Nkuringo, The HEART of Africa for me

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July 28th 2006
Published: September 16th 2009
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Lake Bunyonyi to Nkuringo

Lake Bunyonyi to Nkuringo by Chobe at Matatu

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Up early again but as we were leaving our tents and the truck it was a quick morning to get ready. As soon as the Matatu mini vans arrived the girls jumped in one and the guys in the other. Some of the group went to Bwindi (2) and Rwanda (3) as that was how the permits worked out. The rest of us were headed to a different area of Bwindi and that was Nkuringo. We went into town first to grab snacks and water. The drive was through some beautiful mountainous scenery and the little villages along the way were so cute with awesome mud brick houses. The road was the bumpiest I have ever been on; taking us 5 hours to do about 70km’s with one pit stop! I tried to get the girls to sing songs along the way as the radio wasn't working but perhaps my choice of songs wasn't the best as they didn’t seem too interested.

We arrive and unpacked our food to find that according to Helen WE forgot to pack our tubs for washing up and toilet paper, not that it was up
Multi tasking at bestMulti tasking at bestMulti tasking at best

They are empty but not for long i reckon
to her to tell us what to pack! Our rooms were ok but the bed looked a bit festy, we had pit toilets and I am back to the good ol Asian showering technique. We went for a walk to check out the town which was very little but it seemed like there were heaps of kids around. We looked in a shop and went to the Gorilla Pub but we all wouldn’t fit in so some of us sat outside, and I had no money to buy a beer anyway.

At 5:30pm we all got ready for the orphans of the town who were coming to sing for us. I wasn't too excited as I figured it would just be a touristy thing but after talking to Helen apparently people only come here to see the Gorillas and don’t stay in the village; coming in early and leaving as soon as they see the Gorillas, not staying in the town. The village itself doesn’t see many mzungu’s (white people), so therefore the kids don’t really get to perform that much. They were a little late coming up but it really was a sight seeing them come up the hill to us. We all got in our seats ready and as soon as they started to sing, banging the drum and dancing I was smiling. They were such beautiful kids who were so enthusiastic about the singing and dancing. They melted my heart and brought tears to my eyes, I didn’t want them to stop. Some kids even emerged from the bushes dressed as Gorillas; it was hilarious. At the end they came to pick us to dance with them. One girl pulled me up and she was the cutest thing, and hilarious when she opened her eyes really wide when she was singing and dancing. I went hard at it and was so puffed from jumping around like they do. They seemed like the happiest kids, but I forgot to mention that most of them are orphans; their parents having died from Aids.

29th July Saturday DAY 8 NKURINGO
Up early to make lunch and head off to the Uganda Wildlife Authority Office for our half hour briefing. They gave us the do's and don’ts and told us they never know how long the trekking will take; encouraging us to get a porter to carry our bags and help us up and down the slopes. A heap of us decided we didn’t really want anyone to help us so we just got one to share between about 6 of us. We jumped in the Matatu to take the 6km journey down another bumpy road through some awesome mountainous scenery to where we were to start the trek. Denis was the trekking leader and the trekkers had already started to walk before we even got there to find the Gorillas for us; trekking to the area the Gorillas were the day before and then trying to locate the Gorillas from there. We got our walking sticks and start the journey. We went down through a tiny village on the steep mountain which was really cool. I instantly thought about coming back up this steep hill and was NOT looking forward to it. I was so nervous that I felt sick in the guts, Robin and I had been talking about this for ages and I was a little concerned about not being able to make it, as you can trek till 4pm and if you don’t find them you come back. We started at 9am so you can be going for 6 hours and when I saw these mountains I became unsure! We greeted locals on the way down and an hour into our trek the guides stopped us to tell us they had found Gorillas in the same place as yesterday which was only half an hour away!!! We hadn’t even gotten to the impenetrable forest as they were in the outskirts of it! I was actually instantly pissed off (sorry can't help how I felt) as I was at least looking forward to and had imagined getting really exhausted before I would see them. All we had to do was get to the bottom of the mountain and go just inside the forest and they would be there!

So we make our way down the hill, jumped through two small creeks, dropped off our bags and sticks and we all made our way into the forest

Injury number 2; bitten by something on the arm (it killed I must add)

The trekkers had to use their machetes to cut at the forest so we could pass through, then we walk past a huge pile of Gorilla shit and there it is…a black back huge Gorilla only a couple of meters away. He spotted us instantly and turned his back on us almost as though he didn’t want his photo taken. We watched him for a while eating, climbing a stump with vines all over it. It was obvious he wasn't going to like any attention so we kept moving. We found another 2, however they were also shy, eating behind the vines. I couldn't really get a good look at them so I ½ stepped down to the level Robin was at and then Dandy (the bugger) leans on me to get a better photo, even though he had the biggest zoom out of all of us. He kept getting in the way and pushing through and it was so annoying. I even heard him on a few occasions making noises to attract the Gorillas to look at him…Dick head! So we kept moving after they take off and find a silverback! A SILVERBACK! He was just sitting in the vegetation eating away and not even fussed that we were ‘oh my god’ing everyone around us. His hands were huge and he was beautiful. In the background a younger male was hanging out in the tree playing games with himself! After a while, as he wasn't doing much we moved on through some thick scrub. Eventually we found 3 males 1 just laying around and 2 playing. Then in the background there was a female with her baby but we didn’t get much of a look at her. We watched them for a while and they were gorgeous. At one point we all had to duck down in a non threatening position which was pretty exciting, eventually the Gorilla's moved on so we followed them. Not far off we got to watch them all again and at one point I thought one was going to charge Cat so she ducked down and it backed off. It was pretty funny but scary of course at the same time. We heard them all fart and beat their chests which was awesome. Our hour went so fast and we all had to leave (this is the same for all tour groups). We start to make our way back up the hill and after 20mins we stop for lunch under a tree. Clare then got bitten and is in pain, not long after I get bitten again (injury no 3) and this one was even worse then the first one, hurting for about 20mins. We again climb the mountain, and after pushing myself, drinking water, shedding layers, pushing myself some more we eventually reach the top about 1 ½ hours later. I couldn’t believe it was over. My face was like a beetroot!

We waited for our lift, got back to town and received our certificates. Walking back to our rooms everyone else who didn’t do the Gorilla's today were making there way to play soccer with the locals. So I gave my stuff to Robin and headed with them. I thought it was just around the corner but it ended up being a 15-20 minute walk, through the village, through the school, and then climbing up this mountain. I was so buggered but I wasn't going to miss this. I make it to the top, along with everyone else and the views were spectacular.

I am on top of a mountain, its relatively flat on top, the grass is long, and there is cow shit everywhere, a perfect pitch for a game of soccer in Africa. I play with some of the kids while
Heart does not mean great accomodationHeart does not mean great accomodationHeart does not mean great accomodation

Would have prefered my tent actually...
we wait for more people to arrive. Helen is doing cartwheels and I have to show the kids all the photos that I take. A guy comes up the mountain with some huge sticks (that almost look like polls), with his machete and puts them into the ground making some perfect goals. It was a great game and I did an awesome run and some good defending. We ended up winning and to my surprise I only stepped in cow shit once. We played for much longer then 90 mins and even had an official ref! The town didn’t have a soccer ball, usually playing with plastic bags filled with other bags and tied up with string. We donated our ball to the town from the truck and they loved it. The score was 2-1 but it was awesome to actually play; such a highlight to Africa and my travels so far. I will never EVER forget it.

30th July Sunday DAY 9 NKURINGO
Today we got to sleep in a bit while the rest of the group did the Gorilla trek. We just chilled out in the morning then set off for a tour of the village. We walked down another massive hill to the blacksmith and it was really very interesting how they make spearheads, knives and hoes etc. they don’t waste anything, if something has no use anymore they melt it down and make something else, awesome! I had a go at the bellows to make the fire and it was tough on the arms.

It took us ages to come back up the hill but I had 2 kids hold my hand to help me up, very cute. The beer maker wasn't in so we went back to camp, got shown where the Congo was, 3kms away, just over 2 hills. On the way to the traditional healer for the village we passed a massive worm, and I saved it from being run over. The traditional healer was a bit blah-zeh, she made a mixture with leaves, beer and who knows what else but it was supposed to be used to fix stomach pains, diarreah and headaches. We tried it and it was quite potent, but I didn’t dare squirm my face up. Her house was beautiful made from mud brick, but I am afraid her garden wasn't quite what you would expect from
and our bathroomand our bathroomand our bathroom

Copyright Robin
a traditional healer; unless she didn’t show us everything she had.

Back at camp we had 2 minute noodles for lunch and Helen went off to buy herself the drum that the locals were playing the first night. The rest of the group got back from their trek and went straight to the pub, even though we were supposed to be playing soccer again. All the kids today looked so cute in their best outfits as its Sunday and church day. Bron, Cat and I went down to the pub, but again there was no room for us and so we decided to just head straight up to the pitch. On the way through town the locals kept asking us “football again?” We told them we would see them up there but when we got to the top we were the only ones up there. We sat around talking for a while an eventually Andy joined us, then the kids, then the adults. But still no more mzungu’s. We ended up starting a game without them, and I mucked around with some kids who were watching, getting them to shout “Amanda, Amanda, Amanda” Next thing I know Andy gets them to yell it louder and more of them join in…I have my own cheer squad. I couldn’t concentrate, between me laughing and totally being touched by these beautiful kids; I couldn’t play! After playing for about 20mins the rest of the tour join us and we instantly stop the game so they could join in. I was instantly pissed off. We spent ages then re-organising teams, when they should have just waited til half time. In all the re-organising so the mzungu’s could play some of the Africans missed out on playing. Then Daz turns around and says just make the teams 15 on 15 so the kids don’t miss out. Well maybe he should have just sat out the first half. Cat and I have a bitch about it (tension rinsing!)

So the game starts and the kids start screaming my name again. It was great. We had a penalty disallowed for weird (must have been Ugandan rules). We were winning and also stuffed up another penalty as hey changed their keepers. I felt like I never got the ball passed to me and that I was beginning to be left out. It was a game for the boys and it pissed me off. I got elbowed in the ribs, grabbed in the ah-hem region and fell over as I blocked the ball fro hitting me in the face. I hung in there and in a fight over the ball I stomped on a guys foot by accident. I forgot to mention that the locals were not wearing any shoes! I apologised; it must have hurt. Daz said “Amanda 4, them 1”. Andy got the cheer squad to start screaming A-CA-CIA at the end of the game and none of us could get them to stop! The end result was 5 - 1 but once again we were just pumped to play. Afterwards the ref gave a great speech about colour not mattering and being able to still get on, we were all one, without playing malice and how happy he was. Tears swelled in my eyes; it was so beautiful and touching. We walked back and yet another girl came and held my hand. I pretended we were motorbikes which had her in stitches. As we were approaching our camp Helen was beating her newly purchased drum and when we got to camp all the kids started screaming again A-CA-CIA over and over, dancing and screaming and we were all jumping around clapping and it was so awesome. It was just fantastic, and really hard to say goodbye to them, but I know I never will forget them, the small village of Nkuringo with the kids with big warm hearts. My heart swells as I remember them; they are a big piece of my puzzle.

Additional photos below
Photos: 84, Displayed: 32


Gorilla PubGorilla Pub
Gorilla Pub

With some of us waiting outside, a hard place to get into. Copyright Robin
The crew that made it in!The crew that made it in!
The crew that made it in!

Copyright Group 1. No idea who took this.
Getting ready for our own showGetting ready for our own show
Getting ready for our own show

from the kids of Nkuringo

16th September 2009

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beautiful story moo. can really feel the love you have for those ppl and the place... must have been the most beautiful experience. aaaaahhh.. xx
23rd January 2010

Nkuringo Gorilla Camp
Hi Moo, It was great to find your blog on your visit to Nkuringo in July 2006. I too found the place leaving a big hole in my heart when it was time to leave during a visit in early 2008. You would not recognise the camp today in Jan 2010 from your own visit. I simply had to return to Nkuringo to involve myself with the community as there was so much untapped potential. Nkuringo Walking Safaris was created to providing guiding opportunities where the walks have become one of the must do activities for visitors to not only Bwindi Impenetrable Forest but also Uganda since it's inception. The Nkuringo Yourth Initiative Programme was established where many of the older youth are involved in some way with the walking safari initiative. All the youth are involved in cultural dance performances for visitors, the women are producing wonderful basketry and the kids some great drawings. The camp has seen massive infrastructure improvements with wonderful eco-toilets and showers built, your own accommodation has been completely renovated and we have now some beautiful cottages on a much larger site that take advantage of the incredible scenery. When I look at your images it is incredible to reflect back on how far we have come in 18 short months of real hard work. This would not have been possible without the huge efforts of the community and a vision of what the future could be. Both the walking safaris and camp are providing valuable employment opportunities within this very rural community. It was only the initiative and a willingness required as the main ingredients to set the wheels in motion. I am sure if you were to return you would find it even harder to drag yourself away.

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