Though the destinations to which we travel have long been known, I pretend I’m the first one on the scene. Since my expectations are frequently high, it’s a relief to travel with only a few and permit myself the pleasure of surprise. The Crater Lakes in the highlands of Uganda, though a distance from Primate Lodge, were unexpected and worth the visit.
I look into one of many lakes in the area who started life as the crater of a volcano. Briefly, I wish I’d packed my bathing suit except I have a thing about lakes and oceans, and a self-conscious factor I didn’t use to have when I was nine and swimming daily during the humid Iowa summer. As much as I love being in the water and near it, I prefer the aquamarine of a swimming pool. I’m uneasy otherwise, wondering what might nibble my toes, or latch onto my skin and help themselves to a blood lunch. Though stepping on a squishy lake bottom will not happen in these deep lakes, it’s an experience I avoid. Whoever makes it’s home in the glop of decaying plant material and fish poop will never touch the bottoms of my feet.
Scenic vistas abound as we hike down the path to the nearest crater lake. A local family beat us to the shore. While the dragonflies and blue-winged butterflies soaked up the sun, I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. Tall and slender hipped, a man with the body of a long distance runner eased into the lake.
No shivering, not even a gasp as the cold water and warm skin collide. The look on the swimmer’s face as he leaned into the backstroke was of deep-down pleasure, as though this moment was something he had dreamed of, maybe waited for—a long time. I paused and borrowed the serenity I witnessed.
With perspiration and sunscreen burning my eyes, we trekked up the hill to a grassy area under the trees. Sara and Dennis followed the local guide to another section of the park to see the black-faced vervet monkeys.
I stayed behind to admire the black and white colobus monkeys in the leafy canopy above.
In the cool air of the shade, I laid on my back and watched. Primarily arboreal dwellers, the colobus have only a nubbin for a thumb making it easier to leap through the treetops. Unlike the chimps, the colobus is not family oriented, except when the mother is raising her young. Stomachs are designed to digest the cellulose of leaves, their primary food source. They’re not food for the mountain chimps, but their relatives, the red colobus, are.
Strong yet slender, the most notable feature is their u-shaped mantle of long white hair, cape-like, draping down their backs. I can’t get enough of them. I feel like I’m watching a sophisticated, elegant man or woman, high-society-bred, worthy of an entourage of caretakers: butlers, social secretaries, French champagne, and a Rolls Royce. I snap photo after photo looking for the perfect shot to communicate their beauty.
Regal, alluring, the monkeys watch. They aren’t nearly as impressed with me as I am with them. Snug in their high reaching space, one, in particular, looked bored with this creature far below.
We tried to leave the park. Abdallah turned the ignition over multiple times, drove a matter of a few feet, only to have one us holler, stop! I wasn’t the only one captivated by these stunning, uniquely marked primates. As if on command, or maybe it was a scheme cooked-up by the monkeys themselves suddenly a mother and her baby appeared. I imagined I could hear them whispering among themselves. It’s your turn mama, bring out the baby, and they’ll leave us alone.