A Travellerspoint blog

4. Bwaise Slum, Kampala, Uganda

sunny 27 °C

16th June 2011, back in Uganda.

We spend the day in Bwaise Slum with AFFCAD (Action For Fundamental Change and Development), a small community based charity fighting HIV and poverty in Uganda. Housing over 30,000 people, Bwaise, is one of the most deprived areas in Kampala. Over 70% of the people here have AIDS. There's no clean water and residents face a constant threat of floods, damaging homes and contaminating what little water there is.

We spend some time learning about AFFCAD and the valuable work they do, before taking a walk around Bwaise. Our first stop is a school where the children come out to greet us. We take a look around the empty classrooms, admiring lesson plans and educational posters that hang on the walls. These range from labelling parts of the human anatomy, to strong messages about not being pressurised into sex.

Women are the breadwinners in Bwaise, often enduring backbreaking work to produce anything they can trade. We meet a woman who takes us into her home and introduces us to her family. Her, her son, and two daughters are all HIV positive. A widow, she brings up the children herself. During the day, she stays at home so she can look after her two daughters whom she cannot afford to send to school. During the night, she sells sweets to cars on the highway that intersects Bwaise. She manages to earn enough money to keep her son at school but dreams of sending her daughters.

70% of people living here, have AIDS, and many of them are just school children. Anti-retrievals are available free of charge, but the walk to the medical centre to collect them is long, and often requires a morning out of school. The drugs are helping though: children are able to return to school and integrate socially. Sadly, however, children on anti-retrievals are often in better health than those living without AIDS.

Many of the men in Bwaise lead a different life. Resided to extreme poverty, they spend their days in the bars that fill the corner of the slum. Our guide takes us there. Huts, with just a curtain to cover them, fill both sides of the path in front of us. As we pass by one, a rumble of laughter comes from inside. Late at night, when the men stumble out onto the street, prostitutes line up to entice them. I'm told that prostitution here is a choice. It's quite simply, a means of survival. As we leave the bars, and enter the prostitute area, large painted signs hang overhead warning of the perils of not using adequate protection. The sad truth, however, is that protection is not readily available, nor is the education that is desperately needed to go along side it.

Around another corner, we enter the dangerous part of the slum. Even our guides will not venture here at night. We've come to see an orphanage. Most of the children who live here are baby girls, abandoned because their family cannot afford to keep them. We spend some time here watching the children. A child, not yet old enough to walk, sits with a rounded belly and a tear stained face. Flies buzz around him, and the sadness in his eyes is heartrending. We give them some bags of rice, but we know it won't be enough.

To find out more about the work of AFFCAD visit their website.

Posted by Jayne Breckon 07:28 Archived in Uganda Tagged kampala uganda bwaise affcad slums_in_africa poverty_in_africa oasis_overland_trips sponsor_a_child_in_africa Comments (0)

3. Rwanda

Trekking to the Gorillas on the Congo border and visiting the genocide museum in Kigali

semi-overcast -17 °C

12th June 2011

Today we crossed over into Rwanda and visited the genocide museum. I remember how sobering Cambodia was, so I had been psyching myself up for the visit for some time. It is one of those things you have to see, even though you do not necessarily want to see it. The morning was not as sobering as I expected. I remember in Cambodia I’d seen the rooms where victims were tortured – the remnants of electrical cables used, the metal bed frames where they were handcuffed, photographs of how they were found, and blood stained on the wall. The set up in Rwanda was entirely different. The stories were just as disturbing: the use of HIV infected men as a weapon was just pure evil. But what happened is depicted in photographs, newspaper articles and film clippings from survivors. Outside stood a series of mass graves, some not yet full. It is sad to think this happened at all, let alone so recently and sad to realise that many of the perpetrators still live amongst the people in Rwanda.

In the early afternoon, we drive on and reach camp. The next day we are up early to see the Gorillas. We arrive at the park and split into small groups. Each group will trek to see a different gorilla family. I opt for the long hike. After 45 minutes by car, we hop out and trek for two/three hours. About an hour in, the terrain changes to dense jungle. The Gorilla trackers have to hack away with machetes to clear a path for us. It's actually quite fun. As we approach the Gorillas, we leave the day bags behind and proceed silently with only our cameras.

As the bushes part, I come face-to-face with a huge Silverback. He is only a few metres away, sat lazily amongst the bushes. I am a bit taken aback by how close he is to us. The trackers communicate with the Silverback, signalling so that he understands we are not a threat. They sound like a rendition of Shaggy’s ‘Mr Lover Lover’! We move closer and kneel to watch him. To his left are three females and one active, cheeky baby who likes to demonstrate beating his chest. Intrigued by his audience, he comes over to get a better look. The silverback watches his every move. We do not move a muscle. Fortunately, the baby soon loses interest and goes back to play with its mother. Bored, he then takes to beating the silverback on the back. We watched with abated breath, to see what the Silverback's reaction will be. He continues to sit there, completely unfaded, his head in his hands.

After a while, we leave him and move around to see the two week old twins. Sat nestled in their mothers arms these tiny, almost hairless, creatures are barely visible. We sit and watch them for another 15 minutes. Eventually the silverback decides he can trust us. Getting to his feet, he runs off through the trees. We then move on to see another silverback and some more females. It is remarkable how similar to humans these animals are: everything from their fingernails to their facial expressions.

After just an hour with the group, we depart and return to camp, taking care to ensure we take all our rubbish and belongings behind.

Posted by Jayne Breckon 07:00 Archived in Rwanda Tagged africa; rwanda oasis; african_gorillas; gorillas_in_rwanda; gorillas_in_uganda; mountain_gorillas; things_to_see_in_kigali; things_to_see_in_rwanda; things_to_do_in_rwanda oasis_overland_trips; overlanding_africa; genocide_museum_in_rwanda; genocide_rwanda; Comments (0)

2. Learning a valuable lesson

sunny 25 °C

11th June 2011

Having woken and eaten breakfast, we board a boat to see the pygmy tribe who live on Lake Bunyoni. After trekking for an hour and a half, we reach the tribe. Everyone walks at different speeds and before long the group is stretched out along the route. Children spot us from miles away and come running towards us with cries of “How are you?” and in turn “I’m fine thank you”. Jess (another girl on my tour) and I are happily chatting away, when we round a corner and out of nowhere jumps a young woman brandishing a knife. She has a small baby on her back. She threatens us with the knife and holds it to my stomach demanding money: a trick that has obviously worked in the past. I look at her with a stern face. Keeping extremely calm, as I feel the knife dig into my gut, I shake my head and tell her no! We push past her and speed up, to catch the rest of the group. We both suddenly feel terribly vulnerable here, where men walk around brandishing machetes. It serves to remind us just how easily we can put ourselves in danger. Thankfully, we both survived unscathed, if a little shaken. A valuable lesson learnt perhaps!

Posted by Jayne Breckon 07:02 Archived in Uganda Tagged africa; uganda overlanding oasis; poverty_in_africa oasis_overland_trips overlanding_africa; Comments (0)

1. Somewhat Moose

Life on the road

semi-overcast 10 °C

13th July 2011,

Life on the road is good. My new home is a large yellow truck, that we’ve affectionately called ‘somewhat moose’, meaning big yellow banana in Swahili and Ethiopian. There are 24 passengers, one tour leader – ‘Chief’ - and one driver, Richard. The truck is fully equipped with a kitchen, twelve tents and carries treated water for several days. The sides roll up so that we can see out, but when you're traveling along at 80k’s an hour, it's freezing in the back. Most of us spend the day in our thermals, wrapped in a thick blanket, or tucked up in our sleeping bags. It's not what you would expect in Africa!

We're often awake, packed up and on the road before the sun rises. As soon as the alarm goes, we get dressed, pack up the sleeping bags, and take down the tent. We just have time to eat breakfast and clean our teeth before we’re back on the road.

An allocated cook group prepares breakfast and dinner each day. It's worked out so that we each cook every six days. We have some amusing routines like flapping the dishes – a technique that involves waving our plates and cutlery around in the air until it dries. The locals think it is hilarious!

Seventeen of us started out from Nairobi five weeks ago for Uganda and Rwanda. On our return, four leave us and eleven join us to head down to Malawi. We have a second drop off/pick up point there. The group is fun – everyone’s about the same age and similar minded. I’ve made some fantastic friends already, and had fun. It's a different type of travel than I'm used to, but so far I've enjoyed it.

After nearly five weeks on the road, it's surprising what things starts to excite you: waking up when its light, rather than in the dark; running water (forget hot water); a toilet; toilet paper; not being on the cook group; and food that is not pasta or rice. Whatever way you look at it though, life is peachy on the road, and you honestly can not beat it!

Posted by Jayne Breckon 06:07 Archived in Kenya Tagged overland; oasis; oasis_overland_trips overlanding_africa; kenya; nairobi_to_cape_town; eastern_africa Comments (0)

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