Uganda 2017 Day 12: Driving, driving, driving!

In order to allow ourselves a bit more free time later in the week, I had scheduled a number of appointments for today. Subject to confirmation from Yowasi, we were due to meet the District Education Offiver for Rubirizi, Stephen Birru, a man we have got to now well; the District Scout Commissioner; visit Kyambura Primary School; and, finally, drive out to Mahyoro to drop off letters from their twinned school – West Meon.

We had intended to leave at 9.00am, but confirmation of our itinerary didn’t come through until after 10.00am, so we were late in leaving. We were going to pick up Yowasi from New Life Junior School and then get Muhudi (our scouting expert) from his school near to the offices at Rubirizi.

The drive up to New Life was terrible. I was now totally fed up with th euseless road surface and the prospect of driving up and down it several times today did not fill me with any joy. An indication of how bad the road surface was duly appeared at Kyambura when we came upon a jack-knifed lorry carrying salt and the drivers and his friends looking dazed at the side of the road. The lorry was still there nearly twelve hours later.

We arrived at New Life to meet Yowasi. When he saw us, he asked us why we hadn’t picked up Muhudi. We discovered that he was at home at Kyambura as he had managed to walk on a nail and had gashed his foot.

After doing some quick filming at New Life, we had to drive back to Kyambura (past the jack – knifed lorry)  to pick up Muhudi and then all the way back up to Rubirizi to meet Stephen Birru.

Stephen was in good form and very pleased to see us. He had given Mrs Green the connection with Kyambogo University and was very pleased to hear about her meeting.  He was also very interested in the work we had done at Kafuro and was very keen that the school use every means possible to become self-sustainable. He was strongly in favour of introducing a mobile phone chargng service to the school. He even recommended to Yowasi that he install satellite tv at the school and charge local residents to watch Premier League football. Somehow, I can’t see Mrs Myers doing this at Liss!

We had brought a mountain of neckties (neckers) and badges from scout groups all over the UK thanks to the very hard work of Mrs Prior at Liss. The District Scout Commissioner was overwhelmed and could not believe how much equipment she had received. Unfortunately, we had missed a big scout meeting the week before, but the commissioner was going to make sure the equipment was fairly distributed and send photos.

After this really successful meeting, we headed back towards Kyambura to visit the Primary School, which is twiined with Sheet Primary School. On the way, we had to make a couple of stops. The first stop was the Doreen Hotel, whcih is where Yowasi decided we should have lunch. Mrs Green and I had goar Muchomos. The bill for four of us was £5!

Our next stop was to visit Yowasi’s dad. I have met his mum several times before, but never his dad. Yowasi’s dad is in his 70s (ancient by Ugandan standards) and suffering the aftre effects of a stroke. However, he was very pleased to see us and spoke excellent English. He had heard all about us and wanted to find out about our families.

We got to Kyambura Primary School about 4.00pm where I met briefly with Hope, the headteacher and Moses, the Twinning Project Co-ordinator. This was a very frustrating meeting as both their laptop and their tablet have reached the end of their natural lives, but they didn’t bother to inform Yowasi so we could’ve brought out a replacement. I gave them some money for data and they are going to use Hope’s smartphone to communicate. I felt very sorry for Mrs Newton, the coordiantor at Sheet, who has done a brilliant job in communicating regularly. Hope did promise me that she would have letters ready to take back to Sheet.

It was 4.50pm when we left Kyambura and we had an hour’s drive to Mahyoro. This is usually one of my favourite drives because the scenery is stunning, but a) we were running very late and b) it was very cloudy and the light was beginning to close in. We finally made it to Mahyoro at 5.50pm where we were met by the co-ordinator, Julius – the children had gone home an hour ago. I handed over the letters from West Meon while Mrs Green took aphotos and gave Julius money for internet data. He was very pleased to see us and gave his best wishes to the children and staff of West Meon Primary School.

It was an hour’s drive to Yowasi’s house to drop him off before we finally headed home past the jack-knifed lorry and along the worst road in Uganda. We were so late coming back we had to use the main gate into Mweya (rather than Katunguru) which added 15 minutes to our journey. Add to this rubbish headlamps on our car, clouds of dust, a pitch black night and full beam headlights in my face from other vehicles, and I’m sure that you can understand that I wasn’t very happy by the time we got home at 8.15pm – over two hours later than planned.

The day had a successful conclusion. Joshua, the chef at Tembo, had given us a chicken for visting his school and it was beautifully cooked alongside rice, salad and …wait for it…Irish potatoes. It was a nice end to an exhausting day.

Tomorrow we’re going to visit Katunguru Primary School in the morning and go chimp trekking at Kyambura Gorge in the afternoon.

 

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Queen Elizabeth Parks Project at West Meon School

Queen Elizabeth Parks Project Team Members returned to West Meon School recently to take part in the School’s Open Day.
Rangers Joe and Steve ran sessions on what it takes to be a Park Ranger and manage a Nature Reserve.
The pupils learnt about wildlife monitoring, looking after the habitat and visitor management as well as undertaking tasks such as building bird boxes, collecting insects and learning about wildlife.

The pupils asked some fantastic questions and were fully engaged in the day. Ranger Joe said ‘ The children worked really hard and had amazing knowledge, they seemed to enjoy meeting the Slow Worm and playing the environmental games’

The Queen Elizabeth Parks Project will be visiting Mahyoro School in July and will be sharing their experiences at West Meon with pupils and teachers.

        

 

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Uganda 2016 Day Nine – A successful meeting

Today was the first joint teachers and Community Conservation Rangers meeting at Hippo House. The main aim as far as I was concerned was to give the opportunity for teachers and rangers to find areas of commonality and plan assemblies, lessons or activities together so that they could work similarly to how Liss has worked with Steve Peach in the past and Joe Williams now.  It was my job to chair the meeting and facilitate the activities. Sixx CCRs plus the Community Warden, Olivia Birra, showed up along with seven teachers.

We were extremely fortunate that Charles Etoru, who co-founded the Twinning Project with Steve Peach, was in the area and had agreed to give a speech. He was inspirational and (better still) ended up staying the whole morning so he could work with the groups. We discussed friendship, communication, blogging, planning activities together and came up with a list of agreed actions which should allow everyone to move forward together. The Twinning Project also gave each school an amount of money to help them communicate through email and blogging with the incentive of more money being released if the Ugandan schools reached a target number of emails or blog posts by the end of October.

The meeting finished at 16.30 and we went to the safari hostel over the road for a couple of drinks to celebrate before going down to dinner at Tembo. Tomorrow we are visiting Kyambura Gorge and we have to be up at 05.30. As much as I’m looking forward to chimp tracking another early start is not high on my list of priorities.

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Joe the Ranger’s final post from Uganda

So here on the shore of lake Victoria ends my adventure. I have had a wonderful and met many truly incredible people. The past day and half have involved me being shown some sites by the Rangers, and seeing some different areas. I visited the Rwenzori NP, I saw some ranger outposts, and of course and abundance of wildlife. I have had a truly remarkable stay here in Uganda and have learnt many things. I have to thank UWA and the staff of Queen Elizabeth NP, Bwindi Impenetrable NP, and all the friends who have helped me on this trip and who have made is so enjoyable and unforgettable. I’m sad to be leaving but I look forward to returning next year, and coming in to talk to you all about my time here next term! I’m now in Entebbe airport waiting for my first flight, I should be back on the U.K by half twelve tomorrow afternoon.

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Footnote: Joe has arrived home safely!

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Ranger Joe visits Bwindi

I’ve had my first day in Bwindi impenetrable national park. It is a glorious area of outstanding natural beauty, with green mountains covered in thick jungle. Monkeys, birds, snakes, elephants, and the wonderful mountain gorilla call this park home. I’m sat in a small hut in the tree tops watching the birds and listening to local music; it’s great here! Today, I was taken by one of the Rangers to visit the waterfalls and look for wildlife, I had an amazing time and even got to swim under a waterfall!

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Ranger Joe’s weekend post from Uganda

I had an incredible day today with the law enforcement team! I saw a very different side to the work done by Rangers in this dangerous and exciting field. Protecting wildlife is what all Rangers work to do, but law enforcement do it in a very direct way- risking both injury and at times death to protect the incredible wildlife that resides in their park. Today we were out at first with the police tracking a suspected criminal who had tried to seek refuge in the park. And later we spent the rest of the day on the water, obtaining illegal fishing nets in an area where they are not allowed. At times we came ashore to check in the undergrowth for signs of illegal activity, this was very exciting as we were walking up and down hippo paths (and also a bit scary!) I’ve had a great day working with the Rangers who are among the bravest men and women I’ve ever met, their work is truly on nature’s front line.

Rangers collecting illegal fishing nets.

Rangers collecting illegal fishing nets.

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Joe the Ranger visits Kafuro, Kyambura and Katunguru

I’ve had a wonderful day today visiting schools around QENP. I started in Kafuro and met with the energetic Yowasi. We spoke about the progress of the school and the enjoyment both the teachers and pupils get from the wonderful twinning project! Later we visited Kyaambura which has to have one of the best views from a school I’ve ever seen! The pupils were lovely and I spoke to them about being a ranger in the UK- I had to explain we don’t have anything quite as big as elephants or quite as dangerous as lions! But what we have we love and as a UK Rangers we want to protect. Finally I visited Katunguru who are twinned with Hart Plain, I was lucky to have a guided tour of the school and spoke with many of the pupils who were really lovely! I then returned to QENP on the back of a motorbike which was really fun! We saw some elephants and lots birds on the way back in.

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Ranger Joe’s latest post from Uganda

Hi again everyone! I’ve had a couple of days of recovery on Mweya, but from the porch of Hippo House and on the walks to Tembo I’ve still enjoyed some wonderful wildlife, including elephants. The rangers kindly took me on a short bush walk as well which was fascinating.

Today I have been at UWA headquarters meeting with the two wardens in charge of law enforcement and community work. It’s been really interesting to hear from them about the conservation work they are doing in Queen Elizabeth National Park. I’ve been very lucky as over the next two weeks I will be working with them, visiting schools and other parks to learn more about the very important work they are doing and seeing what it means to be rangers in Uganda. I’m very excited!

 

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Ranger Joe’s fourth post from Uganda

Hello again everyone I’ve had a wonderful day at Queen Elizabeth National Park today seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I’m now sat on the porch of Hippo House enjoying the last of the day’s sun as it sinks below the horizon. There are mouse birds, fire finches, sun birds, and weaver birds to name but a few busy catching some final insects and singing out the end of the day.

Today I was very lucky to join two rangers as they delivered a boat ride to tourists, I learnt a lot from them about the animals and  about the wonderful landscape, I also got some great pictures which I can’t wait to show you all! The rangers are very experienced at guiding and it was great to watch them as they did their thing, can’t wait for tomorrow! From Joe the ranger

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Joe’s third post from Uganda

I am now finally back in my favourite place: Queen Elizabeth National Park! I have had a very long day of travelling setting off from Jinja at 7am and arriving at Queen at 6 55pm! Nearly twelve hours on the road, but what a beautiful journey it was. Rolling hills, tea, coffee and banana plantations, bright blue skies and smiling faces all the way. As we got closer to queen the rolling hills became towering mountains as we came very close to the Congo. When we arrived at queen I met up with Yowasi to give him the money raised by Liss for the solar panels at his school, he says a massive thank you to everyone! And as we drove deep into the park, towards the wonderful hippo house on the Mweyan peninsula I was really lucky to see elephant, hippo, buffalo, warthog and lots of different birds (including my favourite the bright yellow weaver bird!) all in about 40 minutes of driving! I’ll keep you all posted of my adventures around queen working with the Rangers and hopefully seeing lots of exciting things!

The view at Mweya yesterday

The view at Mweya yesterday

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