After a Safari Jelani Tours & Safari Africa in Uganda the perfect way of releasing some stress is hiking Mountain Sabinyo. It was Established as national park in 1991 to secure a future for the endangered mountain gorilla, MGNP is home to a staggering diversity of life as well as the Batwa people – a tribe of pygmies that have long carved out an existence in this forest. Nevertheless, it is the three conical extinct volcanoes that steal the show by dominating one of central east Africa’s most dramatic skylines.
In Kisoro town, a mere 14km from the park headquarters, we signed up for the Mount Sabyinyo hike. The first time we experienced hiking we were doing a road trip with friends and the second time it was business. In all the hikes we per took, the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) staff member gave us a casual once-over and felt it necessary to mention that it was a ‘strenuous hike’. Although, they left out one thing one thing about the road, the road heading to the Sabinyo is not in the best position possible if a two-wheel car not in the best position to climb some parts of the rough road heading to the park.
Early the next morning we were screaming through sleepy Kisoro we got up dress and took breakfast! As mentioned earlier the road was a disaster, so we had to dump the car at a nearby school in order to keep time with the other people we were going to hike with. The second time it was a treacherous journey however way better than the first time we did the hike because I knew what we were getting into. It had rained heavily during the night and the roads had disintegrated into a muddy mess not worthy of their place on the map. An hour of slipping, sliding, pushing, cursing and generally ill-advised risks saw us get to the park in one piece. As a tourism company we strongly wrote to UWA to make improvement on the road and they promised there are going to be major changes made in that regard.
During the both hikes we did on arrival at the park we were met by our lead guide, a UWA ranger (appropriately armed with an AK-47) and our fellow hikers some from Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, also group from Kampala who acknowledged they had never climbed anything before! Good to know. We were briefed on what to expect and what not to do, i.e. “stay behind the armed guard – the buffalos and elephants are bad tempered here”. Right. Excellent.
With that out of the way we headed into the stunning bamboo forest littered with fresh signs of elephant and buffalo. In my head I was think what in the world did I just sign up for, carrying a heavy bag full of drinks and snacks. I also had a large winter Jacket which made the journey worse because it was kind of heavy and uncomfortable to carry. The wind whistled through the forest as we slowly headed up through the heather trees draped with old man’s beard and giant lobelias.
The first we hiked on the road trip I never reached the peak, from the get-go in my mind this a big challenge to conqueror and I failed miserably. This is how I got an epiphany that the mind is indeed a powerful tool. Yes!! physically and Psychologically I was not ready, I was in pain due to spasms I got from being so unfit, but I kept dragging myself at least reach the first peak, but it was all in vein. I couldn’t go on any further and I had to stop stick with one of the the guides with gun till the rest came back.
The Second time I eventually reached the first summit (of three) some of our group decided that hiking was not an activity, they were keen to continue pursuing in life. Though some of our clients and I then continued with the armed guard, coming out onto the exposed knife edge ridges of the incredible scenic mountain. The mist descended and the clouds rolled over, giving us the odd glimpse of what lay ahead.
Then came the famed ladders of Sabyinyo. Many people are not keen on negotiating ladders at the best of times, but when you are 4000m high up on a cold, misty, wet mountain with steep drop-offs its something else altogether! One tries not to look down – but inevitably that is all you end up doing. That being said, most of the steps are inclined at decent angles – so not to worry!
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