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  Re-Discover Uganda! (Part 2)

 

                                                                                                                         By Kitty J. Pope

source-of-the-nile-speke The tour group that I visited Uganda with ventured to Jinja, a town on the Northern shores of Lake Victoria only about a fifty mile road drive from the capital city of Kampala where we were staying.  We were headed to Jinja to visit the Source of the River Nile, the longest river in Africa. I was so excited to go because I had always associated the River Nile with the Holy Bible.  So I also expected this to be a spiritual adventure because of its biblical implications.

Jinja is internationally known for being the home of the Source of the Nile River, the place where the Nile starts according to the findings of John Speke, the first European Explorer who is credited with discovering it. Located just a few meters from Lake Victoria, the source is an area where thirty per cent of the water comes from underground. With bubbles at this spot indicating that there is water coming from deep below, here is where the Nile starts and increases its intensely as it flows vigorously over rocks and gorges. On the banks of the Nile is the Speke Monument that is built on the spot where the explorer first stood when he discovered the source.

spekeDeclared one of the 7 Natural Wonders of Africa, the River Nile is about 6696km long and pours its water into over nine countries. Although it is mostly centered to Uganda and Egypt, this world famous river also runs through Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zair and Ethiopia. The Nile has contributed a lot to the modernization of Uganda and the livelihood of the people. As a source of energy, it provides power and its dam gives electricity to the country.

The ride to Jinja was very pleasant. Because the Eastern District region is one of multiculturalism, it was enchanting watching diverse communities of people going about their routines. Along the roads we also saw sugar and the tea estates that have become tourist attractions.  In the areas surrounding Jinja are mini-markets and craft shops, where community groups make baskets, crafts and other Ugandan souvenirs. Because agriculture thrives on the fertile soils around Jinja, there were many markets along the roads where you can get fresh produce.

When we arrived at the banks of the River Nile, we were greeted by Uganda’s top tourism officials including the Minister of Tourism Dr. Maria Mutagamba, Tourism CEO Stephen Asimwe and ATA Uganda Chapter President Ms. Susan Muhwezi. Permanent Representative of the African Union Mission to the USA H.E. Amina S. Ali was also in attendance. Some VIPs from the United States including Liberia’s Consul General Cynthia Blandford and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Int. Airport Director of Public Affairs Myrna White were on hand. The Uganda officials gave opening remarks and welcomed us to Jinja and the River Nile.


minWe then participated in a tree planting ceremony before we boarded for our cruise down the River Nile. We planted different kinds of trees on the banks of the Nile. The tree that each of us planted was named after us. Our names would be placed beside the tree as a part of the dedication ceremony. When you go to the River Nile, look for my tree with the name “Kitty” beside it. I certainly will look for mine and some of the others when I go back to Uganda.

After the tree planting ceremony, we were ready for our cruise on the Nile. We were cruising down Nile River to have lunch at Jinja Sailing Club, a neat, swanky restaurant on the banks overlooking the Nile. Before boarding took pictures at a small monument where a bronze bust of Mahatma Gandhi is erected. The monument and a small memorial garden is there because some of Gandhi’s ashes are said to have been scattered here at the Nile River. Besides this monument, there craft shops with all type souvenirs along the banks. We also got to witness a boat race on the Nile while we were waiting to board. Getting ready to board for the cruise had become an adventure in itself.  

My excitement heightened as we prepared to set sail down this legendary river.  We started down the first stretch of the Nile’s whitewater which was rather calm. The waters of the Nile became more raging as we continued our cruise. The beautiful sceneries along the way were breathtaking where we observed lush vegetation, greenery and fauna. The popular Bujagali Falls is located on the Nile River. The sight of the raging Nile waters shimmering through the lush vegetation and the waterfalls as a backdrop was very exhilarating.


Cruising the Nile, I saw many areas where you could do picnics, camp or bird watch. Bujagali Falls offer great opportunities for watching birds particularly the weaver birds. I got a glimpse of serene beaches that seemed undisturbed by tourist as well as a beautiful golf course.ceo

We arrived at thegan Jinja Sailing Club where we enjoyed a superb lunch that included fresh fish and a buffet of all types of vegetables, fruits and beef. I also got to sample matoke, a special type of banana covered with ground peanut sauce which is a staple dish in Uganda. There was also Posho, finely ground corn served with soup that is another popular dish. Afterwards we boarded our vans for the short drive back to Kampala. For me this was a day well-spent because I’ve always wanted to do the River Nile which proved to live up to my fantasies about it.  

There are so many adventurous activities to do on the River Nile. In addition to boating and cruising, people go to enjoy all types of water sports from rafting to tubing to kayaking. You can walk nature trails along the banks, go horseback riding or do the ATV Quad bikes for some real driving adventure. If you have the nerve, there is bungee jumping. And of course, you can get in  some fishing. In fact Jinja was once a fishing village in the early days. Today there is the Masese Fish Factory that many tourists like to visit. When visiting Uganda, a trip to Jinga is something you must include because the River Nile is vacationer’s paradise in itself.


nile viewThere is much to do in Jinja besides the adventure activities on the Nile. There are cultural sites and agricultural industries that you can visit in the District of Jinja. Historic sites include the
palace of the Busoga Kings at Nakabango, Bujjagali Ancestral Cultural Site and Mpumudde Hill, the historical place where the chiefs of Busoga used to assemble. Many tourists like to check out some of the industries here like Kakira Sugar Works, Jinja Grain Millers, Garden Tea Industries and Jinja Steel Rolling Mills. These facilities are worth touring if you want to really learn about life in Jinja.

When visiting Jinja, you can also stay right here in the town. You do not have to go back to Kampala as we did because Jinja has a wide range of resorts, hotels and also guest houses. Also be sure to check out some of the great restaurants and coffee shops around town. You can also get in a little shopping at the stores and markets where you can find whatever items you need. Jinja also boasts of a offivibrant and robust nightlife for entertainment. The Nile Special, tooted as the best beer in East Africa, is produced in Jinja where the brewery is situated right at the Source of the Nile. With so much to do in Jinja, it is no wonder that this town ranks next to the Ugandan capital city of Kampala in terms of commercial activity. 

For more information on Jinja and visiting Uganda, go to www.VisitUganda.com.  

Photos 1) Marker at Source of Nile 2) Speke Monument on banks of Nile 3) Uganda Minister of Tourism Dr. Maria Mutagamba planting tree on Nile 4) Uganda Tourism CEO Stephen Asimwe cruising w/ Kitty Pope 5) Gandhi Memorial Bust 6) Scenic View of Nile 7) Ugandan Tourism Officials at Nile Tree Planting ceremony.

 

 

 

 

c ape vLiterally translated, Boa Vista means “beautiful view” and the Cape Verde island lives up to its name, surprising visitors with stunning views. But there is so much more to Boa Vista than spectacular landscapes and observation points, specifically the lovely islanders, as Bugs Steffen discovered when he went to explore.

I was asked how I came up with the idea to visit Cape Verde. There are quite a few people who have little knowledge, if any, of Cape Verde. “Where is it you’re going? Where on earth is that? Near the Maldives?” friends asked. But for me, a visit to Cape Verde had been a “must do” for quite some time. It is the music of the islands that has captured me. Cesaria Evora, the ‘Grand Madame’, and her equally famous compatriots such as Lura  and Sara Tavares all have their musical roots here and have been at the top of the world music charts for years.

Like many other tourists this year, I was diverted to Cape Verde rather sooner than I had hoped - something I had not planned but was grateful for. The safety concerns surrounding popular North African destinations such as Tunisia and Egypt forced many travellers, including myself, to change their bookings. As a result, the island state has seen a real wave of holiday makers.

Cape Verde had so far been an insider tip and island hopping in order to experience all of the islands is still a bit of a chore. There are small, local airlines and rickety ferries but either method of travel to discover individual islands in depth requires patience and a fair amount of African “laid-back” attitude.

For those who prefer an easy, relaxing and comfortable island experience, there are now direct flights from large European tour operators such as TUI or Thomson. You can fly from Frankfurt to two of the islands, Sal and Boa Vista. The reason why these two destinations are on offer is simple: they are the site of the largest all-inclusive resorts. For now, these are tucked away close to the idyllic beaches and well adapted to the barren landscape, and one can only hope that this will remain so for a long time yet.

A mere 4,000 of the island population (435,000 altogether) live on Boa Vista. An outpost of the slave trade in the past, Boa Vista, with its deserts and sandy volcanic landscapes, has evolved to become an ideal seaside holidays island.

Sal Rei, the capital, is a dreamy fishermen’s village and Rabil, the other larger town on top of a mountain, does not have much to offer apart from the airport and local artisan pottery. Both towns are connected by the only paved road on the island. Other than that, the road network consists of cobbled streets that often deteriorate into dirt roads. This requires the use of 4-wheel-drive vehicles and turns any discovery trip across the island into an exciting adventure.

Trips to destinations such as Deserto de Viana, the Santa Maria ship wreck or the perfect Santa Monica beach all offer beautiful views. In addition, you can go whale watching off the coast.It is easy to fill a fortnight’s stay on the island with activities; for those who don’t want to rent a vehicle, there are plenty of excursion offers from various tour operators or the possibility to hire a taxi and driver.

The greatest discovery to be made on this island is its inhabitants! If one moves about with an open mind, it doesn’t take long to find out that the Cape Verdeans are a lovely people, unobtrusive and yet warm and friendly. A glance or friendly gesture will always be reciprocated and you should try and talk to people. Don’t be shy! Even if you don’t speak Portuguese, you can manage using sign language and if push comes to shove, someone who speaks English can be found in a jiffy.

dakarIf you are ever in Senegal, you must go to Dakar for nightlife entertainment. Senegal's capital, Dakar is located in the most western point of the African continent. You will find some of the best nightlife in West Africa with the liveliest nightclubs and disco spots that start jumping at eleven o’clock at night until the wee hours in the morning. Many bars, dining establishments, movie houses and clubs are located all around Dakar. Some of the most sought after night clubs and tourist hot spots can be found in Dakar.

 

And for even more fun and excitement, there’s always the thrill of casino magic. For those who have been limited to gambling on the web at places like Party Casino, well now you can place a real bet and stare the card dealer in the eyes too. With online casinos you can play at your own pace with no one rushing you. Party Casino offers the most thrilling smart, safe and fun real money games. Why not try your luck! (http://www.partycasino.com/)    

When in Dakar, you are sure to hear the sounds of country’s famous local modern music known as mbalax . The national popular dance music of Senegal and also The Gambia, Mbalax is a fusion of popular jazz, soul, and rock of Western music and dance mixed with some Latin and blended with sabar, the traditional drumming and dance music of Senegal. While in Dakar join in the dance groove and experience Mbalax dancing which is pretty easy to learn. Mbalax dance is everywhere in Dakar from the nightclubs to social gathering, to birthdays and weddings and even in religious ceremonies.

One place to go where you will definitely see people dancing the mbalax is Alexandra, a nightspot located at Rue Wagane Diouf located within the city. Another exciting night spot in Dakar is Dolce Vita, at Boulevard de la République Dakar. Or you can check out the Mandingo, in the heart of Teranga Dakar, where you can party West African-style all night. The Play Club, located in the Hotel Alafifa at Rue Jules Ferry Dakar is for adventure seekers and lots of tourist hang out here.

International music fans should check out the very popular club, La Médina, north of Marché Sandaga, where there are always crowds of people having fun. It's owned by the legendary Youssou N'Dour, a famous West African musician and you may get a chance to see him perform. When he is not on tour, he is usually there on Friday and Saturday nights.

dakar_night_danceAside from the club scene, you can check out other social happenings like concerts and the cultural arts. There is the Ponty in French Cultural Center, a famous venue where events go on all year. The Chateau De La Mer, is a venue that caters to those with special taste of French culture. Kadjinol Station is a lounge bar with a global-food restaurant where you can see free films with the purchase of meals and drinks. They show some of the most interesting film with a focus on world cinema, Hollywood classics and recent hits. There is also the Théâtre Daniel Sorano, Dakar's signature theatre, where the Ensemble Instrumental, the Ballet National du Sénégal and the Théâtre National du Sénégal often perform.

When I visited Dakar, I got to hang out at the Terrou-Bi because that is where my hotel was. It is a great place to stay, just five minutes from the heart of downtown Dakar. A four-star hotel with 112 rooms, amenities include a private beach, swimming pool, casino, marina, three restaurants, two bars and several lounges. They also have a disco here where I got in a little dancing. I still went out on the town to an outdoor night club called Just4You, a popular entertainment venue where the food is very tasty. I even got to see a live performance by KKTAR, a popular local band that played rhythmic, yet soothing, African sounds. I guarantee that whatever you do in Dakar at night, you are sure to have loads of fun and experience great entertainment!

Photo credites: Triporati.com, VirtualTourist.com

As one who has traveled to more than 100 cities in 13 countries, I take pride in avoiding tourism and getting as close to the locals as possible. In my opinion, it is among the locals where you get a real sense of the country's culture. Juan, an Afro-Venezuelan friend said it so well, “the barrio is where the culture is.” However, I'm finding that Perú more than any other country I've visited, with the exception of the Philippines, there is a price to pay. Although, I make only a modest income with a non-profit organization, people in many countries seem to feel that I'm in the same income bracket as Bill Gates or Donald Trump. As I get closer and more acquainted with the people, the more I find that I'm approached like an ATM machine. One lady with whom I have a very good rapport, showed me her gas and electric bill asking for help.
bill_smith_block_party

A dance instructor asked me about my motive for hanging out in a poor, non-tourist area when most visitors from Europe and North America stay in major hotels and go to popular tourist attractions. My response to him was that this is the way I practice my Spanish (by immersion), and at the same time, explore the black Latino experience. You don't get these things living in five-star hotels and hanging around expensive tour guides. Speaking of tour guides, I found it more more rewarding and more economical to hire a struggling citizen who can use some extra cash and bring me closer to the real people.          

To get around, I prefer as much as possible, to use the same type of public transportation as the locals. Of course, dressing down is important because you don't want to be marked as a tourist with fancy clothes and bling-bling; it invites robbers, cheats, and pickpockets. Most of my time was spent among the so-called lower class. On two occasions I ventured into one of Lima, Perú's roughest neighborhoods, La Victoria, where Perú's famous, historically black soccer team Alianza Lima have their stadium. I went into the area wearing an Alianza Lima team jersey. Thus instead of being harassed, I was cheered. People shook my hand. Others drove by honking their horns and giving me the thumbs up shouting "ALIANZA LIMA-A-A-A-A-A-A-A! I wonder if they thought I was one of the players. After all, I did fit the profile--black and athletic.

By living close to the locals, I endure a standard of living that will “annoy” the average tourist. As a result, I have more spending money to enjoy myself, and at the same time, help others who need the help in a way that I can afford. It was a total joy, a heartfelt pleasure, and worth every penny to see how they were enjoying my company and my treats as I achieved my goal of making lifetime friends, learning the cultures, but most importantly, improving my Spanish.



roots_festival_gala_dinner

With the theme "Celebrating African Unity", the 10th edition of the Gambia Roots Festival attracted scores of delegates from the Diaspora, who joined their African counterparts for the grand opening. The event was graced by their Excellencies the First Lady of the Republic, Aja Madam Zineb Yahya Jammeh and Vice President Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy, and other dignitaries. With a view to forging closer ties, cooperation and development, this biennial event, conceptualized in 1996, is designed to encourage people of African descent to discover, reconnect, and embrace their ancestral identity. The occasion also provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the inhumane slave trade that had swept across the continent, and it also seeks to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Africa, the Gambia in particular, while creating the platform for the promotion of global peace and understanding.

Volcn_BarOn the day before Easter, several friends, a guide from Habla Ya, and I set out to climb Volcan Baru, in Boquete, Panama. The climb is approximately 14.5 kilometers, with a 6,000-foot elevation change, reaching the summit at 11,479 feet. It was a pleasant, sunny morning, and we set out at a steady pace; signs were random and infrequent, so it was hard to judge just how far we had gone or how far we had to go.

We wanted to be halfway before stopping for lunch, but we couldn’t find any signs to figure out where we were. We were tired and hungry and didn’t know how far we had come (later on, we discovered that we all were having the same thoughts at this time: “What did I get myself into, and will I be able to make it to the top?”). At this point the “road” (mostly loose gravel) was quite steep, and each time we turned around a bend, another steep section appeared.

Place_Jamaa_al_FnaIt was my last night in Morocco, and I really wanted to hold my boyfriend’s hand. Now I had read and heard that in the Arab world where modesty is key, publicly displaying affection is unwelcome. But it was the last night that I would get to walk through those crowded narrow streets, curiously taking a glimpse at the sea of new faces that passed by, smelling things that I had never and would never smell in America, and seeing the most beautiful shade of blue that existed. I never thought that I would be only 23 when I first visited Africa. I was lucky to be there, and I never forgot that. In just a couple of nights, we had already made it a habit to take a stroll through the streets around 9pm, an hour or so before the famed open air market, Place Jam'aa Al Fnaa, closed.

 

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My Ugandan Adventure at the Source of the Nile in

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  Re-Discover Uganda! (Part 2)                                                          

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