It had all started as a beautiful day full of energy and a lot of expectations. I woke up and passed through my normal schedule which is prayer, showering, and picking my notebook into see the different day’s target I had anticipated to achieve. One of the biggest issues of the day was go birding, one of the activities I have done since childhood and one that I do enjoy. I love birds!
Afternoon came; I was conversing with a friend I had recently met in Hima, a town in Kasese in the south western part of Uganda and I saw a bushy filled mountain and a Moses feeling (Read Exodus 3: Burning bush experience) started building with in me. I would later tell my new friend that I was to go do some birding and mountain climbing in that area. I am thinking because my friend was enjoying my Jazz; I am actually a humor filled person, he discouraged me because of the distance to that area that covered over 30 kilometers. However because of my love for birds and the camera, his words to me were a kin to Moses telling the Israelite to stop worshiping the Golden calf. I did not listen for I convinced myself I would walk and stop wherever the energy that I have would take me.
When it was approaching 3 pm in the afternoon, I set off for my anticipated birding experience; never mind the sunshine that was shining beyond 33 degrees Celsius. I choose my attire well, a black and yellow Uganda cranes t-shirt, a khaki trouser, a bag and a pair of safety shoes. I also packed a little water to sustain my thirst in the middle of a scorching sun. As I walked many childhood memories went through my mind. It was a childhood dominated by risks and I never knew the risk I was undertaking was bigger than all those.
I remember when I was ten; we would go in the bushes to shepherd our cattle and most of the time we were making traps to catch Guinea fowls, collared doves and many other birds that we would later take home and rear secretly. Mum would kill us if she ever heard we were keeping those little birds around. This wasn’t scary though until the day another young colleague said we can take any other bird without resistance but we would never trap a crested Crane (Our national bird); two days didn’t pass however and we had three young ones in our trap. I have to warn you now, never attempt to do this! The mother crested crane would later cause traffic in the air as it fought for the young ones which we had tired on the neighboring trees. Time came and we joined boarding schools and the engagement with birds was reducing day by day.
Joining boarding schools exposed to one of the weird experiences with birds that I have seen; a group of young boys in p.6 were able to catch a collared dove and roast it on an Iron Box, you heard it right “Iron box”. To this day I don’t know if it was hunger making them do that or curiosity? But let’s leave it and that and focus on my journey now.
The first shot that I would take was that of robin , a very common bird if you have leaved in the villages of Uganda.
I ran against birds, tiptoed with eye glued on my camera and birds to ensure I never missed a shot. The onlookers were made to suspect I was high on drugs or was attacked by spirits. I wasn’t giving anyone attention as always and was rather focused on my job.
I reached a certain river, relaxed, took some water and #selfies and continued with my adventure; I was nearing a village called #Kikonzo where I would later enjoy a mixed of sour and sweet moments that I want to share. I was able to take a couple of pictures of both birds and myself. A mere look at me would be enough to guess how I felt. I was having a fun filled day.
I climbed mountains tirelessly like the new #GololaMosesOfUganda and I was able to get past three hills and up there in the heavens I would almost see half of Kasese district. I felt proud of myself, I had covered over 30 kilometers and taken the rare images I never thought I would such as the free flowing Rwenzori ranges, different birds species, artistic poses in the mountains, the big rocks of the mountain, and the rare sunset view in the Mountains of Rwenzori. If you did not know or you dodged social studies and geography classes, the sun sets in the west.
I started slopping the mountains slowly on my way back, after the last one as I approached the valley, there was a homestead, and I was thirsty and thought of asking for water? I was armed with three #Rukonzo words #Wabukhire (Good morning), #Wasibire (Good afternoon), and #Wasingya (Thank you!)
I told myself, there you go Stupid birder! Go! And yes I did, greeted the people. Since my childhood I have been hearing Bakonzo are hostile but they were not and after drinking the water of life, I said little confidently #Wasingya (Thank you) and I departed.
My next action would however backfire on me. I blame my father for not taking on rearing sheep when my grandfather died.
Pushed by the undying admiration of the sheep, I saw one and took a photo of it, then a young boy came running and asked to take a photo. I didn’t hesitate and this is how hell broke loose and that why you should ask me why the photographs up there are downloaded.
A middle aged man came calling and I responded humbly and he asked with rage in his face: “You are taking photos our sheep so you can come claim that land is yours?” I was shocked and in less than a minute, the gathering was pilling. Don’t ask how big if you watched the many people that attended Jesus’ crucifixion. First forward I apologized for taking a photo of their sheep and deleted it with immediate effect. This is when they asked me what I want and why I was in their village.
I explained my ordeal as a lover of birds who had walked a long distance from Morem (a place where I stay) to their village chasing birds and taking their photos which soundly thought was a weird idea. It is indeed weird to love birds and be so obsessed with them to most Ugandans, including some of my readers. After keeping insisting with the belief that I was talking photos of their sheep so that I come and steal their land and claim it as mine, we agreed in unison that I be taken to Hima Police post. I gave one of them who seemed a little educated my Identity card and told them to guide me to Hima Police post. My heart was pounding meanwhile like that of a man awaiting a guillotine. They refused, they would take me to the LC1 chairperson of the area whom we found smoking his pipe.
One of the two men I came with told me to have a sit and I did as requested, sorry commanded. There they started explaining whatever had happened to the chairperson I Kikonzo, I will not lie to you that I understood a word. The only lucky thing at that time was they told the Chairperson that I spoke Runyankole and he knew a little of Runyankole. I was too given chance to explain myself.
After countless of failed discussions, one of them exclaimed, “If we chopped you into pieces now, who would even know?” It then that I realized this was not a joking subject, a statement common with my brother #GololaMosesOfUganda. I started to pray silently as I was given enough freedom to even be with my phone and do some tweets and whats-apps. I prayed and prayed even those ancient prayers that were not interpreted from Latin.
In a reflection of the savior like person appearing, he suggested they call the OC of Hima Police Station which most agreed to. The only problem here was that they had written the telephone number on a small piece of paper and looking for it and finding it was also another tag of war, they were using Kerosene lamp (Akatadooba) and if you have ever used it you know how it lights and its failed relationship with the wind. Literally, they divorced the very first time they met.
Time check was 08:30pm.
After along search they got the damn number but then did not have airtime. I offered that they use my phone to call and they declined, did they even know how to use it? Meanwhile there was an argument that was building: one man (somehow educated) insisted I delete all the photos while another insisted I leave the Camera behind and go. The later to me seemed a mushuma (Thief) though I didn’t like any of their options. I did not contribute though and later a unanimous decision was reached and I was assigned a painful duty to delete all the photos I had taken. I did that painfully and within a second I said I have finished. I swear to you no one, not even the trees in the neighborhood believed it had taken me such a little time to complete that action. I had to take other four photos and slowly teach these Ugandans the difference between delete all and delete current image. Meanwhile my girlfriend whom i told i was visiting the Hills of Kikonzo is asking me badly to send her some photos. Then belief sank in and in the meantime they were calling the OC station to send police officers to take away their criminal (Me).
The police station seemed to refuse and don’t ask me why? Police, one time you will refuse to come pick a terrorist and that person will prove a costly thing to handle. Please always heed to peoples cry for help and do that in the least time possible. It is good to both the culprit and the accusers.
Looking confused and reading sympathy on their faces, and after seeing the countless hours I have braved seated under that tree speaking with calmness and respect in front of the biggest village crowd since Jesus’ gathering in #Capernaum, a unanimous decision to set me free was reached.
A thigh of relief sank deep in me as I was led away by three men who directed me on the route to use as it already 9 pm and as a new member to the community could not trace the way out to the nearest Tarmac in the town of Kalungibati. We walked, jazzed and wined like long lost friends. I promised to go back on Sunday and visit these sons and daughters of God who took care of a stranger in a way of emulating our grandfather of faith Abraham albeit forced by situations. I hope to find the birds, take some photos with my newly made friends and buy them some #Tonto (Local brew made from Bananas and Sorghum).
Before reaching home worn out and tired i took this #selfie and a night view of Hima Cement factory as a consolation.
The next morning as a responsible citizen I reported myself to the office of the OC Hima police post as the person who had been arrested in Kikonzo Cell and promised that in the near future I will always seek his permission. What a risk! What a miss!
Photo Credit: Steve Round, Crazy Frankenstern.com, Muhamya Pius, wildlifesafari.info, lessbird.com.
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