I woke up with a start, as my iPhone alarm rang loudly. It was 7:30am- much later than I had grown used to in the last few days. My Nomad Adventure Tours group was told that we had to be at breakfast for 8:30, and once we were finished eating, Didas – a local man who runs the Hope Uganda Orphanage Project across the road- would be taking us for a boat tour around Lake Bunyoni and to visit the region’s famous Pygmy tribe – the Batwa people.
Nyika and Noah spoiled us that morning with delicious french toast – complete with syrup (imitation maple is better than nothing when you’re in a pinch). Once the dishes were cleaned, Didas greeted our group with the largest smile I’ve seen in a long time. He asked if we were ready and excited for the day, to which we all expressed our excitement and eagerness to get started. We soon left the campground and walked along the dusty road, past the Hope Uganda Orphanage Project, and down to the lake was a large boat waiting for us.
After clambering aboard, another man started the engine and as it roared to life we lurched forward and started learning about some of the folklore and history about the areas surrounding the lake. We learned about Punishment Island – an island the locals would send unmarried pregnant women to leave to die; and about the fact that the lake is rumored to be the second deepest lake in Africa.
The boat pulled up onshore nearly an hour later. As we disembarked, we found ourselves – the only white people – in a local marketplace. Vendors hawked their wares and harvests. The locals all eyed us suspiciously. Immediately, a young boy – no older than 8 years old- came up to me, eyed my camera apprehensively, but then continued to follow behind as I made my way up the hill towards the path we would take to see the Pygmy tribe.
Sweat dripped out of every pore – or at least that’s what it seemed like- as we sluggishly walked along the path by locals harvesting their fields, and families going about their daily duties. The sun beamed down. I found myself walking along, hand in hand, with the young boy from the marketplace –his name was Abraham. Two other young children also joined our group as we made the hour and a half –long walk in the sweltering sun. My muscles ached with every step thanks to the previous day’s adventure of trekking with the mountain gorillas. None of us had expected that the day’s walk would be as long as it ended up being. Every member of my Nomad Adventure Tours family was wondering where exactly the Batwa tribe actually lived and how long it would take to get there.
An hour and a half after starting our trek along the dusty road, we had a final steep hill to climb up before we made it to the village. The Batwa people –also known as a Pygmy tribe – are considered to be environmental refugees. They had inhabited the land long before the other local Ugandans took over the land. Unlike the Masai tribe that we met in Kenya, the Batwa people have been pushed to the periphery and live from hand to mouth. The tribe’s children ran to greet our group of weary travellers – unprepared for the long trek and hot weather. They excitedly led us to the center of their village and we were encouraged to take a seat on some mats they had set out in the shade.
Many elder members of the tribe joined the children and once we were all settled in the performance began. The beating of a drum echoed loudly and the tribe members started singing and dancing along. They were so in sync with each other and the rhythm of the music – it was enchanting. Even the children danced along to the beat – huge smiles lit up their faces. It was seeing the genuine joy on the childrens’ faces that made the long, hot walk all worth it.
At the same time as all of the performances were going on, there was a young boy – no older than 7 or 8 who had a terrible infected gash on his ankle. The poor thing was only able to stand upright with the aid of a cane (well – a stick that he was using as a cane). We decided that we couldn’t leave him in the state he was in and asked him to come over. Millie – from the Czech Republic- had experience working in a hospital and thankfully had packed a first aid kit in her daypack. We comforted the boy as Millie worked her magic – disinfecting and applying bandages to the wound.
After nearly forty-five minutes of being entertained and helping out the poor boy with the infection, we were asked to give a donation – which we did happily. A few of us gave even more to the elders telling them that we wanted the money used to take the boy to a doctor. We’ll never know if they truly did put our money to the use we requested, but hopefully they did.
Since we had given them such a large amount of money I guess that warranted us getting to see one of the fresh new babies that had been born that week. The mother walked out of her hut and showed off her new bundle of joy.
It was a strange yet still delightful experience to get to meet the Batwa people. It was a very quick glimpse into their everyday life – and despite the obvious struggles they endure every single day, they seem to be truly happy living their simple lives on the periphery. Didas certainly delivered with the first part of his plans for us for the day – the delightful boat ride around Lake Bunyoni followed by visiting this lovely tribe. We were all excited to continue on our day and see his life’s work – the Hope Uganda Orphanage Project.
Start reading about my experience on the Masai Mara & Gorillas tour from the beginning! Click HERE for Day 1
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**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours asked me to partake in this tour and did provide me with a discounted tour price, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
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