Leaving Fort Portal: Missionaries, Monkeys and Volcanic Crater Lakes

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Thanks to our chance meeting with Derrick on the broken down Link bus, our time in Fort Portal has been interesting to say the least. There is nothing like a local with connections in Africa.

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Ugandan cattle, ridiculous horns!

As we sat outside eating dinner one night we heard a crowd roaring in the distance. We looked at each other confused as there really wasn’t much to see in the direction of the sound. We assumed maybe there was a football match going on. The next day as we passed that very area with Derrick, he told us that a thief was caught and stoned to death there yesterday. We can’t be certain it is what we had heard, but it is likely. Thievery in Uganda is an incredibly serious crime, and mob justice strikes hard and swift. Thinking back to our own run in with Kampala thieves, we were again glad not to have sentenced anyone to death by making a scene.

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The airfield

Derrick really wanted us to meet his boss, an American missionary named Jeff who has lived in Uganda for nearly 20 years. We were really glad we did, because Jeff turned out to be one of the most interesting characters we’ve met in a while. We met out at the airfield they were building, which right now is little more than a hangar under construction and a Cessna locked within a high ring fence. The Cessna which Jeff flew from the USA to Africa! If you know how small these planes are, and how limited their range is, you’ll realise that is quite a journey. It certainly made for a great story, especially the part where the engine blew up just after leaving Djibouti. If we didn’t already think he was crazy for attempting that, we did after hearing of his medical supply missions into rebel controlled areas of Rwanda and Uganda during the 90s. Or the time he acted as an election observer and encouraged people to vote for whoever they wanted in front of corrupt Ugandan officials telling people how they must vote. The man must truly see his faith as a bulletproof vest. Meeting Jeff also blew away the stereotype we had in our heads of American missionaries in Africa. He was far from the money-grabbing hate-filled evangelical preacher type that we’ve seen before. In fact he didn’t mention tiny infant Jesus once all day. He is simply a well educated and fairly progressive man who really likes helping others, and doesn’t mind occasionally putting his life on the line for it. Aside from the whole religion thing it’s safe to say we shared a lot of similar views. We managed to get plenty of talking in as we broke our record for a restaurant wait in Africa. It took three whole hours before all of our food reached the table, which is not at all uncommon. Back home we’d joke that maybe they’d gone out to buy and kill the chicken for the curry we had just ordered if the food took longer than half an hour. In Uganda it is most likely they are killing and plucking that chicken after your order had been placed.

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Climbing up through the villages

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Goat. Lake. Derrick.

Upon leaving Fort Portal Jeff offered to drive us to our next stop at Lake Nkuruba. We’re glad we took this option as the horrifically potholed dirt road was much more comfortable in his 4WD than it would have been in a matutu. On the way we stopped at another crater lake to check out some land he had recently purchased. It is an incredible spot. Nestled amongst the rolling hills of banana plantations with a view down to the turquoise water of the crater lake. Land in Uganda is dirt cheap. This kind of plot in Australia would cost at least 100 times more. The eventual plan is to build his family home at the peak, with a row of bandas to be rented to tourists along the ridge. When it’s done, we’d certainly like to stay there… or manage it (hint, hint if you’re reading Jeff!).

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Colobus - Likes: Avocados, Dislikes: Sharing

Our arrival at Lake Nkuruba was greeted by scores of monkeys hurling themselves through the trees above. Colobus, Vervets, Red Tails and Red Colobus. So many monkeys. At any given time you could usually count at least 20 in any one location. No electricity, no running water and as it turned out, no other people. We were the only guests. Our ‘cottage’ (tin roofed shack with a big double bed) was right down by the lake, completely secluded. Well that is of course except for the monkeys, frogs, birds, butterflies and masses of unidentifiable insects.

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Our lakeside cottage

We proceeded to do almost nothing here for the next few days, aside from watch the monkeys who were quite entertaining. We did take a walk to ‘The Top of the World’, an unfinished resort with a view over three crater lakes. Aside from that it’s been pretty quiet. Well, except for the night we got ambushed by a column of about five billion pissed off ants on our way to the toilet block. I now understand how they manage to build the huge dirt mound colonies that we see everywhere that are taller than me. They climb and bite ridiculously fast, the utter bastards!

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