Gorilla in Uganda
One of Robert [Bob] Gannon’s goals during his odyssey flying around the world was to go to as many UNESCO designated World Heritage Sites as he could. He did just that when he traveled to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, a World Heritage Site. Uganda is one of the 36 [out of 53] African countries he visited. He went to see the famous mountain gorillas. There are no mountain gorillas in captivity, and the park is one of three sites where they can be found. The park is run by the Ugandan Wildlife Authority, and they maintain strict control. Visitors, such as Gannon, have to go on guided treks of 6-8 people. They allow only two treks a day with scouts, and everybody has to be healthy, so as to not endanger the gorillas. When Gannon’s scouts found the gorillas, the group had to stay back at least 8 to 10 feet. Gannon said the Silverback male eyed them cautiously, but did not charge them. He said the feeling of being amongst the gorillas was a mesmerizing and unforgettable experience.
Cheetah in Namibia with Bob
In southern Africa, he went to several places in the country of Namibia, including the Harnas Wildlife Foundation where he worked as a volunteer. Harnas means a protective breastplate. This is a conservatory where they are dedicated to saving and if possible rehabilitating the lives of wild animals in Africa. While there, Gannon saw lions, wild dogs, and baboons, and he made friends with a partially domesticated cheetah who took a liking to his plane, Lucky Lady Too. She was very curious and walked all around his plane. He also saw her growling two week old cubs. The conservatory had to keep the mother, but they were hoping to release the cubs into the wild once they were old enough.
On the border of Namibia and Botswana, Gannon landed his plane on an old road, and set up camp overnight in the Kalahari Desert. He was very brave to spend the night there alone, but it was in keeping with his adventurous spirit. A game park ranger came by to tell him that there was a pride of lions two miles away, but as long as he kept the campfire going, they would leave him alone which they did. A lone jackal was curious and as Gannon kept on throwing him pieces of meat, he came closer and closer until he was almost eating out of his hand. This was a wild jackal! This was just another of the incredible moments he experienced in Africa.
Another of Gannon’s goals was to do as much charitable work as he could in his odyssey around the world. In Uganda, he also helped to build a special school and donated money to the cause. This school was for African children who were orphaned because both of their parents had died of AIDS. Gannon said that unfortunately, AIDS is very much a part of life in Africa.
This brought to mind the annual Zulu King’s Reed Dance which he saw in Zululand, part of South Africa. It celebrates a young girl’s virginity. Gannon called it the “Dance of the Bare Breasted Maidens” as the girls were topless when they danced.These girls come from all over to perform as it is considered an honor. Gannon found the ritual to be very interesting. He said the girls danced with long, bamboo or reed poles, hoping the king would choose one of them. He said the king has the right to choose a bride every year, but usually doesn’t. At that time, the king was more concerned about the growing threat of AIDS. He wanted to start virginity testing on both adolescent girls and boys because there have been so many people dying. Gannon said that the first and the last thing you see driving through Zululand are funeral homes. Despite all that, the dance continues every year, and Gannon was glad he was able to see it.
In Kenya, Gannon wanted to try something different. All his life, he has enjoyed outdoor, physical activities, so he decided to he enter the Maralal International Camel Derby in the amateur division. Having been raised on a farm, he had ridden horses before, but a camel was another story, especially a camel race! It was a 10 km race. Gannon said that for just over one hour, he felt like his head was in a Martini shaker as the camels ran. It was hard for him to walk for a few days after the race because his muscles were very sore. It was also hard for him to sit down. However, he placed 17th out of 58 participants. He was pretty proud of that.
All in all, Gannon has had too many adventures to describe here, but there will be additional articles to come with further details. Gannon, as a world traveler and global citizen, has more stories to tell us. There is so much to learn about the world we live in, and I hope that by interviewing him, peeling back the layers, and discovering all the places he has been to, we can experience the world vicariously through him.
Camel Derby, Maralal