The sunsets and the hills, a warm welcome to the highlands of Elgon, the foothills not nearly close to sea level, a rising altitude, a mighty giant, a hidden treasure.
A calm and beautiful morning, I set my sights on this enormous task, not my first impression, expectations were an easy ride, 4mountain peaks behind my belt, one the highest in Uganda, I matched on confident and brave, like any experienced soldier. My fellow compatriots Joel and Joseph, well-armed and ready. We set off from the foothills, we treaded through steep farmlands of communities, the climb an instant aerobic to the heart and breath.
Outside the communities, the mighty forest begins, unexpected was the vastness and greenery, always imagined Mt Elgon a bit arid compared to most, we go closer into the thick forest, rising ever higher, steeper, taller, more daunting than I am prepared for, I pant and puff, steady as I go… Hoping the heart of the challenge is all but almost done, rivers we cross, some names I can’t recall, Sasa and Sipi may be. The steady sound of streams flowing downhill gives me comfort, a sense of renewed energy, an extra breath.
In a few miles, in a few rises, the endless comes to an end, thick forest cover is gone, now we kiss the heavens, the clouds and ohhh the beautiful moor lands begin. Beautiful grasslands with a perfect mix of strange beings or trees I suppose. Like an explorer eager to see the next river bend, hoping for an answer to the source of all his questions, the forest ends, like a black hole thrusting you into a much larger universe.
Everything at the moorlands too vast, too beautiful, too endless, ranges ranging beyond what eyes can see, vastness beyond my veil of imagination, a 360 degree view and I still feel limited in sight, now, now you feel the tingly feeling, the awe, the breathlessness, the smallness of your being, you feel like a human cast into the God’s room. Peaks and gorges, vast valleys, tranches, ridges, cliffs and most of all the Grand Canyon as I like to call it… Nothing will prepare you for this size of scenery all around. So much to stop and stare. Stop and stare, kneel, breath, scream if want to, feel every bit of your DNA at one with its true source, man from dust, something so binding, so natural, inexplicable feelings up this mountain, the crater lakes, pools and cliffs.
In awe, in drinking all this, I must finish my task, I must not give in to these obtuse cravings, I soldier on, heavier is my breath, heavier is my head, now at 4000 meters above sea level. The God’s are not gentle with their treasures, they test your will, the winds get stronger, sometimes nagging you a foot off your step, you dig in for each of your next steps. I nourish the machine, like some need fuel, I consume more h2o, my oxygen, my life line, my only way to reach the gates. I straddle onwards, I bow with every step closer, they need to see my humility, not weakness but respect, I match on steadily, rocks and stones, to test your sharpness, akin to every step, careful in climb and strife.
In the coolness, and biting cold, my hand in glove, my shades at guard, bright rays and white light, I see a glimmer, a metallic shine, alas my heart is fonder, the gates at sight, I fasten my steps, my chest and body get back to form, hope is one but a beautiful reminder, I match on more confident, no longer pushed by the wind, like a wall of rock, I match on, steady is my breath, steady is my step. At this gate, I kneel before her, echoing her names, Wagagai, it is finished, I collapse into a joyful exhaustion, screaming her name at heart.
It’s one feast for the eyes I cannot put to words, take on the Elgon challenge, your breathe will tell your story. Goodbye ancient friend, and miles to go before we meet again. Miles to go before we meet again.