Cappuccinos in the BushJune 21, 2011
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, nestled in southwest Uganda, conjures up mystical connotations of otherworldliness, and is probably best known for its population of Mountain Gorillas. There is so much more to the region though, as I recently discovered on a guided walk along the Ivy River Trail with Nkuringo Walking Safaris.
Starting from Gorilla Forest Camp, in the northern sector of the park, the Ivy River Trail is one of several hikes you can do in the forest. As it was a Tuesday, we opted for this one, as it would eventually lead us to the small village of Nteko, 2kms from the Congolese border, and the small weekly market there. Our friendly guide, Asgario (who resembled a string bean, perhaps due to his daily fitness regime up and down the hills), explained that this trail was popular with the local people for this very reason.
What struck me most, almost as soon as we entered the forest, was just how quiet it was. Perhaps we were all on the look-out for the elusive forest elephant, or just simply absorbed in the beauty of everything; from the birds and butterflies to the wonderful flora and fauna. (This soon changed however, on passing a two metre long wasps’ nest!)
After four hours of (somewhat leisurely) walking, we reached the Ivy River, at the edge of the forest. We were greeted by the very welcome sight of a table laden with pineapple, tea and best of all, cappuccinos, complete with extra hot, frothy milk – all in the middle of the bush!
Feeling refreshed, we set off across the river’s tiny bridge and – accompanied by some grinning schoolchildren – visited the colourful little market in Nteko, which was brimming with local produce. We were warmly greeted by the community, who clearly were not used to seeing ‘Muzungus’ very often!
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed my discovery of another side of Bwindi – meeting members of the community who use the forest as a real through-fare for their daily lives was a valuable insight into rural Uganda and certainly gave me food for thought that a visit to Bwindi should not stop at the gorillas. I did see one or two of those though, and that was amazing as well…
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