Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Let's Try This Again

There's been no posts for a number of reasons. In Kampala, blogger wouldn't upload any posts & I wrote and posted three that never showed up. So, you all lost a weeks worth of info from Kampala - which isn't a huge deal because we were just at the conference and not much happened.

Then, I didn't have access to a computer or internet connection in Mwanza. The Mwanza club kept us super busy and there wasn't enough time to break off, walk downtown and sneak into an internet cafe.

Now, here we are in Arusha. Bill and I are staying with an American ex-pat named John who has a computer, internet connection and the good will to let us jump on whenever we need. Thank you John.

So, what to write.

We stayed at the Speke Resort in Kampala Uganda for a week. It was nice if you like staying in high security compounds surrounded by guys with automatic assault rifles. We were there for the Rotary District 9200 Conference. We met people from Eithiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tazania as well as the other Canadian GSE team (from St. Catherines) and the American team (from San Diego).

The conference was billed as an environmental conference so naturally I was pretty excited about the discussions and seminars they'd be offering. Unfortunately there was very little on-theme content. As a result, we spent a lot of time doing very little. Fortunately we got time to rent a boat and head out onto Lake Victoria. One of the more ironic and mind-boggling things we found out, was that the Speke Hotel - home of the Rotary District 9200 conference "Our Environment Ourselves" - is built on a wetland. A practice specifically prohibited by Ugandan Federal Law. Except: The owner of the Lodge is good friends with the President of Uganda.

We did get a chance to spend a day in downtown Kampala and that was mind-blowing. Kampala is busier than Dar, more aggresive than Dar and dirtier than Dar. However, we found a fantastic traditional Ugandan restaraunt above the main intersection below the state house. There are Marabou Storks flying around all over the place and they're ugly buggers. People in Uganda hate them because during the Idi Amin years, the storks used to pick the bodies of the dead.

Out of Uganda and off to Mwanza on the 21st of May. Mwanza was really cool. Bill and I got a ton of freedom when we weren't with the Rotary club. Our hosts were out of town and left us three bedroom, two story walk up flat in downtown Mwanza. We basically had the entire place to ourselves and the freedom to come and go as we please. Naturally we left whenever we could and spent some time walking the streets of Mwanza.

The girls unfortunately had much tighter controls placed on their time as their host was paranoid about security, lived behind a locked gate and wouldn't let them leave on their own. As we've run into irony all the way along, it seems that Mwanza shouldn't be any different. Before we left Alberta many of us watched Darwin'd Nightmare a documentary film about the Nile Perch fishing industry on Lake Victoria based out of Mwanza. The owners of the Nile Perch Fish Company were portrayed very badly and the industry was essentially accused of starving the local population. The reason being that the introduced Nile Perch are outcompeting the local Tilapia and other native species to the point where local lake dwellers have nothing to eat. The owners of the company came off looking really bad. Imagine our surprise when we meet the girls' host and lo and behold, he's the guy from the documentary. It gave us lots to talk about and surprisingly he was very forthcoming and willing to talk about the industry, the film and it's effects. He went so far as to give us a tour of the fish plant and answer darn near anything we asked him.

The rest of the Mwanza stay for me was great. I spent time hiking and climbing in the hills above the city. In order to get up onto the rocks you have to climb up through a massive squatters' settlement. It's incredibly well organized with mud & stick housed set into the rock faces. The people were super friendly & once they realized that we weren't from the WHO and that we weren't looking to relocate them, they were perfectly happy to let us past and up onto the rocks.

From Mwanza we flew to Arusha, where we are now. Arusha sits at the base of Mount Meru. In terms of climate it's completely unlike anywhere else we've been. It's cool, damp, get's lots of rainfall and everything is green. There's even moss growing in the trees just like on the west coast.

We spent three days on safari (our mid-point vacation to ourselves). We hired a Land Cruiser and a driver and spent three days in Tarangirie, Lake Manyara and Ngorongoro Crater National Parks. Pretty impressive with the laundry list of animals you'd expect. In three days we saw: elephants, giraffes, lions, cheetahs, warthogs, wildebeest, hartebeest, servals, blue monkeys, baboons, spotted hyenas, a black rhino, hippos, countless birds, nile monitor lizards, a chameleon, gazelles, antelopes and on and on...

Lots of pluses to being on safari and a few negatives. Lots of issues around disappearing wildlife corridors, genetic viability, habitat distruction, etc... To many to go into detail here.

I had a fantastic meeting with a guy named Clive Jones who was with the African Wildlife Foundation & now works on renewable energy projects including PV work. That was one of the best two hour periods I've had since I arrived.

Two more days in Arusha then off to Moshi, Tanga, Zanzibar, Morogoro & then back to Dar es Salaam.

Later all.


Sparroweye said...

Hmmmm..... But... did you see a lion
take down a Zebra? I have a water
snake problem. I feel about water snakes about the same way I feel about black widow's. Not gonna touch them. He better leave soon. Why didn't my owls take care of him.

Shelley said...

if you think Patricia will let you get away with "countless birds"...man, you better have a list :)

We will continue to follow along with keen interest (love the writing style) and not a little envy