Saturday, January 21, 2012

Monkeys and Malaria

SFO to Dubai  15 + hours.  12 hour layover in Dubai.  Dubai to Addis Ababa 3 ½ hours.  I hour layover in Addis.  Addis Ababa to Kampala 2 hours and we are finally here.  Carol and I left San Francisco at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon and arrived in Entebbe around 4pm Thursday.  Uganda takes some serious effort to get to.


We arrive at our accommodations and they are fantastic.  They are funky, very funky, but entirely magical.  We are staying at the Uganda Wildlife Education Center, a nature preserve where animals that cannot return to wild for whatever reason are cared for. They have rhinos, and lions, giraffes and water buffalo, zebras and crocodiles, beautiful birds and monkeys.  Do they have monkeys… 


Monkeys, we have decided, must be an indigenous species for this area.  They are everywhere.  A cute grey little thing with black faces, they scamper around in packs.  It also appears that, what ever their natural predator was, no longer resides in the area.  I would estimate there are a thousand monkeys here, and do they have a mind of their own!


The café where we go for meals is a circular cinderblock open air building overlooking Lake Victoria.   Funky and magical.  We meet some visitors, a pilot from Ohio via Turkey, a tour guide from Iran, have a beer and collect some things for the room, namely, a few bananas and some mantaz, also known as half-cake, a fried bread donut type thing that looks really good.  On our walk back to the room, we travel through a path that is canopied by trees where out of nowhere, a monkey runs up and leaps to grab our bag of goodies.  Unsuccessful, he runs off but another attacks from different angle.  Carol and I are trying to get though this gauntlet with our bounty but these monkeys know what they are doing.  The second monkey got a hold of the plastic and tore the bag.  Donuts and bananas cascade to the ground and monkeys are immediately on deck to pick up their loot. We carry on down the path schooled in the behavior of Ugandan Monkeys.


We return to the café the following morning for breakfast.  It is a spectacular morning.  The blue mist rising on the flat still lake, a few scattered boats fish for their daily catch, it is a lovely place to sit and read while waiting for the café to open.   Carol forgot some things so she returned to our room while I stayed to enjoy the moment; she left her malaria meds on the table with me, sealed in their child protected pill bottle.  The café opens and I go to order some tea and unbeknownst to me, a monkey scampers by and grabs Carol's malaria meds.  I return to the table, pick up my kindle, and start to read but out of the corner of my eye, I see something.  I look up and there is a monkey, looking straight at me, holding Carol's pill bottle, chewing the label.  I yell and go after the little thief, hoping he would just drop them but he scampers up to the roof, pills and all.  One of the young gentlemen who work at the cafe came to help and we walked around the building, trying to find the offending monkey to see if we could get the meds back.  We find him, chewing the label happily, and the child protective top no longer on the bottle. 


With the pills no longer in the bottle, I left the monkey to enjoy his prize and I looked around the grass, hoping to find at least a few pills.  I personally only travel with the amount of pills I need and I didn't know if Carol did the same.  This could be a problem.  We had already learned that we were on two different medications so I could not share.  I did do a quick calculation and we could have someone call in a new script and have them picked up by Eva before she got on her flight that afternoon but what to do for today?  I found some, a few pills lying on the grass.  I picked them up.  One looked completely untouched.  It will be up to Carol…


I return to my kindle and this blissful morning scene where out of the corner of my eye, I see the pill bottle flying from the roof on to the ground.  At least I now have some evidence as to the happenings of Carol's medication and the monkey.


Carol returns and we have a laugh.  Fortunately, she has some extras in another bottle so there is no concern.  Breakfast is delivered and we are given plates of beautiful fresh fruit and hard-boiled eggs.  We are just ready to begin eating when another monkey comes racing towards Carol and attacks her fruit!  What is it about Carol's monkey Karma?  She was holding the bag the evening before, so she was the one who was attacked.  It is her Malaria medication, and now her plate of fruit!  The wait staff did have a quick solution. The young waiter who assisted me earlier sat with us as we ate, a long wooden stick in his hand that he waived it at any monkey who considered coming near.


As we left the café to go out for our day, Carol to do her thousand's of errands before we go and I to explore Kampala, I heard a drop and looked.  The child protective top had landed on the path just behind us.  Apparently, the monkey thought we should take it with us…


Our first 12 hours in Uganda, funky and magical.


Amelia T. Hambrecht

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