A Day of Rest????
Our good friend, Christy Nichol, from Kootenay Athletic Therapy (Nelson BC), gave us a financial gift to use at our discretion because she is committed to giving to people and places that inspire her. As described in yesterday’s blog, John and I have been so inspired by Sally’s resilience and good attitude that we are paying her gift forward to this young man and his family because he has inspired us personally. We know Christy would love the philosophy behind this eco-space that David created with the help of Sally. He is a local man that saved this fertile slice of heaven from logging and has planted a wide variety of trees and bushes for medicinal purposes as well as those that keep away mosquitoes. All the food he serves is grown on site and he mentors other young men like Sally and supports a local school just over the hill.
We had a lazy start to the day, eating breakfast at 9, which was so big we couldn’t finish it. The coffee was amazing and I really enjoyed their unique pancakes with honey from their bees. Sally wanted to take us through the “cultural museum” which is a mud hut that’s a replica of the early Ugandan way of life. Interestingly, many of the traditions continue today in various tribes around the nation. It had multiple “rooms” and he took us to each one and explained the various artifacts in each room and the traditions behind them. It is definitely a male dominated culture which was symbolized by many of the artifacts and stories he told us. The one I got a kick out of the most was the tradition of the stools (see the photo below). When a man comes to meet a girl that he is interested in, he is given that small chair which means that the family does not know him as this is most likely the first time they have met. The next time he comes to the house, he gets that second seat which means they know him a little but he hasn’t “paid” anything yet. It’s kinda like he’s courting the girl but doesn’t have any skin in the game. Once he pays half the girl’s dowry, he gets that third stool. It’s not until he has paid the entire dowry and married the girl that he gets the smooth, strong comfortable one. If you look at its shape, it’s a symbol of the two families becoming one family. Maybe it’s because our kids are at marrying age that I found this tradition interesting, and maybe John needs to start carving the stools. After the “tour” Sally showed us the huge herb garden in the middle of the property and informed us about every.single.herb.in.the.entire.garden. It was actually quite impressive and he was proud of it and eager to share his knowledge. It almost made me want to start an herb garden at home. I’ll have to think about that.
Sally had asked us yesterday if we were interested in going on a “nature walk” with him. Because these guys care so much about the environment, he wanted to show us what is happening locally in their forest that is threatening the local way of life and tell us more about how they are trying to better educate the community to take better care of their land. There is a local man named Vincent who is the chairman of the local project that is not only trying to educate the public and change their habits around harvesting firewood, but also create a new campsite by a crater lake for locals and tourists to enjoy. He cane with us and Sally as we needed to have a guide to go into the natural forest. Locals are only allowed to gather firewood on Wednesdays and Saturdays and they can only take dead wood from the ground. Sadly, in an effort to create ‘dead’ wood, they use their machetes to make gashes in the trunks of old growth timber and with time it will die. It is difficult to catch them doing this, but slowly the mature forest is being eroded and eliminating wild life habitat. Of course, they don’t have machinery or any large-scale ways of making this happen, but over time, the damage has been done and practices need to be changed in order to save the local wildlife, medicinal plants, and all that the forest provides for their way of life. Part of it is education and part of it is monitoring the forest for those breaking the rules and then fining them a lot of money.
Sally said it would take two hours for this walk so we thought that sounded reasonable. It is a rest day after all, but we thought we could handle a two hour walk. Well…after four hours, I told Sally that he is in excellent shape if he can do this walk in only two hours. I felt bad that we were so slow that it was taking us twice the time. “Oh no,” he said. “It usually takes six hours. The two hours of walking is just to get to the forest.” John and I shared a look that said it all. FIVE HOURS LATER we returned to the house. We hiked about twenty-four kilometres, in our bike shoes no less, slip sliding through the forest as we looked for monkeys and learned about the local flora and fauna. One thing I have noticed about Ugandans is that they are very protective of us and truly care about our enjoyment and our safety. Vincent noticed I was sliding all over the place and grabbing onto trees and roots to keep from heading over the steep banks. He quickly took his machete and chopped down a walking stick for me and then one for “Mr John.” That made things much easier and it was surreal for me as we hiked through the mud, tracking monkeys while it sprinkled refreshing rain and the thunder rolled overhead. We went to a waterfall and saw locals working, taking baths in the river (didn’t look too closely) and kids playing games in the forest. We saw four different species of monkeys and walked through what could only be called a ‘banana forest’ (32 varieties). As hard as the hike was and as badly as my back now hurts, it was still worth it and I am so thankful for the experience. I am just slightly more concerned about the hundred kilometre ride we have in store for us tomorrow as our calf muscles are feeling it because we realized we haven’t really walked anywhere in over a month!