National Park covers parts of the Congo, nestling alongside the borders of Rwanda and Uganda, and is located within a con ict zone. Gorillas are often slaughtered, even entire bands, while the babies are sold to zoos for a high price. Thisbeautiful park isdominatedby twoactivevolcanoes, oneofwhich I climbed – the Nyiragongo composite volcano, which is 3,470 metres high. I spent that night on the edge of a crater, snuggled up in a sleeping bag, watching the lava dance restlessly in the crater. An unreal scene! After a short rest, I continued on towards Bukavu, a proper major African city on the shores of Lake Kivu. There I had the great honour and fortune tomeet Dr Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynaecologist who has saved countless women in this con ict zone and who last year received the Nobel Prize in recognition of his unsel sh aid. I also visited a foundation that takes care of abused girls and helps them to recover, providing psychological and legal protection, but also thatmost important, human protection. The holistic approach that they insist on has already yielded great results, and those results can be seen on the faces of the protégés – a thirst for life, expressed in smiles that appear when times are at their toughest, characterises the people of this continent. Youmust rst come to love Africa before you’re introduced to its secrets. That’s because there where there are no roads, electricity, hot water, there the Harmattan (trade wind) knows how to seep into all of your pores, and comfort cannot be expected. I could say that this continent attracts slightly weird but enduring people. In northern Kenya, from the border with Ethiopia, I needed three days to drive 300 km! On this trip I met some of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen, members of the Samburu people. They were collecting rewood and must have each had over 20 kilograms of branches on their backs and heads, tied with strong fabric. Decorated with dozens of necklaces of tiny coloured beads, which form part of their traditional dress, these women with gentle and symmetrical facial lines, slim bodies, walked in a digni ed manner along the dirt road, dotted with deep holes following heavy rains. The women are responsible for taking care of children and their homes, and for bringing water, which often means walking ve to 10 kilometres in one direction... A woman’s life isn’t easy on the Dark Continent. InUganda, not far fromtheMgahingaGorillaNational Park, lledwith volcanoes, is the sleepy town of Kisoro. There I socialised with the Mutwa (Batwa, Twa) community. People from the forest, as they call themselves, or Pygmies, as they are better known, are tribal hunters-gatherers. In his work“History”, Aristotle noted that the Pygmies live where the Nile is sourced, where the cranes spend the summer. They are of a short stature, reaching heights of up to around 150cm, have slanted eyes and a slightly lighter complexion than members of the Bantu peoples of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Their distant relatives are members of the Saan people, or the Bushmen. There Kaburabuz, the oldest Mutwa, told me about their life in the forest before it became a park and they were expelled from their home. There was no word for wealth in their vocabulary – they shared and carried with them everything they owned. Before hunting they would pray to the gods of the forest, which they often called“mother”, and they took just as much as they needed at that moment. Never again. They lived in harmony with nature, respected her, and she repaid them with abundance. Today, driven away from life under the wings of their “mother”, these pygmies face serious problems, such as malnutrition, which they say leads to all other illnesses. The traditional knowledge that they passed down from generation to generation is now disappearing. Africa, the cradle of us all, has long been leading its own struggle with wars, diseases, climate change... It is ready to o er you its heart, to ennoble you, but only if you allow it. Purple sky at dusk, thousands of stars lighting your way in the dark, as you walk along some distances of your own, and you know that you are never alone. My soul stayed behind to wander Africa endless savannas, forests and deserts, and I return to her constantly... Jedan od najdražih osmeha: Burkina Faso One of the dearest smiles, Burkina Faso