The Ugandan Greenheart and Kenyan Bushbuck

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Who would have thought that I would find Uganda in this forest at this early hour of 6.47AM?

Yet there it was. Not the country itself but Warburgia Ugandensis, the tree is that is commonly known as Ugandan Greenheart. Known in the Kikuyu language as muthiga, this is the tree that the upmarket leafy suburb of Muthaiga is named after. I smiled at its pale green scaly bark as I raced my bike past it. Then I saw several other similar trees in front of me, to my right. It was 6.17AM and I was all alone with the Ugandan greenheart trees. Just me, and my sweetheart tree.

After cycling for ten minutes, I hadn’t met any other fellow human being. I felt like an island of humanity in an ocean of trees. It felt good. My heart always dances when am alone in the forest.

I rounded a corner and saw a bushbuck antelope lingering on the edge of the forest just a meter away from the footpath. It’s ears were alert, its legs poised to flee, which is exactly what it did when it saw me from the corner of its small eyes. In the twinkling of an eye, only its long, pale grey horns were visible, then disappeared into the forest undergrowth. Talk of fleeting beauty!

Thankfully to my feasting eyes, another bushbuck came into view a few meters ahead. This one didn’t have horns, which meant that it was a female since the females don’t have horns. Can you imagine if humans were like that! I would be tugging at my right horn as I write this. Thank God He saw it fit to deny Adam a pair of horns even as He bestowed them on bushbuck males. This is fun, I thought. Just me, the Ugandan Greenheart trees, plus other trees whose names I didn’t know yet and two bushbuck antelopes. I am in great company, I said to myself as I pedaled on, faster and faster. Ride slowly. Slowly. The trees whispered, reminding me of.. Forget it. There may be children reading this.

Those bushbucks are simply lovely. The word lovely doesn’t do them full justice. They are like a blooming, gently radiant brown flower with four legs. But because they come and go in a flash, you will be lucky to get a good view of more than a few seconds. It’s just me. I had wanted to tell those two that fled. We are family.

The first time that you see a bushbuck, you will imagine that its a brown goat. But upon closer scrutiny, you will notice that it has more grace and mystery than a good old goat. You will also notice that their bodies are plastered with geometrically shaped white patches or spots.  

With those two bushbucks lingering in my mind, I arrived at the slope that leads down to the waterfalls and alighted from my bike. A minute later, I was at the small wooden bridge that crosses over Karura River. I should probably call Neza so that she can hear the sound of the river, I thought of my Rwandan friend. Like me, she likes the sound of rivers; the match of ants across a footpath; a lone dew on a lone dry leaf; the jolly chirp of an unseen bird plus all the sights and sounds of nature that can be found in Karura Forest.

As Bwak the Bantu poet said in one of his poems about the forest, ‘even the dry leaves on the footpath will leave your soul wet with joy.’

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