51 children and supports an additional 16 in boarding schools. Hope 4 Kids recently began partnering with Sunrise House and currently sponsors 25 of their children. They have a new building that is able to house 40 to 50 more children, but they lack the money to support them. Our hope is that the H4K sponsorships will continue to grow to fill this new dorm. We also met James’ father, retired Anglican Bishop Eustace K. Kamayire, the Founder of Sunrise House. He is a wonderful, godly gentleman who has faithfully served his church and country before, during and after the reign of Idi Amin. The children showed us their dorms, then thrilled us with songs and dance. Children throughout this country sing and dance as none others I have seen or heard. It was quite a treat.
This morning we loaded into three minivans and headed south along western Uganda to Queen Elizabeth National Park, one of the crown jewels of country. It was a two to three hour drive to the park which sits along the shores of Lakes Edward and George which are fed by the Rwenzori Mountains to the west. The first signs of the adventures awaiting us came during lunch outside at the visitors center. We were excited to see a family of warthogs come trotting through the courtyard. Shortly afterward a small elephant joined us. After lunch we boarded a boat for a tour of the Kazinga Channel, a 32 kilometer long waterway that connects the two lakes. This tour was the inspiration for Disney’s Jungle Cruise, and we soon learned why. We saw groups of four, five and up to ten or more hippos lounging in the shallows, and saw hundreds by the time we were done. There were many water buffalo, and an amazing assortment of birds.
Later in the afternoon we boarded the minivans and set out in search of lions and other wild game. We saw many warthogs, a group of rare forest hogs, many waterbuck and kob (an antelope which is the national animal of Uganda). An hour or more into the land tour, our ranger guide spotted a pride of lions off in the tall grass. They were barely visible from the road, so the guide said we could make a quick trip off the track to get a short look, We drove in and all of us got a good look at the pride. Pastor Bob (Messiah Lutheran, Yorba Linda, CA) is an avid photographer and apparently he could not get enough great shots. The guide, who was in our van, urged us all to leave. Two of the vans did so, but Pastor Bob and his van stayed for just one more shot. As we got back to the track we watched as a park police officer sped towards Bob’s van which was still out near the lions. We later learned that he approached them rifle in hand and proceeded to inform them they were all under arrest. Fortunately, James from Sunrise House was with and talked the officer into allowing them to pay a 30,000 shilling fine (less than $20). Before they left one of the group asked if they could drive around the pride one last time before they left, and the officer kindly agreed. It was just another example of Ugandan hospitality!
It was a long, grueling bus ride back to Fort Portal. We are exhausted, and have a ten-hour bus ride ahead of us tomorrow. God willing we will arrive at our mission site in Tororo tomorrow evening, and will worship with our Ugandan friends on Sunday. Thanks to all of you for your prayers and support. (After we arrive in Tororo, we will post some the great pictures we have taken, including one of Bob’s lion shots.)