Day 2 at Rwenzori: From Nyabitaba to Bigo camp

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Giant trees as you exit Nyabithaba camp

We left Nyabithaba hut, which is approximately 2,651m ASL at about 8am for Bigo camp after our breakfast of millet porridge, tea, bread and other meals I don’t remember.

There are things you will need to know. Once you are done with your meals and ready to hit the road, the porters will pack up real quick and take off, while others stay behind to fold up your tents and all.

The amusing irony is with all the luggage hoisted on their backs they will come and just waltz past you to the next camp. At times they will come back, meet you along the way, take your backpack and leave you with only your hydration bladder and walking stick and still get to camp before you.

This day 2 started us off with walking under the great rain forests for a few kilometers before we started to descend into River Mubuku. Nice, right?!

We used the Kurt Shafer bridge or what’s left of it after the wave of flooding that occurred the previous May of 2020 taking the bridge with it. There was some construction starting off but seemed to be going really slow. There was no one we saw carrying on with the reconstruction as we passed by.

The view of the belly of River Mubuku as you climb up heading out to Rough Going

In the valley that makes River Mubuku’s path lay all tribes of ivory white boulders; small, medium, big, giant; some looking polished and others looking rough from years and years of being knocked against each other by the forces of water coming down the mountain.

This valley is serene but also gives you the feeling that you don’t want to be there for long in case the river loses its mind and comes flooding or some boulder gets tired of sitting in its current position and by some awkward freak of nature decides to move.

Much as at the time we crossed the river, the middle of it was a shallow valley with a slim stream of water flowing through, you could tell that this is a crazy river by the image its empty banks and the various rocks. They told a story of a river with wild force, anger management issues and major havoc on the days its banks were flooded.

Being the adventurous divas we were, we did the whole photo shoot things here. We did all the poses you could pull off standing on giant boulders in the middle of a river to our hearts’ desire.

As I said in the previous post, every excitement about a slope is balanced off with an annoyingly treacherous hill to climb. It is like a punishment from nature with it sticking out its tongue and saying “Human! I gave you a slope-down, now get with the mountain T&Cs and hike your human ass up!” A pay back for enjoying a bit of slope in the mountains always looms above the corner.

Not even a micro kilometer after crossing the river we started to ascend! First it was a small ladder like thing, followed by a rail of sorts and then up we went! This part deceives you for a bit as you enter another section of rain forest.

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Where you get the “Lord of the Rings” feeling!

Once you enter the rain forest after crossing Mubuku, there is this surreal feeling; like you are in middle earth from J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and following Frodo Baggins with his bright beady eyes. He is about to smile at you and ask you for a mango or avocado. You even start to wonder why you are not seeing an orange version of Gollum peeping from down the ladder you just climbed or from amidst the canopy of giant leaves above.

You will continue to walk on a soft carpet of dead leaves atop giant and small roots weaved together from a 1000 years of co-existence into an intricate underground root-lace beneath the tall rain forest trees.

You get soothed by the coolness, calm and fresh air the beautifully aged trees give you.

The plants that were along side the path just above R. Mubuku
Cobra flower! Strange, no?!

While River Mubuku bids you farewell in the background on its way downstream, you will hike a path that stretches along it for some kilometers. This path is lined with giant ferns, cobra flowers and some other beautiful plants on both sides, a welcome party of sorts waving you off on your journey.

The colored chameleon!

And this path leads you to the beginning of a clearing of over a kilometer of shrubs and wild raspberries on both ends of the path. It’s here that you will be able to see some very colorful and friendly chameleons if you are lucky to find them on the shrubs.

No, they won’t be singing you welcome to Rwenzori songs but they will gladly get onto your palms and want to move on with their lives. I didn’t even know chameleons were these intriguing creatures until I held one at Rwenzori.

After this wild raspberry area you will start getting into the Rough going stretch. Yes, this part of the route is rough and is aptly named. And, it will tell you that those that named-it-so knew what they were doing. They couldn’t have given it a better name!

Rough going has countless boulders to go over by climbing on fours sometimes and sliding down them on your bottom to the other side. If there was anything like going down on your belly, this would be the place.

Here is where you shouldn’t be ashamed to cling to your guide’s hand if he or she offers it. Also ask for a hand if you need it or if you don’t see him or her coming to your rescue.

Those guys are there to help you through the climbing, crawling, the sliding down on your ass, and crying. Hand holding and sliding on your bottom is a major deed to do in Rwenzori. The muddy patches on the bottom of your pants and dirty hands are washed upon arrival at camp. So don’t worry. There’s plenty of water too.

Grab a firm plant seated by the boulder and use it to hoist yourself up if you must. The plant won’t complain or weep. God put it there knowing you would need its help!

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There was this rock at Nyamileju shelter

After the various styles of 4Wd (or crawling if you like) through Rough going, we reached Nyamileju shelter where we found our chefs ready with a hot lunch, hot tea and water among others. As soon as lunch was done we set off towards Bigo camp.

Past Nyamileju it was a different ball game all together! Bogs! Yes bogs! Bogs are these little deceptive puddles that you see pieces of beaten hard wood laid atop. Your first instinct is to avoid the piece of wood or log and just put your gumboot into the puddle. I mean how harmful can a little muddy spot be right?!

Before you even set foot you will hear your guide telling you to step on only the logs (…….while knocking on it with his walking stick for emphasis) and straight pieces of wood laid out along the path and to use your walking stick to gauge how deep the bog is.

The pieces of wood and logs you see are you way to not sink your feet into the bog. That nice looking mud is a trap. Never ever never listen to the puddle!

However loud your inner child lures you into stepping into the glistening puddle, please don’t listen. It’s a trap!

As we entered the heather section of the vegetation I thought it was a joke. Big head issues! I dipped my foot where it wasn’t supposed to and was nicely taught. Again, don’t take your urbanite lugezigezi to the mountains! Listen to your guide!

While we hiked on and took in the new change in vegetation, up above were lots of moss covered African heather trees and below were these bogs that you could not avoid. Some sections had boardwalks built on top.

On more than 5 occasions I found one of my foot down in the bog up to the length of my gumboots because I was focusing more on the view on either side and not paying attention! Thank God the other foot, plus the walking stick were on solid ground so I managed to get my stubborn Luo self real quick out of the bogs’ evil and deceitful way.

Just know once you encounter a bog, you will get the true meaning of being bogged down literally and metaphorically.

In the middle of boggy-trail lies John Matte camp which we waltzed past like the real troopers we were. The previous team had talked a lot about this place so it was amazing seeing the place first hand.

Moss covered African heather trees. Gollum could be anywhere!

We continued underneath the moss covered heather trees again until we reached another stream and then the first serious board walks! These ones go for over a kilometer and they were exciting to walk on. It was a nice distraction from the bogs leading to it.

Note that these boardwalks are built on far worse bogs. The guides told us that before they were put in place, hikers used to do a lot of jumping from one stump of grass to the other to avoid being swallowed by the bogs!

The shaky boardwalk atop the river at the beginning of the long boardwalk

Just imagine a line of people jumping-jumping around like a family of kangaroos and the fear of someone being swallowed alive by some muddy existence raw and alive! Eisshhhh!

Well, after close to 5 hours of walking through the rain forest, bamboo, heather forest, hoisting ourselves atop and sliding down those damn rocks, crossing several streams, the annoying small-small bogs we reached the grandmother of them bogs! There ahead was a beautifully chilled out river running east with a crazy and shaky beginning of a boardwalk on top.

At the side of this river was the washed out and welcoming stretch of boardwalks whose end meant an entrance into Bigo camp. Off we walked on them boards!

This time round camp was not a hidden existence behind some obscure rock where you had to sniff around for semi human settlement. It was in the open. We arrived in the day light and as always found the tents were already set.

Bigo camp has one uniport and we were told it’s the point where a chopper can land in case of an emergency that requires airlifting a hiker. Still, there was a cave thing for the guides and tents for us. The guides and their love for caves tere mito akweda!

On arrival a fire was made for us to warm ourselves around. Those that arrived early got to see a duiker while the rest of us at the tail end saw only their droppings. The poop looked like tiny black beans. The droppers of these bean-like poop I am told look like goats.

Hot tea was brought followed by dinner and then our end of day briefing. Again, the guides were impressed with our speed and determination. Again, me I was not surprised. My team was awesome! The agenda for the next day was shared.

The moon rising above the mountain ranges while we sat by the fire at Bigo camp.

We sat around the fire, watched the moon rise above the mountain ranges and for a while mused over the day’s journey, well, until the mountain cold sent us away to the tents and confining sleeping bags.

Overall, for me, day 2 was not as annoying, heart wrecking and challenging as day one from Basecamp to Nyabithaba. This one was easy on me despite the bogs, Rough going and all.

I loved it.

Lessons on day 2?! Listen to your guide, it’s okay to move on your butt, to crawl, roll or whatever, because you will get back up again. And never trust a bog on earth or in heaven or Saturn!

Pictures below are just for just! I know, I went overboard! Can’t help it!

Here I sang too! I could see the promised land Magherita from afar. See how the boardwalk is nicely washed out?
As you approach the African heather vegetation, you will see the ground is covered with all tribes of moss.
We had to throw a stick at this heap of moss to confirm it wasn’t some mountain buffalo.
Bamboo in the mountains!

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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