I have come to appreciate nature walks for tickling and testing my adventurous side, in almost equal measure. Beyond enjoying the kiss of the sun on my forehead and feet as it charmingly sipped through a canopy of trees, forested Mairirwe had fetes of adrenaline rush.
I set the alarm clock minutes to the early morning hour of six o’clock in anticipation of the day’s highlights, top of which was the pursuit of my animated cousins, the chimpanzees on a day when the world celebrated their existence, underscoring the continued loss of forest habitat.
Meeting the cousins
In company of colleagues in the journalism trade, and our hosts- staff from Ngamba Island Chimpanzee Sanctuary, we set out, braving the chill of Sunday morning as we combed through one of Hoima’s privately owned jungles- Mairirwe, in Bugahya.
We were minutes late to meet and share photographic courtesies with the cousins but more adventure lay in the three-hour excursion through the garden-fresh muddy trails of shrubbery dotted with streams of water and heavy tree cover.
The faint heart in your writer manifested with every sight of a watercourse, because crossing over was not as obvious as downing a favourite drink.
A balancing act could have helped but the fright to miss a step and drown kept the heart throbbing in panic. At that point, the lyrics of UB40’s Many Rivers to Cross made sense.
But then, what is the kick in an adventure without such moments, experiences? As the legs propelled the fatigued body into motion, the feet started sinking, drowning footwear and part of the tibia and fibula into the murky ground.
Ah, with the feet, the heart sank in anxiety. Perhaps, nothing could even prepare you for a nature walk but the comfort came in the guides, Simon Mugenyi and Jonan Muganzi, with their ‘routine’ look.
No wonder, grey-haired John Bagumirabingi, the land owner on which the private forest sits, chose to name two of the three trails after Simon and Jonan. The third one is called Georgia.
You can imagine how jibes flew about, making the travel expedition worthwhile. The distraction of photography moments and occasional stops to receive enlightenment from Mzee Bagumirabingi was fulfilling in acquisition of knowledge and taking deserved breathers.
A former civil servant, the 79-year-old, tickled ribs in the same breath as he detailed his plan to attract more tourists to Mairirwe, taking moments to always call on his son, Baguma to clarify or amplify a point.
At his age, he feels he is not yet a man and feels that he deserved sitting at the table of men when he turns 80. The boy has a year to go!
Funding from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) the Chimpanzee Trust has since January 2018 implemented the ‘Piloting a Scalable PES Model to Conserve Bugoma Forest Ecosystem’ project in four villages where River Rutoha (one of the Bugoma Forest catchments) flows.