For the last mile the windows had been open. We where in Queen Elisabeth National Park, Uganda, on our way to Bwindi. Just passing through. Warm dry air from the open savannah had filled the car. I did not understand my drivers concern but far ahead on the dirt road there was something moving. I closed my window. The car slowed down. On both sides of the road it was tall, brown grass and occasional trees. A perfect hiding place for just about anything – like baboons. We slow down, almost to complete stop. It looks like they come from everywhere. They come right up to the car. Rogers, the local driver, looks at me, smiles and say, “They bite”. The car moves slowly and they let us pass. I am staring at the road and my mind wanders. Strange, how we grow up on a different continent with so many wrong assumptions about animals and cultures. Growing up in Scandinavia monkeys are cute, elephants are friendly, hippos are funny and mosquitos are just annoying. Disney and theme parks help us misunderstand from early age. But now, thirty years later, sitting in this car, my mind works a little different. I have been attacked by elephants, threatened by hippos and fled from angry packs of “cute” small monkeys more than once. So we keep the windows closed until we pass the whole pack of baboons.
Driving through this park is wonderful. There is wildlife everywhere. Big and small.
Suddenly a flock of birds are circling a tree on the open savanna. “hm, someone killed something”. The driver squint his eyes. The tree is right by the road and we slow down, as we get closer. We can see two female lions under the tree. Just the top of their heads and ears sticking up in the thick grass. We are barely 30 feet from the tree and we open the roof of the car and stand up in the seat. With a 300 mm lens I can see it is something up in the tree. We move the car closer. A large female lion. She has just eaten. Probably an Impala. Now she is just relaxing but follow every move we make.
I turn and see something disturbing on the road. Two men are walking on the road and will pass by the tree with the lions. I ask the driver what to do. He does not understand. “We must warn the people walking!”, he looks at me and smiles, “No, they don’t care”. “But there are lions! And they will pass right by?”. He is completely calm and continues, “They walk through here every day, and they don’t care”. I am amazed, “…but is that safe?”. He smiles again “not always”, he starts the car and we continue our journey in the warm afternoon sun.
Read the story about crossing Uganda in car: http://reflections.no/crossing-uganda/