Driving from Bwindi impenetrable forest to Kahihi today it was a completely different picture to what I had seen so far on my travels around the poorest country in the world. As we winded our way along the dirt road with dust flying behind us, it dawned on me what a stark contrast life was here when compared to that of the remote villages down south of Kampala.
The pace of life was faster here, local village people were all walking with a sense of purpose, some dressed in their Sunday finest (rags worn and torn and mismatched shoes), well fed cows meandered down the road and the houses were made of brick and had tin roofs on them…all signs of wealth. Impoverished wealth but, something, as opposed to nothing. The villages we visited down south such as Mbarara and Kirahura were much slower, there were very few cows (if any) and when sited it was clear they were thin and boney and under-nourished. The huts had no doors or tin roofs and were not made of bricks like they were up north. But, most clear was the village people milling around doing nothing as their defeated spirits were low and their energy depleted from fighting chronic persistent hunger.
On route to Kahihi, there were ample tea and coffee bean plantations, lush green forests and the sounds of various birds flying overhead. Women wore colour – mismatched dresses still, but vibrant hues of pinks and orange, unlike the south, which, was a sea of brown, neutral tired fabrics…a life pale in comparison and people fading into insignificance as the rest of Uganda struggles with poverty and hardship.
As our driver JP chatted merrily away and navigated his way through the poor towns of the Bwindi region, I felt a ping of hope as I noticed the living conditions improving from what I had witnessed down south. Still impoverished and bleak and so very poor, but definitely better. This gave me a certain hope, hope for a better future where pigs and cows would roam free, locals would stride with purpose and swing their arms as they whistled, houses would each have a door and a tin roof. It’s the simple things in life.