Well it is finally time to share the story of the Batwa Pygmies’ Island.
On the far side of Lake Bunyonyi, at the crest of one of the larger islands is a settlement of Batwa pygmies.This group of indiginous people dwelt for generations with the gorillas in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest in the southwest corner of Uganda. But in 1992, Bwindi became a national park, a refuge for the endangered gorilla, and the Batwa were evicted from their homeland. With no place to go, many died but some settled on the top of this remote island on Lake Bunyonyi. As hunters and gatherers, this new home was a drastic contrast to the home they had known. In many ways, this group has been frozen in time. We met a man carrying a hand-made bow returning from a hunt for small animals.
On the beautiful afternoon of our stay on Itambira Island we were offered a boat ride. Our guide asked if we wanted to go to Pygmy Island. With no idea what we were about to head to, we readily agreed! In some ways, a HUGE mistake, in other ways a most remarkable experience. After many minutes peacefully coasting on the glass water we arrived at a wobbly dock and disembarked. That should have been my first clue.
Here is where Moses comes into the story. Arriving with his rod – he was ready to lead me to the promised land. Now, Moses is not a Batwa, as you may recall he lives just around the bend. We began our trek – straight up!! My son would have been so proud of me, except for the whining, likely reminiscent of those following Moses of the Old Testament. A good thirty minutes of laughing, whining, stop and go, and yes, even a brief stop in which I emphatically exclaimed, “I can’t go one step farther.” Patiently, Moses took my arm, steadying me and perhaps even dragging me, proclaiming over and over that we were almost there, not bad for 11. At times I did feel 100 (see previous blog). But what we saw at the crest of the hill was absolutely worth the effort. A land frozen in time. Sadly though, they were used to those journeying to their resettled home and quickly brought out their cloth bags with bracelets and other hand-crafted souvenirs.
As we walked around the little plot of land, the lack was apparent; clothes, shoes, doors, beds, shade, food, many of what we call the basic needs.
They performed a dance to entertain us before settling beside their handmade goods for sale. We had brought very few Uganda shillings along but gave what we could.
We were not there long and as I began the long trek back down I began to reflect. We take for granted so many of the basic needs. Even when we whine and complain that we don’t have enough, we really do have it easy.
If that had been the place I was destined to live my life, could I? Could you? Would I? Would you?