Was it real? That was the question on my mind the day after getting to Margherita peak. It seemed surreal that just a day before I had climbed to the highest point in Uganda. I had to pinch myself just to make sure that this was all not a dream.
What was real though, was the fatigue I still felt after walking for more than fourteen hours the day before. I didn’t think I could make the long walk from Kitandara to base camp. I wanted to spend one more night at Nyabitaba. I wanted to take things easy, and let the weariness leave my mind and body slowly and gently. I was ready to spend one more night on the mountain. In the end, I went with the majority decision which was to keep to our schedule of getting to base camp on Day 7.
After being frozen to the bone the night before, the sun was a welcome reprieve as we made our way down to Kitandara Camp. After the bare rock and sparse vegetation on Elena, it was nice to walk back down to plant life. The mountain became alive again with different shades of green. The greens of the plants meshed with the brown-blacks of the moss covered rocks to make for quite a scenic view. We passed by Scott Elliot Pass. On Day 6, I was generally spaced out. I wasn’t paying much attention to the explanations of the guides, so I totally missed the significance of Scott Elliot Pass. I kept smiling to myself the whole way down to Kitandara. I was glad to have done Margherita. That was all I could think about. For me, Rwenzori was over and done with. The rest was to get myself down the mountain and back to my daily grind. I promised myself I would no longer complain about Kampala’s heat. I was so tired of the cold on the mountain. I knew though, that I would miss the clean crisp air.
When we got to Kitandara, among the first things we did was to take a bath. It felt good to wash off the dirt and fatigue of the previous two days. We had very quick baths and I jumped onto my sleeping bag. Kitandara Camp is right on the shore of Lake Kitandara and the place was cold. All my life I have dreamed of living by the lake, and on this one day when I had the opportunity, I was holed up in my sleeping bag, too cold to enjoy the view.
At some point, we found out that the porters had lit a fire, so we went over and asked if we could sit by the fire with them. Joy had her little speaker and she played some famous Ugandan hits like ‘Sitya Loss’ and some of the porters were able to get their grove on. It was nice to have this disco on the mountain. It was nice to break the silence of the mountain. It was nice to connect with the porters through the language of music. All week long we had felt bad that we couldn’t connect with them because we did not know Lukonzo. But the music broke through the language barrier as we danced or swayed together to the music. We had fun.
We took a moment that evening, to record a video in which we each expressed what climbing the Rwenzori meant to us, why we had done the climb, and what lesson(s) we had learned. It made me happy that we all felt we achieved something, that we met a goal together. After all this was over, I was going to miss these guys. We had worked hard the last seven months to get to this point.
That night our guides came into our cabin for the last review meeting. We had bonded on the mountain. I respected the guides for their skill and experience on the mountain, for their helpfulness and their kindness to us and for their patience with us too, for all the knowledge and stories they had shared with us as we hiked up the mountain. Jacob our chef also came for the review meeting and spoke about the last breakfast we were going to have on the mountain the next day. We thanked him for feeding us so well and for ensuring we had hot water for our baths. The whole team had served us with distinction. I felt truly honored to have shared my mountain journey with this wonderful group of people.