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Ashunta Bunta in Africa

Uganda... Rwanda... Kenya... Tanzania (including the beautiful Zanzibar..) Gorillas, chimps, safaris, camping, ballooning, Masai, Kili...
this page is being written a couple of weeks after getting back from Africa. Would have loved to write it over there, but it's just not really possible! :) Hope you enjoy the photos and stories..

Diary Entries

Friday, 22 December 2006

Location: Africa

Back to/from reality...?
G'day fellow Ashunta Buntas and any other interested readers. Blacksmith James here. I've put together, in rough chronological order, some of my many highlights of our amazing African adventure:

- East Africa and it's people. People who have so little in terms of money and material possessions compared to us, and who have endured so much turmoil and hardship can still smile and laugh so genuinely and with such passion. This constantly warmed my heart!
- Meeting Margaret and Alex, the children we sponsor in Uganda, their families and the amazing people who work (and volunteer) for Plan Uganda in both Luwero and Tororo.
- Meeting the PTC (Post Test Club) in Tororo, a group set up to encourage men and women to be tested for HIV/AIDS. Getting tested (whether they are + or -) gives them instant membership to the club that meets regularly to sing, dance, talk and learn about living with, treating and caring for others with HIV/AIDS.
- I should have just taken the chicken...more later.
- Almost getting my camera confiscated by the military on day 4 of our holiday after taking photos of the dam at the source of the Nile. "Give me your film!"...."But....it's a digital camera!"
- Catching a bus from Jinja to Kampala, with our 15 kg backpacks on our laps the whole way, a woman breast-feeding her baby in the seat next to me and at least 2 or 3 chickens somewhere on the bus.
- Navigating (successfully) the organised mini-bus mayhem of the old taxi stand in Kampala, looking for a taxi to Entebbe.
- The amazing service and passion by the reception staff at Sophie's Motel in Entebbe...NOT!
- The Shaqman, campaigning, voting and his bid to become President!
- Navigating "the jam" around Kampala in our tour truck named "Stacey"!
- Bananas (matoke) everywhere!!
- Michelle and I becoming Mr. & Mrs Matooke (apparently Shaq can't spell!)
- Our first stumbling attempt at the "Jambo" song.
- The spectacular scenery of western Uganda. Volcanoes, lakes and mountain passes traversing endless hills whose every inch are covered by a patchwork of farming plots.
- The makeshift barbershop on the roadside with the most spectacular view across the patchwork hills and valleys.
- Realising we had driven over an almost completely undercut section of road and narrowly avoided (?? will we ever know how close to death we were ??) tumbling down a mountain ravine after earlier ignoring the "Road Closed" sign!
- Meeting Joseph in Kisoro, who was Jamie Durie's personal guide when he visited Uganda. He apparently donated a cow or two to a pygmy tribe in the Congo?!
- The border crossing into Rwanda and how Shaq & Em randomly assigned (most of) us new occupations: Emma the dancer, Craig the shoemaker, Lisa the beautician, Craig the fisherman, Ingrid the radio presenter, Michelle the beautiful housewife, myself the blacksmith. Sharon remained a travel agent as Shaq didn't recognise her in her passport photo!
- Meeting Francis in Ruhengeri and getting a first hand account of the history behind and the horror that was the Rwandan genocide and how the Rwandan people are dealing with the aftermath.
- "Mzungus in the Mist" - fighting stomach cramps and nausea to trek up a volcano in search of the endangered mountain gorillas.
- The eyes of the giant silverback, Ubumwe, as he casually turned to look and see who was entering his domain!
- The hour we spent with Ubumwe's family, the Amohoro group of mountain gorillas, watching them eat, sleep, play, scratch, sniff and get it on!!
- The commentary on the soon to be released gorilla blue movie titled "Gorilla Style!"
- Meeting (and dancing with) the orphans of Kisoro who gave us an amazing performance of traditional Ugandan music and dance.
- Sharing a drink of traditional Waragi with the Shaqman and the rest of the (at that stage unnamed) Ashunta Bunta tribe.
- Eventually finding out why our tour truck is named "Stacey"! Thankyou Waragi!
- Realising that carrying my backpack on my head was not as easy as the local porters made it look!
- Our wine and waragi fuelled all in drumming jam in front of a massive open fireplace at the Bushara Island camp on Lake Bunyoni.
- "Kookaburra sits in a ganga tree"...new fun with an old Aussie kindergarten favourite! It sounded so good at the time...
- Not being able to get "Ganga Farmer" and the "Jambo" song out of my head for the rest of the trip. They're still in there!!
- Wondering why it was only raining under one particular tree, only to find out later that it was actually caterpillar piss!
- A surprisingly good chinese meal in Entebbe...although we're still wondering why the parrot on the other table disappeared just before our cashew chicken arrived.
- The "absolutely f#@&ing crazy" chimps of Ngamba Island sanctuary on Lake Victoria. Shaq described them perfectly. We were told that if a chimp escaped, we all had to get into the water to be safe! They were still lots of fun to watch, though.
- Cruising up to the Kampala music shop in Shaq's borrowed pimpmobile and spending the next couple of hours picking and choosing some banging (and loud) African beats to be burnt to CD.
- The insanity of Kampala at night...I never saw so many people, cars, bikes, mini-vans and cows on the same street at the same time anywhere else....until I got to India!
- Our sad farewell to the Shaqman.
- Getting on our luxury coach in Kampala and thinking, hey, this isn't so bad after all...then 17 hours, one blown engine and a new bus with a couple of missing windows later...we arrived in Nairobi!!
- The look on Shaz's face when she saw us getting in to Nairobi!
- Alex, Mosiah and Moses, our local (Maasai) guide, camp cook and driver for the Kenya/Tanzania leg of the journey...all of them were awesome at their job and just downright awesome guys! Mosiah's great meals were really a bonus we weren't expecting!
- Our first game drive at Lake Nakuru, where we saw zebras, gazelle, impala, white rhino, cape buffalo, hyena, jackals, warthogs and lots and lots of flamingoes!
- Watching a hyena chase and kill a flamingo...our first and only successful hunt!
- The buzz of setting up camp inside the national park and being warned about what to do and what not to do if there are any wild animals (e.g. lions/hyenas/leopards) in the campsite at night!
- Hearing Emma's stories the next morning of munching and chewing and galloping just outside her tent...unfortunately/fortunately Michelle and I slept like babies!
- Seeing our first lions during our morning game drive at Lake Nakuru and watching them hunt some warthogs...and damn those baboons for warning the warthogs as they cluelessly trotted towards becoming the lion's brunch!
- Visiting the former home of Joy Adamson (from "Born Free"). I loved that movie!
- Spending the night in a campsite on the shores of Lake Naivasha, and heading down to the lake to see some hippos in the same spot where an Aussie tourist was killed by one about 18 months ago!
- The long, dusty drive to the Masai Mara, and the random sighting of Maasai men and boys tending their herds of cattle and goats in the middle of nowhere! This was very near to where Alex grew up and went to school.
- Realising that the thousands of black dots on the plains of the Masai Mara was actually the migrating wildebeest and zebras.
- The excitement of seeing our first cheetah on the way to our campsite in the Masai Mara! It was just sitting on a bit of a hill looking out over the valley trying to spot it's dinner. Special!
- The Toyota mini-van migration of the Masai Mara...one of nature's true spectacles!
- Arriving in our tented camp on the borders of the Masai Mara at night, and realising our tent was furthest from the truck....and closest to the lions, leopards and hyenas! Lucky we had a few Maasai warriors with big spears patrolling the campsite!
- Listening to some of Alex's scarier wild animals in campsites stories, shortly before having to walk back to my tent in complete darkness. Luckily no leopards under my tent!
- Getting up very early to go ballooning the next morning and seeing some predator's shining eyes looking back at me from the scrub behind our tent!
- Hot air ballooning over the Masai Mara at sunrise. An incredible view of the migration sprawled out across the vast Mara plains below us....and eventually landing and having a pretty swish champagne breakfast right in the middle of it.
- Our first close-up sighting of lions...hell every close up sighting of everything for the rest of the trip...lions, cheetahs, elephants, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, warthogs, buffaloes, hyenas, jackals, vultures...and a lone leopard. If I list all of them separately this list will never end. I'll let the photos do most of the talking...
- Visiting one of the sites where the migration crosses the Mara River from the Serengeti, this is truly one of the images of Africa I grew up in awe at. Unfortunately there was no mass crossing when we were there, but it was pretty cool anyway.
- The at times awkward tour of a Maasai village, where we paid a fixed fee and were given a tour and told to take as many photos as we wanted of the villagers going about their daily business. While it did feel a little staged, Alex explained that it was through the tourist dollar that they were able to hold on to their traditional ways and still get by.
- The White Maasai....Ing, Shaz, Em & I wearing our recently purchased Maasai blankets, jewellery and me carrying my Maasai club back to our campsite...the girls looked good...I looked pretty silly, it was probably the baseball cap!
- Dancing with the Maasai warriors around our campfire...I still reckon I outjumped my Maasai dude!
- The official forming of the Ashunta Bunta anti-tribe in the grounds of a convent in Kisii.
- Dan's Borat impressions! Priceless...I don't think I've ever laughed so hard in my life! I couldn't listen to Dan talk after that without it reminding me of Borat!
- Getting blotto on Kenya Cane Gin, Waragi, various beers, wine and Safari Whiskey and going on a late night "ghost tour" of our convent camp site.
- Playing sunset cricket on the shores of Lake Victoria and beating the Spanish at a game of night beach football....our girls kicked butt!
- Enough is enough! I have had it with these motherf#@&ing tzetze flies on this motherf#@&ing safari truck!
- The tzetze fly that I was trying to terminate with my Lonely Planet...first it made me smack Shaz on the breast and then I accidentally threw it out of the window...it still has Serengeti dust stains on page 151.
- Growing up I loved watching nature docos on Africa, so just being in the amazing Serengeti was such a great experience...camping smack bang in the middle of it was something I will never forget.
- Calling mum on the mobile from inside my tent smack bang in the middle of the Serengeti to let her know we had not been eaten yet. Surreal.
- Being woken by distant hyena howls and then realising that the sound that I thought was someone "snoring" outside our tent was actually moving...the not-too-distant hyena howl a few minutes later pretty much filled in the gaps! According to Melissa the next morning, there was a few of them and they were only about 2 or 3 metres away until Alex chased them away! Go the Maasai warrior!
- The (eventually) amazing Serenegeti sunset.
- Camping on the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, and our drunken search for bull elephants and wild bush pigs that were roaming around the campsite at night...what were we thinking!
- Our amazing game drive in the Ngorongoro Crater, watching a huge pride of lions looking for somewhere to chill out after devouring their kill.
- After my initial "what the f#@& are we doing/where the f#@& are we going" feeling on our way to Engaruka, I realised how wrong my first impression was...Engaruka was incredible. The people of this small Maasai village near the site of some ancient ruins were so welcoming and friendly, except for the one old guy who didn't want to be in my photo.
- The Mzungu vs. Maasai pool game...I choked but Craig kicked Maasai butt! We also put the wheels in motion for a Mzungu vs. Maasai football game for the day after.
- Feeling completely comfortable walking the dusty streets of Engaruka back to our campsite holding hands and chatting with Maasai Mathayo...who then proceeded to propose to poor Ingrid! Sorry again Ing!
- Locals Israel and Munano taking us on a tour of the ruins, the town, where the mzungu girls taught the Maasai ladies how to do the Hokey Pokey, and the local school, where we all gave the teacher, Martha some pens and school books to distribute to the children.
- Watching Alex slaughter a goat for his birthday...and drink it's blood straight out of the chest cavity!
- Again we got to dance with the Maasai warriors...but I didn't quite nail my jumps this time!
- Eating Alex's birthday goat, by now cooked to perfection staked up in front of an open fire. It was pretty tasty...and fresh too.
- The drama of the Mzungu vs. Maasai football game that was played on a full sized dust pitch in the stinking hot afternoon sun. A couple of locals played on our side to even up the numbers, and at one stage into the second half a fight broke out between one of our locals and one of theirs. Next thing we know the village chief came running onto the field and starting whipping one of the guys across the back with a long cane, breaking it across his back!!! Wow, swift justice. Some of us wanted to play on, but others thought that things were a bit out of control. Eventually we agreed to keep playing only if the guys shook hands and so all was good...and the sun had gone down so the temperature was bearable...I think the final score was 1-1 or 2-2, but it didn't matter...it was so much fun for both sides.
- Alex's birthday fireworks...........................ok maybe not.
- Talking sh!# with Alex after he'd had quite a few birthday bevs. He remembered nothing the next morning!
- Watching Liverpool vs. Man Utd. game on satellite TV in our campsite with our Maasai camp guards, Munano, Israel, and the afore-mentioned vilage chief (minus the cane this time).
- Of course, it goes without saying, all our fellow travellers, including the Ashunta Buntas and all the other Aussies, the Canadian medicos and the two cool poms for helping us to experience Africa surrounded by friends.
- Our sad (temporary) farewells to Em and Craig in Arusha before their Killi climb.
- The sea of Maasai women on the Tanzania-Kenya border all trying to sell us bracelets...we just had to buy some more!
- Our farewells to the rest of the gang in Nairobi and our last dinner at Carnivore...guess what the specialty is....
- Our last day in Nairobi, bargaining like crazy for a bunch of stuff that we had to pay a heap to ship back to Australia anyway!
- In general, every child's smiling face as they were chasing our truck and waving frantically.
- The various catchphrases picked up throughout the trip, such as: "Oh come onnnnn!", "Come on baby...", "Helloooo! How are Youuuuu!", "Give me MY pen/money!!", "What!", "Good to go?"..."Yep, good to go!", "Are you sh!##!ng me?"..."I sh!# you not!" and "We are sorry to say bye bye....", and I'm sure many more that I've tried my best to forget!

Thursday, 23 November 2006

... work in progress... more photos coming soon....


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Recent Messages

From Alison Thomas Virgin
To Ingrid & her fellow Ashunta Bunta Tribe members- you lucky buggers!!

these shots are truely amazing !!! love the Shaq man! and the Gorilla's...
...definatley on my to do list now!

cheers Ingers...

Ali DJ SA
Response: Hello Alison - Ashunta Bunta Emma here, on behalf of Ing! Glad you like the pics... there are still many many more to come, it's just a matter of time.. and there will be some of that (time that is) over christmas, so look out for more pics soon.. especially of Tanzania, Kenya and the Ashuntas.. Have a great Christmas!
From Shaz
ohmigod! Masai girl!!! You are incredible.... I love it I only wish I had your gift of the gab! This is great. So many good memories... and the photos... amazing.... Cant wait to see more and see you!
Love shazx
Response: Oh hello!! I should have checked this earlier! :) Asante sana for your lovely message.. And gift of the gab?? What??!! I think you have the wrong ashunta bunta my dear... was great seeing everyone last night, really really looking forward to our Masai weekend! as long as we don't kill a goat.. x Em Masai Girl
From Darren Hile
Hi Em and Craig,
Em you tell a story and take a photo like no one eslse I know. The Masai photos are my fav.
Now I'm wishing I could go back. Hope your proud of what you have done to me !
Response: Hello Champ! Or were you Chief? No that was Terry :) .... great to hear from you! Asante sana for the photography compliment! I do enjoy photography - and it's faster than painting! yes, proud to inspire you to go back, Africa is an amazing country. But that stupid mountain still sucks! ha ha.... Here's some more masai shots for you, just about to upload some more pics... take care, and see you on the flying kangaroo one day.. Em
From Jane
Hey Em, Love it...I guess it's then the next best thing to being there....hmmm maybe one day :-)
Response: Hello! naa, nothing's like being there, except being there! But I'm happy with the pics :) c u soon...
From Ingrid Johnson
Em,
Mannnnn you are creative.
This is absolutley awesome
Loooooooooove it !!!!!
Your fellow Ashunta Bunta Anti tribe Member
Ingx
Response: Jambo!! Heellooooooo... great to hear from you.. glad you like 'our' page! You have to write something too when you find a spare 10 minutes :)
ok now I must try to think and write more.. but I just watched Bob Geldof in Africa and it was sad!.. see you soon, xEm
From mang
Hey Craig and Emma,
Keep adding to the website, love the photos, Amazing Africa
with love x
Response: Mambo! Our first message... :) Yeah I will put more photos up for sure - pole pole.... have to sort thru them.. hope to catch up with you really soon.