Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Kabale, Lake Bunyonyi, Bilharzia and Amebiasis; yeah, its been a full week.

We drove southwest to Kabale last Thursday to see some of the ICON spraying they are currently doing there. We spent the first day doing the six hour drive (which went really well, the roads were pretty good, actually). On Friday we got up early and spent the whole morning in the car, chasing spray men. In the end, we only managed to see two homes sprayed, which translates into a grand total of two minutes of usable footage. Not the most productive day.

But, I must say that the countryside was amazing. It is really mountainous country, and by far the coolest place (meaning temperature wise, people) we’ve been in Africa. Linda warned that I should bring a coat, and I was certainly glad that I did. In the morning, thick mist shrouded the tops of the hills and rendered everything beyond two feet unrecognizable. Tall, thin eucalyptus trees held the hills and switchbacks in place. Hedges of pencil cactus deliniated one plot of farmland from another. The sheer granite cliffs dropped sharply into the water below. We saw two pairs of the Crested Crane, Uganda’s national bird, soaring over the valleys.

Friday afternoon we drove over to Lake Bunyonyi (which means “place of the little birds”) and took a boat to a little island resort. The lake was formed when a glacier melted and filled the deep valley, the water slowly climbing up the hillside. There are very few fish in the lake, but an amazing amount of bird life. Uganda will make an ornithologist out of the most reluctant birdwatcher. We spent the weekend on the island, and it was a paradise. It was so still and the only sounds were the birds calling and the wind blowing through the tops of the trees. We read and slept, went on a bird walk with a wonderful local guide, swam in the eerie lake and went off a really terrifying rope swing into the reeds.

One thing I really dig about Africa is the lack of saftey regulations. I mean, you should have seen this thing. There was a rickety, splintering platform on the hill and a slippery nylon rope tied to a branch forty feet over our heads over a fairly shallow path through the papyrus reeds and into the lake. Moments like these are the perfect antidote to our liability obsessed American culture. This rope swing was the exact opposite of those labels on the side of ten gallon buckets that warn against storing babies in them. This rope swing said, yeah, this is dangerous, but if you've got the guts, go for it! Eric went first, and jumped in grand style. I went next and made the mistake of clinging to the rope with my thighs only to be rewarded with a series of nasty red rope burns. Totally worth it.

Eric was feeling strange throughout the weekend, his exact symptoms were headache, chills and "a general feeling of wierdness". Once back in Kampala we went to The Surgery and got him tested for a whole variety of diseases. The results were in a few hours later; he had bilharzia and amebiasis. Tropical diseases are so exotic sounding. I think he was secretly a little distressed that he didn't have malaria; it would have made for good documentary footage. He's feeling better now, thanks to the drugs. The bilharsia treatment is a simple single dose, while the amebiasis takes a bit longer to remedy. I have amebiasis too; I think we may have contacted it while in Apac, since Chris seems to have escaped. We did eat at a restaurant with dubious sanitation standards. Anyway, we were relived to have a diagnosis before leaving. We've bought our tickets for Brussels and our trip to Africa is quickly drawing to a close. We've only got seven more days in Kampala. What a ride its been!

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