Tuesday, 27 January 2015

... Gorillas in the Mist: Blinding You with Science!

Tiny bladder syndrome kicked in at 315am but I was able to fall back to sleep until my 445am alarm. Yes, I know... I'm on holiday and I am getting up earlier than I would do were I home. I was actually awake earlier due to someone chanting in the bushes. I half expected that, were I to peer out of my tent, I might see a crazy baboon swinging from the trees singing, "Asante sana, squash banana, wewe nugu mimi apana". I've absolutely no clue what was being said and thankfully they stayed in the bush singing to themselves.

Of course I'd forgotten to bring in all my washed laundry off the clothes line prior to bed so they were all wet. Then again the word "washed" can only be applied very loosely here. I don't think I'm going to rid any item of clothing of the red dust until I can actually machine wash them with proper detergent. That stuff gets everywhere. Still, as long as my clothing at least smells tolerable for a long ride on a truck, out of respect for my fellow travellers as much as my own nose, then I'm happy. In the interim drying clothing took the form of holding onto it tightly and sticking my arm out the window (a good portion of the Ugandan countryside has seen my peach Lululemon sports bra drying in the breeze as a result) or hanging them from my chair on the truck. You've got to work with what you've got!

We were on the road by 625am with the goal to try and avoid the Kampala traffic. About 65km southwest of Kampala is where the equator crosses the Kampala-Masaka road. Two cement circles mark the spot however the true GPS apparently places it about 30m south of it (without the same pomp & circumstance). You can watch a demonstration on the apparent Coriolis effect, which way water travels down a drain, depending on which hemisphere you are in. On the Southern Hemisphere it appeared to turn anticlockwise, on the Northern it turned clockwise and at 0 degrees there was apparently no rotation. It was pretty cool to see even if  I personally think it is a hoax (and I had good Science teachers at school who helped guide me to this conclusion, many years ago, so I was always going to be jaded about this demonstration). For one, shouldn't it turn anticlockwise in the north and clockwise in the south? Hurricanes certainly do this depending on which hemisphere they are in due to the direction in which the winds are pulled by the Coriolis effect (left in the South, right in the North). Hmmmm. I also believe systems like toilet bowls & sink drains are probably too small to be controlled by the effect, unlike jetstreams, hurricanes and trade winds etc.which definitely are affected..... Then again I was trained as a Chemist (the cooler science, right?) so what do I know about Physics?! However, an interesting factoid is that if you stand at the equator at midday during the equinox there is no shadow.

A quick stop to pick up some charcoal from one of many sellers on the roadside and some veggies afforded me with the opportunity to try some fresh jackfruit for a good dose of B vitamins.

Upon arrival at the basic Kalinzu Forest Camp, once I'd erected my tent, it was time to go on a tea plantation walk around the Ankole Tea Estate. East Africa exports high quality tea (& coffee), although locally you tend to get a far inferior brew (and instant coffee is the norm). Camellia sinensis is an evergreen plant grown in mostly tropical and sub-tropical climates. It was interesting to learn that tea plants take 4 to 12 years to bear seed and about 3 years before a new plant is ready for harvesting. They can grow up to 52ft but cultivated plants are usually pruned to keep them low as this primarily means more new shoots equaling new and tender leaves thus an increase in tea quality. Not to mention its a lot easier to pick!

After dinner we were treated to some traditional songs and dance from a group of children from the local village. They are part of a charitable organization that perform to help raise money to buy school supplies.   The best thing was getting to join in. Pretty soon I had a grass skirt deftly wrapped around my waist whilst I shook what my mother gave me. In my mind I was the greatest dancer, in reality not so much. It was a lot of fun to be reduced to a sweaty demented-looking chicken. 

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