Rubugari, Uganda. February 2, 2016.
I chose the Grey Crowned Crane as my Bird of the Day mainly because it is the official symbol of Uganda and so figures in the centre of this country’s flag. It is stately (an appropriate adjective under the circumstances don’t you think?), beautiful and quite common. A pair of them wheel past our village every morning calling their long mournful and resonant ‘ waaahaaa’. They are a treat to watch at any time. But cranes aside there is no shortage of engaging, eye- catching, irridescently colourful, extravagant, or just simply beautiful birds almost everywhere. There can be no bird of the day as long as every day keeps delivering so many prizes.
In some ways Uganda takes some getting used to, in other ways it is all so simple and uncomplicated; people here work hard (or at least the women do) to cultivate the very fertile land. A mere six months ago the only thing I could have told you about Uganda centred around the legacy of Idi Amin who destroyed or looted everything of value and left Uganda a burned-out country; the basket case of Africa. True, Idi Amin was nothing short of a disaster but the people of Uganda have moved on, indeed it is a young person’s country with almost no memory of his days.
In this little corner, the extreme south-west of Uganda close to Rwanda and the democratic Republic of Congo, it could be a paradise. The land is steeply hilly, green and productively fertile; We are in a land of folded mountains and lakes that trace the line of the Albertine Rift, an offshoot of the Great Rift Valley.
Close to where I’m staying is a large national park, a tract of tropical rainforest, the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, virgin Africa; jungle maybe. It is appropriately named, Tarzan could never hope to swing more than ten metres in this place. I have no idea how you could move forwards, backwards or sideways once you’re inside it. Bwindi is where you’d go to see Mountain Gorillas, provided: a) you can make your way through the forest and b) you can afford the $600 (US) guided permit.
All around me most of the reasonably reachable land is cultivated in pocket sized small-holdings, the system of land tenure seems to be determined by community needs or historical family occupation. Subsistence farming has its postcard charm but there’s no doubt that these people are very poor by any western standard. It’s hard not to be enchanted by their kindliness, their friendly ” I-am-Joseph-how-are-you” embrace and little children in over-sized T-shirts ( and nothing else) calling out ”Alloo -How are you. I am fine” from the fields along the way.
This marks the halfway-point in my return to a world where communication links are reliable. If some of the next few postings seem to be in the wrong tense ( like the one above) it’s just because I drafted them a while back and I plan to post them more or less as they were written.