My journey to Rwenzori: The preparation!

You see those models strutting their stuff on the fashion week runway in Milan? Yes? Those runway gods did not get to where they are by doing nothing. They did practice. They learned. They sweated. They struggled. There were tears. They worked hard at it. There was pain. There was rage. They became who they are by mastering their passion.

You cannot go out there to the mall, buy yourself a fine pair of black 4.72 inch Amarantos’ classic stiletto dress pumps and just walk normally in them without prior knowledge of how to work pumps. That’s not how things are. Even cooking your favorite meal to mouthwatering status requires practice.

You have to perfect your art of things; like walking in heels. Else you will find yourself hugging the ground unwillingly and bruising or breaking a limb in the process. When you see Alek Wek walking the runway in heels; so many inches high like she was born in them, don’t go thinking she didn’t work hard at mastering it! No. Hapana. Neda. Ku!

Being great at something involves perfecting your skills and so is mountain climbing. For you to enjoy the experience, not burn out, and loath the process of being up there, you must prepare yourself mentally, financially, emotionally, and physically. Yes, De La Rue is involved.

Hiking a mountain is not a touch and go business. It’s not. It’s not one of those things as easy as wearing a sapatu; for a grown up and off you go without yweyo dudi. You can’t just up and go without wiping the dust off your bottom. No. It takes a lot of work prepping for a hike. It takes sweat, tears and sometimes frustrations. At least that is what I went through.

So, apart from the individual walks and workouts, we did 26km to 40km+ endurance walks to toughen up and make it easier for us to do the hike.

Our first endurance walk happened on one of the Saturday mornings in December 2020.

We started off about 7:30am (we were 5) from Naalya motel to the bypass and branched off through some ka panyapanya to Agenda and crossed to Mbalwa. We went past UNBS offices, Nsawo, joined the Namugongo road, headed straight to the Namugongo Anglican Martyrs’ shrine and took a very welcome water break at the junction going to Sonde.

By the time we reached this junction, I was tired and wondering whether coming for the walk was a good idea. I felt hot, hungry, angry (for no reason) and was relieved when the Team leader announced we were going to have the said break.

There was a car being jet sprayed with all this beautiful spray of water at the car wash nearby and I kept wishing I were that car because I was sweating profusely more than anyone else. I had worn black all through and was carrying a backpack. Now, who in their right mind does black clothing on a hot sunny day walk? Which mammal does that?! Who? Kwok ca onongo pe kwok! I paid for not listening to my science teacher.

At the stop, we took ourselves to a fruit vendor by the roadside and got us some very good watermelons before setting off. I tell you, watermelon has never tasted so good! And fruit vendors have never had such great timing! Eeeeeiiiisssshhhh! Those melons gave us much needed energy for the next leg of the walk.

We then set off and went through some villages, hills and a valley or something of the sort and eventually reached the remote but vibrant trading center of Nabusugwe for a second water break. We then set off and went through parts of Namugongo, Bulindo, Kiira, Kyaliwajjala and back to Naalya motel. The walk took us approximately 6 hours with the breaks in between. And our Team leader was amazing he did not only leave anyone behind but ensured we all reached the finish point despite our various aches and pains!

This first walk totally kicked my bottom. Ogweyo duda me ada! Eh! The only thing that kept my tired self from fleeing was motivation from an amazing 10 year old girl; Hannah! She would stop, fix her shoe laces, sip her juice, drop the bottle back in her backpack and just come and; whiz past us like we hadn’t left her behind! This humble child walks like these hectic walks are nothing but one of those nice leisurely strolls you see movie people take in Central park or those parks in novels where there are a canopy of green willow trees hovering aimlessly above with people below walking their dogs or taking them dogs to poo, pee or mark territory. Those things.

Without Hannah and the fear of putting my entire Luo clan to shame, I would have lost it, sneakily branched off somewhere in some ka shady corner, hailed a bodaboda, and fled. But I didn’t want to smear any name; the clan’s mostly, so I persevered. Lord the things we go through to keep the family name unsoiled!

I also wanted to complete the walk like Hannah, who, turned down an offer by her Dad to pick her up in between the route. I mean if the little girl had said no to an opportunity to cut short the walk, who was I not to watch her complete the walk? Huh?! Plus, my cheeky adult side was waiting for her to give up! So I suck it up and walked! Kid didn’t give up. She instead showed me, with her child grace who is boss!

For a whole day after this walk, I couldn’t feel my body. I slept like a sloth; the entire day and night! I couldn’t eat much, and I love food! The next day was a complete state of numbness all over as if I had been given an overdose of anesthesia. But, after that, I came back to normal settings, and then I was hyper active and wanted more.

Our feet after a good beating from the second 26km Nabusugwe walk

We repeated this route the next weekend, 3 of us. The rains gave us a thorough beating. By the time we reached our finish point, not only were we tired but were wet, dirt on our shoes, hungry, but one happy lot. Fulfilled!

After more individual walks ranging from 5 to 10+ kilometers, we went for “The 7 hills of Kampala walk“. This one is an interesting walk. It tells you how far you can go with endurance and also teaches you about routes you weren’t familiar with in Kampala; if you are like me that is.

We started off about 7am from Naalya motel to Kireka via Kyaliwajjala. We were about 10 or more. We crossed the railway line at Kireka and headed to Mbuya. We went through Bugolobi, a bit of Old Port bell road, branched off at AGOA, heading south. We found ourselves in Namwongo then Kabalagala, went past the US Embassy to Nsambya hospital, Makindye-Kibuye to Ndeeba and took a break at Best Buy super market before heading out to Rubaga cathedral to Nankulabye, crossing at the traffic lights and heading for Makerere. We went past the Makerere university main gate to Mulago and then up Kololo hill.

We then crossed the Lugogo bypass and went to Naguru hill and sloped down to Ntinda at the Shell petrol station. As we were climbing up to Ntinda the skies let loose!

I know you are thinking, “Damn! Couldn’t this get any worse?! That was horrible”! But, that rain saved our hides. At that point we were only 5 out of 10 that had earlier started the walk. We were scattered with each buried in their own thought lane. We had split. You could see another person at the front and another behind. One thing two of us wanted was the rain. And it did come. At first a drizzle, then a serious downpour. We reached Naalya motel soaked to the core but happy!

Rubaga Cathedral from whence the second rains started!

Another “7 hills of Kampala walk ” we did a week or 2 after and this time round the rain got us at Rubaga cathedral and rained on us pretty much up to Kololo. It was crazy! Rain water was everywhere with the signs of slipping and falling eminent but no one did stop. I silently thanked God for the rains again because I could courageously walk through it without the fear of being judged.

Walking in the rain was not only therapeutic but helped me relive childhood memories growing in Mucwini. Whenever it rained back then, we would let loose! It was an opportunity to save the water running off our iron roofed house and fill up every vessel that could hold water in the home. It meant we wouldn’t be going to the borehole or Kulu Olee; the nearest river for a week or less. When it rained, we would strip to the bare minimum, fetch as much water as possible while watching the one metallic drum stationed to left of our house-right at the point where water comes off the roof through the gutter; from the prying hands of the neighborhood kids who by the way are our relatives!.

These kids, who would also come to get the water running off the mabaati, sometimes would end up scooping what we had in the drum into their jerrycans. So part of our routine whenever it rained was to guard that drum and its contents jealously until the rains stopped. After the rains, we would be served with a hot bowl or cup of this amazing millet porridge laced with tamarind; cwaa and odii. Yes, the Acholis make a mean porridge with tamarind and simsim or groundnut paste! I loved those days! Sorry I digress!

We also had a 30km; a walk we did a few weeks to the trek, which route is pretty much the same as the 25km walk until you reach Nabusugwe. From there on, we went to Natonko through to Kiwologoma, Bulindo, Mulawa, Kyaliwajjala and back to Naalya motel.

This route is interesting! At some point we went through this quiet stretch, as if a no-man’s land of sorts with the only thing around us being an expanse of various species of lantana camara shrubs and unseen cows lowing in a distance. As you try to figure out the place and begin to worry about where the heck you are headed or where you will see the next human settlement, you turn a corner and boom, a church!

A church where you least expect a church! And, a mysteriously beautiful church with no sign post, no name nearby, at the corner of nowhere! Eh! Like the church wasn’t enough, we went through this other swamp area again! It was spooky and I had these weird vibes of anacondas, then I remembered we are in Uganda. It was scary fun though. Yeah, I know, I still wonder how the Team leaders in Crazy Summiters 256 discovered these routes!

Thursday Kololo summit walks were also part of the preparations. If you are in Kampala and want a mean hill to climb, head out to the Ridge way in Kololo. That’s no ordinary hill. First time I went through it was during one of the MTN Kampala marathons years back. That hill is steep and specially built by the Creator to challenge a human. Now I wish I had gone there a lot more during the preparations! It would have saved me a lot of heartache while at Rwenzori!

The beautiful & mysterious church with no sign post!

So my preparation was pretty much the above walks, both group and individual, some few workout routines sourced from YouTube on hiking, climbing over 11 floors of the stairs for close to a month, some dance classes here and there, jogging and psyching myself.

By Laker Winfred L

Published by Latin Mucwini

I like food. I read. I exercise. And I am Luo. I am on this adventure called writing. Cannot wait to see where this goes

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