Sea Star 7

1998 Bayliner LeClercq

Uganda Village Tour

This morning we got up before dawn for a 7am flight out of Entebbe to a tiny airstrip in the Uganda mountains.

We had been warned that the limit was 15 KG in luggage sum total (baggage and carry on).  But you can buy more luggage weight – space permitting.  We are off season, so we were taking a bit of a chance that the flight wouldn’t be full.  Sure enough they charged us $117 in overweight.  At $3 per KG – so we were 39 KG overweight.  Now, you might wonder why the heck we had so much gear with us.  The answer is   This organization keeps track of what specific regions of third world countries need at hospitals and schools and other community organizations.  They publish a list of what you can pack with you to those regions and then donate.  Melissa got it into her head that because we were traveling business class, and hence had plenty of luggage space, we should bring a whole suitcase full of donation items.  So we had packed about $1000 worth of gear:

  • 4 stethoscopes
  • 4 solar powered lights large enough to light up an operating room or other emergency medical site at night
  • 2 solar powered device chargers for things like cell phones that need to be kept operational in the field
  • A pile of medical books
  • 15 solar powered calculators
  • A pile of erasers
  • A couple of boxes of chalk

All this gear having made it from Seattle to Puerto Vallarta, and then on to Houston, Istanbul, Kilimanjaro, and then across the Serengeti – well, let’s just say we were not leaving it behind even if it cost a few dollars to get it the last leg of the trip.

The landing strip was a “one way” airstrip – meaning it had mountains on one end – so you can only take off and land in one direction.  Flying into a “box canyon” can be tricky so the captain was at the controls.  Dave was monitoring carefully, and the captain was spot on the descent and landing speeds.  This is not the place you really want to make a “go around”.

Our driver picked us up at the airport and was happy to make the stop at the lodge that participates in the Pack for a Purpose ( program.  The lodges serve as collection points that then distribute the donations where needed.  They were utterly thrilled when we showed up with a full suitcase full of stuff.  We had busted up a suitcase, so we swapped the donation gear into the broken suitcase and left it with them.

After we checked into Clouds Mountain Lodge, we had scheduled for a community tour.  First stop was the community center where they explained that Clouds Mountain Lodge donates about 10% of the lodging fees to community projects.

Then we went for a walk about town.  Uganda has a lot of very rich farmland.  We saw farms growing everything from corn and potatoes to beans and cabbage.  One of the things they grow here is tea.  The tea grows on the side of the mountain. 

They have to harvest it and haul it up roughly 100 meters of 30% grade.  They pay the workers $1 USD to harvest 12 lbs of it.  Let that sink in a minute.  It completely explains why being paid $25 as a porter on the gorilla treks for 6 hours of work is considered a way better job, and why the tourist dollars are so valued.

We walked up to the soccer field and took some photos of the surrounding mountains.

This is the military installation.  We are very close to the boarder with the Congo (which is always at war – mostly with itself) and Rwanda.  The ridge line you see in the background is past the boarder with Congo.

The long ditch you see is a fox hole.  These are the houses that the military lives in.

The schools were doing exams for the end of the school year.

This secondary school was built from the community funds that came from our lodge.

The classrooms are pretty basic.

The class schedule was posted on the wall.

Here is the school kitchen where they cook lunch for the kids and staff.  We wondered with these types of conditions why teachers would be here as they only hire college educated teachers.  That’s dedication.

The kids here are super friendly.  Whenever we walk or drive by, they all wave and cheer.

We saw the local blacksmith who let Dave give the bellows a try.

We could hear singing from the Church from our lodge.

We then went to see the village elder.  We sat with her drinking the local gin and getting her take on life.  She told us she was grateful that we had come.  And that she appreciated the fact that Dave only had one wife.  Advised us to love each other and forgive each other for our mistakes.

We then visited all the “shops” in town.  There is a row of trinket shops – mostly selling the same stuff.  Each has a cause – the first was the orphans group.  Later it was single Moms.  Then poor kid education.  There were about 10 of them.  They opened pretty much just for us on our walk.  It was heart breaking not to buy something at each and every shop.  But we did buy a few items – a bracelet, an apron, some of the local tea, and some coffee beans.

These local women were outside one of the shops.  Their dress is fairly traditional, as is the infant on the back.

Take a look at the slope of these hills.  Insert scary foreshadow music here.

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