#RwenzoriMattressClimb

Starting out on this journey to climb Mount Rwenzori, while my friends and I wanted to do it just for the fun of it, we also decided that the climb should count for something. We zeroed down on supporting 40-40. 40 Days Over 40 Smiles FoundatMattression (40-40) is a Kampala based independent, youth-led, charity organisation. They are committed to helping vulnerable children and communities access quality, all-round education support and entrepreneurial training aimed at self-sustainability.

Every year since it’s inception in 2012, 40-40 raises money to help support children in need. One of the things 40-40 intends to do this year is to raise 100 mattresses to distribute to various children’s homes in Kampala including:

1. Elohim Child Development Center –Bombo  -43 mattresses

2. Muzaana Children’s Home –Namirembe Road – 14 mattresses

3. St. Noah’s Orphanage –Naluvule (Wakiso) – 43 mattresses

We are thus reaching out to you to help us raise the 100 hundred mattresses, whose total cost is only 5 million Uganda shillings.

You can send mobile money to telephone number 0782813210.

Help us make our Rwenzori climb count for our community. Help us give back to community..Every shilling, every dollar, every penny counts. Nothing is too small.

We thank you in advance for your overwhelming generosity!

Mountains on My Mind

As the date for the Rwenzori climb draws near, I can’t help but think about mountains. I’ve been asking myself why I am going to climb. What is the meaning of this climb at this time in my life? Why was I attracted to, why did I feel compelled to climb Rwenzori? Why, despite the grueling nature of climbing mountains, am I suddenly drawn to them like a moth to a flame? Is God trying to teach me something? Will I know only in hindsight? Does the physical climb have a spiritual significance? Am I over thinking these things?

These are questions all swirling in my head. I don’t even have answers to these questions right now.

What I do know is that I have mountains on my mind and my mind on mountains.

I Love You Dad!

What does one say about a Dad like mine?! If I say he is perfect, you won’t believe me – but my Dad is perfect for me. When God created me, He absolutely knew that I would need a father like my Dad. His name is Rev Canon Benoni Mugarura Mutana. He is the most loving man I know. He has loved me through my trials and triumphs. He has loved me whether I deserve it or not. HMe and Daddye has modeled God’s love for me – he accepts me as I am, he does not expect me to be perfect, but he still pushes me to be all that I can. He gives the best bear hugs in the world. He is funny and silly, yet serious at the same time. He always tells me he loves me and that he is proud of me.

Three incidents are forever etched in my memory – one is when I was about 8 years old, my mom was not at home that day, and my dad attempted to plait my hair. He did the best he could and I will never forget that gesture. Second, when I was in high school, a few months before sitting my A-levels, my dad came to see me at school and he gave me a small card on which he had written these words; “Read like you have never prayed, and pray like you have never read.” I diligently followed his advice and I passed my exams very well – I got AAB and a distinction in General Paper. Thirdly, just before my Dad was transferred from Namirembe to work at St. Francis Chapel at Makerere, he called me and my sisters and told us about his impending posting. Though we didn’t like the fact that we were moving from Namirembe where we had grown up and where we had friends, the fact that he told us blew me away. He wanted to include us in his decision. He was mindful that his job was not just about him, but was about his family too, and he wanted to prepare us for the move. In the end, we thoroughly enjoyed our time at Makerere University.

My Dad is a great keeper of secrets and I have confided in him a lot over the years. I know he listens well, he does not judge, he empathizes, he cries with me, he laughs with me and I know he deeply cares for me. And before he gives advice, he prays. I know my dad prays for me daily, to this day (as does my mom).

My Dad is a person of good repute, so I am never ashamed to say I am his daughter, and any time I invoke his name, I get favor. When the Bible says that a good name is more desirable than great riches, to be esteemed better than silver or gold – it is very true. My father has a good name, and I am proud of him for that.

My father grew up in poverty and he always confessed that he was not good at managing money. We literally saw him hand over all the money he made to my mom for her to manage the home affairs and this worked for them. I know that anything they have together they have built together.

I have watched my Dad be not just a father to me, but to countless young people through his ministry in the church, and that too endears him to me. So many people call him Uncle Ben and I know so many people are fond of him. He lovesRev Ben young people and they love him too. My father loves music and he knew that this was a great tool to reach out to young people. He combined his love of music, his love of young people and passion for God, to pioneer the Anglican Youth Fellowship(AYF) – one of the earliest gospel music bands in Uganda. My dad traversed Uganda with AYF, singing and preaching and reaching out to young people.

Now in his old age, I have seen my Dad become a grandfather, and he takes this role very seriously. He is always happy to see our children, plays with them when he can, or simply sits and talks with them. Above all, I appreciate my Dad for loving my Mom and for showing us how a man is supposed to treat his wife. When Mom is happy, we know it is because of Dad. He has been her support, he helps out with housework and he has been her dear friend all these years.

Today I celebrate my Dad and I wish him many more years. May he live to see his children’s children’s children.

Mountains of a Personal Kind

I will confess, I am not too good at these. Personal mountains of an emotional, relational kind always seem to trip me up and throw me over. I seem to drown as I gasp for air. My tears become torrents. Music loses rhythm. Life loses meaning. Heaviness takes over. Weights heavier than all the tyres I have carried or pushed around during the preparation for the Rwenzori climb, wear me down. My breathing becomes labored, more than when I labour through an exercise routine. It’s easy to get a toned body, but a toned soul? That pain cuts to the bone. It’s hot. It’s searing.

But I am glad for road trips. They help me think. They help me see all the green around me. And green calms me somehow. I am glad for the space. The time away. The opportunity to think, to rest, to calm down, and to hopefully hope and smile again.  Time to find meaning in the song “It is well with my soul.” Time to pray.

Father God, You see, You know and You care. Even when I have no words, when I can’t form words because the effort spills forth into tears all over again, I know You see my heart, You see my hurt. I see Your hand. You hold it out to me. You welcome me into Your bosom. You call me by name. I am Yours. Forever. You still my anxious heart. I rest in You. And I know You make all things beautiful in Your time.

I was Here

I guess there is something in all of us that wants or maybe longs to be remembered. That’s what I thought about when I found a few inscriptions in the camper’s hut at Mude Cave Camp on Elgon Mountain. The inscriptions were of the names of some of the climbers that have been there. At that point, I told my friends that we too should find something with which to etch our names onto one of the walls of the hut, so that others could know that we too had been there. I wondered whether we could use the charcoal from the fire, but thought it might erase easily. Ball pens were no good, because they didn’t write big or thick enough. Pencils would be too light to be read. I fretted that we didn’t have the right tools to use to write our names. And moreover, we spent two nights at Mude Camp! But now, save for the parts of our story that we have shared, there is no physical evidence up on the mountain, that we were there. I then thought to myself that for the next mountain I climb, I will be much smarter and carry a marker or a pocket knife to etch my name for history and posterity.

The desire to be remembered begs the question of legacy. I am sure it’s not every day that we go around etching our names onto all the walls of all the places that we visit. But the fact is we were there, and how we live and what we leave are important. And there are some places where we can never etch our names physically – like in the lives of our children, our spouses, our families, our co-workers, our friends, etc, and yet we exist in their lives. As we do, are we aware of our footprint in their lives?legacy Are we aware that we are etching ourselves on the walls of their hearts? Is it something we think about and care about?

Stephen Covey in his book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” advises that we should all begin with the end in mind. The first exercise in that book asks us to visual our funeral service; visualize who will be there and what people will say about us. He then asks that we write down what we would like people to say about us and then begin to live our lives in the way we want to be remembered.

Up on Mude Camp, beyond the inscription of my name on some wall, what else would that tell people about me? What else would people remember beyond my name – assuming that they would even remember my name? This has caused me to pause and think again about my life, about legacy.

May God grant us all the wisdom and grace to walk in this world in such a way that we are impacting lives, making a difference, leaving a legacy.

Tyre Challenge

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Strapping ourselves to tyres

Last week on Thursday, after the Rwenzori Boot Camp session was over, George told us to prepare to undertake a tyre challenge on Tuesday 9th June. The challenge would consist of jogging/walking while pulling tyres of various sizes for  a distance of 10 kilometers. We immediately felt dread because on that Thursday, we had done a similar challenge which was 4.4 kilometers, so doing 10 kilometers seemed a near impossibility!

George asked us to assemble at Ridgeway Drive in Kololo at 3:50 p.m. yesterday, so that we could get ourselves strapped to the tyres and do some warm ups before hitting the road. A few people came late, so we only set off at about 4:20 p.m. We were nine people in all and we started off in a jovial mood, trying not to think of the torture that lay ahead.

To date, I have not had a training session as arduous as yesterday’s! I have never sweated like I did yesterday! Most times the Boot Camp sessions last between an hour to an hour fifteen minutes. Yesterday, the tyre challenge took us a good two hours to compete! In the end we did 8.8 kilometers, 1.2 kilometers shy of our original goal. By the time we finished we were beyond spent. We had to take about seven to ten minutes to just sit and regain our energy before heading home.

Tyre Group

The Tyre Masters!

I have found that often, doing exercise on the road means that you have to endure stares, smirks and comments from people – ranging from the encouraging to the downright rude. Many people gave us thumbs us, some slowed down in their cars to wave us on. Some asked if they could sit on the tyres so we could pull them along – like really – of all things?! One guy slowed down and asked whether we were practicing to push his car. We shouted a big ‘yes!’

The one thing I totally find strange is how good I feel after exercise, no matter how grueling the work out is. But I had a big smile on my face and a very satisfied feeling in my heart. I was happy that I got to do this and I got through it. I was happy that I had done one more thing in preparation for the climb of Mount Rwenzori.

When I started this blog, I committed to documenting our journey to climbing Mount Rwenzori. When I made up my mind to climb Rwenzori, I tried to dig up information about the climb and most of the stories I found were about the journey on the mountain, not the journey that led to the mountain. Many people advised that physical preparation was key, but no one told their story of what they went through to prepare themselves for the mountain. And so the idea to write this blog was born. I wanted both to document our story, but I also hoped my blog could provide pointers to how my friends and I prepared for the mountain. I hope this has been helpful to someone out there.

Over the next two weeks, I will be on the road and so will not be able to join my friends for the group exercises that we’ve been doing. That means, I won’t be able to tell our story, until I get back. I wish my friends all the best, and I hope and pray that all the time I have spent getting prepared will count for something especially during this time when I won’t be able to be as physically active as I have been over the last five months since the year began.

Still Going

Spin

Yesterday after spin class

While the team that climbed Mount Elgon has been training hard since the beginning of the year, nothing of all our workouts prepared us for the climb! Climbing a mountain is a different ball game altogether! While we took long walks in Kampala, nothing quite compares to the terrain of a mountain. There is no where as steep in ascent or descent in Kampala, like what we experienced on the mountain. In fact, this caused us to question whether all our preparation for mountain climbing was even worth it. We asked ourselves of what benefit all the spinning, Cheza, Torture Club and Boot Camp sessions were. This was especially given the fact that barely two minutes into the climb, we were all huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf that threatened to blow the piggy’s house down! In our foolishness (or maybe tiredness), we figured that the workouts didn’t count for much. Why does any one need firm abs on the mountain, we asked?

I think we spoke more out of frustration than logic. In jest, we started making lists of all the songs we were no longer going to dance to in Cheza, because those songs combined, did not represent as much of a challenge as the mountain climb had. We swore up and down how we were never going to pull types with George again, or jump logs or stairs for that matter. We also thought we would give ourselves a good two week break from any form of workout once we got back to Kampala. That was then. That was on the mountain.

I am glad to report that since we came back, we have actually gone back to our exercise routines. Recently I told two people that I am going to climb Mount Rwenzori and the first thing they told me was that I have to prepare physically. This confirmed to me that there are no two ways about it, one has to be as physically prepared as one can.

Because of my busy schedule, I have only managed to squeeze in spinning class on Mondays and two sessions of Rwenzori Boot Camp with George. The first Boot Camp session after Elgon was at Lugogo Stadium. George made us jump stairs in all kinds of ways for a whole hour! In the second session, George made us run for 4.4 kilometers on a hill in Kololo, while pulling tyres! I nearly passed out! One thing I had assumed was that because I had climbed a mountain, I would therefore be in much better form than before I climbed. Not so. I still pant. I still feel pain in my thighs when I do a rigorous workout. It’s still hard work. But the good thing is, I am still going on. We are still going on.

As my good friend Joy likes to say, we have to have a long term view of this whole fitness thing and see it as a life style, not a life sentence.

So help us God.

The Rock

Like my friend Michelle said, there are many spiritual moments on the mountain, moments that remind us that indeed, there is a God. For me, one of them was the many rocks that we saw on the mountain and the significance and representation of God as my Rock. The rocks jutted out strong, beautiful, imposing and magnificent. And there were rocks everywhere – reminding me that God, my Rock, is everywhere, all times and that He promised never to leave me nor forsake me.

The picture below was taken by Bernard Tabaire on Mount Elgon and the poem is a tribute to God, my Rock.

Rock of Ages

God, My Rock

God

My Rock

Strong

Imposing

Unchanging

Steadfast

Through the ages

Rock of Ages

Cleft for me

I hide myself in Thee

God

My Rock

When I am overwhelmed

I run to You

There I am safe

And secure

My Refuge

My Strong tower

My very present help

In time of need

God

My Rock

My cornerstone

My sure foundation

I stand on You

I stand in You

You stand with me

You hold my hand

I am never alone

You are always with me

To the end of the age

My Rock of Ages

Cleft for me

(By JAM, 07/06/15)

The Elgon Chronicles – Life Lessons

It is exactly one week since friends of mine and I embarked on climbing Mount Elgon, and this is the last of the pieces in the chronicles of our journey to the top and back. The mountain climb taught me some invaluable lessons that I want to share and I pray that you will be enriched by them.

Lesson #1: Preparation is key. There is just no way round this one at all. To climb a mountain, you need to be prepared physically, financially; mentally and you need the right clothes. My friends and I have been doing intense physical preparation since end of January and despite this, we were still challenged as we climbed. At the same time, we knew that all the hours we spent doing exercise paid off because we were able to walk long distances and not be in too much pain. I shared my story about being financially prepared, under the blog post “Climbing Costs”. To this day, I still save 20,000/- per day towards mountain climbing, and this has helped me build a consistent culture of saving. You need the right clothing, and for this you need to read up on the mountain you are going to climb, so that you are adequately attired. The last thing you want is to have the wrong clothes for the right mountain. There are no shops or boutiques where you can stop to buy the right clothes as you climb. And the right attitude is key. Keep telling yourself over and over that you can. Believe in yourself.

Lesson #2: To enjoy the mountain, do not rush the mountain. Respect the mountain. On the morning that we started the climb of Mount Elgon, we assumed we could easily do it in three days flat, four days tops. After all, we had been told that Elgon is an easy mountain to climb. When we had to take a break barely ten minutes into the climb, we understood the wisdom of the UWA official who told us that the only way to enjoy a mountain is to take it slow. I think in life there are many experiences that are only made richer if we do not rush through them. Let’s learn to savor life.

Lesson #3: The mountain is not always steep all the time. On the mountain there are some flat plains, some places for rest and respite – take them! Often after doing a steep climb, we would look forward to walking on slightly flatter ground because that meant we could ease the pressure on our legs, it meant we could steady our breathing once again. The flat places made the climb more pleasurable. And that’s what life is like – for many it seems like a steep climb. But we should learn to stop for rest and respite as and when the opportunity presents itself. Climbing is strenuous work, so enjoy the easy bits. Learn to rest.

Lesson #4: Discouragement will come. That is a given. It’s how you deal with it that matters. We faced a lot of discouragement on the mountain, especially when the going was tough, when the climb seemed endless, when it seemed like we were never going to get to the next camp, when the cold froze our hands and toes and ears. We had to find a way to keep going on, to keep moving forward, to not give up or give in. We encouraged each other. We rested when we needed to. We did all we could to complete the climb. So is life. I think discouragement is an inevitable part of life, but we have to find a way to keep pressing forward no matter what. Peak Picture

Lesson #5: When the going gets tough, the weak keep going. I know we have heard that statement said in another way – that it’s the tough that keep going, but that would mean that the journey is only for those that are tough. The weak are there also, and they too find a way to keep on keeping on. We all need to acknowledge our weak points, our weak moments and find ways to work with or around them. One of the climbers in our party had a problem with his knee, another had blisters on his feet and wounds on the thighs, another had pain in the tummy, but despite these weaknesses, they made it all the way. It takes a lot to acknowledge weakness and to go on despite it, so let’s not bump the weak off the path of life. We all need each other. It is in acknowledging one’s weakness but still going on, that strength is built.

Lesson #6: Sometimes you walk, not because you want to, but because you have to. Before we started the climb, we were excited and we anticipated that the adventure would be fun. And our enthusiasm lasted for about half an hour and quickly gave way to despair. We had not anticipated that the climb would be as tough as it was. Many times we had to walk in auto-pilot, not thinking, just doing, so that we could through the difficult parts. The climb had stopped being fun, but we had to get it done. In life, there are those things we know we do not because we want to, but because we have to, because they are absolutely essential.

Lesson #7: Find a pace and stick to it. We found out that one of the key ways to walk long distances on the mountain was to find a comfortable pace – not too fast, not too slow, just enough to keep us going, and we would stick to that pace. After all we were neither trying to impress anyone, nor were we in a competition, and so we paced ourselves. In the same way, in life we have to find our own pace that works for us. We often kill ourselves trying to keep up with others, trying to copy others, trying to outdo others. You are unique, so find your pace and stick to it. Free yourself from the need to impress.

Lesson #8: Travel light, it lightens the travel. One thing I need to learn very fast is the art of traveling light. I can never make up my mind about what to wear, so my bags are always full of things I hardly end up using. I will pack clothes for five days for a two day journey, and then complain all the way about heavy luggage. But I just need to learn to travel light, and then I would enjoy the journey more. Learning to travel light is learning about prioritizing, about what is essential. It’s learning to separate needs from wants. It’s learning to stick with needs. We all need to learn to travel light. We carry physical and sometimes emotional (and financial) loads that are breaking us! We need to learn to let go, to have a right estimation of ourselves, discard the savior mentality, and travel light. What are you carrying that you shouldn’t be? Off load it.

It’s been an absolute pleasure sharing our Elgon journey with you. I hope you are encouraged either to climb a mountain, or to carry on with something that feels like a mountain to you right now. It can be done. You have it in you!

Wishing you the very best! Always!

The Elgon Chronicles – A Tribute

I’ve been wanting to write this tribute ever since I descended from Mount Elgon, but I first elected to tell our story of the climb.

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Francis

The tribute is to the great support team that we had as we climbed. The team included two ranger guides – Francis the lead ranger and Rogers who took the rear guard, our cook (but I like to call him chef) Xavier and the five porters we hired. We were four climbers and we had a support team of 8 people and all of them contributed immensely to our getting to the highest peak on Elgon and back. The words I am about to say do not even begin to express all that the team was and meant to us, so multiply what I say by a zillion!

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Rogers

To Francis: Thank you for leading us all the way up the mountain and back. Thank you for your steadfast pace that helped us keep in step. Thank you for your calm confidence. Thank you for being a gentleman – you held out your hand to me many, many times on the mountain – either to help me scale the heights, or to navigate the steep descents. Thank you for looking out for us.

To Rogers: Our funny man, our flying Ninja Warrior. Thank you for all the jokes and anecdotes that you shared. Thank you for leading from the back, for watching out for us. Your eyesight is amazing. How you saw those poachers on the fourth day of our climb is still a mystery to me. Thank God for your clear eyesight and for your knowledge of the mountain. Thank you for easing our climb with your jokes about forest perfume and forest toilet paper. Thank you for your proverbs and for sharing with us about why husbands need to have red eyes. Those that want to know the full tale need to climb the mountain with you! We certainly won’t forget you soon!

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Xavier

To Xavier: You led a fabulous team. You are organized to a tee. You looked after us, fed us and helped us keep warm. You always ensured there was a hot cup of tea waiting for us at every camp stop. You ensured that we had warm water for bathing. You ensured that we were well fed, and we could tell from the meals, that you put a lot of love and dedication into your work. You ensured that we had boiled water to drink every day to carry with us on our hikes. You were always ready to serve and to meet a need. You have kind eyes, a lovely smile and a warm, humble and gentle spirit. You blessed us a lot!

To Emma and the team of porters: What can I say?! Thank you for your quiet service. Thank you for fetching all the water we needed for drinking, for cooking food and for bathing. Thank you for helping us set up camp. Thank you for cleaning up after us and making sure both the camp we were at, and the next camp, were always well kept and orderly. Thank you for cutting the firewood that we needed each evening. Thank you for listening to Xavier and for never once complaining under the weight of our heavy luggage. I watched you do excellent service with no spotlight on you, no accolades following you. You were humble and dedicated. That made a powerful impression on me about what it truly means to do service above self.

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Emma (red jacket)

You all impacted our lives greatly. We would never have succeeded in climbing the mountain without you. You were truly invaluable to our lives. We thank you again and again. May God bless each and every one of you, may He make his face to shine upon you and may He give you peace. Amen.