Ketwa, famous for his salt lake and traditionally production (see my last blog) has also an old salt factory. It was build and operated by a German company, but failed cause of wrong material used. It did simply rusted apart due the salt water. The government has new plans, but nothing happen yet. The manager kindly let me in for photos and showed me around, explained me the history and new plans of this factory.
Katwe is a village at northern end of Lake Edward. Along a dusty, bumpy road are some shops and gloomy bars. Most of people living in the houses scattered in the neighborhood or next to the huge lake. At first glimpse just another quite village somewhere in Uganda. But there is something special. Just next to this village, beyond a low crater rim, a small lake appears. At the shore are many ponds in different sizes and colors, mostly dark reddish to almost black. The high quantity of salt makes it worth to collect it. This business grew over generations, and the trade system is still the same. There is no big company who owns the salt, but families taking care for their own plot. A plot usually get inherited to the next generation of the family. Beside the plots, there are also men who walking in the middle of the shallow lake. With iron sticks they break the salty rocks from the ground of the lake and bring it on rafts on land. The salt, crystalline or as rocky plates, get shifted on shore, protected by plastic sheets or covered with dry grass, till they sold and moved by trucks.
Just behind the basic campsite the rainforest starts. It’s packed with wildlife, primates and exotic plants. A lush green wall of leaves and wood hides them for an easy sight. And by the way, it’s called rainforest for a reason, so i started the first morning with my guide in pouring rain. After four hours hiking trough dense jungle we gave up. The next day we’ve been bit more lucky. High in the treetop were some chimpanzee to see. To observe and photographing them wasn’t easy due the distances and the bad light conditions. The hike itself was worthwhile anyway, and some other primates as baboons, blue monkeys or black and white colobus monkeys showed up too.
The road to Lake Bunyonyi was already worthwhile the trip. Hills and craters everywhere you look. Fields around tiny villages, which are scattered in the landscape. Whenever you stop you get company by curious people and begging kids. Then suddenly the lake appears between the hills, lies quietly in the valley. I reached my destination, a peninsula with a campsite. And what a site to camp; in the morning i woke up with the view over the lake. Mist flows over the calm water and crawls up the hills. On the small island in front of me moved slightly the treetops, as some strange power lives there.
Next day i decided to go for an hike on the nearby hills. One of the rare opportunities to go for a hike for free, without any permit needed. But i wasn’t alone. Buggy, the dog from the campsite, followed me. In the villages women sitting on the floor, doing handicrafts. Soon another company joined in. A kid from the village wanted show me the path to the top, and went with me since. From the small farmhouses with beautiful views over the lake the kids waves shyly their hands, wondering where i’m going. I hadn’t an idea myself. My new little friend pointed to another villages behind the hill we just climbed. Yes, let’s go there, i agreed. The people watched me in astonishment, when i arrived with that little local kid and the dog. I found an empty bar and bought my company a soda, which he sipped with a broad smile in his face. Meanwhile Buggy were sitting in front of the door and watched the curious kids on the other side of the street. After the refreshments the way back seems to be easy and fast.
On the volcanic soil, coffee grows better and is tastier than where else, they say. So, i visit a coffee plantation near Kisoro to proof it. The friendly people here explain the entire process from the seedlings to green beans to the ripe red ones, from harvest to the inner beans and drying process, from stamping off the skin to roasting over the fire. But best of all, the coffee tasting at the end. For the next weeks i know exactly where my coffee was grown.
Early morning a young guy approached me. He offered tours. Despite my plans to travel further, i got convinced to spend a day longer in this area. Julius, the young tour guide, promised me, not only to guide me for an hike along the Congo border, but also showing me authentic village life, where he’s born. I didn’t regret my decision. Trough villages and over farmland, he brought me to a cave, climbed up an hill with craters, where every inch is used as agriculture land, introduced me with school and showed me the spring, where village people get their drinking water. On this hike, i got the whole lot impression of country life in Uganda.
The pygmy people, they call themselves Batwa, used to live in the forest, where they survived as hunters and gatherers. As the forests became national parks, the Batwa got relocated without access to new hunting and collecting areas. Lost in a strange environment, many became addicted to alcohol and start with begging too. They get abused as cheap labour, survive from the leftovers of other ones or get some income from dancing and performing for tourists.
Neza, who works for an organization, which takes care for the Batwa communities, explained me the difficulties of their life. I got interested to see the real life of these people rather than visiting a tourist performance. I’m invited to join a meeting, but was expected not to come barehanded, since the Batwa rely on food and goods coming from outside. A 25 kilo bag of maize flour was my ticket to the community. But first i met a few people in the office of the organization UOBDU and got introduced to several people, as a lawyer, accountant, shop keeper of the souvenirs and the head of organization. With her i had a longer talk and learned more about the misery of the Batwa people. In short; the government neglect the Batwa, the local people don’t care, but abuse them as cheap labour and many Batwa refuse to work at all, since their culture were hunting and gathering, what is now forbidden to them. UOBDU is trying to reduce the suffering and bring them education, it got explained to me. What’s the goal for the future, i asked. Good question, was the thoughtfully reply, but still lacking the answer.
A new dirt road leads up to mountains, passing many small villages and little farms. Here in the valleys lives the Batwa in neighborhood with Hutus and Tutsis, i learned. But it seems they don’t help each other out. We arrived a tiny farm. Now we had to wait till the word spread in the neighborhood, that the members of the organization arrived. Everyone who joins the meeting had to put the name on a list and either gives a signature or a fingerprint. Then started a three hour teaching with loud words, many gestures, big laughters and role play. The topics, as i learned later, were about violence between neighbors and within family, the right of education for children and young marriages. At the end of the meeting the people gathered around the vehicle of UOBDU. Everyone who attended and signed the list for the meeting got a soap bar and some food. What was the real motivation for people to join the meeting, and will be a constantly flow of donations from foreign organizations the real future of those people? i asked myself when i passed the majestic volcano behind Lake Kayumbu.
The volcanos look down to me. In the dusk it felt kinda mystical. I knew there are the mountain gorillas, maybe even awaiting me. Pictures of the movie of King Kong slipped in my mind when i looked up to the steep slope of that mountain. But arriving the headquarter, crowds of tourists watched the performance of dancers, before heading to their gorillas groups, lead by experienced guides.
A strenuous three hours walk trough dense rainforest brought the five of us with our guide and a armed guard to our gorilla group. the Susa group. On the way, Eugene, our guide explained about the environment here. Two porters carry the bags of the other four, while i trust my camera gear no one but myself. And then, the first glimpse of a dark fur in the lush green bush. Th big group of gorillas were scattered around in the bush. But we found the silverback, the oldest and leader in the group. While the animals were moving, we follow the silverback, watching him resting and eating and moving uphill again. For one hour we observed those amazing creatures, before we went downhill, out of the forest, and it seems like out of a day dream again.
Rwanda, also called ‚the land of thousand hills‘, is unique for a road trip. I wished to travel by motorbike from hill to hill, taking those many curves and stopping for stunning views. One of the most beautiful route is along Lake Kivu with its shores, the forest and fields at the coastline. Just a few impressions from that trip…
A dense jungle on both side of the road. A few times a steep slope gives the view free over the green, lush forest. Morning mist crawls up. Despite my early start this morning, i was too late for the chimpanzee tracking. A canopy walk would be an option, but too pricey. I decided to go for a guided hike instead. With only my guide, i walked trough the huge green. He explained about the plants, spotted some smaller animals, as frogs, birds and also mountain monkeys. A bat flew off when we approached its hide too close and some squirrel crossing in high speed our path. Not quite an adventure, but nice hike after cities and long road drives.