October 26, 2021
Mzungu Diaries, Part 1.
Through the clouds, to Cloud's
On pause for a year thanks to Covid, we traveled to Africa for the first time on our honeymoon, 11 months after getting married - Uganda, Kenya and The Seychelles Islands through Dubai. Jungle, safari and the beach; a logistically challenging itinerary during normal time, even more challenging during a pandemic, made slightly easier things to an amazing and patient travel agent, Melanie from Travel Beyond. I'd highly recommend working with Melanie wherever she worked.
Twos days to Entebbe and three days from our front door in the SF Bay Area to our first real destination, we arrived at the top of a mountain in Uganda, Cloud Mountain Rest Gorilla Lodge for the start of a humbling, mind-changing experience. When booking a trip to Eastern Africa during the month of May, the one warning you will get is "it is rainy season," but as our luck would have it, the only rain we experienced was in a small, six-seat aircraft on our way from Entebbe to the Kisoro airstrip and then from the Kisoro airstrip to Enbtebbe and then from Entebbe to the Masi Mara in Kenya. And it poured while we sat in what felt like a Ford van with wings. But we made it in a very sobering way after spending 21 hours on Emirates.
From Kisoro to Clouds, we had a two hour drive up steep, rocky terrain, through mountain villages in a purpose built, stick shift Land Cruiser driven by Tank. He loved our reactions during the drive, the million questions I threw his way, but mostly he loved reminding us we were getting our first African massage.
The drive was beautiful and the sights humbling. The way the people live and they things they do to survive made you feel nothing bought appreciation for the life you put on pause back home. The lengths and elevations the Ugandan's travel, by foot, with goods in hand or on head, to the market just to make a few bucks or trade is something that will sit and live with me forever. Or the kids chasing after you while you sit in the backseat, waving, yelling "mzungu, mzungu," because they are so excited to see you because it had been so long.
"Hey Tank, what does mzungo mean?"
With a laugh, "mzungu means white people, we are all so excited. It has been so long." It turns out Wikipedia's definition is a more appropriate but Tank's was real. And whoa. They needed us and a lot more of us for a long-time to come. And we wanted to visit don't think I realized how much we needed them and just how well spent our honeymoon fund really was. At the other end of a stormy, small aircraft ride, and rocky ride 2 hours up a mountain, three days in the heart of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest was beginning of a humbling, beautiful, life-changing experience.
One that I refuse to call "once-in-a-lifetime," because we will go back. Maybe not to spend time with Rafiki's family or Father Christmas, or the wonderful staff at Clouds Mountain but to Africa with certainty.