Today we did another long walk. Our walk was 21 kilometers long, and when I say long – I mean loooooooooooooooong – as in never ending, as in reaching each bend in the road, hoping that the bend would signal the end, only to round the bend and discover there is still more road to walk on – and thinking “Where did all this road come from?!”
Today was long because we met quite a lot of bicycles along the way and we had to keep trying to avoid them. We often start our long walks by 5 a.m. in order to make use of as much cool weather as we can. And of course 5 a.m. is quite dark, and so are our roads. And we discovered that most of the bicycles that ply the roads at that time of morning do not have any reflector lights whatsoever, and they do not have bells. All you hear, as you approach a darkened moving object, is someone hissing at you, trying to catch your attention, so that you can get out of the way. And before you know it, it’s a man on a bicycle almost knocking you over, and you jump out of the way, just in the nick of time. It seems many on our team were dodge ball pros in their early days, because the way they were jumping away from the bicycles was amazing – the timeliness, the tact, the agility in the jump – superb!
Today was also long because the whole portion of Salama Road does not have a sidewalk, so one has to walk just at the edge of the tarmac – doing a balancing act between a taxi swishing by on one side, and a pool of water or slippery mud on the other, all the while, trying to keep the walking pace, as well as sharing that thin space with other pedestrians.
Today the walk also seemed long because we were doing the route we had set out to do the very first time we did a long walk together as a climbing team. The very first time we walked, we had no inkling of the enormity of the task, to the extent that at some point, we took a shorter way back. That first walk was still long – we walked for more than three hours. But starting out today, we still had the jitters of the first time we attempted the walk. The difference was that this time we promised were going all the way.
Today the walk was long mentally. At some point, one has to tell themselves not to give up and not to think discouraging thoughts. At some point, the mind goes into auto pilot, willing the legs to move, without thinking about it too much. We tried everything we could not to give up. We tried to singing together, and we got through several renditions of the Ugandan anthem. We read quite a number of signposts along the way – of schools, of shops, of bars. There were quite a few interesting names – one can definitely not accuse Ugandans of lacking creativity in that department. We discovered how some people use their signposts to squeeze on all the possible information about their enterprises – name of the establishment, when it was set up, what time it was set up, who set it up, opening and closing hours, which DJ comes on which days, which dance moves are preferred on which days, what drinks are served – and oh, the DSTV – one must not forget to advertise that their establishment also offers DSTV! We observed the faces of children as they walked to school. Some children seemed glad to go school; some were hanging onto their mother’s clothes for dear life, some looked totally miserable at being woken up so early to walk to school.
In the end, we finally made it. We walked for 4 hours 25 minutes. We were exhausted, but glad that each walk, however loooooooooooong and excruciating – brings us closer to our goal.
Rwenzori, here we come!