Let the play time begin!!! Camp is over and we are sad, but we have some fun plans for the next couple days. We arrived back at the Providence Monday afternoon after a stop off at the COG office. Deana was there with their team. They are starting camp tomorrow at Lords Meade. It was fun to check in with the CoG staff that I haven’t seen in a while. I wasn’t able to see many of them when I was here in September. I think it was a fun treat for the girls to see Deana too. Silas, one of the Ugandans from camp, was in his chef’s uniform cooking in the kitchen here. Awesome!! It smells so good!!! I almost wish I was staying! Everyone takes turn showering back at the GH and facetimeing with family at home. Madi and I ran into town so she could do some quick souvenir shopping. I had my friend Hope come to the GH too with some jewelry that she and her mom make. I like to support people I know. I met Hope on my very first trip to Uganda. The girls were pumped!! Especially Gloria, she bought a bunch!!
After almost all their shillings were spent, we headed downstairs for dinner. We had ordered chicken and veggie pasta before we left. We’ll see what we end up with?!?!? First a big plate of salad came out with huge chunks of avocado, yum!! And another big plate of fruit!!! We would be good with just that probably. Then we were each served a plate with rice, mashed potatoes and curry. They made a special vegetarian version for Madi. THEN she brought out a big plate of spaghetti. This is a ridiculous amount of food. But all of it looks so good. We all dive in. We eat and eat and eat some more until we are all VERY full!! The plan is for an early bedtime because in the morning we are getting up very early to go to a local restaurant to watch the BSC National Championship. My Auburn Tigers are playing, so I was planning on going alone, but the girls wanted to come. This is the place with the good milkshakes, so the girls jump at the chance to get another one!!
The alarm went off at 4am and we all jumped up and brushed teeth. Emma was there to pick us up and drop us at the Keep for the 430 start time. You’d think there would be few people crazy enough to get up at 4 in the morning to watch a football game, but the girls were surprised by the gathering of mzungus. There were about 20 people there when we arrived and another 10-15 came. There were a couple FSU fans, but the majority were cheering for the Orange and Blue with me… WAR EAGLE!!!! There was a short term team from Alabama and Georgia there and some longterm missionaries. A group of girls showed up decked out in Auburn gear and even brought Auburn party cups for everyone!! Sweet!! At halftime a family came, mom dad and 2 little boys all in Auburn gear. The little probably 3 year old had his shaker too!! It is great to be an AUBURN TIGER!!! I ended up chatting with the wife and found out that she was at Auburn my last 2 years and we know a lot of the same people. SMALL WORLD!!! They are doing ministry in the far west of Uganda near the DRC border, but are on vacation on their way to Sipi Falls near the Kenya border. I made some fun connections and we actually had to leave early because we were booked to go ATVing by the Nile this morning. We returned to the GH to have pancakes before being picked up by the tour company.
We had a hard time deciding how long to go out for and the ad said that the 4 hr was the best time and value, so we decided to go for it. We got all suited up in our gear and loaded up. We look pretty silly, but after a little test run around the property, we headed out ona trail along the river. It is GORGEOUS!!! So often when I am walking around Danville, I am blown away by the beauty of the place that is my home. I think I will have those same moments here when this becomes home. We are all having a great time. The first couple hours were fun and we got to see a ton of the area weaving through fields and villages and then we would come back out by the river for a photo opp. The people were pretty amazing!! Almost everyone waved as we passed by. The kids especially were so cute!! ‘MZUNGU How are you?’ was yelled at us from home to home. We made a stop and a bunch of kids came and brought us flowers and chatted with us for a bit too. So cute!! I think Madi and I are so similar. I watch her in front of me trying to push the limits of her ATV. We like adventure!!! Gloria and Tarah are a bit more timid and Lauren is kind of in the middle. Right about at the halfway point Lauren isn’t feeling too hot. I think the food last night might have been a little much and it is really hot!!! The bumping around probably didn’t help. She is a champ and sticks in there. On the way back we make a stop for a drink and we all realize that 4 hours is much longer than necessary!! Good lesson for the future! When we got back to the base we got Lauren some water and cooled her down some. I think she needs to rest and rehydrate! The 4am start this morning is showing.
We get back to the GH and Lauren crashes out. I jumped into the shower so that I could run into town to get water. We are all COVERED in dirt!! The picture of Gloria is AWESOME!!! When I return Madi wasn’t feeling very well either and actually got sick while she was showering. Uh oh! Is it something we ate? Dehydration? Lack of sleep? My stomach is a little queezy too. My nurse brain is thinking back…maybe the salad last night?? But Tarah and Cathy and Gloria are all feeling fine. Within the hour Madi, Lauren and I are all really sick. Seriously?!?! We had been so good about drinking while we were at camp, but I think the ATV tour in the blazing sun with only 1 bottle of water along the way did us in.
Thank you Lord that I am a nurse and Tarah is too!!! I sent Cathy (a Ugandan friend who was there because I invited her to come on our safari with us) and Tarah into town to get some hydration supplies. I love not needing a prescription!! They returned and I had Tarah start an IV on myself. The girls didn’t want one when I first said something, but after they saw how much better I felt, they both agreed. We turned the GH into a mini hospital ward. We were supposed to be leaving for Kampala this evening, but that wasn’t going to happen. We made some quick changes in our plans to rest for the night and then get up and leave early in the morning.
The sick ones were recovering. We were all at about 70% come morning, but we were able to get packed up and loaded to head west to Murchison Falls National Park. We will spend the next few days on safari. The ride was quiet. We all slept the entire trip of about 8 hours except for our brunch stop. We were all hungry! Good sign!! We arrived at Red Chilli Hideaway by 2 in the afternoon and got settled into our bandas. This place is great!! It is right on the south bank of the Nile in the middle of the park. Everyone is feeling up for a game drive this afternoon, so we jumped back in the van and crossed the river. The girls are pumped when we reach the other side, Mike our driver/guide pops up the roof and they are able to stand up to look for animals. Everyone’s energy level picks up considerably. We spend the next 2.5 hours cruising through the park. The girls are so cute! They are super excited and amazed with every animal we come across. There are Jackson hartbeast, Ugandan kob, oribi, waterbuck, warthogs, elephants, giraffe, monkeys and baboons. We searched everywhere in hopes of finding the pride of lions, but we were unsuccessful. I think the girls were more than satisfied with all they saw though. We got back on the ferry to return to camp for dinner and an early bedtime. While we were eating a pair of warthogs came around to see what we were having for dinner. Awesome!! They are harmless and very used to people, local pets to the camp. We are warned that hippos come up into camp at night to feed though, so we all make a bathroom stop right before heading to bed, so we won’t have to get up in the night.
Early the next morning we are up to try to catch the first ferry over to the park. The lions hunt early, so we want to get over there so we can try to find them. Everyone is feeling pretty much back to normal this morning, thank you Jesus!! Unfortunately, we have a flat tired, so Mike works quickly to get his backup on. Thankfully it isn’t just a little spare. We end up on the second ferry and zoom into the park. Hopefully others have already found the cats for us. Mike calls around to other guides in the park and no one has been able to find them. We see tons of all the other animals though. At one point I was riding on the front top of the van and 2 of the girls were on the back. We were rolling down the road and saw some giraffes crossing. We slowly made our way toward them. Usually the giraffe are far off the road, but these are literally a couple feet away. I actually wish I had some food to see if they would eat out of my hand. I t was AMAZING!!! There were about 9 or 10 of them too, adults and a couple babies. They are so funny looking, but everytime I see them I am reminded how creative our great God is!!! Can you imagine Adam sitting in the garden trying to come up with names for all these amazing creatures?!?! So cool!! We spent about 3.5 hours venturing around the park seeing all the different animals. We saw babies of most of them too. It was awesome! The only bummer is no one ever found the cats.
We headed back to camp for lunch and some downtime. Some of the girls napped. I worked on emails to catch up with you all. This afternoon we are going on a boat safari up the Nile to the falls. The girls are super excited for this!! We load up into a small 16-passenger boat and start cruising up the Nile. Right as we started, there were elephants down for a drink. Fun!! Then we start seeing the many pods of hippos. There are tons!! We got a little closer to one and a mama hippo stood up and got ready in case we got any closer. Her little one got up and followed her. Too cute!! We continued on and saw a bunch of animals making their way down for water. I think we saw every elephant from inside the park on our 2.5 hour ride!! There were tons of different birds that we saw along the way too. My mom would have LOVED it!!! We saw a few African fish eagles which were pretty cool. I had seen one out yesterday and wondered if it was a bald eagle. They look similar, but these are a bit smaller. As we made our way closer to the falls, we started seeing the Nile crocs. One by one and then we found the croc pool and there were tons!! Yikes!! I am having flashes of Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny Devito from Jewel of the Nile. The finale of the ride was Murchison Falls. The Nile narrows and the water pounds through a small gorge and drops about 45 meters. It is beautiful!! We get some good group photos before we turn around to head back. I mentioned to the girls that when I did this last time, that I was able to ride on the roof of the boat, so they asked and Gloria, Lauren and Madi all went up there for the return. It is a beautiful ride!! I love being out in God’s creation. It just makes me happy inside!!!
We made it back to camp by around 530, so the girls all ran for a shower before all the other mzungus returned from game drives. We gathered for dinner at 630 because we are all excited for a long nights sleep!!! In the morning we will visit the top of the falls before heading back south to the airport. The girls fly out tomorrow evening. There are mixed emotions with that thought from all!!
I am up early!! Going to bed at 9 makes that easier. I ran into Tarah in the bathroom and heard they had an eventful night. Gloria woke up sick! Yuck!! We were all harassing her the last 2 days to drink a lot of water. We didn’t want her to get what we had. Apparently she didn’t drink enough. Poor Tarah has gotten a lot of nursing experience this trip. When they were up in the night they were able to see all the hippos outside, so they just stayed in their banda. Tarha thinks Gloria’s case wasn’t as serious. She threw up a couple of times and then was able to go back to sleep.
We all met for breakfast at 8. Gloria even felt up to nibbling. She more just drank!!! I took the opportunity to do a little debrief with the girls to prepare them for the journey home. Please be praying for them as they begin to switch gears and process all they have seen and experienced!! It can be really tough coming back to the US. The culture shock!! You spend months preparing for the culture shock coming, but generally aren’t ready for the return. I also get to dote on my girls a bit and share how much I love them and how proud of them I am.
We loaded up the van and headed up to the falls. There is a road to the top so you can do a short 5 minute hike down. It is crazy powerful!!! The hand of God really!!! It is crazy to think that the slow calm water we were drifting on yesterday are the same river as this heavy rushing white waters. It is beautiful though!! There is a rainbow across the mouth of the gorge that makes the falls. AWE inspiring awesome!!! We spent about 20 minutes there and got some good pix and then loaded back into the van for the long trip to Entebbe.
I am writing as we drive. The girls are all crashed out in the back. Gloria is feeling better and is catching up on her water. I hope she is well by the time they get on the plane tonight!! Lauren is uber worried that we won’t make it on time, but Mike is making good time. There isn’t any traffic and I think we will bypass Kampala.
Thank you for joining our team on this crazy adventure!! It has definitely been one for the books. Thank you for your faithful prayers through all of the challenges that have come our way. I AM SO THANKFUL FOR YOU!!! Please continue to be in prayer for the kids from camp. The have a couple more weeks of summer break before they start a new school year. Pray for their hearts that they would remember all they learned and pray for their relationship with God and with each other that they will continue to grow deeper and deeper. Please pray for traveling mercies for the girls headed home. Pray for their hearts and minds as they have to do the time change, process all they have seen and start back to school on Monday, just in time for finals. Pray for specific people to join them in their processing when they arrive back at home. And if you see them, please give them big hugs and tell them how proud of them you are. It is a big deal for them to have raised all the money, done all the prep work and then been here and run a camp for 80 kids. I am super proud of them!! I know God will continue to shape them through this experience as they all head on to college next year!!
Blessings to you all!!
Webele, thank you!