Feldgruppe
Preparing for a walk of 6+9

And again it is 5 o’clock in the morning. After a couple of days rest I prepare myself for our trip to the Itombwe Forest, 2 days walk across the most eastern mountain range of The Hauts Plateaux. Yesterday we advised the local community and the surrounding villages that we would need porters.

And again it is 5 o’clock in the morning. After a couple of days rest I prepare myself for our trip to the Itombwe Forest, 2 days walk across the most eastern mountain range of The Hauts Plateaux. Yesterday we advised the local community and the surrounding villages that we would need porters. A lot this time – 34!

It takes me at least 30 minutes to find the courage to move my, still aging body, towards the side of the bed. However, dressing in under five minutes is a personal victory and something to celebrate, I think to myself! Will remember that when I get back next week....

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first porters are already here when I make my way to our toilet, a pit latrine protected by a small bamboo structure with grass on the roof. An almost romantic sight! The valley is filled with low hanging clouds covering the river below and at the far end is the market of Magunda. I imagine this will be a beautiful, bright and sunny day and I stop to inhale this moment of peace.

Behind the office, I can see a long line of material, neatly packed, rain protected and ready for transport. Foldable tables and chairs, consultation tents, piles of plastic sheeting, boxes with vaccines, a large blue cool box, which needs to be carried by 4 porters, plastic bags with rice, beans, dried and salted fish, babula’s (traditional charcoal stoves) and of course the charcoal, sleeping bags and personal sleeping tents. In short, everything needed for our mobile clinic.

I plan to get the Itombwe Forest in two days. First, a 6 hour walk to the valley at the edge of the Hauts Plateaux, sleeping in a small village with the very hospitable local population and then the next day up the mountain further to the west, until finally descending into the tropical rain forest, which will take another 9 hours. Why it is called tropical “rain” forest, I would find out soon enough.

There are multiple ethnic groups in the Hauts Plateaux , like Babembe, Bafuliro, Banyamulenge, etc... The population of Kihuha (and Marungu for that matter) are Banyamulenge, also called Congolese Tutsis. Originally these people came from Rwanda 2 centuries ago, with a couple of influxes since. The name "Banyamulenge" was chosen in the early 1970s to avoid being called "Banyarwanda" (people from Rwanda) and seen as foreigners. Ethnic tensions against Tutsi rose following the end of the colonial period, as well as the 1972 mass killing of Hutu in Burundi. In response the Tutsi appear to have attempted to distance themselves from their ethnicity as Rwandans and associated themselves with Mulenge, a village in the so-called, Moyen Plateaux, so they are now Banyamulenge; “people from Mulenge”......

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just before we leave, I meet a woman with a pile of rocks on her head. I always wonder how the women here could carry things on their heads, walk straight and climb and descend these mountains, with grace and definite pride. Amazing! I tried once and was so busy trying to find my balance that I tripped over a tree trunk and almost broke my neck in the process......

To be continued

This post was first published in Spanish by 20minutos.es