The Mystical Challenge, My Experience

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“For someone who loves taking photos, The Rwenzori mountains is a must visit”

You may have come across posts shared by “travel addicts” as they tick off tourist destinations that they have been to. Surprisingly, The mountain gazatted National Parks are hardly seen on these lists and if they appear; they are un-ticked.

Ready for the Hike

So a few days ago alongside other young adventurous Ugandans, we decided to take on the Mahoma Nature Trail in the Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Edrick Bwambale who happens to be the mutual friend in the eight man squad did no bad in coordinating and preparing us for the experience.

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I had personally met Edrick at Mubuku Irrigation Scheme in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time he helped me spark off my farming career before I sold off my tomato and onion Nursery beds to my Dad. I couldn’t handle!

As an upcoming Tour Operator and founder at Akiiki Holidays, this was an opportunity for me to network, share ideas and of course tick the Rwenzori mountains National Park off my travel list.

Now here comes 31st July and by 6:40am we were all at our pickup points waiting for our shuttle. By 7:15am we were at our last pickup point and we were good to go.

Averagely, it’s a 40minutes drive from Kasese town to to the Mihunga gate through Bugoye and Ibanda trading centers. Everyone looked fresh, energetic and I was internally doubting my capabilities to take on the challenge.

Sheila, Collins, Patience and Edrick at the Gate

The ladies were dressed in track pants, gumboots, light weight bags and they spoke less. Yes, they looked like real hikers.

As a norm, while at the park entrance (Mihunga Gate) we were registered,  did all the necessary paper work and we were allocated a guide / Ranger Mr. Muhindo Joseph.

This was the second time I was getting close to someone with a gun in good faith. The first time being in September 2021 while at the source of the Nile bridge in Jinja.

Afande Joseph started with explaining to us about the trail and it’s so interesting to see him drop historical facts, altitude levels, vegetation zones, mammal species and Bird species off his head. He is smart.

Edrick (Right) together with Afande Joseph at the Mihunga gate

He added that on our trail we were looking out for primates like the Chimpanzee, Blue monkeys, etc and not forgetting bird species like the Red dikes in the Montane and Bamboo zones.

At the start of the trail there stands a sign post “Mahoma Nature Trail” this is where the journey starts. We didn’t know where we were heading to but we were sure that there was a destination.

It took us about 7hours to trek from the Mihunga gate at 1,700 metres above sea level to our destination, Nyabithaba 2,651 metres above sea level.

While on the trek, the beauty of the metallic and wooden ladders/stairs leaves one wondering how they were ferried up in the mountains. The hanging cable bridges over River Kyoho and R. Mahoma before reaching the resting hut are another beauty.

Taking on the ladders
I couldn’t leave without doing this. A challenge started by Ikanza who was part of the #Rwenzori2022.

At the R. Mahoma bridge Afande Joseph narrated to us his experience when they returned from Margherita and the bridge had been washed away by the flooding river. This was horrific. Wondering how they crossed; They used ropes the way we see it in movies.

The first section of the trail is a gentle walk with a number of stairs and at a certain point it’s so steep that the muscles will have to stretch. At this point, Afande Joseph kept on encouraging us to maintain our pace, explained the various tree species and vegetation zones.

From the resting hut we naturally split into three groups, one had strong guys like me and the second one had moderate hikers while the third group had the ladies who had looked strong in the early hours. They were cautiously taking step after step.

Edrick didn’t give up on them, he pushed them as I played raggae music and singing out loud not because I knew the lyrics but because I wanted my body to forget that it was on a workout.

We met a number of tourists, guides and porters descending and all they did was smiling at us and wish us well.

With a French couple

These guys were a couple from France and they had spent a night in the mountains. Yes, we spoke a few “Bonjour” before I asked for a photo moment. These are the things you do while building a brand.

At some point my pants became loose, I adjusted my belt until I couldn’t do it anymore. On turning behind, Collins was also adjusting his. We laughed.

River Mubuku roared in the valley covered with fog, water falls over a rocky ledge viewed from a far and the eye catching snow capped portal peaks on Mt Gesi at an elevation of 4309 metres above sea level.

Nature at its best, The green vegetation, Fog, drizzles…

At some point our phones picked network. I saw people smile to their phones as they shared some of the hundreds of pics they had taken. I must say, For someone who loves taking photos, The Rwenzori mountains is a must visit.

As we trekked further, the trail was slippery, very steep and it was getting cold. Edrick later told me that he wanted to give up but the distance we had left behind was too long and when he wanted to shed tears, he remembered he was with the ladies. He had to act strong.

A honorary mention to all the women who have made it to as far as Margherita. That’s superb.

The snacks and the water were almost finished. We were freezing, hungry for food and exhausted. Everyone on the team brought out their funny side in order to energize ourselves. I remember Jonathan matching on the trail like he was on a military parade at Kololo. We laughed and it pushed us to the next.

Our goal was to at least make it to Nyabithaba(2651Metres above sea level), the first camp on the trail and almost half of the journey to Uganda’s highest point at Margherita (5109Metres above sea level) and We kept on asking the guide how much distance we were left with to make it to our target.

The stone cave coated with smoke and a fireplace are the iconic features at Nyabithaba camp. The tall trees, river roar, drizzles all in one place.

Fire place under the stone cave.

The camp can accommodate up to 29 guests in the four bedrooms and a common room which doubles as the dinning area. I again wondered how all that stuff was carried up there. Kudos to the Uganda Wildlife Authority and other stakeholders that set up such infrastructure in the wild.

While at the camp, we did a few stretches, sat around the fire place and ate everything we were left with. We had made it to our target and man, we celebrated like we made it to the peak. You can assume the Joy.

We screamed as the groups that were behind us made it and a sigh of relief on their faces could tell it all. We had made it to the unknown destination. Our plan was now to descend and that is a story for another day.

In an interaction with Afande Joseph he told me that from the camp the next stop is always Lake Mahoma at 3000 metres above sea level. The lake is home to the Black African Duck that can be sighted.

The Park is recognized by UNESCO as a world Heritage and Ramsar site. It is also documented beyond doubt that the Rwenzori contributes 65% of the Nile Water.

The mystical challenge is a phrase used to describe the Rwenzori after many hikers finding it difficult to conquer. We are looking forward to conquering Margherita in a few months to come.

Looking further to traveling with us, book for the Tubing the Nile experience at UGX 90,000 through Akiiki Holidays at +256704231287.

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