Saturday, January 13, 2007

Hunting Giant Edible Rats

On a routine monitoring visit in Gulu, I set aside an afternoon for rat hunting deep in the bush with Eric (an MCCer in Hoima) and Robert (a trainer in Gulu). While we were supposed to join a friend of Robert’s at midday, we didn’t leave for rat-hunting until about 3 in the afternoon. Once we arrived at his home, an IDP camp where most of his extended family lives, we realized that plans weren’t as set as we had been led to believe. Robert approached one of his friends and the word began to spread, “these two muzungus wanted to go hunting for rats in the bush, let’s get our spears and go”. Within a few minutes we had about 12 people in the back of the truck—each carrying his weapon of choice including spears, axes and machetes. Scared that others would jump into the truck, drove away quickly. In the rear view mirror I saw a dog jump into the pile of people riding in the back.

We drove down a small dirt road until we came to Robert’s land. Here, in the middle of nowhere, all that could be seen was tall grass and the skeleton of houses burnt by war. We and the dogs jumped out with high expectations for spearing a rat for supper. No one explained to Eric and I how to hunt rats, and if we didn’t keep up with the break-neck speed of the others, we would be lost. In places the grass was 12 feet tall, we couldn’t see more that 5 feet in front of us. Eric turned to me and asked “how are we supposed to see anything in this, let alone aim and spear it?”

About an hour into our voyage into the mysterious grass, I paused. The sun was setting and the earth turning red, the air untouched by industry and rich with nature, a gentle evening breeze cooled our hot bodies, and the grass was an ocean’s shore as we waded deeper and deeper. I was so exposed to mother-nature that I didn’t know whether to feel immense fear of absolute comfort. The feeling that dominated all others was the feeling of total freedom.

As the sun set, the morale and energy for stabbing a rat was dissipating. The guy in front of me pierced the ground with his spear and dug up a massive tuber. After extracting it, he turned around and generously handed me a piece (about 2 kg). Everyone besides Eric and I rapidly skinned the cassava as if they do it in their sleep. Underneath the layers of dirt and tough skin a beautiful white is revealed. Raw cassava is like eating a raw potato, only harder and starchier. I was hungry and gladly ate my piece.

While we didn’t kill a rat for supper, Robert’s wife had prepared one back home. We walked away with a pheasant’s egg and a bonding experience.


Anonymous said...

Hey Bro -
Good story man. I went giant rat hunting yesterday too. Actually, we went sledding... but to Ugandans cruising down a steep slope of deep snow on a cardboard box would be quite an experience. Did you guys get to play in the snow while in the UK? Things are usual and wonderful around here. Thrilled to hear you feel at home there.
grace and peace,

Africa Dating said...

Your story is amazing man. I haven't eaten a rat yet but I am open to new things.