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Published: August 18th 2011
Heading to Uganda for a field trip
I am now on my master degree in outdoor education, at the Norwegian School of Sport Science. My plan was to write about mountain tourism in Ruwenzori National Park, Uganda. I’ve been talking to several people with experience from this area, last winter, and I also got some good contacts here in Uganda, from one of them. During the summer I have been working on my project plan and emailing with the contacts in Uganda. So, I finally went to the airport 4th of august to fly down to Entebbe, the former capital of Uganda and situated by the northern part of Lake Victoria.
I spent my first week in Kampala to try to sort of the practical things around my study. But this was trickier than I expected! Getting a research permit for doing a field study in Uganda is a complicated process, and you also need an institution of affiliation here in Uganda!
So, after one and a half week in Uganda, I have now decided to change my project plan. I will instead interview the tourists that have been to Ruwenzori National Park. This could be more over
to sociology than development studies, but I think it’s still an interesting topic. I will use my time down here to do the trek myself, get to know the area I will interview people about, and hopefully have a good time anyway! And if I’m bored, I can still write on my project plan and read articles of interest for my project : ) But I will probably head back home earlier than planned, since I will get a little bit behind, and need to catch up on my project when I get back home. Travelling will always give you some surprises, and sometimes things don’t go as planned. That’s why you also need to be flexible, which I am, so changing my project is not a big deal, just a bit more work.
I met Mike, from Scotland, on the flight down. Actually it turned out that my flight was doing a stop in Kigali, Rwanda… Mike is working there, and he invited me to stay if I was going in that direction. He also gave me another travel advice: Ethiopia! This is a beautiful country, with friendly people, really good coffee, and some amazing highlands/mountains! So, maybe
Kampala is the capital of Uganda with about 1.2 million people, and it’s situated about 10 km inland from the Lake Victoria. It’s spread out on rolling hills and it doesn’t really feels that big. According to my guidebook, it was, just like Rome, built across seven hills. You have the same contrasts as in other capitals in neighboring countries; luxury hotels, then a shack, some rundown cars, and then a brand new land cruiser, some street sellers and then a brand new shopping mall which make you feel like you are in another world while you are inside.
I didn’t do much else than walking around town for a few days, organizing things or exploring the streets and the culture. My base was a bit outside the city center, at Palais Dacha, run by Edward, a contact I got from Ulf in Norway. He was really helpful when I was in Kampala, and also before I arrived, trying to help me out fixing the research permit.
“Public transport” is like other developing countries I’ve been to. The Nissan and Toyota minibuses are filling the streets, accompanied by a few bigger busses, and
in Uganda, a massive crowd of “boda-bodas” (motorbikes). The minibuses have some kind of system of where they are going, but it’s tricky to get if you never have experienced them before. The bigger buses are normally for longer distances, and the bodas for those who like to play with their lives… No, just kidding, they are actually not too bad.
I am now in Fort Portal. This town is surrounded by national parks, and has a great view to the Ruwenzori Mountains in the horizon. It’s not much to do in town, but it’s a great place as a base for exploring the activities around. I have spent some time here to start rewriting my project plan, sort out how I will organize my next weeks, and finally to take a final decision about changing my project.
I've been to the local Golf club twice since I arrived. It was a big tournament here in town last weekend, so I was invited down by Edward who is a part of the club board. I'm also living in his house here in Fort Portal. He has been a politician and also ambassador to South Africa,
and he has written a novel that just came out this year, about the life in Uganda under Idi Amin. It's called Three Thousand Nights of Terror
It’s some kind of a history on the kingdom (Museveni restored the traditional monarchies in 1993…) and different conflicts around here. I will not try to explain you this, but for those who are interested you can google Toro Kingdom, Uganda. I can mention that the present king was the youngest king ever in the world when he came to power at an age of 3! And Gadhafi has sponsored the refurbishment of the palace…
I have been visiting Tore and Vigdis, a Norwegian couple that are living close to Fort Portal. They are running different community projects at Mitandi. This is a clinic, support programs for school kids, electricity projects for the community, library for the school, and other topics around in the community. They are really active and enthusiastic about what they are doing, and they have deep knowledge about the community. Read more about their projects on their homepage Mitandi.com
. And if you are a nurse, midwife, doctor or dentist, you are more than welcome to travel down for a
few weeks to help them out at the clinic!
Uganda has, as probably all of you know, had a few dictators after the independence. Since 1986 it’s been one party in power, the National Resistance Movement, with Yoweri Museveni as president. I’m not sure what they are resisting at the moment… But it’s probably the development of a fair multiparty democracy.
A good way of getting to know the country you are travelling to, are of course reading the newspapers. (If they are not stately owned and governed…). It seems to be some good debates going on in some of the newspapers. I hope that is a positive sign for the country. People are active and interested in all aspects of the politics, as well as the environmental debates it seems.
Tomorrow I will go to Kilembe to have a closer look at Ruwenzori Trekking Services, one of two companies that operate in the park. (I’m not doing study on this, but I’m still interested…). I will also visit Ruwenzori Mountaineering Services later.
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