Market near Kampala, Uganda
Rather massive pair of cabbage…market outside of Kampala

Finally – I went to Africa. Not for very long, just 3 weeks, but long enough to come home utterly bamboozled…what are they doing over there? Surviving, I suppose might be the answer…which is not convincing enough to explain the misery, the poverty and the apparent absence of empathy. Uganda is one of the better African countries in regards to violence, recent wars and overall governance – well, I certainly have no desire to see the lesser ones, if this is considered somehow good. Good grief! Cambodia sprang to mind where I lived and worked for 3 months about 2 years ago – equally disturbing re the rawness of humanity. And the sad thing? Uganda has it all – fertile soil to grow produce, beautiful landscape, water supply – and those fabulous animals which attract people from around the world. But on top of that it has a “Big Man” running the show – one of their own, who has it all while most of his people have close to nothing. Brilliant, and very African…but enough of my dismay. My idea of “mingling with the locals” is to choose the ANIMAL variety – and I got plenty! ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS…

Recently in Kidepo Valley
Recently, In Kidepo Valley National Park, Uganda – photo by Sabine Meyer Zenk

How fantastic is that? Imagine a car full of girls (6!) with the add-on of Faustino, the Ugandan guide with his rifle (“not to kill, but to scare them away…”) driving around the Kidepo Valley National Park in the early hours of the morning looking for…LIONS! And we were very lucky indeed – saw a total of six, which is apparently not so common…so one lion per person (Faustino doesn’t count, he sees them all the time!), and what amazing specimen they were…one just appeared up the road, decided to check out the car (no one breathed for a while, I seem to remember), and then took his time to move along the car before disappearing behind us…and he DID remember that cars cannot be eaten…even cars full of tasty human morsels. Even cars full of tasty human morsels sitting in jumping distance on top of the car – like appetizers. I am glad he did remember!

Trusted Toyota in Uganda – what a fabulous car

And here a little glimpse of some of the road conditions on our way to and back from the most remote National Parks in Uganda…imagine black SOAP, imagine LOTS of black soap, imagine DEEP puddles and ongoing stretches of black soap…well, this translates into some fun indeed! A certain glee could be detected when our bunch steadily made it through some rather confronting bits – without getting stuck!! – while some semi-naked men were seen knee-deep attempting to dig out their stranded vehicles…well, you cannot stop in those conditions, otherwise you get stuck as well…but they were many, and manly, and overall the hopefully confident type….meanwhile, we did encounter rather hairy moments with mildly confronting African ideas of negotiating and using the road (it is MINE, and you are WRONG…)…GUM BOOTS came in handy! Which is such an elegant attempt to SOMEHOW bring in at least some shoes….

Glorious gum boots in Uganda

Apart from coffee, traffic jams and babies, Uganda is a very proud manufacturer of RUBBER GUM BOOTS….pictured above. This photo is taken at the ZIWA RHINO&WILDLIFE RANCH near Masindi, where apart from those delightful specimens of human victory over mud one can visit and track RHINOS…I am still in awe, still not quite believing I was – clad in one pair of those very gum boots! –  traipsing around a heavily guarded piece of National Park (those poachers! VERY dangerous for those animals!)  turning around a corner….following the ranger…who locates those grey and imposing animals by whistling to his fellow rangers, all scattered around the park…and then, more corners….some MASSIVE footprint….and then….A RHINO! About 25 meters in front of us! Mon dieu…what a sight, what an experience….

Bella and her daughter Donna…grazing happily

You can imagine I almost fell out of those gum boots – well, there was more to come! All of a sudden DAD came around, as well…and we retreated a bit, as no one would have had any fun stuck between a father rhino (3 tons of fatherly love) and one of his little families…Bella has her horns pretty much caked in mud as she was digging around for some salty bits of soil – they like to lick it. And Donna, completely unafraid of humans but utterly curious, made various attempts to come a bit closer…and closer…of course followed by her parents! So again, gum boots and people attached to those boots retreating somewhere safer with some distance…

Happy Hippos in the Nile

Can’t leave you without a pic of another of my favorites…HIPPOS! They come across very playful as well as rather MASSIVE – so no urgent need to join them in the water – they are not quite like dolphins, albeit at least as cute….and then there are those crocs as well…besides monkeys, giraffes, zebras, buffaloes, all sorts of antelopes, beautiful majestic birds, beautiful not-so-majestic little birds…WARTHOGS…loved those guys….terrific! The list goes on, and now I really have to do some shoe thing here…tadaaaa: Introducing an African cobbler/ business who apparently has a rather religious approach…

I HEEL you, I’ll save your SOLE, and I even DYE for you….

And what is the shoe situation over there? Lots of thongs, lots of dirt, more thongs, GUM BOOTS, and then a lot of second-hand stuff…all coming from the so-called 1st world. There are loads of badly made new stuff from China, the usual s*&t we are seeing here in Australia as well…and due to all sorts of inhibiting circumstances, very few people venture out doing their own thing, let alone making shoes. Having said that, more than once some bystander had to close my gaping mouth as I was still reeling from the visual impact of seeing some rather adorned woman sitting royally on the back of a little motorbike…hanging onto her man, while some neon colored outfit with ENORMOUS puffed-out sleeves clung to her like a second skin…quite a sight indeed. They do love their glitter and sequins…and those high high heels…so very practical when going to the markets.

Marlene Kranz in Uganda
Miss Pineapple 2012 Uganda – not wearing gum boots for a change

Anyone lusting for more photos from Uganda, I’ve uploaded quite a lot on my facebook page (album titled surprisingly UGANDA)….www.facebook.com/marlenekranz.

Meanwhile, back in Australia/ Darwin, a new shoe class has started – well, we are halfway through actually. Anyone interested in participating in the LAST ONE FOR THIS YEAR, please contact Lois at Tactile Arts for more info…classes run for 5 weeks, and you’ll wander home in your very own pair of handmade shoes…oh yes!

And then there is IDEAL HUSBAND…which will be launched in December this year! To be precise – DECEMBER 8th! YES! Will keep you posted, but very happy to report more photos have been taken, another photo shoot with real LEGS in them is about to happen soon, and I’ll be off to Bali in some weeks for more work with Echem…until now, take care, and keep the shoe addiction alive!

Ideal Husband shoe range model SANTIAGO
Ideal Husband model SANTIAGO – photo Fiona Morrison
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