Monday, 3 December 2012

Of Shaggy Dogs and Baby Buffalo...

Written on 25/10/2012

Dear Friends,
Let’s start this email off on an unpleasant note and hopefully we will finish off a lot lighter! The Oncology (Cancer) Ward really feels like a place you are sent to die. It takes quite a bit of determination and moral support from family and friends to stop you from plummeting into a black hole and succumbing to this dreadful disease.  You will not come out of it unscathed and until you are told that you are in remission, you believe you may die. In fact you are only in remission for 3 months, until your next blood test reconfirms it. Let’s hope my upcoming blood test results are as good as the last. Thank you to my doctors and the staff at Donald Gordon and to my family and friends for all you have done.

What was it like being back in South Africa for 16 months, you ask? Well, it was exactly the same as before we left! We experience enormous changes in our daily life, routine, food, circumstances, climate etc. on the road and yet nothing changes at home. Unfortunately we felt enormous racism towards us which we don’t experience during our travels through the rest of Africa. Some friends found it difficult to deal with my illness and I think some may have even wondered whether I was really sick. We had mixed reactions to the story of our journey so far – some people were extremely interested and wanted to know everything and others wouldn’t talk about it at all, just wanting us to slot back into their version of society.
The only reason we didn’t leave for Uganda immediately when I heard I was in remission was because Christy had committed to looking after a friend’s horses for two weeks. After chomping at the bit and trying to be patient, we eventually arrived back in Uganda on 8th August 2012. I was still very weak, uncoordinated and my brain a little bit fuzzy and I relied heavily on Christy.

I finally got to meet the wonderful family who have been taking such great care of Christy and our horses. Steve and Katia and their two children, Tana and Sasha, welcomed me into their home as they had Christy and have been the most gracious hosts. Steve works for a Dutch flower farm called Wagagai and Katia, one of the founding members of the USPCA has a passion for all animals.

Katia showing the ladies just what it takes to keep horses!
 The process of getting Chami and Nali fit is taking longer than I had originally thought it would. A 16 month lay-off, living the easy life without much work is not a simple process to reverse. Anyway, our boys are very much a part of Katia’s herd and it will be difficult, especially for Chami, when he has to head out and leave his girlfriend behind.  

Chami and Santana... always together!
A large part of Christy’s time is taken up with her giving horse riding lessons and running Pony Camps for Katia. She teaches anyone who is interested and very much enjoys it. She likes the kids to get involved with grooming and mucking out, taking the horses swimming in the lake, doing obstacle courses and outrides and generally having a great time! At least when we leave Uganda we will do so knowing we have given something back.
So how else have we been keeping ourselves busy? There is an thriving social life in Entebbe: Steve dragging us onto his boat forcing us to fish for our supper, Friday evening dinners at someone’s house or restaurant, Sunday brunches with far too much food on the table, star gazing, birthday parties at the Yacht Club, swimming in the fantastic pools (even though one is 5°C colder than the other!), roast pork and tea afternoons and girls tea and cake at Sheree’s house that I’m allowed to attend as an honourary female! I’m not quite sure I like that title! Everyone has been most welcoming to us.
Kids at Pony Camp!
The farm, Wagagai, that has been kind enough to put up with us, is situated on Lake Victoria. The sunrises and sunsets are fabulous. The Red-Tailed and Vervet monkeys make use of the remnants of the rain forest, the trees of which are absolutely magnificent. We have also seen Duiker, Bush Buck, Monitor lizards, the dreaded Safari Ants, Forest Cobras and spiders for Africa! The raucous turkeys, also known as Fish Eagles, live in a tree next to the house and hearing their cries first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening has a very calming effect on the soul. Other bird life that needs a special mention is the Blue Terracos, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, Hornbills, Hammerkops and the Hardidas.
The rainy season had just started when we arrived. There are very hot muggy days intermingled with the odd cool and breezy day. Some of the thunder and lightning over the lake is pretty spectacular. One of the storms wrecked a couple of greenhouses with huge torrents of water and strong winds. The lake can be picture perfect one minute and become extremely choppy the next. Boats have been known to overturn. On good days, fishermen stand on shallow rocks in the middle of the lake giving the impression that they are walking on water!
Hammerkop at sunrise..
Although we are only 45km from Kampala it will take 1hr 15min to drive there on a good day. There is a lot of traffic and the rules of the road are not adhered to creating chaos. It seems as though all roads converge on Kampala – maybe Kampala is the new Rome?! We have attended a talk on Gorillas hosted by “Diplomatic Spouses” at the German Ambassador’s Residence. Dr Martha Robbins, the speaker, has been studying gorillas for twenty years. She told us all about the Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi National Park which was very interesting.

One of the fundraising events for the USPCA, that Katia is involved in, is called The Shaggy Dog Show. Christy was the Ring Master which involved trying to control errant dogs and their children! Tana and Sasha each took a dog and competed in some of the classes, coming away with some lovely prizes. Tana and Wombat won the Shaggiest Dog Prize.
Tana and Wombat!
So Jacques, a friend of mine, googled our Captain that we used to serve under and it turns out that he is in north east Uganda and has a lodge called Nga’Moru (place of rocks) that borders on Kidepo Valley National Park. I discovered that Patrick Devy, the swine, drove past us just after we crossed into Uganda last year. He claims he couldn’t stop the driver in time! I don’t know how the rest of you feel but a horseman who drives past another horseman needs some serious payback! He did, however, take us to Nga’Moru for a few wonderful days with him and Norman, his orphaned buffalo! On the way he took us to see the impressive Rhino Sanctuary (FB – Rhino Fund Uganda) where they are breeding White Rhino. Driving from Kampala to Gulu was like driving down memory lane. It was very unfortunate that we could not stop and say hi to our friends along the way.
Billy and Patrick

Billy deticking Norman!
Christy is in her element here in Uganda with the social life and wonderful friends. This however is only part of what makes her happy. The 18 horses, 2 donkeys, bull, 2 cows with calves, 7 cats, 17 dogs, 2 guinea fowl, 4 pigeons, fish, chicken, pigeons and geese round it off perfectly! I am doing well. I am much stronger and fitter and my mind is sharpening up again.
The cat called Horse in the dog house!
Our departure to Mwanza, Tanzania has been postponed to 4th January 2013 in order to give the horses more time to get fit.

Having been forced to be patient for a year and a half, it is very satisfying to know that our departure is imminent, no matter how sad it will be to leave Entebbe.
Kind Regards,
Billy and Christy

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