If ever we get a problem in our relationship; and this will happen, it wont be brought by the easterly winds. It won’t be a consequence of some abiba activity from the south, nor the dry season whirlwinds of the north. It will be from your failure to gift me one of the things I hanker. A being west of our pearly lands.
I speak not of the nearest west. No. I speak of the west outside of our country’s boundaries. The outside countries. Somewhere beyond the beautiful city of Bukavu. By the way, did you know that Bukavu sits on the peninsula leading into Lake Kivu?
Now, the issue I am pointing to is a human man. Dark. Good looking to the eye. Of organic shade and stands at 6″6 tall. He sings what the natives call the rumba and has this alluring voice that is soothing to the ear of the soul.
His sound makes me think of the sweetest cocktail of acuga; the black wild berries on the edges of River Olee, the silky milk of the Mombasa coconut, and the smoothness of the Amarula blended in one cup.
I was a little sad when the Luo elders asked that the Acholi tone down on their borrowed excesses during our traditional marriage ceremonies.
That decree denied me the one excess I would have shamelessly asked from you. I was planning on asking for a Fally Ipupa show on our nino keny! I know you can afford! Oh yes you can! Let’s comply for once to what the elders demand of us.
Imagine this guy in Mucwini, my Love! Do you even know how many would want to be in the tired shoes of our parents?!
Picture my aunties and uncles dancing their crazy moves to his lingala sounds! Of course nera Zedekiah would dance off-tune and waya Abul would take her moves a notch too far for an 80 year old aunt as always, but who cares!
We would break the village record, me Amara na! No daughter of this village of ours would be talked about like me! Plus, we would have shattered the records of that acerbic-obnoxiously-supercilious girl Nyapolo from Panyok. I don’t like how she moves about like all the oxygen belongs to her!
Anyways, I say we comply to the Acholi elders. Their views must be respected. We need them. I also don’t want to bring any more animosity between you and your clansmen over your knack for tending to my every whimsical need.
I refuse to be the gossip that won’t leave the tongue of my future in laws however tempting it is. I will therefore settle for simple earthly things like a selection of Fally’s songs being played by the DJ on the day of our traditional marriage ceremony.
See this Ipupa guy, he sings in a strange tongue. He keeps saying Je t’aime, Je t’aime. Sometimes he says Elengi and I feel a wave of pleasure rising in my belly like when you have eaten a nice meal of smoked anyeri with kwon kal. The kind of satisfied feeling that makes you want to get a papyrus mat and go lie down under the shade of a mango tree. He gives me those stomach filling sensations.
When he says bolingo nangai and ma cherie I get an awkward sweet weakness in my knees, a bending-forwards-feeling like flamingo legs! My strong firm Luo knees get wobbly and funny kabisa. It sort of reminds me of the day we first touched.
When he says epousez moi, I know he is asking me a question you should be sending my way. A question that needs an answer given amidst happy shrieks and loads of tears. A question long overdue! I keep wondering when you will ask me to marry you! Haven’t we cohabited enough? Do you need a decree from the Acholi elders for that too?
When he says prison ya bolingo, I sense that I have been captured in the maximum prison of mar ojone! The kind of prison you have me in willingly. The prison of amour.
When he says Sentiment I get sentimental! When he says tomber I find myself soaring off into the clouds of his symphonies! Have you ever felt like you are flying within the lyrics of a song? Have you ever felt like you are falling and falling but not hitting the ground?
Sometimes he says loketo and I delve into a state of confusion. Isn’t loketo a man’s name? We had a musician with that name, no? I need to look this up. This loketo word. I bet Google has an idea.
The other day Fally was saying amour assassin and I felt like a washed out version of Lara Croft taking out the haters of love! I know I may be taking this out of context but isn’t that what love makes us do me Amara na? Don’t lovers sometimes take things way too literally? And sometimes beyond context?
Then when he says Je suis jaloux I feel like he means he gets jealous or something kumeno. Do you get jealous too Awobi especially when I smile back at Hassan the neighbor? Remember when I pounced on Nalweyiso because of that text I found in your phone? I was jealous. It was nyeko.
This morning Fally was saying ndoki and I was asking man dok ngo doo Fally?! What is it again Fally? I have no idea what ndoki means but it tickles my heart beautifully! The lyrics strum at the strings of my heart like the fingers of a Mucwini youth playfully touching the teeth of the lukeme harp!
In one of his songs he said na lingui ye. I don’t know that one too but it sounded sweet to my Luo ears. So I started to dance. His songs make me do that. His songs help me put aside my worries and break into random phases of dance. It’s therapeutic for me.
Don’t ask me to give him up. That will be like asking an Arsenal fan to start supporting Manchester United. That’s sacrilegious Awobi. Sacrilegious kabisa.
So I was wondering, would you be so kind as to take me to one of his shows? I mean, when this is all over, this lockdown and the real restrictions on socializing? Will you please, my love? We could go to Congo or wherever his next show will be. I would like for you and I to dance to those sensual rumba songs from this DRC man.
I promise, that when this happens, a number of our issues and my constant nagging will be scrapped off the board. Wiped. I will be at my best behavior. I will gladly kneel for your relatives when we visit the village and be less of a dramatic partner. How about that? Deal?
I swear I will. I will even pretend (……as you have always advised) to get along with your overbearing sister and not get into intermittent phases of brooding like I always do.
What do you say Cwara? Think about it me amara na. Mull over it. Rumor has it that Ladit Lobo may allow us some of our liberties soon; when all get vaccinated. So I am asking well ahead of time.
A man of your stature needs time to prepare and ponder over things fun related. And when you are done thinking, will you be so kind as to let me know? I need to plan on the outfit, nails, hair, and purse well ahead of time.
I know you said my requests are as many as the wings of a million termite allates. Like a million aming-aming. But isn’t that one of the reasons you must have a dako in your life? Isn’t that why the gods gave you a fine specimen like me for a woman, so she can from time to time ask for strange and ridiculous things?
In my eyes life is like a massive dance floor with each of us handed down a different song, a unique lyric to dance to by the Tune Master. Each is perfected to our setting and character.
We see our friends enjoying their song and we want to dance like them. We refuse our gifted song! We never get to value the colors and magic within what we have been given.
We watch our neighbor’s dance moves and we are like ‘Wow, I gotta learn those moves instead. They’re way cooler than mine!” So we lose track and don’t horn our own dance.
Then we see the youngsters and we criticize their moves. We say our days were golden and real, while they say we’re so last year; old, in the archives of age, and ignorant dancers stuck in the stone caves. We fail to recognize the goodness in new and appreciate the timelessness in the old.
We rate ourselves against our peers thinking they could’ve done better! “They don’t know how to use their moves wisely” we lament. We focus too much on the failings of others we forget to enjoy our time on the dance floor.
We envy others thinking they were given finer songs and spaces than ours. “They’ve got the best part of the dance floor” we say. Yet our giftings if perfected can be unique and matchless.
We berate the moves of some while we loath others for being wiser dancers. We will go as far as calling them cheats and social climbers. We will say they must be related to the Tune master. We will name things like nepotism and tribalism. The social ills and all.
If only we could focus on nurturing others while building ourselves! For to teach others perfects and makes us experienced and legendary dancers!
We are too sucked up in watching other people enjoy their songs and fine tune their moves we forget about our own presence on the dancefloor. We get lost in envy and criticism.
Whatever your song is, whatever your age is, whatever the chaos on the dance floor, create your own moves, your own rendition, your remix, your version; whatever it is do something. Do an EP! Yell. Shout. Learn. Relearn. Dance!
Enjoy it now. Do your crazy moves. Mess up. Mash up. Crank up. Leap off tune even. Sing off tune while at it if you must! Dance like you have 8 left feet. It’s your song being played!
Dance your best and worst move and grow from it; for there’s no perfect dancer in the journey of life. We are all dancing our way through the storms and summers of life. Through thorns, moors, bogs and savannah.
Enjoy your tune to the fullest because at the end of the day it’s your song and it won’t be replayed. You are your lead star. Be it. Don’t give your lead role to someone else.
One day the Tune Owner will come down and do the judging when the music plays to its last beat. Its end. You don’t want to get caught ogling at what others are doing on Life’s dancefloor; so get moving! Do your dance.
Sometimes the song may sound like its not worth it but create moves that will perfect it. Find fun and some joy within the symphonies. Even when its sad, dance.
So go on now! Show the Tune Master what you’ve got! Show Him your whackiest moves! Get Him cracking up with laughter and shaking His head in disbelief and happy that you are on the dance floor.
PS: I wrote this a while back. Then reworked it for a friend of a friend. And now, I have reworked it for this blog.
I have been meaning to tell you Ni adegi cuna WhatsApp This wooing on WhatsApp, I dislike Woo me properly like our forefathers wooed our mothers Find me at the market square Pretend to forcefully take a handkerchief from me Take my sweater even Grab my hand or corner me by the roadside Murmur words that only you and I can decipher But don’t text me WhatsApp meno cuna pa anga gi? Woo me properly
Take me to the aguma dance festival Dance those village moves with me Hold my fine Luo waist Paanga ki myel awobi Show me those crazy Acholi dance moves you love Grab a calabash and mok kweda if you must Make someone jealous Heck make all the boys from Akara angry Buu dano pira, yes, scare someone off too Fight even and mark me as your territory You can even claim me as your own without my consent But not on messenger Adeg cuna online awobi; I refuse this online wooing Adegi; I don’t want Woo me properly
Meet me at the borehole Or at Kulu Aringa at the new bridge That tangi i Tegweng could be another option Stand towards the end of the path and pretend you haven’t seen me Then wait for me after you have said niceties to my ever nosy aunt Walk with me back home even when we know my brothers are snooping around, ready to pounce on you. All that risk, that adrenaline rush pe i Telegram. What risk is there i Telegram, huh? I don’t like you having it easy Woo me properly
I am like the sunset You have to go out to feel my heat You have to step away from the phone to see my orange evening hues My fingers are like the rays and can’t be felt through the phone My eyes cannot turn into two bright lights through your texts Kati woko awobi Come out and hold my waist Adeg lok me cuna soso midiya; I dont want this social media wooing I have to see through your eyes to your soul I have to feel your breath against my ears Our feet must feel the red hard soils of yoo cuk Mucwini Let my village mosquitoes bite you Wek cuna cim, this wooing me on the phone leave it be. Woo me properly
Don’t let anyone lie to you that going down a mountain is fun. Ever. It is a torturous venture. Worse than the hike up. You do it begrudgingly because you have no choice but to go home anyways.
Imagine you are already tired from the days of climbing up. You are tired to your rope’s end and have to experience the walk down with the deep end glaring at you, daring you to set the next foot forward while sending all these negative vibes your way. And it does so whilst scaring the shits out of your boots! Your knees also start to remind you that they are tired.
The night and morning before we left Irene Lakes, it snowed. Ok. There were things like snow by our tent in the morning. The previous night things with this faint sound kept dropping on the tent too. It didn’t sound like raindrops. It sounded lighter.
I don’t quite remember what time we set off for the downward walk towards home but does it matter anyways? Just know it was after breakfast. I also don’t know what we had for breakfast because I don’t remember. Again, it doesn’t really matter. Just know we had breakfast and left the mountain top. That is what matters.
My very first move downwards (………..because I felt as delicate as a local egg rolling down the mountain) started with me getting on my bottom, legs stretched, palms firmly planted on the ground beside me, and pushing myself forward; carefully down the rock. It was slippery so I decided to go bumbum. I wasn’t going to make falling downwards steal my success in the previous 24 hours! No way. I also didn’t trust the grip of the trusted gumboots that had brought me to this point.
After the slippery area was done, we entered into the heather section, then the lobelia area of the sunbirds I talked about earlier and went towards the moor lands. This time round it was more of a silent walk. Each one to their own tired thoughts. No one was talking to the other person. No one was bubbly. It’s as if suddenly talking would drain all the energy out of us. Even the guides weren’t talking to each other. All focus was on getting down to basecamp.
We thought we had escaped the dripping hands of the nimbus clouds despite the very many times the “You cannot go to Rwenzori mountains and come without getting a beating from the rain” sentence had been mentioned by those who had been to Rwenzori before us. We didn’t. Sadly. The rains did come along to bid us farewell as we turned our backs to Margherita!
It was slow pouring rain. The daa-mon kind. The one the Acholi say goes on and on like the quarrel between two women; the kot (rain) that takes the whole day. The kijum. It did us out. But it cooled us down too.
As the rain gods continued to shower us with blessings, the situation below our feet changed from firm ground to different unfamiliar discomfort. It was soggy. It was slippery. It was boggy. It was muddy. And we were moody.
Soon we were at Lake Bujuko and arrived at the first camp; the camp we should have slept at the night before; Omuihembe. We had lunch and then proceeded to Bigo. The rain did come along too, all the way to Bigo. It wouldn’t let us be. Whether it was the hands of the mountain gods or Frodo, only they know!
We spent the night at Bigo. Since it was drizzling, we did not have the fire outside like the previous time. We gathered in the uniport. The chefs gave us a sigiri filled with nice burning charcoal and we planted ourselves around it. One of us had brought marshmallows along the trip and we used this opportunity to roast them on the sigiri fire as we recounted the events of the previous day and the return to Bigo.
The next morning we set off for base camp. The walk was all good and much as the boardwalks were wet from the rain, I still did enjoy it. I used the time to take a last peek at whatever I may have missed on our way up and took more pictures.
I maintained my position from the back as before. I was informally made team leader and I told myself from the start that I wasn’t going to leave anyone behind and I did just that. That was my goal and indeed we achieved it. No one was left behind. All 8 of us summited. None of us reached any of the camps in the dark of the night. I was the last in line the entire journey down.
We went past John Matte camp while it drizzled on and all through the heather and bamboo section. I still had that creepy feeling that some creature was following us.
After John Matte of course we came to Rough going! Lord! God wasn’t in a very fine mood when He put that place together! We closed this place eventually and reached our final resting point before crossing over to Nyabitaba.
As we took our break we got to see two more colorful Johnston’s chameleons! The male one had these 3 horns on its forehead. It was interesting to watch! Things are divine looking and surprisingly friendly reptiles. It reminded me of those pre-historic creatures you watch in movies. I got to hold one! Talk of arriving!
Lunch was served at Nyamitaba upon our arrival there. And then, we put our feet into the final lap down to Base camp.
As we left, we found these three individuals in the cabin; a lady and two men. Pretty jolly lot. They weren’t dressed up like the typical people going up the mountain. The guy in the blue short sleeved jeans shirt had a yellow boombox. Thing was pouring out some loud gibberish music. They seemed to have climbed to Nyabitaba just to hang out. We waved at them and continued with our struggles downwards.
30 minutes into our walk I heard this loud familiar Lingala music coming from behind as we walked through the rain forest. The music seemed to be running fast towards us. Too tired, I stopped, looked behind boredly, and saw the 3 musketeers we had left behind hopping towards us. These individuals were literally running down the mountain faster than a mountain goat! I just stepped aside and made way for them. Ate what can you do but make way?
I forgot to ask William who they were and why they were not representing the country in the Olympics. Of course William would not know why they are not representing Uganda at the Olympics.
Either it was the lunch, the fatigue or something but my knees were exceedingly wobbly after Nyabitaba. I don’t recall how many times I did fall. It was a whole lot. The first few times when Diva and William caught me landing I would laugh out loud as I got up and ran after them.
But eventually the laughing stopped. I would fall, get up and just walk on. I realized that I had not prepared enough for the downward walk. I had focused so much on the climb up and did not prepare my knees and mind for the walk down.
I was literally paying for that from Nyabitaba to base camp. During the trainings the exercises to do to strengthen the knees for the downward trek were clearly outlined but I didn’t listen. I paid for not being a listener.
The last climb after River Mubuku and the very first hill from this river did me in. I lost it completely as I clawed my way up. As I struggled upwards I resolved to complete the rest of the hike solo dolo. I was going to do my pace. I was not going to hurry after another human being. I was done for! I was sweating like nothing too.
I was tired of this thing of climbing and slopping and climbing and slopping and climbing and sloping as you go down the mountain. Not even up. Down! Just imagine constantly going down hill, you climb a little bit and then keep going down again! Arrrgg! What is that even?!
I let everyone else go ahead and took my time. I was done! I even waved at William the guide to go ahead; someone else needed him much more than I did anyways. I tucked away the fear of a creature coming after me and used a snail’s pace. The UWA gate was not that far after all. I could do this all by myself.
It’s at that point that I realized God made me Acholi for a reason. He knew north would be good for me because with this kind of attitude meals would never be prepared at all if I were to get them from the mountain sides. That kind of slopping then climbing; hapana!
Lucky for me we had one of the most caring human beings I have ever met; Esuieleadu X.IV on our team. Even in my rebellious state, he made sure I didn’t stay too far behind. The cajoling coming my way from him ahead of me sure helped. He kept calling me out and waiting for me as I engaged in this little riot to walk slow.
I kept going slow until I came to the last rickety bridge. I knew I was in trouble. I was all alone. No one behind. No one in front. I called out for Esuieleadu X.IV to come back and wait for me.
As I walked towards him, I saw mischief building up in his beady eyes. He is a sweet chap but mischievous too. He was likely to shake the rickety thing.
So as I started to cross I was equally busy begging him not to shake the bridge or tease me. He kept saying “You come! I wont do anything” But trust I was freaking out! He did not do any of the two. Thank God!
After the little bridge I went back to my pace. There were no more hills just a series of winding paths down and down and down the mountain side. Esuieleadu X.IV took the short cuts while I refused and used the paths.
We reached the main UWA gate at about 5pm amidst ululations from the other 6 that had arrived before us. Yes, I was the last to clock in at the UWA gate.
For some strange reason the UWA guys were surprised all 8 of us summited! They had underestimated us! Remember the bored look they had when we started off 4 days before? It was replaced with surprise! They were surprised we made it to the top!
We received our certificates from the UWA officials and headed out to base camp.
As we drove off, much as I was sore to the core and badly needed a shower, I felt this great numbness. The kind you get when you have achieved a thing not many would dare to do. I knew things would never be the same again for I had journeyed along hills, valleys, bogs, moors, and rock to see the beautiful mountains of the moon.
I had met and communed with Rwenzori. A part of me had remained there and I came home with a part of this mountain. I was different. I was a mountain hiker now. It was surreal. A priceless feeling. A mind altering journey in my lifetime.
Will I go back to Rwenzori? Yes. Will I climb more mountains? Yes, but not Everest. I know my limits! Let’s see which mountains I head out to in the future!
I hope you get to visit Rwenzori someday if you can and get charmed like I did! I hope you get to experience this mystical beauty like I did!
In closing, I hope these lines I wrote left a piece of Rwenzori in your heart! A bit of the mystical beauty in your dreams. A slice of the challenge it was. And the urge to go there someday. Uganda is indeed blessed. And I am sure proud I visited a part of this blessing; the Mountains of the moon!
I know you are not engaged in some cozying up dalliances with Nalweyiso this chill evening. You can not be. You said you are heading out to the village. To Kitgum. To your birthplace.
See Hassan the Bodaboda guy says you are in Kyaliwajjala and not Kiti. He said you have not left the city or driven out of the Wakiso radius.
Of course I don’t believe him! That guy twon min lagoba moo! Our bodaBs may be trusted chaps but their tongues cannot be trusted with truth. I shall hold to your truth, my Love.
I know I never ask for things. And that has made you quarrel ata without a plan and run off to Lord knows where over the weekends! Why our home seems too hot for you over the weekend still beats my understanding. Pe aniang!
You say my pride is bigger than the political issues of this nation because I don’t ask for transport money. Yet if I start to ask for transi money you will ask where my salary goes or why I still have myself glued on the employer’s payroll.
Iwajo ni my head is larger than this nation’s corruption issues because I don’t ask for that meja money. But, must I ask for money sincerely? Shouldn’t you just remotely know in your husbandly orbit that onions, tomatoes, mukene, and other kitchen condiments are probably needed to prepare meals in this house?
You say my attitude is beyond our debt burden because I don’t ask for saloon allowance. Awobi, your eyes should be open to always notice the state of my sparsely populated hair ojone. You know I have bad hair that cannot hold any style in place for more than two weeks! Wangi pe ce? What happened to your gorgeous eyes?
I know you say all these above in kiniga. Rage makes you say things about my head, pride, and attitude.
So today, this fine evening I have a simple request. Latin kwac mo en to even out your grievances.
Will you be so kind Me-amara na as to get me oduu yaa at least? And bring those plus oywelo, acuga, kwomo and alingkwalo if possible. Yes, I need all these wild fruits. We need some wild juices in our household. About time don’t you think?
Picture of oduu yaa is below, just in case pe ingeyo or incase you develop selective amnesia. They’re normally at Lacekocot. Kitgum has all those other ones too I believe.
Please do get them, especially oduu yaa. Get me oduu yaa, Cwara.
Greetings to our relatives. Tell my mother in law that once this lockdown is over, I shall put my pride, send our differences on deferred leave and finally bring her grandchildren to learn leb Luo. Can’t wait to see you Sunday evening with my fresh-fresh oduu yaa!
Yours ki Gen ki mar,
PS: Sweetheart, you know my infallibility to provocation. I had to!
Have a theme song or songs. Your favorite songs or something. Let it be a song that drives you. The kind you like when running or working out. That number that sends you into a raucous mood. Your ultimate pump song. Have it on hand and get a few of the lyrics by heart.
It has to be the kinda song that will have you on the dance floor when the DJ plays it. Mine are Sauti Sol’s Midnight Train and Brighter days featuring Soweto Gospel choir. I love both songs. They get me high. They got me through the hard start of the lockdown in 2020.
These two songs have some deep inspirational meaning in there. They put me in a mood and bring in this other good energy. They motivate me. They speak life into me.
And you need the pump song why?
Because Rwenzori is very unpredictable! Hard to maneuver! Challenging! Exhausting! Annoyingly interesting! And, in great measure surprising and heart wrenching. You need your great songs on hand for such times.
You will get to a point where you question your emotions, entire being, your various abilities and your sanity for taking yourself to the mountain. Even the most physically fit will get humbled by these Ranges of the moon!
My first day conquering this beautiful mountain was a deep mix of total love, various shades of emotion, rage, and fear clothed in degrees of anxiety.
You will think you are agile, emotionally, and physically prepared for a hike, but boy will you be wrong! Eiisssshhh! I was none of those! I was nothing close to fit for the job!
Rwenzori will draw many things from you. In return it will give you so much in form of grit, patience and verve. It tests you from all angles as a human being. Your test comes at your own Appointed Rwenzori time.
Some will sail through to the top like a breeze, some will tell you their last day was the worst, others the first day, some the third, others sixth and others the entire length of the hike. My worsts came on summit day and last day of the leg.
Those last two days are when I totally lost it! In those two sets of 24 hours! I lost my cool. I lost my temper! I lost my emotions! I lost my appetite! I lost my patience! I lost a bit of my sanity, my verve and my usually calm demeanor.
Enough of the wolokoso! Here’s how my crazy first day at the mystical Mountains of the moon started!
On Friday 26th 2021 we left Base camp for Rwenzori Pinnacle view camp in Nyakalengijo village at 10am or thereabouts where we had our Mountain-check-in. Yes, check-ins are not only for airports and airplanes. Check ins happen at mountains too! Yeah, I invented that!
This camp right at the bottom of the mountains is between Base camp and the UWA main gate. It is a brilliant idea to not walk the distance. Drive the distance.
Walking from Base camp to this spot will wear you out before you set off. However, if your walking is good, give it a go. It’s your call.
We found the place packed with very many porters waiting to be selected to go along with us for the hike.
You would think this was a market day of sorts. Like cuk auction in Mucwini those days where all sorts of things were brought for sale from cows, goats, sheep to clothes. There would be women seated in lines selling kwete, arege, tomatoes, kajimuru, clothes, cak lukulu and chicken among others.
Porters were assigned to us and each took our baggage for the weigh in. These included our duffel bags which weren’t supposed to weigh more than 20kgs.
It’s at this point that reality starts knocking on your conscience. The frenzy in this place does that. You get excited. You get to realize you are doing this hike after all.
There is no bodaboda stage nearby to get a ka boda ride out. Your Trusted-do-or-die boda guy is beyond reach. And there is no easy escape route. You do the hike or you do the hike! Period!
We were called to order and a brief from the Chairperson of the Rwenzori Ranges Hikers’ Association team plus an introduction of the individual guides and the chefs was made.
The dos and don’ts were succinctly spelt out. It was really more of managing our expectations in terms of sleeping arrangements, meals, wetlands, etc. The shenanigans.
He told us not to expect super star treatment, meals, and the like. Yes, humans are very dramatic beings. We have a very canny way of making demands in the most awkward of ways and places…..like demanding to be served honeyed chamomile tea in tiny sunshine blue China cups in the middle of a rain forest.
Well, we set off for UWA Mihunga main gate at about 11:30am. It took us about 30 minutes or so to reach. We signed in the UWA register as the UWA guys gave off this bored vibe like we were a bunch of jokers who wouldn’t summit.
We took lots of pictures and explored a little at the gate. Totally unaware of what lay ahead of us, off we went towards my first mountain hike and first campsite-Nyabithaba!
The Mihunga central circuit trail which we used started us off with a series of very annoyingly exhausting winding hikes upwards.
It was one winding path after another, after another, and after another as you start to ascend the mountain. It was dizzying almost.
Part of the hike involved going up some green painted rails. A sort of wood like contraption. I don’t want to call them board walks because we were climbing them on fours. We weren’t walking up those things.
Sweating kabisa started soon. Just a few minutes into the climb. My friends were well ahead of me walking with a breeze while I struggled. I realized my body had lied about being in tip top shape for the hike.
I quarreled with it internally for such betrayal. This whole Judas-Iscariotic behavior in the mountains was unacceptable. Ignoring the I need to rest alreadykamanyiro signals it kept sending me mbu it was already tired, I walked on.
We were not even 2 hours into the walk!
I soldiered on for I had a name and face to keep. My entire clan of Bura from Kitgum, Gulu and wherever else they migrated to was depending on me to reach Maragherita! Never mind that none of them asked me to go up the mountain.
I pushed the body some more. Its issues would be handled after the trip.
Here is a tip. If you are into nature, species of animals and plants you will see, hike easy. Don’t rush. Pace at your most comfortable. Enjoy the wilderness. Just be sure not to leave too much a gap between you and your team.
Unless your objective is to break a world record, hunt trophies, raise cente for charity or impress some anyaka, do an average speed. Feel the mountain. Capture every epic moment. Listen to the rivers! The mountain won’t change its position. Gawk at it if you must! Don’t wear your body out!
Our goal as a team was to leave no one behind. Thus I self appointed myself to the behind spot permanently till the end of the hike to make sure no one was indeed behind but myself.
It paid off, this behind thing; because I had the chance to take a lot of pictures, got the guide to answer my various questions, fed my curiosity and enjoyed nature.
I was able to stop and catch my breath during tough climbs, though I was persistently gripped with this peeping fear that some-not-yet-seen-before-Rwenzori-yeti would grab and run off with me into the mountains. I know! I know! There are no yetis in Africa!
Still, being the last in line was good. I liked it. You get to hide in your weaknesses.
I didn’t see any animal or hear birds chirping happily atop the giant forest trees above us. And that bothered me. Only thing I saw was a giant albino slug-like creature comfortably stuck on a big fern leaf. It reminded me of the rare albino reptiles we see on Nat Geo.
There were no flies either except for this annoying bee drawn by the sweat on my head. It kept buzzing around my ears and at some point decided to land on my head despite my frantic swats.
The hike to Nyabithaba wasn’t as easy as I had anticipated. It was hot to a point where I started to discard my clothing one by one. Cap went first. Then short sleeved-tee. I couldn’t remove the rest of the clothing else I would have gone native. I suffered with the heat and sweat like that up to camp.
Going further up, we did side-way walks on tiny ledge-like paths astride the mountain and then we started to slope! Oh what a relief! Well, until we painfully learnt that for every steep slope down, there lay a huge stretched-out-incline above our heads to climb or crawl up!
After close to 3 hours of walking, we took a break at a shelter whose name I don’t remember, had our snacks and refilled our hydration bladders. I know what you are thinking. This bladder is not the one we use for susu storage. This one is used for carrying water to drink. Ask Google for images and more details.
Why such a fancy thing is named a water bladder beats me too. Just know it is a must have while hiking, running, or taking long walks.
We crossed a river over which lay a thin shaky boardwalk and went through more thick rain forests. There was so much green and again, the strangest thing was not hearing a single bird chirping somewhere. I thought that was odd still. Now I know it was the cold!
Taking a series of short breaks after tackling every serious climb, we continued to go higher and higher and higher. And with it the temperature getting cooler.
Despite us walking under giant trees, atop a carpet of dead leaves, the sun barely there I felt hot jameni. I would see my buddies up there resting, all fresh like mountain orchids while I was sweating and dying to take a break from down below!
You should know. The guides are very wonderful and discreet-in-a-good-kinda-way guys too. They will hold your hand. They will tell you where to step, where to touch and what to hold on to. They will also politely and in a matter of fact way keep telling you that you have 2 hours left to reach a certain point.
Don’t take that for the gospel truth. Take that for the village truth. Add two more hours to that timeline and walk on else you will cry for nothing.
If they say the walk will take 6 hours, make that 8 to 9 hours. Our walk to Nyamithaba was estimated to take us 7 to 9 hours. So you know the numbers.
After crossing rivers Kyoho and Mahoma which are tributaries to River Mubuku we continued towards our destination. I thought we were close but waah!
We went over more little streams, still flowing their fresh selves into River Mubuku and yet Nyamitaba was nowhere nearby.
We kept going and going and going with the hope of reaching the camp anytime but kulu. Nasing!
Of course given the village numbering of things we realized the camp wasn’t anywhere near and decided to focus on reaching there before dusk.
And then boom from the blue! Out of nowhere thing appeared!
From the least place you expect, we did a sharp weird turn around a giant rock below which sat a cave of sorts. Something was being roasted nearby! There was smoke! There was the smell of a settlement! There was warmth!
I thought, well, another temporary resting point to take evening porridge before we take off!
In a spot ahead at the turn of the sharp corner sat a green wooden cabin just meters away, its back turned to my tired self! There was a beautiful white sign post with Nyabithaba written on it!
A sign post has never looked so beautiful! I asked Jethro our guide if this was it and he said yes. I was a little skeptical but allowed. It wasnt a porridge stop, it was a night stop after all!
Alas! Our camp with our tents all set up was right there! Right there!
Camp Nyabithaba! The last place we expected to be under 8 hours of hiking!
We were ecstatic! The person ahead of the team was shouting heavy tired weeeeee-weeeeees! And the porters were welcoming the 8 of us to camp!
The feeling of seeing camp when you least expect is priceless. I am glad the guides gave us the over estimated ETA digits! I would have missed this element of surprise!
I noticed as soon as we reached the porters swiftly started to change into warm heavy clothing. The cold set in. It hit slowly but hard to the bone. We all got into our warm clothing too!
We tried to shower. The water was cold beyond comprehension. This was the last point to shower for most of us. The water was cold and close to impossible to use even for basics like brushing one’s teeth and washing the face and hands.
When the seasoned hikers tell you that you will go for 7 days or more without a shower in the mountains you will think, “Gosh! That’s so filthy. I am different. I cannot spend a night without a shower. I will manage. I am a humanoid” and stuff. Don’t you worry. You will find yourself saying no to a shower out of your own volition.
A fire was made for us from charcoal and not firewood. We sat around it and got to talk through the events of the day. We also got to know each other a lot better.
Tea was brought. We could still make phone calls so we did. But from a specific spot.
Dinner was interesting. Steamed veggies, some irish potatoes and rice. One of us asked for bundu. Chef seemed surprised by this request but it was brought.
Bundu you should know is a meal made from dried cassava flour and is very filling. The porters and guides had that and a few of us soon added ourselves to their list of bundu users.
After dinner, we had our second briefing of the day to bring us up to speed on the next day’s activities and departure time. We asked the usual questions of what to wear, to expect, to see and ETA to the next camp.
The Tour guides mentioned being impressed with our pace and how we arrived way ahead of the time they had expected us to. Me, I was not shocked. Our team was good!
We then spent a little more time chatting and having tea around the fire and turned in early about 8:00pm. The cold drove us early to bed!
Things I learnt and mulled over as I prepared for bed on day one: the guides not giving you exact timelines works in your favor, sleeping without a shower won’t kill you, have no expectations, you are your best cheer leader, have a theme song that psyches you up and trust your mountain guide!
As I lay in my sleeping bag thanking God for day one, I went over the day’s fears conquered: I did not fall off a cliff! I did not beat myself up for coming. I did not break a limb. I did not cry. I did not curse anyone. I did not get angry. Did I struggle? Yes. But I survived.
It was a good day one after all. My craziness, spirit and Midnight Train had helped pull me through the day. Sauti Sol may never know this but these lyrics of theirs kept my head leveled during the hard times. At times I awkwardly sang the lines out loud through the day and the entire Rwenzori hike.
Oh, it’s unbelievable that we make it this far Undeniable, we see the promised land from afar And it’s so beautiful, no, they can’t touch the fire And you know it’s not in vain, steady tripping through the pain Oh, yeah
Steady rocking on the midnight train Steady rocking on the midnight train (Oh, Lord, oh, Lord) Oh, Lord, steady rocking on the midnight train (Steady rocking on the midnight train) To Zion, to Zion (On the midnight train to Zion)
Yes. Have your inspiration song on hand and learn the lyrics!
And finally as sleep started to creep into my space, there below in the foreground was the soothing sound of large water flowing down the mountain, making loud gashing symphonies with the rocks to form River Mubuku.
I slept off without any expectations of the next day. With Rwenzori, chuck your expectations!
Our expected time of departure from Kampala to Kasese was supposed to be 9 am, but waah! And me I keradbulungi. I was early. Too early if you ask me! 7:30 am got me at departure point. I never like those things of anxiety mbu I have been left behind, so I mind my time.
We, however, left at midday or some time around there, way beyond our estimated time earlier mentioned; after all the travelers had gathered at start off point. Yeah, I know right?! Time management isn’t exactly a forte in some persons. Never mind that it means disrespecting others’ time.
There was a silver lining though. Those that arrived early got to eat some very delicious katogo. These guys at our departure place make a mean katogo, the guys at Naalya motel. Their spiced chaipii or spiced black tea is very good too. Gives your tongue some good tingly feeling.
Hardly 30 minutes into our journey, we encountered luggage trouble. Bags just flew out the back of the super custom. Jami oket idye yoo ata like that. They didn’t grow wings. No. The back door of the car gave them reason to fly out. It just flew open and our bags were out there scattered the thick layers of sand on the dusty road.
Our strewn bags all over the dirt road were immediately sorted out and placed back into the vehicle by the very apologetic driver.
I like looking for a speck of silvery things in every bad situation. The falling of the bags made mine easily identifiable because it got a serious dust beat up from the fall. I was heading out to the most mythical places in Uganda. A bag rolling in dirt wasn’t going to dumpen my mood!
I said to myself; “Since we got bags from the same jamaa, all our bags are similar in colour and make. So when time to pick one’s bag comes, I will just look for the dirtiest red bag and viola!”
Our automobile started to show bad mechanical signs from the get go but we left anyways. Some were worried, some were in a neutral state and some just wanted to get to Kasese. So off we went.
Now to nyinyi jamaas involved in the business of transporting people from point A to point Z, good transportation is always key whenever you are in charge of taking clients on a trip.
Always check the vehicle well ahead of time and have it fixed in case of a little problem, else, you are going to get delayed or might even have to postpone the trip.
If you want referrals in the future, have an enterprise with assured going concern, ensure the vehicle you are hiring out not only transports your passengers safely to their destination, but your reputation too.
Just know happy clients mean happy bank account for you, a good portfolio, and great reputation which will turn into great leads in the future.
A pissed off client on the other side they say translates into lost 15 potential client leads with your reputation thrown into some backwater crack of a dungeon along the way; a dungeon that will cost you to get out of.
Back to our vehicle! We struggled and reached Mubende.
I was happy to see chicken. Yes, gweno excites me. Especially if they are roasted and come fixed on a stick. Sawa, a skewer.
And, yes, the Mubende roasted chicken has its own unique taste. It beats Namawojjolo chicken in tenderness while Namawojjolo chicken beats it in that firm, sturdy and unique state of the chewy chicken affairs.
Mubende gweno abula tastes like it was baked to soft delicious tenderness and melts upon touching your tongue.
Namawojjolo on the other hand gives you gweno that’s good to bite and tastes like gweno pa lakee, you know, for one that likes to eat their meat or a meat lover. It’s roasted to some fine chicken firmness.
After Mubende we kept making stop overs at pretty much every small center we could. The driver would bring the car to a sudden halt, jump out of his seat without notice, disappear into some home or shop, return with a jerrycan of water then yank some section in between the seat behind the driver and the front passenger seat, and pour water in there.
There would be some popish-puthshh sounds like mad water boiling in a small squeezed space at some high degree point and steam would follow and almost fill the car. He would give it a bit of time, close the thing up, and we would be on our way.
This routine continued kumeno, like that, until we reached Kasese.
On arrival, we kept going and going and going, eventually got lost in the process. Given that it was already dark, curfew fears looming and none of us knew the route, it took a while before we could find our bearings.
See if our vehicle was in good order this wouldn’t have happened.
Our effort to seek help from a bodaboda was quashed because he was asking for too much money. We eventually made calls with the people in Kampala and got a WhatsApp Pin from our friends who were ahead of us and made our way to Base camp.
You gotta thank the scientists ojone. Without this Pin thing we would have taken forever finding the Base camp!
Upon arrival, we checked in at the Rwenzori Base camp Tours Holiday Inn. Nice simple place seated at the bottom of the mountain.
I could hear some river letting its water gush down down the mountain in a distance; as if announcing to use that we were in its presence.
The weather was very chill too with the breeze lazily blowing the banana leaves into some sort of leaf symphony under the moonlit night.
We then got to the business of getting to know what crampons, ice axes, gators, snow glasses, harnesses, walking sticks were and the works in real life.
No, you wont be riding a horse up there, the harness is for you. The ice axes are not for The Croods to work the rocks either or for Sid from Ice Age to use in dealing with icebergs. They are for you. Not for creating ridges on the side of the mountain but for use up on the snowline on summit day.
The crampons which looked like some gizmo the Umeme guys use for climbing electric poles were also fitted to our hiking shoes.
Yes, walking sticks are essential and not something for old people. Up there it’s an all people thing.
We then had our first briefing from the Tour guides, took dinner and bonded a little as a team. It is at this point that it started to settle in; I was heading to the mountain the next day!
I then went to bed.
I didn’t know that that night would be the only comfortable night I would have in the next 4 days!
If only I knew, I would have gone to bed early. Not that it would have made much of a difference but it would have meant something! You know, a good 8 hours of sleep like the health people say!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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 LaRue 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 kapanya–panya 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.
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!
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!
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.
When the chaps up the mountain finally returned to base camp in Kasese I was anxious to hear their stories. They started off with the not so good parts of the hike. The hard and challenging parts. The initial pictures posted on the WhatsApp group sowed seeds of doubt in my mind. I didn’t like what I saw.
The hikers looked tired. They were sort of unhappy oba?. Fatigue was written all over their faces, and some looked like they regretted their decision to go to Rwenzori. It was more of a sad beginning to a great story.
I started having second thought waves upon seeing these very first pictures. I wasn’t planning on doing what those guys did to themselves if the sad pictures were anything to go by. I said to myself “I am remaining here, comfortable, on lower ground, on solid ground and not self inflicting any amount of pain upon myself by going up some strange mountain”
Dull pictures aren’t magical. They kill ambitions. They kill desire. They kill mood. They kill whatever it is they can kill. They’re a total downer. Total discouragement pill. Why I am even talking about them I don’t know. And imagine they were going to be my excuse of a reason to not want the hike.
But, all that changed. A great picture is worth more than a thousand words. Good pictures speak. They have this magical thing they do to people. They charm you into wanting to experience the place from which they were taken. Like when you finally meet your blind date in person and you are surprisingly blown away, even when you fought cupid and all the gods of love to not meet them.
Soon a link to a vlog and blog were shared about this particular hike, everything looked so cool. So beautiful. So serene. The view was amazing and it slowly began to speak to my heart. I started to feel the urge to actually go up the mountain. How, I do not know.
When the great stories started streaming in, I knew I was sold! People were dancing in a small cabin to Kachumbali, a song by Quex with emphasis on the part of the song that has Rwenzori in it being sang at an exciting pitch. I saw happy people! Finally some happiness was flowing through!
The final bait was a Google link to photos taken by a professional person. You know, those guys who take pictures for a living? The ones who angle themselves in ridiculous positions to get a great shot? Those ones. And the pictures were amazingly gorgeous things! That’s when I saw the alluring beauty of the mountains. I heard it calling my name ojone. I started imagining myself up there. These final pictures, made me want to experience Rwenzori. I went through them over, and over, and over again for them to sink in bulunji, maber.
I saw myself in the near future at Rwenzori sweating it out, hiking, breathing hard, panting, taking in deep breaths of super fresh air, drinking from the perfectly clear ice cold streams flowing wildly down the mountains, just standing there on some ka bolder, tripping over and falling, viewing the green expanse of moss covered ranges before me, and walking in the rain. I would now have a good reason to walk in the rain without being judged!
The stories, the experience, the jokes and joys from the team that had just returned to Kampala was a feeling I wanted to, no, needed to experience. I needed that. Badly. Never mind that I didn’t trust my energy level. I didn’t trust my lungs. Heck, I didn’t even trust my entire body. I had not worked out in ages!
Still, I saw myself touching some wild berries, sitting on the boardwalks and having a complete organic mountain experience. I needed time away from the city, the noise, social media and all. I needed a detox. I saw the hike giving me a much needed time away from the chaos that comes with the sickness I had undergone in the recent past. Rwenzori was going to give me a complete natural healing.
I said kama mbaya, mbaya. Wang ma aceto i wi got ni kwak. I am going to Rwenzori! And with that I added my name to the list of those who were going in February 2021. Never mind that I had not even gotten cleared by the doctor to engage in something like hiking a mountain!
I immediately told my niece I was going to hike Rwenzori. I had this amazing grin on my face. She did not say it but her eyes told me she thought it was a bluff. I think she thought I had finally lost it.
And so with that, I started to psyche myself up for the trip. There was no turning back. I was going hiking to one of the most beautiful places in Uganda. I was going to Rwenzori. Apart from my niece, I only told a close friend about this. He didn’t think I was ready. I didn’t care.