25 Aug

Riding a motorbike along the Congo Nile Trail felt like cheating. That's because fellow tourists were either trekking or paddling their mountain bicycles. However, moving faster than every one else enabled me to create ample time to participate in a number of economic activities carried out by members of the local communities.

Speaking of members of the local communities, I encountered coffee processors unpacking bags of red cherries and honey producers busy at work in their protective gear. On the surface of the lake, I was intrigued by the off-grid life of one fisherman. Elsewhere, sights of women walking from one hill to another, carrying pots on their heads and babies on their backs, were common throughout the adventure-filled day.

It's a different way of life out there. Villagers grow their own food and consume home-brewed beers. Roosters serve as alarm clocks and coffee is not a beverage but a crop. When you mention coffee, what comes to their minds are fruit-bearing trees surrounding their houses.

I covered a short stretch of the Congo Nile Trail, Nyamyumba to Cyimbiri to be specific. It would have taken me 30 minutes or so to reach Cyimbiri, but I had two long stopovers in Kavumu Sector.

If you are planning to visit the remotest villages of Kavumu, remember to put some cash in your wallet. Your bank account may be loaded, but your debit card is as useless as an unloaded gun. The use of mobile money is common. However, there is a possibility of procuring goods or services from someone who doesn’t own a cellphone, let alone a mobile money account. To be safe, pack a little bit of cash.

During my first stopover, I learned how clay bricks are made. The science behind one of the most important construction materials is complex. To simplify the subject, my excursion was tailored around three major stages: molding, drying and firing.

My instructor, Jean Marie Nsengiyumva, is a seasoned brick maker. In the beginning, he walked me through multiple stages of clay preparation. Then I rolled up my sleeves and used a wooden mold to produce a few rectangular blocks.

Raw bricks are arranged in a way that doesn’t impede the circulation of air. Drying takes three to ten days, depending on the weather. While artificial drying is common in some parts of the world, Rutsiro people dry their bricks naturally.

Fully dried bricks go through fire to be transformed into finished products. Piling up bricks to build kilns is a lot of work. In some cases, it takes as much effort as building a simple house. Around the country, small scale brick makers use firewood to fire their bricks. About a ton or three cubic meters of stacked firewood is needed to fire 1,000 bricks.

In his 1943 paper titled Theory of Human Motivation, Abraham Maslow documented his findings on the topic of universal needs of society. The bottom-up classification, illustrated in the said paper, coined the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The widely discussed theorem recognizes shelter as a basic need. As mentioned above, bricks are important housing construction materials the world over. Trying my hand at brick making was a fulfilling experience.