Bexhill solicitor Jane Strickland has returned from her charity trek to Uganda in aid of Dogs for the Disabled.
She works for Fynmore’s in Parkhurst Road, and lives in Fern road in St Leonards.
Jane was part of a group of 19 which flew from Heathrow to Nairobi, and then on to Kigali, in Rwanda, and Uganda to the Mgahinga National Park where they camped for the first three nights.
Jane writes: “We started our adventure by trekking into the bamboo zone on the lower slopes of volcanoes to track the Golden Monkeys, an endangered species that are only found in this remote part of Africa. We were lucky enough to see a group of these monkeys moving through the trees.
Our group then trekked up Mount Sabinyo, an extinct volcano up to a height of 3,645 meters which was a very tough day indeed.
For the next three days we trekked for about 8 hours each day from Mgahinga, to Lake Mutanda and then on to the Nkuringo Gorilla Camp. Whilst at Lake Mutanda, we boarded dug-out canoes which were piloted up the lake by local tribesmen for 2.5 hours to Rwanjenje on the northern shore of the lake. This was absolutely amazing, and we saw lots of wildlife and birds.
The highlight of the trip was when we trekked into the Impenetrable Rain Forest at Bwindi to see the magnificent mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. The trackers go out very early to locate a family group of gorillas, and then our guides and mountain rangers literally hack their way through the rain forest with machetes, so that we can get through and see them. The gorillas are habituated which means they are used to seeing tourists, and we were lucky enough to get very close to a group of 18 gorillas which included 3 silverbacks, females, juveniles and a 2 week old baby. The gorillas eat sugar cane and spend their lives moving through the forest looking for food. We spent about one hour with the group, and at one point I sat on the ground right next to one - I could easily have stretched out my hand and touched him! The experience was awesome and unforgettable.
There are less than 800 mountain gorillas in the wild, so they are extremely endangered. As well as the gorillas in Uganda, there are others in Rwanda and Congo but unfortunately the two groups never meet up as the land in between has been developed.
On the last day, our group trekked all day through the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest accompanied by the very knowledgeable local guides. This forest is one of the most diverse habitats on earth with mammals, trees and reptiles. We also saw some beautiful butterflies. The guides pointed out trees which the local people use to cure malaria, and another tree where the monkeys eat the leaves if they get worms!
The trek was a very tough challenge, but it was an experience of a lifetime. Uganda was a complete culture shock, and the local people are very poor indeed, just living off the land. They still live in mud huts, and the children are barefoot and dressed in rags. We saw women working in the fields, or walking miles to collect water or wood for cooking. Most of the children now go to school - even tiny children walk up to 10km along mud tracks to school and then back again at the end of the day. The children can stop going to school if they need to work, and then resume at a later date. Tourism is now helping these local communities.
Finally I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who sponsored me and donated money to enable me to take part in this amazing adventure. I raised a total sum of £4,219.40 for Dogs for the Disabled, which left a balance of £2,569.40 for the charity once the costs of the trip were deducted.
Dogs for the Disabled are a registered Charity based in Banbury and they have just celebrated their 25th anniversary. They breed and train assistance dogs which transform the lives of disabled people. These wonderful dogs also now assist children with autism, and people with dementia. There is always a long waiting list for these dogs so every penny is gratefully received.”