By Hilary Bainemigisha
Of course, I am married. But, once in a while, the Lord fails to lead me not into temptation. This time he left Satan to take me to a high mountain called Morungole in the north-eastern corner of Uganda and show me the whole world. This I will give you, Satan said, if you get yourself an Ik bride.
I took the deal.
The Ik dwell atop Mt. Morungole in Kaabong district, so close to God that we could have actually heard the Uganda martyrs singing in heaven had our hosts kept quiet for a few seconds. The Ik do not even bury their dead; they take them to the next hill where God can easily reach out and take them home.
Their LC2 chairman, Paul Lokol, puts their current population at over 11,000. They live a simple basic life in their manyattas, natural environment, fertile soils, in their own world, away from this madness called development. They do not care about the Government services like breathalysers, loadshedding, potholes and teargas or how the Parliament fought over which Bill or which dam Museveni has just commissioned. Thus a woman who will most likely find chips and chicken nauseating was a good idea. Their stamina in climbing up and down their rugged terrain with ease implied a good bedroom deal, although, those who are used to urbanised Baganda partners should not try this in their homes.
“I am afraid our Ik women do not like outsiders,” Lokol warned me. “Few of our women who marry outside always fail and come back. We have several who run away from other tribes like Turkana, Karimojong and Iteso. They fi nd foreign life so tough and torturous that they eventually abandon the marriages and return home,” he warned me. “Life here is calm and good. We are too far from strangers. We love our life uninterrupted.”
If my Ik bride left several days of ‘development’ later, it woud still be cool for me. She would probably return in good time before my madam broke her neck. I would still have stormed the book of records as the first Munyankore to marry an Ik; so tempting and easier than climbing Mt Rwenzori for certificates!
So I thought. The first challenge was to get my 106kg up the 2,000-plus metre high Morungole mountain.
The Ik are too far away from everything except heaven and, probably, themselves.
We took a whole week to walk up there from the last motorable track where we left our vehicles and another two weeks to walk down an alternative route with a gentler gradient – although my friends swore it was just two hours up and four down. Every part of my body, including thoughts, was in pain, threatening revolt and court cases. I resigned at the very first resting point, but the wonderful guides, Phillip Akorongimoe and Naboth Ochen, who actually carried my bags, kept urging me on with useful hiking tips. And, thanks to their encouragement, my body is still on a sit-down strike.
The Kidepo park chief warden, Johnson Masereka, asked me not to blame Kidepo for my tribulations, but my eating habits. And for this reason, I am throwing out pork; it will be just sausages.
We eventually arrived to a festive welcome, feeling like Speke himself after discovering Lake Victoria. We joined the dances, donated empty mineral water bottles, entered the huts and generally enjoyed the attention.
Lokol explained that unfortunately, the girls I was seeing were all booked when they were still about seven years old. I needed to pick mine from among the kids of seven, adorn her with a bracelet and keep around giving her a watchful eye until her breasts start growing. Then I would need to demonstrate my hunting skills by throwing a spear at a bird without missing. I am really not renown for my target.
“But I can give you my own daughter,” Lokol said. “These ones will disturb you. She is in Kampala studying at Kampala International University. Of course, she is booked, but if you give me sh5m in bride price, you can take her. I also would want her to marry a good man like you from outside our community. Here, no one can give me that kind of money. I will be the first Ik to have ever earned sh5m!” I promised to do some sports betting and he gave me her phone number.
Now on my ‘death bed’, I am wondering if the whole idea was fun. I last walked 40km of mountainous terrain during my dream about going to heaven. It was painless then. If marrying an Ik will torture me like this, then Lokol’s daughter and I can remain friends. It will also save me sh5m. Not a bad idea at all.
And I want to thank USAID/ Uganda Tourism for the Biodiversity Programe which, through the African Wildlife Foundation and Uganda Wildlife Authority, ferried me up and brought me back in one complete unit.