My first field experience was at Mount Elgon national park conducted by the university to all tourism students offering the course and was a 3 days safari. .It was a one early morning when we departed for mountain Elgon national park starting the journey from Muteesa 1 royal university kakeeka campus in mengo. We boarded the university bus with my fellow course mates at dawn and proceeded to the park from Kampala via Jinja, Mbale and amidst kapchorwa. We took a tarmac road east of Kampala and had a first stopover in Namawojolo town to buy eatables like the roasted chicken, meat, cassava, gonja among others and drinks to accompany the eats. We proceeded with the journey to Mbale. A second break in the journey was in Mbale town for lunch. It took us time to make choices of what to eat since we reached a bit late past lunch time because of certain disturbances in the journey. The local cuisine served at the restaurants in the area mostly was the bamboo roots (amalewa) after a long time and much survey we reached to a Kabaka’s building in Mbale at the hotel were we took chips, chicken, fish, sausage among others and drinks. The service at the hotel was good and the people were hospitable. After lunch we went to a petrocity for fuel refill, this gave us chance to view the glamorous misty mountain elgon ranges from a distance giving a clear and beautiful area for photography.
From Mbale we joined a dirt road north- west of the mountains to kapchorwa, on the way we met a group of the Bagishu preparing for the circumcision session. The male boys to be circumcised were smeared with white paint all over their body parts and were made to move around the villages dancing as a sign of bravery and readiness. On the way we meet different groups being followed up by the happy elders, young boys, girls and women dancing their traditional dances known as the ”akadodi” beating up drums and jerry cans and dancing on the rhythms of the sound produced from the instruments. Also female genital mutilation is practiced in Mbale were the ladies are cut on their private parts removing the clitoris. However this is a dangerous practice which the government is trying to abolish since the procedure causes severe breeding, urinating problems, cysts infection as well as complications in child birth among others which is also a sexual disability.
The female genital mutilation is practiced mostly by the sabiny in kapchorwa and also in karamoja. We entered the park in the late evening hours unpacked our stuff and loaded them to the reserved park cottages. A team was selected to do the cooking while the rest made up their tents amidst the cottage compound for camping. The place was very cold and misty since the cold wind was descending from the mountain top to the bottom of the park. We refreshed took supper and had an evening interaction with the park guides who in the exploration conference room who talked about the interesting and exciting things to see on mount elgon like the cliffs, calderas, gorge, craters, vegetation zones, wildlife, climate which is moderate dry annual rainfall, birds, escarpments, caves, water falls, flora the mountain peak among others, the history, location being shared by the two countries Uganda and Kenya. Mount Elgon is blessed with nature and greenery because it has different vegetation types and forest zones like the bamboo forests they went ahead and told us the 4 -5 days of hiking to the top of the mountain and coming back. After a short briefing we retired for a night.
Early in the morning, we refreshed but the water was so cold since it was pumped direct from the Sipi River supplying the park. After the morning breakfast we headed for a guided nature walk passing through the forest exploration centre where we picked the bamboo sticks to help us walk through the slippery roads. The forest is full of dew and mist during the morning hours. We encountered rare plant species, bird’s species which are at least 144 species, tree species and primate species loitering along the tree branches, bamboo forest. We walked and reached the Cheptui falls which is amazing to view the water falling from the cliff to plunge pool, it was nice to view the bird species as they fly from one tree to another. The conditions at the falls were cold and calm but ready to take stress away and refresh the mind. We proceeded with the walk through a trail climbing slippery ladders descending to the mountain and reached at a hill which gave a clear sight of the greenery and bamboo forest, the mountain forest to high open moorland.
We continued through different trails reaching the kapkwai cave. These were a bit scary and very dark inside. Entering inside, a lot of bats flew away after observing and hearing sounds of a group of people approaching the cave. The kapkwai cave has many outlets and it harbors numerous wildlife species for example bats, snakes, and insects among others. We headed back to the park in the afternoon hour, had lunch and rested. In the evening hours we headed to the Sipi falls which is so magnificent and a beautiful chain of waterfalls to view from the bottom. Water at the falls flows into a plunge pool hitting so hard and splashing at the surrounding forming a natural shower to the people standing close forming rainbow.
Before reaching the Sipi falls we observed the Sipi River which brings about the whole formation process. The water from the river hits the cliff at fast hence forming a water fall pouring in a plunge pool. We passed through local firms and coffee plantations to reach the falls. Later we headed for a community walk in the Budadiri community were we by passed community schools, churches, local home steads and farms until we met with the widow women who showed us how Arabica coffee is grown, how handcrafts are made participating in making some, and tales about the female circumcision by the sabiny also tasted their local cuisine of amalewa we headed to their local market since it was a market day we bought many nice hand crafts like bangles, bags, necklaces and even tasted some of their local brew. They lived a social life in that they cooperated with one another and the park ranges. They have authorized days to visit the park to collect fire wood and amalewa for food but they also contribute to the well-being of the park by sharing some of their crop yields with the park staff.
A percentage is given to the locals to help in development. They are given trees to plant and are sensitized to help in conservation and sustainability. After a great interaction with the Bagishu community Headed back to the park, refreshed had a group interaction and presentation about the activities done. The guide told us about the flowers grown in the midranges of the mountains, he went ahead told us about the problems associated with the park such as illegal poaching, problem animal, human activities among others. We were told about the park conflicts between a group of people from Kenya poaching and conflicting with the park ranges where some claim that their wildlife travel to the Ugandan part of the mountain and what they have done to cease the situation. After collecting all the necessary data we had supper, jazzed amongst fellow student and then retired for the night.
Early in the morning, we could hear the birds whistling, singing, shriek, hoot and tweet as they rise from their nests to look for food for their young ones and also as a sigh of communication amongst each other. This sound and the swinging of the trees made it conducive and enjoyable mostly in the morning and evening hours at the park. The morning breeze at the park is very cold but entertaining. Breakfast was served and lunch was packed in silver plates since it was to be consumed on the way. We packed and loaded our belongings to the bus and started the journey back to Kampala via kapchorwa, Mbale, Jinja but the roads were very slippery after raining the day before making the movement of the bus very difficult. We stopped in Jinja town made a detour and enjoyed their urban settings, did a little shopping of some snacks to take throughout the journey. In the afternoon hours, we reached at the university very exhausted but having had great adventure filled with nature memories and exposure to the natural settings. We later went different ways back to our home places.