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Tracey Bell's Posts
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Kenya Visit: 2012-8
2012-09-09 - After a year of promises to visit, two weeks ago I finally made the trek out to Tsavo Volunteers. I met the manager of the project, Patrick Kilonzo, last year in Nairobi after we connected through the CouchSurfing website. Then he had told me about the activities his volunteer organisation was involved in, particularly focusing on dealing with the human-wildlife conflict that exists in many parts of Africa. Tsavo Volunteers is based in Lumo Community Sanctuary, which is part of the Tsavo eco-system. Lumo was set up by the local community, with residents contributing their land for conservation. Community members are still allowed to graze their cattle in the Sanctuary, but its primary purpose is for wildlife protection. The park entry fees collected from visitors are fed back into the community and distributed amongst the approximately 2500 shareholders. This goes some way to ensure community members are not tempted to engage in poaching activities. While I was there, a CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) conference was being held in the adjacent Taita Hills Sanctuary. The delegates came to Lumo to learn about the activities being conducted to protect elephants. CITES are currently undergoing an investigation into releasing ivory onto the market. There is pressure from Southern African nations who hold large stockpiles of ivory, but Kenya Wildlife Service is against it. Even though elephants are enormously destructive (indeed throughout Lumo there were large swathes or land with not an upright tree in sight), opening the ivory market could see the end of these beautiful creatures. The day I arrived, Patrick treated me to the best experiences of the area: a glass of red wine at Lions Bluff Lodge watching the sunset over Mt Kilimanjaro, followed by dinner at Sarova Salt Lick Lodge seated by the window watching herd of elephants come to drink water at the water hole located just outside. It was challenging to have a conversation over the bellows of the elephants though! The following day, we went on patrol. Two volunteers were already at Lumo when I arrived: Elizabeth from the US and Nils from Germany. Together with Patrick and Agnes (wildlife specialist) we patrolled the Sanctuary, making sure none of the animals had snares and everything was as it should be. As well as elephants, we saw ostriches (courting and mating, what a show!), waterbuck, impala, gazelle, striped hyena, buffalo, and plenty of birds. In the afternoon we visited the school where Patrick is working on a chilli-growing project. Elephants do not like chilli, making it a good crop for villagers to grow. They can sell it at market or exchange it for other vegetables from other villages. Other activities they undertake include making paper out of elephant dung to sell to tourists. Instead of fighting against the elephants, Tsavo Volunteers is dedicated to working with the community to find ways of using the elephants to generate income sustainably.


Uganda Visit: 2014-6
2014-11-12 - In June 2014 Bev arrived in Nairobi to start a month-long journey through Kenya and Uganda. One of the main reasons for her visit was to meet Jared, a Ugandan university student who she had been sponsoring for the past 18 months. We\'ll skip the Kenya section and go straight to Uganda.... Crossing into Uganda was something of an event with Tracey nearly getting arrested thanks to the Kenyan insurance company failing to fill in the Comesa insurance certificate correctly – we still need to express our thanks to Amaco Insurance for putting us in that predicament. However, after a few hours we were able to clear the border and get to Jinja. After the stress of the border crossing, it would have been wonderful to get a good night’s sleep, but it was not to be. Normally Tracey can sleep through anything, but a bagpiper wandering through the campsite managed to cut through the deep sleep. Sticking her head out the tent, she asked “Really?” and the bagpiper apologised.....only to start up again!! Is it necessary to say that we may have lost our tempers a little bit? The next day was much better though with a boozy lunch cruise on the Nile. The birdlife was spectacular and the new camera has proven itself to be an excellent purchase. In Mbale, on our way to Sipi Falls, we finally met Jared. Bev and Jared have been communicating extensively via email for 18 months but this was the first time they were to meet in person, so it was very exciting. We got lunch and continued the journey to Sipi as the two chatted in the back of the vehicle. All seemed to be fine – which was a relief! At Sipi Falls we met Punky the cheeky Turaco. At first we were so excited to see this beautiful bird come so close and felt incredibly privileged – and then we realised that actually the only privilege being afforded to us was that we were able to eat the majority of our breakfast before Punky came to greet us! Having fallen out of the nest as a baby, Punky has been raised by Minette and Andy but has freedom to fly away now he is fully grown. But it seems he has too much fun bullying the cat and the dogs so he stays. Jared, Francis and Tracey hiked two of the three waterfalls that make up Sipi Falls. The third involved ladders and steepness that we decided wasn’t necessary – we got a fine view from where we were. Across Uganda to Murchison Falls National Park where we enjoyed a cruise and a game drive. The Nile thrusts itself through a 7 metre gorge, creating the most powerful waterfall in the world. And we saw it! In western Uganda we spent a few nights in Fort Portal where we ate pizza and played cards. We also did a hike in the Rwenzori Mountains up to a school. The guides took a look at Bev and said the school was too far and we probably wouldn’t make it. But we did and kudos to Bev for pushing her comfort zone! We were trying to be quiet so as not to disturb the children in the classroom, but curiousity obviously got the better of them and just before finishing time, suddenly they all rushed out to greet us. Bev got bombarded with children wanting to shake her hand and just generally be near her. The next day we went chimp trekking, but did not have much luck. Our guide was a little gung-ho in the beginning and the chimps were on the move rather than sitting somewhere convenient for us to take pictures. We saw three black blobs moving through the bush over the several hours we wandered in Kabale National Park. Once we told the guide we were OK with not seeing any chimps, he relaxed and even cracked a smile. He cracked more smiles as we neared the end: we asked how far we were from the road and he said “About 600 metres”. After about 2km, we asked again and he gave the same answer. After a few times of the pattern we just had to laugh and ask him “So only 600 more metres?” Driving south, we passed through Queen Elizabeth National Park and were quite shocked at the speed several police trucks were swinging themselves around an escarpment, especially as they passed by a school. We stopped at Uganda Lodge, a project started by a Ugandan man and British woman where there is a school and a new clinic. Bev did a few more science classes and we went with some volunteers in the afternoon to deliver bananas to the children’s ward at the nearby hospital. Jared is studying public health and was very keen to visit the hospital and ask lots of questions. Finally we reached Kampala where Bev was to spend her last week seeing Jared’s life. We dropped Jared at his home where his aunty gave us two of the biggest avocadoes you have ever seen and a bunch of sweet bananas. Then it was back to battle Kampala’s peak hour traffic to get to the hotel for a final dinner together. There we met Ishmael, who was to take over driving responsibilities for Bev’s week in Kampala while we rushed back to Kenya. From all accounts, Ishmael became as much a part of Bev and Jared’s week and we had been a part of their holiday before. Jared showed Bev plenty of universities and hospitals, he invited her to his house for a meal, his family came out to town for another meal and they went to a school sports day and cheered on the Parrots...Ishmael as well! What a journey! Bev and Tracey had travelled together for five weeks in 2009 from Beijing to Istanbul and here again was another month of new experiences, incredible memories and plenty of laughter. Bev and Jared have cemented their mother-son relationship and Jared’s university education is assured (so long as he keeps getting good grades!). And we all look forward to Bev’s next visit....or will it be Jared, Francis and Tracey coming to Australia to visit Bev?!
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