Uganda Travel News

Fire would have helped, and it was an option. We had a small wood burning stove that held about an hours’ worth of wood. Unfortunately the wood was almost always wet. It was also chopped from dead Hagenia in the park. This had always been accepted practice at karisoke and there did appear to be an ample supply Dian alone burned six to nine wicker baskets of wood per day in her two stoves and open fire place, versus our one basket. But we wondered what the ecological impact of removing so much fallen wood might be. And it was disturbing to freely consume a resource that local people could be arrested for using. In a modified moral bailout we reduced our consumption to a minimal level making sure that we also dried clothes or plant samples whenever we had a fire going.Dian eventually rescued us from this ethical compromise by completely cutting off our wood supply in a pipue over some unperceived sin on our part


A FIRE BURNED in the open pit that constituted the true center of life at karaoke. The pit was partially covered with two sections of corrugated tin to protect the large fire use to b oil water and cook food. It was a place to find warmth of many kinds. In the rare moments when they didn’t have other work to do, it was gathering place for the Rwandan camp staff. There they could escape the chill air, dry their rolled –up tobacco leaves on the hot stones and share stories of the day, all the while stirring the ever present pot of beans that provided their breakfast, lunch and dinner. Someone who had just come up from the valley might bring news off another’s family, or how the crops were doing. All of the men were farmers and none worked more than half time at karisoke.The fire pit was also the place for Rwandan staff and foreign researchers to meet and talk


There were three steady positions at the research station. The house keeper or mutu ya nyumba was occupied mostly with work in Dian’s cabin but was also responsible for weekly laundry for other camp. Two men split this position in alternating twenty –day shifts each was known by a single surname in keeping with karisoke practice.Kanyarogoro was the senior “boy” as Rwandans had learned to call the job from the Belgians who in turn must have picked it up from the British in East Africa. He also carried the unofficial title of Dian’s principal in- camp informant. He played the role to comic effect with constantly shifting eyes and sideward glances as well as a tendency to lurk rather than walk around the station grounds. It didn’t take long to realize that he was really a descent fellow with an unfortunate set of behavioral tics and a reputation to match. The alternate house keeper, basira had a more personable character


The wood cutter, or muntu ya kuni, had the lowest status of the three main camp jobs. Two men generally split this position on ten day shifts with no apparent hierarchy between them. Nshogoza had worked at karisoke longer but also had been dismissed at least once before. Perhaps for this reason his public character tended toward the dour, but in person he was very likable man who saw himself as more than a wood cutter and clearly wanted to better himself. His partner Rukera, couldn’t have been more different. Constantly smiling, he played the buffoon to the hilt and was the butt of constant jokes when he was in camp. Still he was a serious worker who seemed in pervious to cold and pain. He spent his day’s bare foot, provided with neither boots nor rain gear, stalking the cold, wet saddle in a never ending search for fallen Hagenia trees. These he would chop up, load into baskets and carry back to camp on his head at an average rate of twelve to fifteen loads per day. Often balanced an entire log on his head so that he could carry it back to chop closer to the fire. It was on one such occasion that his axe-head glanced off a log and sliced deeply into his bare right foot. As Rukera hobbled into the pit and sat on a wooden bench, Basira called us to advice on treatment. By the time we arrived, Ian Redmond had sprung into action, so we joined the other camp workers watching as Ian threaded a very large needle he used to repair his boots. Rukera barely reacted as the needle pierced his thick skin and Ian closed the three-inch gash with series of tight stitches. Afterward, he joined the others in laughing at his own misfortune. The next morning, Rukera left camp alone to walk the several hours down off the mountain and back to his house with a borrowed rubber boot on the injured foot

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