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April 26, 2012     The Perkins Journal
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Thursday, April 26, 2012 Destinations &Travel 401 S. Main St. Stillwater 405-372-1647 l lq )0-6i Fax 405.372.7752 By Suzette Barta times, after alight African tor to the Kibale Forest In the early part of the Twentieth Century, when Uganda was still a Brit- ish protectorate, Winston Churchill journeyed to the country and was known to have traveled the Nile Corridor and to have visited the beauti- ful Murchison Falls. Churchill later wrote, "For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life -- bird, insect, rep- tile, beast -- for vast scale -- Uganda is truly "the Pearl of Africa" (My African Journey, 1908). More than a century later, Uganda might best be described as a diamond in the rough. While Churchill's trav- els (and later those of Theodore Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway) took him to northern Uganda, southwestern Uganda also fulfills Churchill's claims about this country. The Rwenzori Mountain range serves as a backdrop for stunning African sun- sets. Safaris in Queen Elizabeth National Park reveal wildlife varying from brilliantly-plumed birds to cautious mother elephants, protecting their calves. Wild and culti- vated flora abounds in the colors of the rainbow, from reds and oranges to : blues and violets. Some- rain, the rainbow itself is revealed over the tops of the abundantly growing acacia trees. It's the lucky photographer who is able to capture such grandeur. Fort Portal is the outdoorsman's para- dise. With the Rwenzori Mountains still visible to the west and the Kibale National Forest to the east, there is plenty of terrain for hiking, swim- ming, and viewing. The slightly cooler temperate climate, due to higher elevations, adds to the appeal of this area. Among the communi- ties of southern Uganda, it is Fort Portal which is perhaps the most accom- modating to the tourist market. Tour guides may be arranged to lead excur- sions to Mahoma Falls, a small, but lovely waterfall on the Mahoma River. Perhaps the visitor will have lunch at the lovely Ndali Lodge or climb to the "Top of the World" for a photo opportunity with the most amazing scenery as a backdrop. And don't forget the primates. Kibale National "Forest is one of the best destinations in Africa for Chimpanzee tracking. Most of the structured Gorilla Tracking or Chimp Tracking safari tours will take the visi- The equator cuts across Uganda. near Fort Portal and will probably spend at least one night in a hotel in Fort Portal. The scenery and wild- life are certainly gems in Uganda's crown, and the people only add to the sparkle. The people of Uganda are gently reserved and often speak with a soft voice. Their English is perfect, yet thick with their native accent, perhaps influ- enced by the commonly- spoken Swahili language. While a smile may not be their immediate reac- tion to your greeting, if you can coax one out of them, it is worth the wait. A Ugandan's smile lights up their face, and brings a sparkle to their eyes. And when they say those words of greeting, "You are Welcome," you know that you have made a friend and that you are, indeed, welcome in their country. Despite the captivat- ing qualities of both the people and the landscape, Uganda remains an underdeveloped country, and travel to Uganda is not for the casual tour- ist. The hot, still air in the airport at Entebbe immediately reminds the visitor that luxuries, such as air conditioning, will not always be available. Other amenities tourists might find themselves without include hot water, fresh drinking water, commodes, and reliable transportation. Most places in Entebbe/ Kampala are not air con- ditioned. Some of the nicest hotels, including the Lake Victoria Serena Resort, are exceptions. These hotels cater to Western travelers and wealthy Africans, so they tend to make sure that hot showers, air-condition- ing, cold bottled water, and even wi-fi are avail- able. Even here though, power outages are a daily occurrence. The luxury in such hotels is somewhat tem- pered by the knowledge that armed guards are stationed right outside the veranda and that all vehicles are searched for bombs before they are allowed to enter the hotel gates. And right outside those gates.., the most unimaginable poverty. Along the road to the resort hotel, tiny shacks are set up to sell fruits and vegetables to local villag- ers. Beef portions hang over the open counter of one such shack. Barely- clad children sit in the dirt in front of these shanty structures. Some have made toys for themselves out of sticks, tires, paper bags, or whatever. Men cart all manner of items, from forage to lumber to charcoal to bananas, on their bicycles on this dirt road. Women are working.., always work- ing. Scrubbing laundry, bathing babies, hoeing potatoes planted next to their home--often with another baby strapped to their back. Oklahoma is full of trea- Saturday outing, but hardly sure. With the reputatio n a place to take visitors. of flat, dust bowl prairies Returning from California and tornado after tornado, a self-proclaimed museum outsiders miss the wonders buff, I still cringed at the , . P ..... By LeeAnn Barton that are nestled in this 46 m state. Diverse ecosystems, Native American culture and pioneer landmarks abound, but less than an hour's drive away is a wonderful and diverse attraction The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. I like many of you remem- ber the arching frame of the Cowboy Hall of Fame that sat atop the hill as one exited 1-35 to 1-240. I even have vague memories of taking a field trip to the museum in the late 1960's. Most of my memories are of wall upon wall of stuffed animals that seemed dusty to me with intermingled showcases of spurs, branding irons and the like. It was fine for a memories of hundreds of pairs of glass eyes peer- ing from the walls of the Cowboy Hall of Fame and though it was obvious driving past the museum had undergone major renovations I still waited six years before taking a day to take it all in. Thanks to the vision of uncounted western and cowboy enthu- siasts, the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is a force to be reckoned with...an attrac- tion that would make any Oklahoman proud. Now home to not only pio- neer and frontier memora- bilia to interest school chil- dren, the museum, (NCWH for short), is a place full of art, art and more art. With National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum changing exhibits featur- ing specific artists' work and western enthusiasts' collections every season brings something new to view and experience at NCWH. Sculptures and paintings with details that leave one in awe are to be appreci- ated at every turn. Works in mediums of silver, clay, bronze, oil and leather leave those that enjoy the creativity and gifting of others fully blessed. Appreciating the blend of Native, western, mili- tary and frontier cultures emphasizes the diversity that is Oklahoma. Movie buffs find fulfillment in a room full of posters, "history and artifacts of their favorite films and actors from the early days of "moving pictures" to modem full length features. Actors' and their families have contributed movie memorabilia and learning of actors born and raised in Oklahoma brought a sense of pride and respect. The National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum is complemented with an extensive gift shop. Worthy of a stop for those who like to shop art, this gift shop is not full of trinket type souvenirs. The variety of merchandise is surpassed only by its quality. An on-site restaurant, Persimmon Hill, rounds out the day. Offering more than burgers and fries the cuisine is fresh and unique--even offering an upcoming Mother's Day brunch! Receptions, seminars, special events at times require reservations; plan in advance by checking the website www.national cowboymuseum.org. The site also keeps one abreast on changing exhibits and upcoming sales. No longer will I hesitate to suggest The National Cowboy and Western Heri- tage Museum when guests visit from other states. In fact, a quiet afternoon of drinking in the details of the varied art is agreat way to end a harried week, guests or no guests. Suzette at Mahoma Falls, a small, but lovely waterfal ! on the Mahoma River. Photos provided I '+  I .... *. ,.., .,,+ ("., ,. :. c..++::,::I ++  ............................ , ........... ,.: ,: -,: , ,.. ,,:.  ........................ : ................... Fb ........ your00 .... ........................ ,.+ .............. + + .................. ............. k ............... ++++ ++ .,,....+._ ,+.+,: ;+. + + +++UIII00 I U,+ dl. +, I II UJUU l?l+l=d I U 00.00:UII I+ ' " ......... + ++-l00.rilMB00_,tll I . ..... ++'. :+:+++,+ + .... +:+,++ +.: _+ r ......................... t .......... J+IJ.U ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 2 ........................ S: ........................................................................................................ ;:" - Suzette visiting a Ugandan school. To such communi- ties, the water hole is the lifeline. Wherever you see easy access to water, villagers will be gathered around. Boys will be filling large containers to gather the family's drinking water for the day. Women and girls will be seen wash- very often, will have a bicycle. A Ugandan can haul an unbeliev- able load on his bicycle. Hundreds of pounds of green bananas make their way from farm to market (uphill) on the back of a bicycle each day. This lack of transportation is one factor that cripples ing laundry. Men gather "the agriculture industry to wash yesterday's red dust from their vans, motorcycles, and bicy- cles- particularly those who will earn their day's wage by taxiing people around the city. Travel around Uganda is challenging, at best. The streets of overcrowded cities such as Kampala are treacherous for the Western driver. From the observer's point of view, the number one rule of the road seems to be that the larger vehicle always has the right-of-way. It is not uncommon for taxi-vans to clip motorcycles, bicy- cles, and even pedestri- ans. It is also not uncom- mon for the pedestrian to jump up and admit it was their fault for being too close to traffic. Travelers to Uganda should arrange for vehicles and drivers prior to arriving in the country. Travel in the rural areas is not quite so treacher- ous, but it remains a chal- lenge for the villagers, primarily because they do not own motorized forms of transportation. A woman's bare feet may be her sole means of locomotion. Men, in Uganda. And yet, if you have reliable transportation, it's the travels through rural Uganda that will invite you fall in love with it. Hills and valleys covered in banana plan- tations, seas of green tea plants dotted with women harvesting leaves, and the occasional glimpse of a zebra running with cattle in the distance will captivate you. As you pass through the tiniest villages, the voices of the children will linger in your head for days, maybe for years, "How are you? Muzungu, how are you?" As Churchill implied, Uganda is a hidden trea- sure,' rough, but with a sparkle that cannot be denied. If you can brush aside the red dust of crowded roads, the uncertainty of electric- ity, the unavailability of fresh water, and the crippling transportation system what you will find is...paradise The abundant wildlife, the exciting terrain, and the welcoming people are twinkling gems in Afri- ca's Ugandan crown. Uganda: A Diamond in the Rough