Saturday, December 17, 2016

Murchison Falls National Park Days 1, 2 & 3

Hello Everyone!  This past week we had our long awaited Missionary Couples Retreat at the Murchison Falls National Park.  It is located in Western Uganda and is about 6 hours form our home in Mbale.  We met up with the other couples on Monday afternoon and had a fun filled week together.  There are five senior couples serving in the Uganda Kampala Mission.  

*The Bratsmans are from Idaho and they are the office couple serving in Kampala.
*The Harlines are the office and MLS couple serving in Ethiopia.
*The Gillettes are another office and MLS couple working in Rwanda.
*We of course are serving in Mbale as Proselyting and MLS missionaries.
*The last couple, The Towers, are not officially considered missionaries but are on assignment to work with the judicial system here in Uganda.  Brother Tower is a former lawyer and judge from the San Diego area.  His wife is here to support him in his assignment.
*President and Sister Collings spearheaded this retreat and it was a wonderful time for all.

Our first four nights were spent at the Paraa Safari Lodge inside the park.  Paraa is an all inclusive Resort that included all of our meals.  We did not want for food on this trip.  Every meal was a buffet!  As we drove off of the main highway to get to the resort we began to see many animals.  Mostly from the deer and antelope family but we did see a couple of warthogs which was pretty exciting. 

Here's a picture on our way between Lira and our destination.  We passed many different fields of sunflowers and I just had to stop to get a picture!

As we got into the park I spotted a tree that I have never seen before.  It was so interesting!  The locals call it a sausage tree because it has these long gourd looking things hanging from it.  They look like they are lightweight but we picked one up that had fallen to the ground and it was quite heavy!  It is so amazing that those vines can support that "fruit".  The guides told us that when the warthogs and the elephants eat the fruit they get drunk.  Has anyone ever seen a drunk elephant?!?

This is the magnificent view from our room!  We overlooked the pool and in the background is the (Victoria) Nile River.  It is called Victoria because it flows out of Lake Victoria (the second largest freshwater lake in the world.... Lake Superior is the largest)

                                                We woke up to this beautiful sunrise!

On Tuesday morning we all met in the lobby for our boat trip to Murchison Falls.  It was a 2 1/2 hour boat ride to the falls.  All twelve of us piled into a small boat (I think every seat was taken....and one person even sat on the bow the whole time) and began our journey.  Nathan was our guide and one of the first things he told us was that every little while he would have to stop and clean out the motor.  The Nile was REALLY dirty!  It had lots of flotsam and weeds and I don't know what floating in it.  And it was true he had to stop many times to clean out the motor.  Our drive to the falls was really cool!  We were able to see lots of wildlife!  Many herds of hippos along the banks!  They were fun to stop and watch for a while.  They are really huge animals that make a lot of noise and were very curious as we floated by.  It was especially cool when they opened their HUGE mouths:)  We also saw crocodiles and many exotic birds on our way.

The most exciting sighting of the day was a herd of elephants that came out of the bush to get some water.  Many of them got a little spooked and headed back towards the trees but there were a couple of them that came right up to the water and gave us a good show.  When elephants get annoyed they flap their big ears.  Most of them were flapping away but we were completely safe in the boat in the water:)

                                   We picked up our safari hats from the curio shop at the resort.
                            They really came in handy because it was a sunny day on the river!

A couple of pictures of the hippos....

                      We saw about six or seven different crocs on the banks and in the water.

                                        Here's a picture of the big guy!!  He was massive!
                                     Nathan guesstimated that he weighed about six tons!

                                   We pulled up to the trailhead and headed out for the falls.

                                               We stopped a few times for some photos...

                             About halfway we found a nice place to get a picture of the falls.
                                          Here we are with President and Sister Collings.

                                     We hiked about an hour and got to the top of the falls.
     It was a really beautiful sight seeing the Nile come into a gorge and create these amazing falls!

It took a lot of climbing up to reach the top but the view was worth it!

After spending a little time at the falls we hiked back down and got back on our boat.  The ride back went a lot faster since we didn't stop as much.  We still saw lots of elephants (rick counted 39) and hippos on the way back.  

When we got back to the Resort we had a quick lunch and then got our swimsuits on for a dip in the pool.  The water felt really nice after all the heat on the hike and riding on the boat.  A few of us decided to take a game drive that afternoon/evening and it was so cool!  We got to see all kinds of animals up close.  Our Jeep had roofs that opened up so that we could view the animals from the back seats.  The coolest part of the drive was when the sun started setting.  It produced an orange glow over the landscape and things started cooling down and it just smelled so good outside!  At one point Elder Harline who was in the seat in front of us turned around and said, "Wow! Look at that.  The moon is coming up!"  And sure enough we turned around to see the full moon rising in the East and it was an incredible moment.  Just breathtakingly beautiful!

A warthog....there are LOTS of these running around!

This is a really interesting looking animal.  It is called Jackson's Hartebeest.  It's eyes are an amber color and their face is very long.  They say they have a very small brain and a short memory.  they will be running from a lion and then forget why they are running and just stop.  I'd say the lion has the upper hand with these animals!

These tiny deer are so cute.  They are called Olibis.

This is a really majestic animal.  It is called a Kob (rhymes with lobe) and has intricate horns and a beautiful face!

Of course,  I loved seeing the giraffes!  They are another majestic animal and are very graceful when they move.  We saw many of these throughout the week in the bush!

If you like watching National Geographic you have probably seen these big guys before.  These are Cape Buffalo and are all over the Savannah.  Herds and herds of them.

                                    We saw a few vultures and thought they were cool too.

I love this shot with the sun going down and the giraffes on the horizon.

This is a water buck.  We saw more of these on our river boat ride but this guy was on the Savannah.

                                                             Our beautiful sunset.......

.......and moon rise.

On Wednesday we went on a morning game drive.  While it was nice, we didn't see as much wildlife as the previous night.  We enjoyed the day at the hotel relaxing and swimming and eating:)  

Rick went out on another game drive that night.  He drove the truck and hired a guide to go out with him.  He LOVED being out in the bush seeing what he could find.  He was able to see some Kobs fighting to win over a female:)  He also saw a vulture hovering a ways off of the road and so the guide told him to go off road to see what was up.  He put it in four wheel and headed off road.  They were able to find a dead Cape Buffalo and that was what the vulture was hanging around for:) 

That evening after dinner all of us couples met with President and Sister Collings in the Conference Room for a report on our areas.  Each one of us has different responsibilities in our areas of service and it was fun learning what everyone does in theirs.  These are good people who love the Lord and love the people of Africa.

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