We are on our way in the direction of Musonjo, a long line of porters moving slowly through a palette of different greens in an almost snakelike motion. Every small but determined step reduces the distance to our goal for the day; a thought that always makes me smile.
I think of the German invaders, during the First World War, who stopped their attack just before hitting these mountains and decided that the occupation/control of Lake Tanganyika, and the smaller Lake Kivu was enough. Who would want to climb these huge mountains? And for what? By comparison, today would be a nice exercise, something to loosen up my muscles a little bit, no steep climbs, just like a Sunday afternoon stroll……
In the far north-west I can already distinguish Rubuga, our destination for today, a small town with only a couple of houses, a health centre and a church. There we will change the porters for tomorrow. The objective is to let as many villages participate in our tasks, in order to share the jobs equally. The news of our arrival preceded us by one day, so there will be no problems finding new porters tomorrow morning.
Even before entering the village, we are greeted by the pastor and the nurse responsible for the health centre. And, of course, a flock of little children, curious as ever about this strange white man.
The church seems a good place to stay the night, but the pastor insists we sleep in his house, which he has already evacuated prior to our arrival. A chicken had been indentified to be sacrificed for dinner and pans of water are being heated for a “shower” before I even reach the house. Could I wish for a warmer welcome?
The pastor’s wife prepares a small room in the adjacent house to take a shower. The living room is packed with family members who sit all around the open fire place. Smoke is everywhere, since the they don’t have a chimney. I set another record for the day by taking the fastest shower ever. Stepping into the house while holding my breath, I run to the specially prepared room, undress, water, soap, water, dress and run out again for some smokeless air. I still wonder how they are able to just sit there, eat, sleep etc…. I decide there and then to stop smoking as fast as possible.
The next day, the whole village is gathered around the house. It is light and the roofs are already smoking. The last part of our journey begins after shaking a lot of hands; large and small, old and young.
Now we are going up steeply again, up the mountain that separates the Hauts Plateaux from the Itombwe Forest. It goes slowly as usual and I am very happy to finally see both on either side when I reach the top.
The weather seems to be changing. Clouds seem to be hanging on one side, as if they are afraid of passing. Unfortunately, they are on the side we are heading. My well deserved rest on the edge is rudely interrupted as the first drops start to fall. Time to get moving again. Rain… What is rain other than falling drops of water, touching our bodies and soaking our clothes? A human body consists of a minimum of 70% water, so what are a couple of drops more? Just keep on moving. People are waiting for us!
To be continued