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Echoes of Welcome from a Mountainside Village

Echoes of Welcome from a Mountainside Village
 
 

OUR GUIDE Peter led us along a muddy trail through the orchard, passing a fence that had sprouted into a thick hedge. The track suddenly went downhill towards the bottom of the valley. There was a small wild pig nearby eating the thick grass but it seemed to ignore us. It must be domesticated.

Start of the trail to the remote village
Start of the trail to the remote village

We passed a small thatched hut into a small clearing with several small muddy dams. A couple were full of murky water and others were drained. Our guide told us these dams held water so the locals could breed fish to eat. Uphill from the dams were small fields where vegetables grew.

We negotiated our way around the dams. It was very boggy thanks to the recent rain so we ended up having to take a different route to the one our guide usually took. We went through some more of the orchard before coming up on a road. From here the walking was a lot better, allowing us to quicken our pace.

Swampy irrigation pond
Swampy irrigation pond

The road started climbing gradually along the side of the valley of rolling hills. It didn’t seem as rugged as the terrain we had driven along yesterday. The road rose faster than the bottom of the valley, so it was not long at all before we were getting spectacular valleys across to the other side where vegetable farms clung to the sides of the hills ready to wash down at the next flood.

In between the farms were small remnants of the jungle that had covered the entire area, part of the Congo. Strictly speaking we weren’t in the Congo yet, that was just over the end of the valley now about eight kilometres away.

The children who followed us
The children who followed us

We continued following the rough metalled road passing a few houses clustered close together against the edge of the steep valley. The houses were made from mud bricks and small logs with thatched roofing. No doubt they would have to be reconstructed every few years. Most houses had several banana plants growing around them, and most had their own vegetable patches.

At one house there were five young boys wearing rags all standing outside staring at these strange pale foreigners walking past them. The children followed us for several hundred metres keeping five to ten metres behind us.

Fields
Fields

We passed one small field with a weedy plant similar to dock which had long stalks of small red flowers. He explained they were very useful to the people here, creating some form of food and also a dye.

Just past the field was a large opening in the ground, where the clay was removed, shaped into bricks and fired all on the same site. They dried stacked up high underneath cheap blue tarpaulins, then put into a hut in another hollow in the hill to be fired. Curiously the firing hut was thatched. The bricks were a bit irregular in shape but I guessed that didn’t matter here where the locals didn’t know any better.

Doll made by one of the village women
Doll made by one of the village women

The young children were still walking with us when we arrived at another main settlement in the village, which now seemed to sprawl up the entire length of the valley. We were a couple of kilometres from the school now, and no doubt the children from up here would have to walk all the way to school every day. That being said there were a lot of children up here in the valley.

One woman came out and showed us a little doll she had made by wrapping some swamp grass up to create the head, arms, and legs. Then she had clothed it in the plastic from an old plastic bag. It was very innovative.

Boy riding a scooter down the hill
Boy riding a scooter down the hill

One boy, aged around eleven or twelve, had a little scooter made from wooden logs. There was a flat stick which formed the chassis, a log which formed the handle holders, then a narrow stick for the handle bars. Finally the wheels were made from cut pieces of log. The axels would have been dowels. He climbed onto the scooter, and with one quick push he stood on the rickety frame whilst it tore off down the steep gravel road we had just climbed. It was very fast and I thought this was definitely an accident in the making. He whizzed past a local woman climbing the road. Somehow he managed to jump off near the bottom and run to a stop whilst the scooter crashed but came out unscathed.

Banana beer
Banana beer

We reached a substantial village at the top of the road. There were numerous houses, some with corrugated iron roofing and others with thatching, some with tarpaulins over the thatching to reduce leakage no doubt. The village was perched on the a small spur on the side of the mountain.

We reached a small mud brick house with corrugated iron roofing, perhaps with three rooms in it. Outside there was a man who had an old metal cup full of a yellowish brown liquid. Rodney told us that this was banana beer. The sheer thought of drinking fermented banana, coupled with anything called beer sounded absolutely gross. Travis smirked and I recalled his comments on the local bananas here being an aphrodisiac. This stuff certainly looked potent.

Fields perched on the mountain
Fields perched on the mountain
Drinking banana beer
Drinking banana beer

I tried it. As expected it was disgusting tasting and smelling like rotten bananas. Everyone else tried it and really didn’t like it, so it must be pretty horrible.

Noisy children
Noisy children

By now a large group of locals had congregated, including a lot of small children. Most of the women had small babies tied around their backs. Obviously the banana beer works wonders here. Rodney liked it. Perhaps he needed to get a bit of alcohol in him for the next part of the tour as we will soon find out.

There were numerous houses and what appeared to be a small store. Below the road was a communal toilet. It was made from mud brick and had two doors leading into the separate long drops. It had a thatched roof and floor boards keeping the building above the large hole dug underneath it. Below the toilet down the hill were more vegetable patches. That can’t have been too healthy. Thankfully I didn’t need to go.

Village toilet
Village toilet

The children here followed us and one very noisy little boy kept yelling ‘hello’ no matter how many times we said hello back. Most of the other children there joined in the chorus.

Here everyone lives so closely together in a tight knit community. They were all very grubby, particularly from the knees down which was plastered with dried mud. Their clothes were very old, threadbare and torn, but they seemed to be very happy. Obviously they didn’t know any other life. They didn’t have any contact with the outside world apart from the pale tourists who would venture through their village each day.

The trail beyond the village
The trail beyond the village

Once finished in the middle of the village, Rodney led us further along the road, now no more than a motorbike track.

The trail continued around another two spurs and gullies before we heading up a side track over the hill. The gullies were full of scrub and ferns whilst the spurs had a patchwork of vegetable fields in the poor clay soil recently cleared from the felling of the rainforest. One gully had a small herd of white and brown spotted small goats.

The trail seeming to go nowhere
The trail seeming to go nowhere

Apparently this was some kind of short cut. We were making rather slow pace being at about 2300 metres above sea level now. The trail through the banana foliage was rough and steep. Finally we reached the top, where we briefly stopped before heading back down the other side to meet up with the motorbike track once again. I’m not sure if there was any purpose to the short cut, but I thought it would have been quicker to have stayed on the track.

Upon reaching the trail we continued walking along it, seeing a group of four young boys sitting in the grass above us. They followed us a short distance before dropping off behind, leaving us on our own again.

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Date:

 

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Latitude: Longitude: Altitude:

25 August 2011

 

Rubugiri

Uganda

 

1°7'S
29°41'E
2150 - 2300m ASL

 

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