Entebbe bound …

Just a few last minute arrangements and then airport here I come to catch a Qatar Airlines flight for Entebbe via Doha.

Hey, that’s the same Qatar that just got ostracised by the rest of the Gulf states for their support for terrorism. Entebbe rings a bell too.

June 27, 1976, Air France flight 139, Israel to France, hijacked in Greek airspace by four Palestinian sympathisers. It was diverted to Benghazi, Libya, another familiar name, and after refuelling there it flew to Entebbe where it received a warm welcome from President Amin. Four additional freedom fighters joined the original hijackers. The army made some helpful alterations to the old airport terminal to where the hostages were transferred.

In subsequent days some of the 248 passengers were released. Ultimately the hijackers were holding 106 hostages which included 12 crew and 84 Israelis. They issued some demands and set 1 July as the date on which the killing of hostages would start. Diplomatic efforts saw that put back to July 4, it suited Amin, whilst the spotlight was on him he could fly to Mauritius to hand over chairmanship of the Organisation of African Unity.

And it suited the Israelis just fine too. It gave them just enough time to put together a rescue mission that was spectacularly successful. Seven hijackers were killed, somewhere between 33 and 45 Ugandan soldiers were killed when the troops opened fire on the rescuers and 11 fighter planes were destroyed on the ground.

Three passengers and the Israeli commander were killed in the raid. Some were injured. Dora Bloch, 75 years old, was left behind.

Idi had a major tanti. Kenya had given some minor assistance to the Israelis. Hundreds of Kenyans living in Uganda were murdered as a consequence. Poor Dora Bloch was dragged from her hospital bed and killed, as were doctors and nurses who tried to intervene.

It sometimes seems as though the world has gone mad but it was always thus. Would I be better off heading to London, Paris, Manchester? As the French say plus ça change



Africa …

and here’s a map just to prove it …

If you drop a line from the Libyan/Egyptian border and come down about half way to the Cape of Good Hope, cast your eyes a little to the right you’re here …

and in a few days so will I be.

The largest lake, at the intersection of Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania is Lake Victoria. The chain of lakes to the west of it lie in the western branch of the East African Rift Sytem. The most northerly lake in the chain is Lake Albert and this part of the rift system is often called the Albertine Rift. The rift system is not only of great interest to the geologist, there are 41 species of bird found only along the Albertine rift.

Uganda made its first real impact on my life in 1972. I was studying at Sheffield University when Idi Amin expelled Uganda’s Asian community.

We are determined to make the ordinary Ugandan master of his own destiny, and above all to see that he enjoys the wealth of his country. Our deliberate policy is to transfer the economic control of Uganda into the hands of Ugandans, for the first time in our country’s history.

Said Idi, accompanied by the veiled threat that any remaining Asians would face a Hitlerian final solution. About 80,000 people, more than a quarter of whom were Ugandan citizens, had 90 days to leave the country. Most of those displaced came to England. I played basketball with a young man who had played for the Ugandan national team. The enterprises and personal goods left behind were distributed among ethnic Ugandans. The economy nose-dived (and basketball languished – it wasn’t until 2015 that Uganda took part in the African Championships finishing 15th.)

Rwanda provided even greater drama in 1994 as the news of the genocide slowly percolated into the consciousness of western nations. In about 100 days the majority Hutu population fell upon the Tutsi minority and the even smaller population of Batwa people resulting in the death of about 750,000 people (perhaps more). The United Nations distinguished itself by standing idly by  just as it would in Srebenica.

At the time everyone carried an ID card with their ethnic affiliation on it. Checking IDs at roadblocks followed by summary execution with a machete was just one of the strategies utilised in the carnage.

Just something to ponder in Australia as we consider inserting ethnicity into our constitution. In post conflict Rwanda it is illegal to talk about one’s ethnic affiliation.

I shall also be visiting the Democratic Republic of the Congo, often called Congo Kinshasa to distinguish it from the Republic of the Congo or Congo Brazzaville. The DRC was formerly called Zaire.

I hope to come back with photos of Chimpanzees and Gorillas, Shoebills and many other birds and even some of a seething red-hot lake of volcanic lava. I hope to share the experience with you … see you in about five weeks.


Fifi McGee …

Since I happened to mention the dog I thought I might give you her back story.

Grandpa and Grandma lived on a farm in the Victorian Goldfields. They have two daughters. One is the lovely Gayle, my current squeeze, and henceforth TLG. The other is TLM. If you read any journal articles you will adjust quickly to the abbreviations, if not you’ll get the hang of it eventually.

TLM is married to TUJ. The two daughters between them have provided Grandpa and Grandma with three granddaughters. So far I have mentioned nine humans, now lets tally the dogs. This is a dog family. Between them they had eight dogs at the time in question. Which meant that there was a significant deficiency. Grandpa and Grandma normally had a dog each but Grandpa’s Border Collie had shuffled off this mortal coil.  TLG and Bobby McGee had no dogs, they liked dogs but also liked their freedom.

One of the granddaughters, Sara, loves her Grandfather and sought to address the deficiency. She had often heard his stories of Fox Terriers that he had kept in younger days. She would buy him a Foxie.

Since Grandpa was 87 at the time there was every prospect that there would be a dog left over at the time of his eventual demise. No problem says Sara – with so many dogs in the system there is bound to be a vacancy for a sweet little Foxie when the day comes.

Grandpa fell in love with the dog and named her Fifi.

Fifi was a monster, a total nightmare. She whined non stop, bounced all over her housemate Fleur, a beautiful old black labrador, she bounced all over the furniture. She reduced a couch to shreds. She bounced so much her feet barely touched the floor. On average she was an aerial dog. Grandpa doted on her, the rest of the world detested her.

A year later the folks had to leave the farm because of Grandma’s failing health. No dogs were allowed in the retirement village by order of the residents committee. TLG is one very persuasive human. She doorknocked every unit in the place and got the rules changed, one dog could go.

Now if that dog were Fifi the rules would soon change back again. Fleur got the nod, Fifi got the flick.

Next port of call for the unruly Foxie was TLM’s house. Confronted with a psychotic, rebellious dog that had never been confined or walked on a lead or disciplined or left alone, didn’t shut up and rarely touched the ground … it had to fail and it did. The decision was made in two days. Sara you got us into this mess you take her.

So Fifi joined two other dogs and proceded to turn its new residence upside down. TLG and Bobby McGee began to take her at weekends to give Sara some respite.

Sara lived in a suburb that limited households to two dogs. When someone dobbed* her in the choice was stark. She came to live with us. Fifi, not Sara.

No problem. I grew up with dogs and knew exactly what to do. The objectives were simple. The dog would :-

  • walk on my left without pulling
  • sit on command
  • come when called
  • sleep in the laundry
  • stay away from the table when we were eating

The retraining was intense and took about 12 months but in the end I was successfully retrained.

Five years have passed. Grandma and Fleur have both passed away. Fifi gets to see Grandpa most days and they are still very much in love. These days Fifi generally sleeps on our bed, will sit on command if the grass isn’t wet and sometimes comes when she’s called. TLG and I now camp in State Forests rather than National Parks.

And what could be better than two fine companions, a campfire and a bottle of wine?

Translator’s note * To dob in, Aussie slang for to tell tales, tattle, rat out.

Mount Mitta Mitta …

AKA Mt Mittamatite is a little over 1000 metres and has its very own web page. Dogs are welcome on a lead and fires are permitted in the fireplaces provided. Camping is possible at the summit and at Emberys Lookout. There are no bookings and no fees. There is an aircraft navigation facility on top.

The view from Emberys (above) is impressive, it is a popular launching site for the hang gliding fraternity. You have to work a bit harder for a view at the summit.

I was hoping for more mist and less cloud. I’ll have to go back.

The weather was closing in with a vengeance. Yesterday’s snow was the start of a southerly outbreak which was only going to get worse. Time to head for home.

From Here to Victoria …

Here being Merimbula, NSW.

As an aside, when we Victorians see NSW on a number plate we wonder if it stands for No Sense Whatever. In outback New South Wales they are fully aware that it stands for Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong which is where the government expenditure goes.

The route takes us through Bega where the cheese in our lunch comes from, then Wyndham and the Robbie Burns Hotel, founded 1848 (by Robbie himself, I believe, and that’s his ute parked outside) …

On to Adaminaby and then over the hill. Given that the ski season is rapidly approaching my forward planning involved the lowest route available. As we ate our cheese sandwiches however, the navigatrix declared that a shorter route existed.

photo GHD

It was an instance when the shortest route proved to be simultaneously the road less traveled, the scenic route and the one that took the longest time. It did give us the opportunity to let the dog have her first encounter with snow. She was unimpressed … but I was. The Great Dividing Range at its greatest.

Victoria at last, we found our way to our intended campsite in the Mitta Mitta Regional Park … the Embery lookout perched high above the bright lights of Corryong.

And the first thing we did was light a nice campfire.

Merimbula …

Jewel of the Sapphire Coast, or so merimbulatourism.com would have you believe. It certainly is pretty, lots of beach, a lake. It’s surrounded by national parks. It has an aquarium. It has grown apace in recent years.

I was on the rocks at the end of Short Point as the sun prepared to rise out of the sea.

Then a long walk by the lake and around the town …

Little Wattlebird
Red Wattlebird

The red flowers of this tree which I believe is Erythrina fusca, were extremely attractive to the local nectar eaters.

Rainbow Lorikeet