Day 10: Safari!

Safari in Swahili means journey, and this day was quite the journey from beginning to end!  We woke up very early that morning to begin our trek back home.  We left Beni at six thirty in the morning in order to get to the border by nine.   I was given a seat in the smoother riding car due to my previous incident, and it was indeed much more comfortable than the box van with the inexistent shocks!  After only a half hour however, we abruptly came to a stop behind a long traffic jam on the rural jungle road.  There were lines of trucks and people were everywhere.  We got out and walked up to see what the problem was.  We quickly discovered that a big truck had stalled and that another big truck had gone into the ditch while trying to get past the other one.  We walked further and were very discouraged to discover that there was a complete gridlock of trucks that had decided to double park themselves on the road.  The line went on for at least a kilometer and it looked like most of the people had been there overnight.  These trucks if you can imagine, are loaded up to the max with whatever they can fit.  They hang things off the back and pile things extremely high on top.  Some had the extreme odour of fish and were also piled up with groups of people and other animals.  It looked like we would be delayed for the entire day and the whole team was silently worried.  All we could do was wait and pray.

While we were away from the vehicles, our drivers foolishly attempted to get around the right side of the stalled truck because there was a bit of a way through although it was very slanted and muddy.  The car made it through okay, but the van got stuck on many attempts.  Our driver kept backing up and retrying, and finally with a group of people pushing, he succeeded in pulling by.  Getting past that truck almost meant nothing however because of all the double parked vehicles that were still ahead of us blocking our way.  Then the people who had helped push (and even those who had not) began to demand us for money.  The situation was only getting worse.  Our team made ourselves scarce and stood behind our van while our escort tried to calm the people down.  Eventually our presence became old news and the people dispersed.  It was surprising, when only a hour and a half later, people managed to tow the truck out of the ditch and the line of trucks slowly began to move.  I was frustrated at myself for feeling so much doubt and worry that we would be there all day, and not trusting that God would bring us through.  Finally after double parked truck after truck passed by us, our way was clear to go again.

Besides being a bit behind schedule, the rest of the ride was extremely smooth.  We met up with another eMi team in Mbarara to transfer some supplies to them, that was heading out to begin their project trip in Kigali, Rwanda; we then headed to Queen Elizabeth Park where we had arranged for a Safari.  My first ever safari was amazing!  At first all we saw were antelope and the occasional warthog.  Our driver was experienced however and managed to drive us right up to a lion that was sitting in the shadow of a clump of bushes.  What a majestic looking creature, especially in the wild!  It was very lazy and calm in our presence, although our driver managed to make him growl by opening and slamming the van door a few times!  We also saw a lone buffalo that had been rejected from the herd, monkeys, interesting birds, and several waterbuck.  Another amazing find was driving up close to the water in a lake to find a group of hippos chilling out in the water!  We were really hoping to see elephants but we only saw a herd from a far distance.  All of the lakes in the park were created from volcanic activity, and there was one in particular that is extremely high in salt and has been used for decades as a salt mine.  There used to be a factory until it went into disrepair and there are still people who collect the salt by hand.  My favourite part of the safari was standing up in the pop-top van and then pulling myself onto a small cushion that was on the roof.  With everyone else still below me in the van I felt like I was all alone, and with the wind in my face and the uninterrupted view I felt as though I was flying.

Photo by Robert Donahue

Photo by Robert Donahue

Photo by Robert Donahue

Finally after a long day we arrived at the resort we would be staying at for the final night of our trip.  It was a quaint hotel that sat on the edge of steep hill that overlooked the expanse of Queen Elizabeth Park.  For the first time in a very long time I got my own room.  After I had a quick nap, a dunk in the pool, and then a marvelously warm shower with perfect water pressure, I joined the team for a delicious meal.  That evening we had a time of sharing and prayer to wrap up our time in service together.

We spent most of the following day on the road, stopping only to grab lunch at a restaurant that sat near the equator line (which I strode of course!).  We arrived back at the office just as everyone was leaving for the day.  It was good to be back.

In Swahili to ask someone how their journey was you can say:

Habari ya safari?

Nzuri!

Good!

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