By Aaron Aroriza, Uganda:
Up until then, the journey had been boring; devoid of anything to write home about. I had seen only one person walking on the road in the last one hour of driving. I suspect he was a night dancer. He looked like one to me at least. Otherwise we seemed to be the only road users as it came to mid night, driving quietly towards Kidepo national park. I was beginning to have forty winks when I espied something black in the middle of the dusty road. It turned out to be a snake – one of the longest I have seen. It stretched from tire to tire. That's about 2metres long. It was crossing the road. The car screeched and swerved as the driver tried to avoid slaying the serpent.
Had we had my grandmother in the car, she would have advised us not to continue with the journey. A snake crossing the road is a sign of bad luck. Don't ask me how a snake's journey would have anything to do with a human being's luck if it didn't bite him. Our fore fathers were superstitious and they never bothered to explain why. But their superstitions seem to have kept them alive.
We drove through the national park without any event. I thanked the gods when we finally arrived at the camp. “Can you hear that?” the park warden asked moments after we were done eating. I tuned my ears and in the distance, heard a thundering sound. “Oh it's going to rain before we get to our cottages!” I said, tired from the journey, cold in the makeshift dining room and praying for a warm bed. “It's a lion's roar,” he said with a smirk on his face, “…the lions are so close tonight,” he added. Oh that really helped.
Sleep didn't come easy. I could tell by the roars that the lions were getting closer and closer. I wondered whether the rickety reed door on my cottage could withstand the assault of a hungry lion. It didn't help that the cottages were so far apart. But morning came anyways and everyone was alive: Me inclusive – surprisingly.
After breakfast, we were given a guide and an armed ranger. We set off to do our work which is most times basically walking around, looking around, measuring around, asking some questions and drawing a few lines in a sketchbook with a pencil. Some professional people call it site analysis. Well, site analysis in the wild can put you in the cross hairs of a hungry lion. “Hey. I think there has been a kill!” our guide shouted excitedly pointing at the soaring birds in the sky – vultures that were circling down to take a share of the lion's kill. It was about two hundred meters from the site we were analyzing and we had just passed there on foot not so long ago. We only saw the fresh Zebra corpse on our way back. The killer lion had already left. The vultures were having a party. And I was trembling in my boots.
When we got back to the camp, only a few people were talking about the kill. The rest treated it like a normal thing. It must be a normal thing to them. Among the few who were excited about the morning's events were four girls who were doing their tourism internship in the park. It wasn't long before one came to me and greeted me like we had met before. She then asked to take a picture with me. Soon, the other three also joined in and posed around me for their photo opportunities. I was confused but I savored the moment while it lasted anyways. Then the guide told me he overheard them saying they had seen me on tv. That they said I was a musician. Musician!
As if he read the confusion in my mind, he whispered, “I think it's your hair. You look like a Rasta man”. I had woken up and realized I hadn't carried a comb with me. Since I was going to spend my day in the wild, I had figured it wouldn't hurt leaving my hair wild. Turns out my wild hair turned me into a celebrity. Oh how easy it must be to pull off the celebrity look and be adored by young girls!
But it wasn't as easy for one of the rangers in the camp. We heard a woman screaming. We saw people running towards one of the huts. At first I thought it was a lion attack. But all the people running seemed amused. Then I saw a half naked tall dark man dashing from the reed walled bathroom to his hut. Even from a distance you could see the stiff bulge emanating from his groin straining the white bed sheet that he had wrapped on his lower part of the body. There was a naked woman in the bathroom speaking to the on lookers in what I concluded were tongues. The guide told me the man had attempted to rape the woman. “But the woman is his wife,” he added. “We don't get much sex around here, even from our wives. The single roomed huts we live in with our kids and relatives offer us no privacy for adult activities. And the bachelors aren't doing any better either. There aren't many women in this camp”. He gazed at me almost forlornly.
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