The Pearl of Africa

“For magnificence, for variety of form and colour, for profusion of brilliant life — bird, insect, reptile, beast — for vast scale — Uganda is truly “the Pearl of Africa.”

Winston Churchill
1907

It’s a long drive from Bwindi to Entebbe for our flight home, so we’ve had lots of time to reflect on our visit to Uganda.

With grateful thanks to our guide, Wilson, we have learned so much about the country. He has been so willing to talk about life here, with no subject off limits. The very first thing he told us there would be times when we would get the African massage on the African brown mat.  Basically, we’d be shaken about on dirt roads from time to time – oh-so-true.

People in Uganda

Wilson has explained how very tough life is for women who live in the countryside, not least because men often disappear after children come along, leaving a single mother to fend for the family. Those in the cities tend to fare better because they can work and own property.

This young woman has set up a stall in a national park – a bit of an exception

How times have changed: as we passed Lake Bunyoniyi earlier, Wilson pointed to the middle and a place called Punishment Island. In the 1920s, this was where pregnant unmarried women were sent for their sins. Bound, they were dumped on the island, in the expectation that they would die of hunger. But there’s a happy ending: in most cases men who could not afford a dowry visited the island and found a women, whom they married.

Marriage is an expensive business here, and there are many stages to go through before the big day. Wilson has explained that he and his fiancée, Rose, have had their visitation, where the groom-to-be meets an aunty who will deliver the message to the family. Even this stage is costly, with bars being restocked and generous gifts being purchased. The next stage is the introduction, where the man meets the family and friends of the woman. Again, this is expensive, with fridges and even cars being handed over. In traditional times, it was a little simpler, with a bible, salt and paraffin being presented. It may then take a while before the marriage takes place – time is often needed to save – and then the groom has to buy the garments and suits for the entourage, as well as the usual arrangements.

Wilson and Rose’s visitation photo

It would be great to have taken more photos of people, especially ladies in their gorgeous colourful costumes, during our time here but it’s really difficult to do this on a busy tour because time is needed to develop conversations. It’s not a matter of stop, ask, snap and jump back in the vehicle. Perhaps that’s a reason for another trip!

Something which has brought a smile to our faces as we’ve travelled around 2,000 kms are the signs for schools, bearing the mottos. Generally, they’re in a similar vein, exhorting pupils to work hard, eg:

Hard work pays
No sweat, no sweet
Suffer today; succeed tomorrow

In Uganda, people are given names based on the circumstances of their birth, and there are some wonderful ones: how about Treasure, Witness or even Deo, in this case because he almost died and the parents wanted to give thanks to God.

Countryside and food

A very striking feature of our time in the west of Uganda is how much food is being grown. There are many extinct volcanoes in the region – see the header picture – so the soil is rich and fertile.

Uganda tea has been a very pleasant surprise
And “African coffee” is delicious

From tea to coffee, from pineapples to passionfruit, from cassava to yams, and from Irish (white) potatoes to the sweet counterpart, we’ve seen so many cultivated fields. In this photo, every element is grown in the country.

So many delicious vegetables and beans

Bananas and plantains are big in Uganda. In the photo above at 10 o’clock is matooke, a form of plantain, which is a staple for many people. It’s made by steaming the fruit in its leaf, mashing it and then serving with a stew sauce, of meat or fish, or in this case peanut sauce.

This matooke farmer is taking his crop to market. It weighs about 120 kg and he’ll make US$15 for the load
So many different types of fruit, including our favourite, mango (and, yes, that is a piece of beetroot)

An interesting addition to all the fruit and vegetables is a Rolex, a chapatti with an omelette inside, showing the coming together of different influences in the country:

Life in the countryside is very hard for most people. This is a typical home in a village:

And this a small town:

While many are involved in agriculture, beef farming is also an important way of life – check out those cows’ horns!

Those wonderful creatures

We hope you have enjoyed all the wildlife photos we’ve posted during our time in Uganda. When we’ve sorted through the 1000+ photos, we’ll put up a gallery of birds and beasts from this country which we just haven’t managed to include to date. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with Uganda’s national bird, the Crested Crane.

2 thoughts on “The Pearl of Africa

  1. Wonderful! I think we need to be taking a ‘leaf’ out of their book and start growing and eating more seasonably. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your photos!

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