Think horror movie. Think of a sound track to the scariest movie you have ever watched and play it in your mind. Think of a guy with a cape, eyes covered, suddenly jumping onto the stage and shouting in a very loud voice – THE BOG!
That’s what I felt like on Day 3. This was the famous bog day and my, had we heard and read about THE BOG on Rwenzori! I had conjured pictures in my mind of quick sand, of how one misstep would mean that you would sink into the mountain or at best, remain stuck in one position, like Lot’s wife when she looked back at the city of Sodom. I didn’t tell my other climbing mates that these were the visions playing in my head. I didn’t want them to think I was going cuckoo!
Every evening before we went to bed, it became common practice to have a review meeting with our guides. They would come into our hut, find us huddled together for warmth, they would stand together in a line and prepare to deliver the highlights of the journey of the next day. On the night of Day 2, the three guides came in, stood before us, waited until our banter died down and then told us about THE BOG. There was to be a Lower Bigo Bog and an Upper Bigo Bog. And there was a board walk over the bog. Philemon, our lead guide, said he had scouted the place we were to walk on Day 3 and was glad to report that since the place was dry, we wouldn’t have too much trouble walking over the bog. Still, my heart thumped and my head reeled. I had learned, as all mountain climbers do, to take the guides word with a large pinch of salt. When they say something is easy, you multiply the hardship for yourself by 1,000. So when Philemon said the bog was dry, in my head I pictured an overly soggy sludge – waiting to suck me in and hold onto me tight! One of our climbing mates from RMS had coined the slogan “Miss the Log, Enjoy the Bog” – to warn us about staying on the logs once we hit the bog area. I suppose that was meant to guide and re-assure us, instead, it scared me the more.
The morning of the second day was a sunny though chilly day. We woke up to a clear blue sky and we were able to view Mount Stanley and the Margherita peak. They seemed so near yet to far away. The glacier around the mountain looked daunting. I tried hard not to think too much about it. We had breakfast, put on our rubber boots and set off towards THE BOG!
I was pleasantly surprised to find that, thanks to Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), there was a long board walk over the bog which enabled us hop, skip and jump right over it. In fact, walking over the Lower Bigo Bog, we hardly encountered any bog. I was elated! I danced. Michelle, one of my climbing mates actually took a picture of me dancing on the board walk. The board walk is a long trail of slabs of wood nailed together over long pieces of wood and suspended just above the bog. When I found I had nothing to fear, I became ecstatic. Even the Upper Bigo Bog (for some reason, when the guide spoke about upper bog, I thought we were going to walk through bog while climbing a steep part of the mountain…) was no challenge at all. But we were told that during the rainy season, the bog actually gets problematic, the board walk is slippery and people have to walk more carefully in order not to slip off and land into the bog. We were also told that before UWA built the board walk, hikers would have to jump from tussock to tussock (mounds of earth with grass growing on top of them), in order to avoid falling into the bog. That kind of jumping made the bog walk an arduous task.
After the board walk, we rested by River Bujuku and once again, I sat right in the water, atop some protruding rocks. The sun was out, the weather was lovely, the day was pleasant, the view was scenic – what more could a girl ask for? After the rest by the river, we walked on through steep terrain, until we came to Bujuku Lake, a quiet, serene place tucked away in Bujuku Valley. We took in the sight and just marveled. Many times words fail me in describing just how beautiful and scenic Mount Rwenzori is. It’s one of those things you have to see with your own eyes, one of those things for which a camera lens does not even begin to capture the essence of. The beauty is soul deep. The beauty makes you marvel at God the Almighty, the Creator. The beauty makes you literally stand in awe, with jaw dropped. The beauty of the mountain is like being let in on a precious jewel and it’s totally humbling to think about how honored you are to be among the few Ugandans who will ever see such raw and undefiled beauty. The mountain experience is a worship experience like no other.
We walked through the bog by Bujuku Lake, as we made our way to Bujuku Camp. Once we arrived at the camp, we went through our ritual of the two minute bath and had some tea. That evening we watched the sun play ‘catch me if you can’ with the clouds. The sun would appear, high up in the sky and just when we were warming ourselves, thick clouds would come crashing into the valley from all sides and erase any semblance of the sun, and with the clouds came a cold chill. Then after a few minutes, the sun would come out again and the clouds would come chasing after it again. This ritual went on until nightfall.
That evening at Bujuku, we tried on our crampons and harnesses again, just to make sure they fit right. As we sat around our little dining-cum-sitting room table, we told each other stories about ourselves – things we didn’t know about each other. That was a moment of great insight and it helped me appreciate my climbing mates even more. After dinner, we sang a song “We Have Decided to Climb This Mountain” (set to the tune of the song “I Have Decided To Follow Jesus”). We sang the song loud and proud. We declared that there was no turning back and that we would make it all the way to the top of Mount Rwenzori!