The first night at Sasa River Camp was a long one partly because we went to bed quite early, but also because we kept waking up through the night. It was hard for us to adjust to a night in the woods in the cold, sleeping on the ground in a tent. While the sleeping bags we had were warm, they were body hugging and in order to switch sides in a bid to find a comfortable sleeping position, one had to be be fully awake to turn oneself at a ninety degree angle. And we had to repeat this process quite a lot not just that night, but through all the nights on the mountain.
On the second day of the climb which was Tuesday 26th May, we woke up just after 6 a.m. We had breakfast consisting of tea and some frankfurters. We then packed our bags, went back to the river side to brush our teeth in the ice cold water, and then we set off for the next camp. We started our walk at 8:15 a.m.
Half of the walk that day was through the forest. Since my feet were so tired from the walk on the first day, I decided to discard my climbing boots, and instead opted to wear my trainers (canvass shoes). I figured that wearing much lighter shoes would enable me not get so tired. Boy did I make the wrong choice! Because it had rained the night before, most of the forest ground we walked through was still quite wet. By the time we stopped for our first rest, two hours into the hike, my shoes and socks were totally soaked with water! As I walked I could literally hear a loud squishing sound from my water logged shoes. When we stopped to rest, I took off my trainers and put on my climbing boots once again. My lesson from that episode was that when hiking on a mountain, it’s always best to wear water proof foot wear.
The hike that second day was the easiest and most pleasant of the five days. The weather was warm and sunny, and the vegetation changed from forest to heath. We made it to Mude Cave Camp at 11:45 a.m. and decided to relax for the rest of the day. The camp is named after an infamous poacher called Mude, who, in his time, managed to elude the authorities. He finally died in a cave where the camp site is, hence the name Mude Cave Camp.
Mude Camp was quite cold. The camp is 3,900 meters above sea level and is surrounded by about five hills. It was fascinating to watch the clouds completely envelop the valleys and hills almost every five minutes, and with the clouds came a sharp cold wind that chilled us to the bone. At Mude I went to bed wearing a warm trouser, two sweaters and gloves, and I was still cold!
One of the things that most struck me about Mude Camp was the silence of the mountain. It’s so still and quiet there. There is hardly any sound, except the occasional bird. A few days before the climb, Michelle had shared a verse from the Bible with me, that says that the mountains sing (Isaiah 55:12), and I was looking forward to hearing the music of the mountain. I tried to make out the music through the stillness, until it struck me that the stillness and silence is the music of the mountain. Mountains stand still because they know who God is.
That revelation brought to memory verses like – “For I have stilled and quieted my soul like a weaned child with its mother.” (Psalm 131:2); “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10); “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him” (Psalm 37:7). The silence also brought to memory the song “In the secret, in the quiet place, in the stillness, You are there”, by Chris Tomlin. When I understood the song of the mountain, I worshiped along with the mountain – in silence and reverence to God Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who formed the mountains, Who made them tall, strong and majestic – unrivaled in beauty and splendor.