I am one of those sentimental types. I like to keep memorabilia when I travel. I look for things that will remind me of the place I have been to. I like to take a piece of the place home and store it with me, not just in my memory, but in a physical space, where I can look at it every now and then.
One of the things I have kept from my three mountain climbs, are the walking sticks I used. I used a different stick for each mountain. The first stick from Mt. Elgon is a wooden stick, plucked for me by the lead guide as we walked through the rain forest in the lower belt of the mountain. The second stick, from Muhabura, is one I chose for myself. There were sticks stacked in the corner of the visitor waiting area outside the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) office. After we paid the hiking fees, we were told to choose a stick. I chose a bamboo stick. The third stick that I used for Rwenzori was a gift from a work colleague. It’s a store bought stick, metallic blue in color with the word ‘Pinnacle’ written along one side. It’s a sturdy stick, with a strong handle and a firm grip.
I treasure these sticks. I came to rely on the walking sticks as much as I relied on my eyes for sight and my legs for walking. The walking sticks became like a third leg. They helped me navigate the sticky and tricky sections of the climb. The sticks held my weight sometimes. On a particularly steep part, I would hold the stick firmly as I hoisted myself up. On the descent, the stick would go before me, poking and prodding around, ensuring that the ground was firm and where the stick went, my feet would follow. The sticks became my silent companion on every climb, faithful friends to the end. They never abandoned me, never complained. They didn’t mind my pace, didn’t mind that I would lean on them when I became weary.
I took great care of the sticks as I climbed. I was careful where I placed them, making sure they wouldn’t break. I was careful to keep them visible, so that I knew where they were at all times. The sticks were the first thing I reached for each time we started a hike, and they were they were the first thing I placed down at the end of each hike.
I like to think that the sticks listened in, as I said my prayers or recited verses as I encouraged myself to keep going, when the going got tough. They didn’t judge, they didn’t laugh. They stood with me at my darkest moments.
I have three sticks for the three mountains, one for each mountain. Three mountains. Three sticks. Reminds me of God, Three in One, and One in Three. The Holy Trinity. Watching over me. Always with me. Everywhere I go. To the peak and back. His rod and His staff, they comfort me.
Right now, the sticks stand in one corner of my room. One day, I hope they will be placed in a show room, or a museum – a public space where others can see and celebrate with me, these great mountain companions of mine…..