Wednesday, 5 August 2009

A Wild Dexterity

 

turaco Ross’ s Turaco

Chambura Gorge sneaks up on you and its appearance - a deep forested gash across the Rift Valley floor - can take your breath away. Despite its misty beauty, the name Chambura has an ominous ring to it. In the local language it means "search and fail" – so called because the fast-flowing river on the bed of the gorge together with crocodile and leopard meant that tribal hunters who went missing stayed missing.

ChamburaGorge Chambura Gorge - Uganda

As I peered over its rim onto the top of the gallery forest below, a violet-blue Ross's turaco, perched atop a towering Uganda ironwood, "k-k-kowed" in fright and took to the air, flashing brilliant red underwings. Echoing across the forest were countless other sounds: the "Hello Georgie" cry of the emerald cuckoo; the woody croak of a black-and-white cusped hornbill; the grunt of hippo; the bark of baboon. Black and white colobus monkeys, looking like little bearded men in dress shirts and tailcoats, squinted up at us comically from the top of the canopy and then went on foraging.

col.monkey Colobus

A steep path led into the gorge and as our ranger Sabu shepherded us down, a red-eyed dove took up its usual complaint: "Oh dear, my eyes are red. Oh dear. . . ." Like all other trackers I spent time with in Uganda, Sabu was a true professional.....committed, knowledgeable and easily able to identify animals, birds or plants in both English and Latin. "Come," he said with a wide grin, "we descend."

 cham221 Chambura Forest

Down at river level a troop of olive baboons crashed across the path, trotted along some horizontal boughs and lowered themselves into the abundant undergrowth. Soon afterwards we heard the chimps. A hard, rugby-ball-shaped fruit thudded down almost at my feet before I realized we were beneath the troop. For a moment I couldn't make out what my binoculars had focused on as I swung them upwards, then realized I was looking at the hairy backside of a large primate perched comfortably above me as it scoffed the bright yellow fruit.

chimpfood Chimp Snacks

The chimp leaned forward and peered down, looking slightly peeved, took a bite then peered again, as though he had second thoughts about the creature gaping up at him. It could have been my imagination, but his expressions seemed both human and entirely understandable.

chamchimp“Yeah?” 


His next move was so elegant that if I wasn't glued to my binoculars I'd have applauded. He stood up and with one hand grabbed the branch he was standing on, swung under it (still holding with one hand), let go at precisely the right point in his swing to catapult himself spread-eagled onto a lower cluster of leaves way too thin to hold his weight. But he merely held on as the branch bent, then let go as his feet were deposited neatly on a lower bough. Then he sat down, gave our group a hard look and peed loudly onto the leaf-covered forest floor. His last action left me in no doubt who the alpha male was around that neck of the woods.

lioness.QE.uganda Photo:  Patrick Lewis

 
As we left the gorge a lioness broke the cover of a euphorbia thicket, bounded across some open grassland and dived down a path into the gorge we'd just vacated. Somehow I hadn't reckoned on lions, but it made me remember the place's name - Chambura....where people go but do not come back.

35 comments:

Holly said...

I am so glad that you came back.

Now, see, here's what I mean...I've stopped in awe when I white tail deer crosses the road I was just on.

While you, on the other hand, can say that about a LION!

Oh,Tessa, I know you love it, but I truly love your life! And that you share it so gracefully with all of us.

pink dogwood said...

I love the painting and am envious of your surroundings. I saw a lion in a zoo few weeks ago. He was roaring and the crowd was trying to capture it on camera. After a while he got up and walked to the door and started pawing it. I think he was hungry and it was time for his meal which comes from behind that door. The whole thing made me very sad. It is so unfair to keep him locked up like that and make an exhibition out of him. I love the animals in your pictures :)

thanks for sharing.

Yoli said...

This is stunning. Like Holly, I love your life. The rawness, the beauty and the ultimate bittersweet reality of all that you see. The chance to help through your magnificent art. What a gift.

DEB said...

I know you love the exotic places, but I swear Tessa - with your gifted writing, you could make Soho sound like THE vacation destination of the century!

steve said...

What an amazing post - the photos, the art - thanks!!!

Elizabeth said...

Well, I'm certainly glad you did come back!
Now I see Holly said exactly the same thing.
What a wonderful adventure and so fascinating to see the animals at close quarters.
The monkey story made me laugh.

Angela said...

That lioness - how close did you get?!! This was another beautiful post, Tessa, and I don`t know which is the most amazing, the painting, the photos, or your writing. I wish I had all of your blog posts in a book and could have it on my knees, turning the pages back and forth. It would make such a gorgeous book!
Please return always!

Nora Johnson said...

What a fantastic post - the pics, the art work - wonderful!

Thanks for sharing it all with us!

XXLOL LOLA:)

lakeviewer said...

What a marvelous trip you took us on. Thank you. I'm in awe, speechless. What a treat for your readers, Tessa.

kj said...

tessa, i'm moving too fast to take in your amazing words and photos, but i'll be back to catch up in slow motion. your blog is totally awesome, ms. tessa.

you are too..

love love
kj

Linda Sue said...

ENVY! I want to be you, I want to go away and live with beasts in beautiful Uganda.

Sarah Lulu said...

Oh that was so amazing.

Thank you!

steven said...

hi tessa, so hard to breathe as i read your words. the images, the idea of being inside that experience. wow! i love that you're seeing, you're thinking, you're feeling all of this experience and then sharing it here in a way that makes it so real. thanks for sharing this. it's amazing. steven

Gai said...

From not getting to visit for a while its a pleasure to come back and read through your blog. Thank you for sharing your experiences and art.

Lorac said...

Stunning pics and marvelous story. Good to see you post!

Caroline said...

I'm so glad I could join you on this journey, Tessa! Your blog is a brilliant travel magazine! I loved your description of the Colobus Monkeys - had the photo not been there, I'd have known exactly what he looked like! Beautiful jewel colours in your painting too. Thank you for this treat!

Delwyn said...

Hello Tessa

thank you for another venture into a place I am never going to visit...

your Ross's Turaco is a beauty...

Happy days

soulbrush said...

this post makes my heart sing and ache in equal proportions....been there, done that...how lucky are we??

Vanessa Brantley Newton said...

Oh my beautiful friend. What a treat all of these beautiful and fine pictures and the painting is just breath taking. OMG! How fabulously delicious. You have such a wonderful eye. I really and truly am inspired by your work. Thanks so much for sharing this awesomeness with us. Please come by the blog I have a very special award for you my Sisterfriend.
V

willow said...

Wow. I was transfixed and transported.

Reya Mellicker said...

WOW! It is so hard for this urban dweller to imagine a place like that. The pictures are exquisite! The cloud inside the gorge, and the rays of sun streaming down into the forest. And the animals! And!!

Thanks for this. Wow.

The Green Stone Woman said...

You certainly have had some stunning experiences and you describe them well. I could imagine myself being there and seeing what you saw by your description. Great job!

Lola said...

I'm speechless, Tessa. These images and your captivating words are mezmerizing. I am THERE, right now. I can smell the air...

Why does Africa do this to me EVERY TIME? I am desperately in love with it.

My head is spinning, my vision blurred.

Lola xx

Bee said...

I've so enjoyed catching up with your last couple of weeks of posts. I've been away so much lately, and too busy and scattered when I am at home. What lovely escapism for a summer-harrassed mommy! THANK YOU

Maithri said...

Beautiful friend,

This took my breath away...

We keep promising ourselves that next time we go to Africa we'll do more of this kind of exploring...

What a joy to see the world through your most beautiful eyes,

Much love to you and the family,

M

kendalee said...

I was right there with you. Transported. Thank you. Thank you!

Bonnie, Original Art Studio said...

Simply stunning. How wonderful that you have created such an amazing life for yourself - AND that you choose to share it with us. Thank you.

Ces said...

How beautiful you described this place. The Chambura Gorge or gorgeous! What rich experience you have. When can I read all these collective experience in a book?

kj said...

tessa, i HAVE to have this experience before i die. i just have too.

your words and photos are again majestic. the shot of the light breaking through the forest canopy is unbelievably wonderful.

xoxo

Bimbimbie said...

Hello neighbour Tessa ... I came over to say thank you for the Blogland Lane
logo - it's a beautiful rainbow to 'live' within.

Chambura Gorge looks spectacular and full of natural wonders. I love that you talk bird language too. Smiles*!*

Chrisy said...

This post was such a treat...a real gift...thank you...

soulbrush said...

your poster for BL is awesome, thanks so much, any luck with the house sale?

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

Are you describing heaven itself??? These pictures suggest that you are!

~Babs said...

Thanks so much for taking us there,,,so glad to have made it back!
Awesome, awesome photos,,
love the tuxedo'd monkey,,,and the stream of light coming through the forest is just plain magic!
As is your new logo for Blogland Lane,,,,it's perfect!

sallymandy said...

Tessa, I've been away for a few weeks and missed your blog. I want to say how much I love the painting in this post. I'm always very drawn to color, and this one is perfect. Thank you...