After a relaxed breakfast we were picked at the lodge by the local guide to start our community walk in Ruhija including a visit to the local Batwa community, a school and a local community group. Ruhija is a small village high up in the misty mountains bordering Bwindi Impenetrable NP. Close to it one of the starting points for gorilla trekking is found. The village have gotten a boost from gorilla trekking tourism with work opportunities connected to it giving new possibilities to make a living for the villagers. The walk we made is an example of the community seeing a chance to make a difference for the ones in need through tourism as the aim is to give support to the Batwa community and a school for orphan and disadvantaged children.
Our walk started with a visit to the local Batwa community. The Batwa people (pygmies) traditionally lived in Bwindi forest but are these days not allowed to live in the national park. In Ruhija there is a community of around 18 Batwa and they have built up a spot where they show how they used to live in the forest. This is where we visited them and were shown their traditional dances, huts, fire making and hunting technique. It was interesting to hear, through the translation of our guide, the story about how they had lived in the forest. At the end we were offered to try to shoot at a target with bow and arrow. First a Batwa man showed how it’s done and made it look easy. When it was our turn to try it turned out not being so easy at all, even though the target was a sack laying totally still.
We then slowly journeyed up the steep hill we had gone down to reach the Batwa community. At the top the school for orphan and disadvantaged children we were to visit was located offering a stunning view from the school grounds. Our visit at the school started with a walk around to say hi in the class rooms and then the pupils gave a dance performance. We were invited up to take part in one dance and another one was a special gorilla dance the school had come up with. After some time at the school we said good bye and continued to the last stop of the walk. This was at the home of a doctor of local medicine and here a group from the community had gathered. They welcomed us and showed how life in the village can be with cooking, treatment of illness and making of the local brew. With a dance they wished us a safe journey and we left. This was the end of the walk and we were followed back to the lodge after an interesting experience.
If in a mixed group where some want to trek gorillas and some don’t or if you wish to visit the beautiful Bwindi area without trekking gorillas a community walk is a nice activity to include. The community walk in Ruhija we did takes between 2-3 hours depending on walking pace. The distance walked during the walk is not far, but there is a steep part that could be difficult for somebody with a disability.