Your third attempt at something is bound to be way better than when you started off. 3 is a number of good fortune of sorts; and so was my third day at Rwenzori.
But before I tell you about the greatness of day 3, let me rant about day 2 night manenos; which were aplenty. One, there was no way I could shower because of the cold.
I dislike dirt but hate the cold at another level. So I held my peace and stayed away from a bath. A few nights without a shower would not taint my entire earthly existence and ruin my chances at heaven.
There would be plenty of warm showers when I got back home. I stuck to using the wipes which came in handy even though using the wipes was a struggle still. They were cold to the skin. If I had a way of avoiding them, I would have.
The night at Bigo was a lot colder than the night at Nyabithaba given that we had gone a lot higher in altitude. It was also the most uncomfortable for me because the spot where our tent was set up wasn’t entirely flat.
Next morning I was hurting on the sides as a result of sleeping on unleveled ground.
I also hated the discomfort of being in a sleeping bag! You cannot toss your limbs in abandon as you sleep in those confining contraptions. I had to lie in this position like a newly eloped girl in my village would sit during meal times with all this care and stuff; in an effort to impress the in-laws.
I was very glad when the early hours of the morning came and I started to hear activity from the support team going on outside.
I got out of bed at 6am to go for that mandatory early morning choo visit (which was also another level of struggle by the way. That department had also jammed to operate) and never returned to the tent and cold sleeping bag.
After the #2 struggles in the latrine, I went straight to the fireplace outside the tent, stoked the leftover embers and bits of wood from the previous night’s fire, brought it back to life, and sat by it.
I was later on joined by one of my roomies. Our guide Jethro was amused to find the two of us by the fire that early and more so when we told him our night’s ordeal.
He said we should layer up before going to bed until we leave the high grounds for base camp. He advised that the higher we went, the more the layering should be at bedtime. We all wondered why it had never occurred to us to doodo bongo!
As the rest joined us by the fire, we saw a bit of snow on the grass. The guides said snow used to fall in plenty in the wet season at this camp about 15 years ago; however that was no longer the case given the vagaries of climate change.
Soon the camp was fully awake and the day’s morning hustle and bustle routine was in full swing. Chef Karim and his team brought us hot porridge, French toast, hot water, and other condiments for breakfast.
By 9:50 am we set off. Much as the distance was merely an approximation of 7 km or so compared to our previous two treks, we set off early. We needed to reach early to allow our bodies acclimatize to the high altitude conditions in preparation for summit day.
The sun was up pretty much the entire journey to Omuihembe. We were walking through this path with mountain ranges lined on both sides and could see the snowline leading to Margherita peak right ahead of us while we were on the boardwalks.
The species of plants here were also countable with the majority being the African heather trees (which look like a skinnier version of the Christmas tree and have yellow flowers) on the sides of the mountains, the lobelias doted here and there, a mass of Everlasting flower plants and another kind of shrub that looks like a cousin of the marijuana plant.
After about an hour plus of trekking on seemingly flat footing yet ascending, we reached another section of boardwalks. The thing about these boardwalks is that you go over them in measured steps like a mugole. Any slight misstep could get your foot held up in between the empty rows.
I liked the fact that you did not have to worry about the bogs while on the board walks. All you had to do was enjoy the music the soles of your gumboots made with the wood.
You should know, from Nyabithaba to Bigo to Omuihembe, and to Irene Lakes, we wore only gumboots given the bogs and wet patches along the trails.
By 11:40am we were at the end of the boardwalk. Immediately after which is a small stream, which I am told in the rainy season is a full blown crazy river.
We took our first break of the day here. There was this nice lush green carpet of grass by the river bank where we sat. We had our day’s snacks, filled up our hydration bladders, took pictures, and set off.
This time round it was no fancy boardwalk trek. It was a journey up the sides of the mountain. It was one of those areas where you see the first person in the queue way above you slip through cracks on the mountain side and disappear into the clouds. After a while you would also find yourself looking at the clouds floating down below.
We kept going through these spaces between the mountain side like John Rambo, hoisting ourselves over rocks, getting a hand or two from the guides and going through more shady spaces in the rocks.
After another hour plus, we had the porters who had earlier on whizzed past coming back towards us. This was always a good sign. It meant camp was “nearby”
They came and relieved us of some of our bags and started to climb back upwards. As we saw them disappear into the mountain sides above us and enter the clouds, again; we soldiered on.
After going through a number of shrubs and sliding in between rocks I came face to face with a wide open space covered in moores. Then I saw the typical green wooden cabins, the tents, and we had arrived at Omuihembe. Time check was just 14:31 hours.
The journey to this place was much shorter and we arrived way earlier than I had anticipated.
There was something about this place. All around was on moor ‘pon moor, shrubs of Everlasting flowers, scattered seemingly dead but alive giant lobelias here and there and mountain ranges on both sides covered in shades of brown, almost maroon and dirty lime green moss.
The Everlasting flowers are a curious plant. They close up in the night or when it is cold and as soon as the sun comes up, they open up. Jethro said that that was the reason they last for more than 50 years. I also noticed the leaves had a lot less green in them as we went up the mountain compared to those I saw at Bigo camp.
We got set up in our respective tents, unpacked and changed into warm clothing. Pretty much the same routine every time we arrived at a new camp.
We had lunch and went out to see Lake Bujuku which is less than a kilometer’s walk through some shrubs.
After going over a section of boardwalk, we came face to face with the beauty that Lake Bujuku is. There it was, ahead, its side lined up by dots of generations of lobelias; from old brown rosettes, young, fresh green to mature ones and giant groundsels.
This lake’s waters give off this wavy chill and gothic mountain vibe. There is this icy dark mystery about it. It reminded me the movie “Water horse: Legend of the deep” directed by Jay Russell. The guides said it is too cold for any creature to want to live in it and that they had never seen any fish in there. You know what though? Me thinks there’s a creature in there!
We returned from Lake Bujuku and with nothing else to do at about 16:00hrs, a fire was made for us as the temperature had suddenly lowered and we gathered around it.
The fire decided it was not going to light up properly, either because of the wood, its attitude or the altitude and kept spewing out smoke instead of flames.
Though we were constantly doused in the annoying smoke, we kept by the fire and engaged in banter and shared some light moments from the journey so far. Dancing lessons were also given to some 4 members of the group as we waited for nightfall.
The clouds kept shifting on the mountain ranges on either side as we sat by the fire. They looked so near and yet unreachable. The feeling that you could touch the sky here was almost palpable.
After dinner, we had the day’s brief which outlined the itinerary for the next day’s adventure, feedback from the day’s trip, and the next menu.
As we continued with our banter by the fire, there was this creepy sounding creature making noises simultaneously on either sides of the mountains. It almost sounded like a giant eagle’s whistle but with a deeper hoarse tone.
The guides told us they were mountain hyraxes. My search on google showed pictures of anyeri or the grasscutter-like mammal. It looks like a chubbier third arm cousin of the squirrel but with the size of a rabbit with a head that carries the most beautiful ears and eyes. The noise they make doesn’t sound that cool though.
The cold eventually sent out its mean chilly breath and we decided to turn in.
Since layering had been preached to us in the morning, I did it to the max. And as the wails of the hyraxes kept coming through, it became distant and eventually I was soaring on the wings of sleep.
It is at Omuihembe that I had the best night’s sleep during the hike.