This is Mushaija-Mukuru Hill in the background. Looks simple? only before you try it!
It’s a beautiful evening and we are driving past the UNHCR refugee camp at Rwamwanja village, my instincts are already prompting me that my field work trip to Kamwenge that week beginning Tuesday 14th 2013, was not just going to stop at work but an adventure to remember! I had been to Kamwenge before about thrice (still on work related assignments) but would approach it via Fort Portal, but this time, we branched off at the town of Kyenjojo and it gave me a whole new perspective of this place.
We (my two colleagues and I) continue through the villages of Bishozi, got lost somewhere in a villages we did not understand but finally ended up in Kamwenge town reaching at 8:30 in the night and we were able to find a decent guest house.
Scenes like this at sunset were breathtaking!
It was morning the next day and we set off for Mpanga and Biguli villages where we were meant to meet dairy cooperative farmers do carry out capacity strengthening of these cooperatives (a project commissioned by SNV). As we drove through the villages to Mpanga, one remarkable feature was put to my attention: a beautiful hill, stretching through numerous villages, I kept gazing at it through the car window and was put to utmost wonder and awe. None of my colleagues talked about it and I did not say word either, but my eyes were outside all the time until we left it behind as we approached our first destination; Mpanga. We meet the farmers at Mpanga that morning and headed for Biguli later at mid day, crossing River Mpanga on our way (the village was named after this famous river that begins in Rwenzori Mountain ranges), I confirmed that it was not just going to be an ordinary trip.
We proceed to Biguli and do our work, driving back in the late evening; my colleagues would drop me at Mpanga village where I was meant to stay for the next 4 days executing the assignment with cooperative farmers. Meanwhile, I had asked for a guest house in that village in vain so I opted to sleep in the cooperative house which was still under construction (I borrowed a mattress from a neighboring clinic and was lucky to find doors which were yet to be fixed where I placed my mattress). It turned out, for three nights, an awesome adventure. My colleagues were meant to travel back to Kampala the next day so they left me at Mpanga, in the middle of an endless village.
This would be my bed for three nights, the quiet moments were unrivaled, and I must admit that my bed was comfy!
Those three nights were some of the most beautiful nights I have had in the recent past; I spent a remarkable amount of time watching the night sky. The moon was almost full, the stars would be brighter and Mars would be stunning and commanding, and this, teamed up with the quietness in my room, was unprecedented. One more thing was special about this village: it’s where Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and the fallen war combatant Fred Rweigyema grew up. So meeting and spending time with the peers of these two guys, and hearing stories about these villages and how they grew up in the 60s and 70s with President Kagame and Rweigyema, was equally rewarding. My evenings were equally great, spending time with the locals in the trading center, sharing a light moment with an elderly drunken widow on one of the evenings was the greatest sign of love to her and her grand kind, it was awesome.
One of those rare evenings for her: when everyone around was mocking her, this stranger boy gave her a reason to smile and feel loved!
I finished my work on Friday and on Saturday 18th; I set out to hike the revered hill. It is high enough that most of the residents in the neighboring villages have never dared to hike it; it’s only the immediate natives who have animals grazing freely up in the hill that go there quite often. So I move on a bike to the immediate village where I began my hike at a place called Kamwokya. My survival instincts were again at their best as I immediately identified and convinced a young boy who would serve as my guide and porter. This hooded guy, Jackson Maniguha, in his mid teens, had skill, energy and great experience of the routes in the hill. What the locals had anticipated would take me 4 hours to reach at the top, took me only slightly above 2 hours to reach at the zenith of the hill.
It would never have been accomplished or would have at least been very hard for me without the energy and experience of my porter and guide, Maniguha!
Our hiking began with energy and a lot of enthusiasm, my guide taking the lead, we moved from Kamwokya toward the main elevation, soon we would begin climbing up the hill, walking through narrow paths in gardens in the foot hills, we soon reached where the elevation could not allow settlement, the vegetation kept on changing as we moved up the hill. I was capturing the shots of the hiking but I was missing out because no one could take the photographs of me since my guide had never used a camera before. So I had to devise means and the only option was to teach him, after series of corrections and showing him the positioning and the distance at which to take the photos, it’s hard to believe the shots that he captured because you might think they were taken by an expert photographer.
We took our first rest at a place that was predominantly occupied by black rocks, it’s very common to find rocks marked with red paints and arrows in such hills and this was no exception. We took captured a series of shots at this point and got rejuvenated to take on the tightest elevations.
It is hard to believe that this photo of me was taken by a first time photographer; we can either deduce that he is a very talented young man or he was taught by the best teacher. The painted rock could not be missed.
At this point, we were not even half way the hill but we were determined to reach the peak no matter what. On several occasions, my guide would leave me behind only to first wait for me because I had to make several stopovers fantasizing at the sceneries and capturing shots of anything that would send me into awe. It was invigorating, the insects, the dry pieces of free standing wood, the rocks, the different species of shrubs, and yes, looking down the valleys and seeing where we had come from, it was awesome!
At one point, I was extremely exhausted and I felt some extreme dizziness. Had to take another rest at an ant hill and my guide was kind enough to slope down again to wait with me. This was after a steeper elevation and I was trying to cope with the pace of my guide who I must say hikes that hill on a daily basis so it was a walkover for him.
It was necessary that I take a break at this point, otherwise my dream of reaching the top was beginning to fade away.
After this rest at the ant hill, I was strong enough to take on the last elevation. We had to first go in a simple valley that led us to the last elevation. My guide was showing no signs of exhaustion and that gave me a sense of encouragement. Soon, we would start seeing the peak and that was a confirmation n that we were near.
I felt a great sense of accomplishment at the peak because it was energy very well spent. Looking down where I came from, viewing places like Kamwenge town, Kasese, the Great Rift Valley, Kibale National Park, Villages of Mpanga, parts of Ibanda with great ease could never have been possible at just one point. I would soon begin my trek down to find my way to Fort Portal town where I spent a night before traveling back to Kampala.
Reaching the zenith of Mushaija-Mukuru hill was a great triumph. I could not hesitate congratulating myself with a victory sign. This is what success is for me. Beat me!