The rains came last night,

by francine Hardaway on February 26, 2005

The rains came last night, within seconds. We were gathered on the patio of the lodge, ordering dinner and sipping South African wine, and all of a sudden the wind came up. Then lightning became visible. Then the wind became worse. Then all the glassware and napkins started flying across the table, the staff warned us to go inside, and the heavens opened. Unbelievable rain. We thought we would lose the electricity, but we didn’t. Everyone went inside and continued eating, although there were small leaks in the roof through which we could sample the rain.

After dinner, the manager came around to every table to see if we were all right and to reassure us. Apparently, the rainy season doesn’t always start as violently as it did last night, but “sometimes” it does. What a cool thing to be there! The warthogs disappeared from the grounds.

However, the lions came out to hunt. Four lions were prowling around the gates of our compound, forcing us to be under lock down for most of our meal — a fact we really didn’t know until the end. Men patrolled the perimeter with automatic rifles — not to kill the animals, but to scare them away and keep the guests safe.

The rain changed the entire landscape. The dust that had been getting in our noses and throats since we arrived was immediately gone. The temperature, which had been, to say it bluntly, equatorial, cooled to jacket weather over night.

Which meant that our drive to Rwanda where we will trek tomorrow with gorillas was more than pleasant. Once we left the bush and the animals, who all came out this morning (well, at least a baby hyena and the usual water buck)to say goodbye, we drove through the Green Hills of Africa. Beautiful rolling countryside terraced for agriculture and carefully cultivated by hand. It was quite a contrast from where we came from, and seemed to be less poor.

But the population of Uganda is slated to triple in the next fifty years, and there is concern about how the population will be fed. The president proposes to industrialize, because there isn’t enough land for agriculture. It will be interesting to see how he plans to do it.

We stopped for lunch at Travellers’ Rest, a 50-year-old haven for gorilla trekkers near the Uganda-Rwanda-Congo border. Dian Fossey used to stay there. Once again, children from a local orphanage danced for us to raise money. This orphanage, which takes children from the period of the genocide, is run by a man who is himself a teen-ager, and the children support themselves by doing odd jobs, helping out in the motel, and performing.

I’m now at an Internet cafe — no, at THE Internet cafe in Ruhengiri (I know that’s misspelled) Rwanda. We crossed the border, checked into a hotel, and I came into town to re-join the 21st century for an hour. I am surrounded by Rwandan kids listening to music, reading email, and talking on VOIP. It’s so cool how technology — especially the Internet and cell phones — has connected the world and brought the developing countries right up to our level in certain aspects.

Tomorrow, the gorillas.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: