Monday, July 25, 2016

On to Fort Portal

500 year old tree, Semliki National Forest

This kind of work can take a toll on you. After listening to and documenting the many tragic stories about the war, the failure of previous NGOs, the current economic distress, untreated war injuries, and mental health issues, I was beginning to feel a bit helpless with a touch of disenchantment. The RLP offices all close for one week every year, so I decided to travel, as much as I could. So on a much needed break, I went with some friends to Fort Portal, perhaps one of the more touristy areas of Uganda. I was told  that this area was always favored, and not just because of the tourism. This was evident in the  paved roads and two story buildings--an entirely different experience from Gulu. After a 9 hour long bus ride through Kampala, we landed in Fort Portal. First stop, pizza. Oh, how I could write this entire blog about food; the things I miss, the things I ate in Fort Portal, the food I dream about at night. But I digress. I will say the pizza was phenomenal, and I went to the same place every day I was there, fully aware that it might be my only opportunity until I am home to have my favorite food.

Our first hike: Fort Portal,
1 mile straight up

Kibale National Forest

While in Fort Portal, we ventured to Kibale national park, the Rwenzori mountains, and Semliki national park. The Kibale rainforest was absolutely beautiful, dense and full of forest elephants prints and monkeys in the canopy. We stayed at a place right on the outskirts of the rainforest, and went on a night walk where we saw a genet and bush babies. At Semliki we saw hot springs where rituals are still performed by the Bamaga clan. But perhaps my favorite part was hiking through villages on the outskirts of Bundibugyo trying to find the Bwamba Pass through the mountains. The people were kind and curious, and made sure we found our way. 

The Female Hot Spring, Semliki

As the week came to a close, we made our way back to Kampala for a night. It was interesting to see how I had changed since I had last been there. I was no longer fearful of the capital city, and being there felt completely normal. I had wanted to see the friends I made in my first days in Uganda, but in such a short time it wasn't possible. I did, however, find my favorite boda drive again. I stocked up on books and granola and loofas, and then we made our way back to Gulu. Despite how nice it was to have pizza, to hike, explore, and relax, I found myself missing the people, dirt roads, and feel of Gulu town. As I was warmly greeted by the people at my guesthouse, I realized I was happy to be back. I felt recharged, refreshed, and ready to do more work. 

Bwamba Pass, Rwenzori Mountains

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