Let me begin by telling you the origins of my google search. When I told people I would be in Tanzania many suggested I climbed Kilimanjaro. At the time this seemed like such a great idea; I mean I was around and who knew when I would be passing those Kili streets again, right?… Wrong, climbing Kilimanjaro is not for the volunteers pocket. Disappointed at the fact that I could not afford to climb Kili I started looking for alternatives; the next best thing was Mount. Kenya. YES, Kenya my love. That makes more sense because it is not as high but still really cool right?…. WRONG! Mount Kenya was not in the direction that I had roughly routed out for myself (a route I didn’t even end up travelling). After the second fail I gave up on this climbing thing and focused on getting my rafting on. Once I arrived in Uganda I was made aware of the various climbing locations and the best part was that most of them were one or two day climbs; Better yet, you can climb volcanoes. This was it, my chance to be a climbing rock-star. I called around to get the best package for my pocket and stumbled upon a community project that provides accommodation and assistance with the registration for the climb, Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp. The accommodation is located right outside the park gate and you can get a dorm bed- with breakfast, lunch and dinner- for $20 (R245). Once I had confirmed they had space I hired a car to the bus station (40 000 Ugandan shillings/ R150) and got on the 8 pm Jaguar bus to Kisoro (30 000 Ugandan shillings there and 25 000 shillings back- R205 total). This was an experience and a half; I had two toddlers sitting behind me, a new born in front of me and a young man who knew all the words, instrumental riffs and shoo-waps of every song the driver played sitting next to me. In summary I didn’t sleep on this overnight bus so I was exhausted by the time the bus pulled into the town at 6:30 am. Eager to get some sleep I called the reception of the camp and they sent a bodaboda to come fetch me, the ride up took about 45 minutes and cost 15 000 Ugandan shillings (R60). I woke up in the evening, just in time for the three course meal they had set for dinner. I ate as much as I could and headed back to bed eagerly waiting for the morning climbing call.
At 6 am I woke up and started getting ready for the climb. By 6:30 I was eating breakfast and at 7 am I was heading to the park gates. When I arrived I found three other people who were looking to volcano climb at Mgahinga National Park. This park forms part of the Virunga Conservation Area, which is spread over Uganda, Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo. From the Ugandan side you can access 3 of the 8 volcanoes, Mt Gahinga, Mt Sabinyo and Mt Muhavura. I chose to climb Mt Sabinyo, which is not the highest climb but is the most difficult due to the three peaks as well as the steep gradient. The reason I chose this one is because at the top of the third peak it is said that you can stand in all three countries. It just so happens that the other climbers were doing the same climb as me so we all set off with our guide at 08:00. I was quickly reminded that I am not really into land sports… like AT ALL. The others were more experienced than me and as a result moved at a faster pace. Lucky for me there was a point were the group could split into two and so I continued at my own pace with my own guide, Jude. Jude was very patient and encouraging throughout our time moving up to the first peak but once we had reached there I had to admit to myself that this was as far as I went. Though I did not complete all three peaks and get to be in three countries at once, the views were magical and the conversations that I enjoyed with Jude were amazing. We spoke about everything from each others cultures, to our families, to our countries, education, love, reading, the English language and so much more. In the five and a half hours that we were lost in nature I felt like I made a deep connection with someone I had just met.
When I began this trip my mind was only focused on the climb and all the joy that succeeding would bring me but what I took out of it was worth so much more:
I pushed myself to boundaries that I never imagined existed.
I learnt that sometimes you don’t always have to do things the way other people do, you will burn out.
I opened up to a stranger and gave them the space to open up to me.
I fell in love with nature, broke up with it and fell even deeper in love with it the second time around.
This definitely turned out to be a very emotional and spiritual trip for me; I am glad that the person who shared it with me was Jude and I am even happier to be able to share a part of it with all of you.
Until the next one.