These past weeks, I have been in a floating state of sorts. In a daze. I had no balance whatsoever. No feeling. Nothing. I was like a cloud not sure of where to let loose its drops, because, even I cannot believe I actually hiked to the highest point in Uganda! Margherita peak! 16,763 ft. Yes, that! I was 5,103m above sea level!
I don’t know what took me to Rwenzori. I don’t know. I guess it was pure adventure, a whole lot of curiosity, a dare from a friend who thought I couldn’t (which annoyed me tremendously by the way) and a great deal of stubbornness. Remotely, I wanted to prove a point to myself. Test my lungs! Figure out whether I was healthy. And, I also didn’t know I was subconsciously walking into what I had parroted about doing years back.
It’s time to write about that experience, now that my face is done peeling from the frost bite. The chilly numbness in my fingers are gone. My toes feel normal. My nostrils are not two cold hollow dry holes in my nasal cavity anymore, and my gait is back. The mountain did things to me. Some were crazy awesome and some were mighty awful. The awful were those mentioned above.
I will tell you this, the surreal and amazing feeling of reaching Margherita peak on Rwenzori mountains, returning home, safe, intact, and sound minded, is unbelievably exhilarating! For me, it was, and still is a priceless feeling. Nothing can replace it. Not now. Not yet. Not ever I think.
My knees are still a little whacked and beat but they will soon be normal. I feel it in my bones!
I dream about the mountains in the night still. It has happened more than once since we returned. I guess it stays with you, the mountains. It keeps reminding you of when you met. How you broke boundaries. Climbed boulders. When you bonded through every footstep, sweat, energy, tears, thought and might. Even in your sleep the mountains will remind you of its majestic presence and the time you met. It’s like a great version of first love. A love that cannot be changed or untamed. Love requited.
They say the mountains we hike treat each of us different. Some people come back unamused. Some come back wanting nothing to do with hikes, mountains or anything hills. Some come back questioning their sanity while others come back hankering for more mountains. I came back questioning my sanity and wanting more of these mountain hiking madness.
Our trip started way before. We did not start on the 25th of February 2021. No. It started sometime in December of 2020 with endurance walks. Walks ranging from 5km to 45km and more on certain days.
After pulling through to safety from a very emotionally and physically draining illness during mid November to mid December 2020, I told myself I was going to do a lot of things as soon as I got a clean bill of health. Hiking Rwenzori was going to be one of those insane things I do in the first quarter of 2021. 2020 was stolen from me, so, I wasn’t letting 2021 be taken too! I promised to check things off my invisible list.
While still on sick leave, lying about and minding my business, I saw a Facebook post on Tulambule (a group about travel in Uganda ) and a link for anyone interested in hiking Rwenzori to join. Those who wanted to go on the next hike could join. Well, my crazy had come early! I got myself into the WhatsApp group. A move I normally wouldn’t dare to pull! Not with fraudsters and sometimes weird stuff going on in the cyber space. But, heck, I joined.
Soon I realized the group was legit and the happenings there resonated with my new mantra. I latched myself to it. I remained there. I didn’t “Left the group“.
At the time, there was already a team in the mountains and the group was rife with excitement. Communication wasn’t coming through given the lack of network up there in the mountains. So we were down here, rolling in group tension, a frenzy of sorts, mixed with anxiety and awe. I was petrified too. Afraid. Frightened of the decision I was about to make.
I read every post, followed every link shared and internalized every detail put on the group. I mean, I had the time, battery percentage, data, and the curiosity. And yes, my nosiness motivated me in some strange way to stick around and get informed.
Soon I was in a pendulum of sorts, suspended between the crippling decision to go and not to go, to go and not to go, and cold paralyzing fear. A big giant finger of fear kept poking me and asking me what I really was thinking about wanting to go. That’s not a great space to be in. I was more terrified of falling off some cliff while hiking than getting myself there and enjoying the scenery. Funny how fear is the first thing we think of when we make a decision to do something out of our regular routine.
So to share some of my tension, I sold the idea of going for the hike with a friend and soon we were planning about the trip. We ditched the idea of travelling down south by road and focused on Rwenzori. Still I had my reservations.
Here’s my journey to Rwenzori. I will be writing about our day to day trek and what not in the subsequent posts.
By Laker Winfred L