It was a chilly, rainy day in Bigogwe Sector, Nyabihu District. I was there to learn the art of plucking tea but the downpour kept me off the field. Those who do it for a living had reported for duty hours before my arrival. They were busy doing what they do every day, come rain or shine. Equipped with waterproof gear from head to toe, they looked pretty comfortable working in the rain.
I have been a loyal consumer of tea my entire life. It’s about time I trace the genesis of the beverage that kick-starts every day of my life. Spending some time harvesting tea would have been the first step towards the right direction but I would rather have this outdoor experience on a sunny day.
My unwillingness to join Bigogwe’s all-weather plantation workers squandered an opportunity to learn a valuable lesson and acquire a new skill. However, my brief stopover captured an image of the sight to behold — the panorama of stunning green hills. This image has stuck on my mind and keeps reminding me that I have unfinished business in Nyabihu.
Nyabihu is also a hiker’s paradise. Its landscape is embellished to cast a magical spell on every passionate hiker. The grandeur of hills covered by artistically trimmed green crops, not to mention the views of the volcanoes and part of Gishwati forest guarantee a memorable hiking experience.
When Gishwati-Mukura rainforest was officially declared a national park in 2016, human activities had chopped off a significant part of the forest. Our invasion of wildlife habitat is detrimental to the environment but at least those who cleared the forest to grow tea maintained the original color of the earth’s surface.
Months before I visited Nyabihu, I had a memorable camping experience in Kitabi Sector, Nyamagabe District. It was hours after sunset when I made it to the camp. As a result, darkness prevented me from seeing the decorative effects of the camellia sinensis plants. When I unzipped my tent in the morning, the view of the adjacent tea plantation left me speechless.
Before I left the camp, I was informed that the plantation I was marveling at sent my host to school and transformed his entire community. Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world behind water. In most households, breakfast is never served without tea. As it was the case during the era of the Tang dynasty, this aromatic beverage is widely used for recreational purposes too. It is an important cash crop playing a big role in boosting exports and generating foreign currency. On top of that, it restores the virgin appearance of planet earth.
I am looking forward to the day I will return to Nyabihu. The day I will finally roll up my sleeves and do what I have been planning to do for a while. I envision a beautiful sunny day and a chance to make up for the lost opportunity. On that rainy day, my experiment was postponed until further notice but the photographic memory of those breathtaking hills will make it happen sooner rather than later.