Hello to all our family and friends back at home!
I am writing to you from our amazing lodge accommodation at Bwana Tembo – meaning ‘Mr Elephant’. Last night when we arrived I was grinning from ear to ear and have been in heaven ever since. One thing I have to mention for my mum is the greeting I received from an adorable, bouncy five month old Rhodesian ridgeback named Elsa who has made me miss my ridgeback back home.
Our first night in the tents taught us the definition of glamping and was a true adventure. Many of the girls – including Luke – were rather challenged by the bugs, to my amusement, but we all survived the night and woke well refreshed, ready for the day ahead.
Today has been absolutely incredible. The view over the Nile as you open the door of the tent is simply breath-taking and the rustic setting has made us all feel at home. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast and fuelled up for the busy day. By 9 am we were in the vans and set off for Murchison National Park. Before we had even reached the entry gate our van had spotted a herd of Uganda kob which we gloated over – we’re still feeling rather competitive after yesterday’s Apprentice challenge!
In true Ugandan fashion we were kept waiting for 45 minutes as we tried to buy our entry tickets and every dollar note of the slightest difference in colour or with the smallest tear was rejected. Eventually we were on the move again but now the time was tight to make our 11 am boat trip. Within the first 10 minutes of driving through the park we had seen our first elephant, kobs, oribi and warthogs. It was so amazing to see these animals in their beautiful natural habitat and we were all marvelling at the sheer size of the elephant! In no time we had seen baboons, waterbuck, buffalo and even two fleeting giraffes. We arrived to jump on the boat just in time although they threatened to abandon Tim and Odirah on the shore. Nevertheless we all made it on board The African Queen opposite five wallowing hippos.
The trip down the Nile was absolutely stunning with the wide river bordered by green trees, cliffs and swamps. We saw so many different animals including hippos, crocodiles, elephants, waterbucks, baboons and warthogs. There were also beautiful birds including pied kingfishers and an African fish eagle. It was lovely to have the chance to relax, take in the breath-taking scenery and chat with each other.
We turned a corner and were faced with the sheer cliffs of Murchison falls. The water was raging down through the rocks and its power was evident from the loud roar. We were dropped off near the base of the falls and proceeded to prepare ourselves mentally and physically for the long climb to the top. The entire team sun creamed and DEETed leaving us all delightfully sticky and we grabbed as much water as we could carry. Our guide Emmanuel assured us we would stick to a leisurely pace and how wrong we were to trust him! We set of slowly under a false pretence but soon were power walking up steep cliff paths in the blazing sun. The views were incredible as we climbed higher and higher up the side of the waterfall which made up for the difficult trek. As we powered on we were soon all dripping with sweat which was a lovely addition to our sun cream and DEET combination. As you can imagine we all looked absolutely stunning, Graeme in particular who was again having some issues with his sweaty breasts.
In the blink of an eye we had made it all the way to the top(all of us apart from Odirah who was taking her time ambling up the steps and stopping to admire every wild flower or insect) and you can rest assured knowing none of us collapsed, died of thirst of fell off the side of a cliff. We are all safe and so happy to have made it the breath-taking views as we looked over the Nile and watched the masses of water tumbling over the top of the falls. The spray was deliciously cool and was so refreshing after our hot, sweaty trek. We took a plethora (this is getting old now isn’t it) of selfies and team photos overlooking the rushing water which you’ll have to wait to see. I could never do justice to the beauty of God’s creation if I attempted to describe it in words so I will just continue with the rest of the day.
As you can imagine we were overjoyed to return to the AIRCONDITIONED(!) vans and we all piled in, sticky and hot but basking in the cold air. We drove back to the ferry port looking forward to the game drive home and all desperate for a shower! How our hearts broke when we arrived to be told there was no rush because the car ferry had broken down and wouldn’t be fixed for hours. We had to abandon John and the vans which Tim was unsurprisingly reluctant about as we had temporarily lost the best driver in Uganda (and the recipient of Tim’s unrequited bromance). However, Odirah saved the day again as we crossed the river on two small passenger boats. We had thought that the day’s trekking was over but at least the trickery hadn’t been designed by our youth pastor this time! Off we went again with all of our bags as we walked up to a nearby lodge hotel and awaited rescue.
After a well-deserved cool drink it wasn’t long before ``````````````````````````````````````````````````our saviour Davide from Bwana Tembo arrived with trucks to take us back to base. We all piled in relieved to finally be getting closer to the chance of a shower! Little did we know that we would see five elephants on the side of the road followed by a giraffe, God really does know how to cheer us up! However, that wasn’t even the highlight as we were stopped by three little lion cubs crossing the road ahead of us followed by their majestic mother. As my van was full of girls we all had to contain our squeals of delight at how cute and fluffy the baby cubs were as the lioness wasn’t too pleased by our presence. It was the perfect way to end the long day and we made it back home with stunning views of the sunset and the African skyline.
As soon as we were back we all rushed to the tents to finally shower and get clean (it was the best shower of my life). We even made it back in time for another delicious three course Italian meal which we needed after our exhausting day. After dinner we had our usual highs and lows which were all rather similar as we were blown away by the beauty of the Nile and the animals, and all have a common hatred of sweat. Georgie shared her favourite Bible verse, Jeremiah 29:11 ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ This verse particularly resonates with all of us as we face exam results when we return home so it is such an encouragement to know that God has a plan for our lives through which we can commit ourselves to him. It is, however, also a challenge not to hold on to our own plans but to commit everything over to God who knows far better than we do and trust him completely for the future.
We were then blessed enough to hear Odirah’s testimony and how she struggled through a very challenging childhood. Odirah is an inspiration as she truly lives in the knowledge of Jeremiah 29:11, she commits all of her plans to the Lord and by God’s grace she remained in education and completed her degree from Kampala University. She has worked so hard for all she has which is a testament to her success and through her total surrender to God, he has blessed her future. We felt so privileged to hear her amazing story and how fitting Georgie’s Bible verse was. Even in the little things, God has a plan. If we hadn’t had to change hotels and end up at the palace of Mbale Resort God would never have been able to challenge us and change our hearts as we wrestled with staying in such luxury. If the car ferry hadn’t broken down we wouldn’t have seen those elephants, giraffe and lions. God knows all things and got us home in time for dinner!
Today has been just incredible, I hope I have managed to do it some justice in this blog. We’re all sad to be coming towards the end of this life-changing trip and don’t really want to leave, but we can’t wait to see you all and tell our stories when we get home.
That’s all for today, thank you for all your prayers and love. Goodnight and God bless from Uganda!
(P.s. Hi Mummy and Daddy, I’m still alive and although we did see one camel we haven’t found another nine so they haven’t sold me yet. Give Mara and the other doggies hugs from me, I can’t wait to see you all soon. Lots of love x)