The cold was unbearable! Even after wearing two pairs of long warm socks, two pairs of warm trousers, two t-shirts, a warm sweater, two pairs of woolen gloves and a warm cap over my head, I still felt the cold seeping through to my bones. I tried to lay still underneath my sleeping bag to try and keep warm, but the hard ground forced me to change positions every now and then making sleeping unbearable for the night. I was extremely fatigued and needed as much rest as possible to gather energy for the next day.
Katharina, Emma and I had hiked for 28km from the Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre to our camping station for the night at Kajeri. The trails were moderately easy during the first phase of the hike with plenty of plants and bird species to see along the way, but got really steep by the time we got to the camp. The porters were really helpful; lighting up firewood to keep us warm and boiling water for baths and hot coffee. This didn’t seem to help much in the long run, but was a good temporary solution. I almost thought we had to Alaska and were not in Uganda anymore, because the cold was so extreme…..
After having several cups of coffee the following morning, we hurriedly picked up our walking sticks at about 9 am – keen to get going and to try and stay warm though the exercise. We walked for a while through flat plains and steep slopes till we got to the Jackson Pool, a beautiful water source with an interesting history. We took some photos and later proceeded towards the caldera. The beauty was unbelievable, the vegetation was sol lush and green. I felt so relaxed and out of this world.
I realised the porters had walked way ahead of me, as they were expected to set the camp for our team, whilst Emma and Katharina were way behind me. I felt a sense of guilt leaving them behind, but the fact that I have very long legs and had hiked seven mountains prior to Mount Elgon, meant my pace and fitness levels were quite good. It was interesting to know later on that Katharina got cut off from the group at some point and decided to play reggae music with hopes of scaring potential wild animals away. I was laughing so hard at the Mude camp as she narrated the story. We walked for 20km that day starting at 9am and finishing at 4pm.
I decided to act as brave as a lion on the morning of the third day and had a bath in the open. It was essential to wash away the dirt and sweat from the previous day, wear very warm clothes and head out to the summit point. The most exciting day for all hikers is reaching the summit point of any mountain; it is such a rewarding and fulfilling moment. After dressing up in my warm clothes, I picked up a piece of coal from the ground and proudly wrote my achievement on the wooden wall of Mude Camp. It said, “Pascqa Lorna Abur, 08th-July-2018, my 7th mountain in Uganda, Mountain Club of Uganda.” Katharina took a lovely photo of me standing next to it, which was a great souvenir of a special moment.
We all headed out as a group towards the summit point. After several hours of walking, I felt that the pace was a bit too slow for me and informed the group I would walk way ahead; thanks to my long legs that constantly take large strides! The path to the summit point was a combination of easy trails and rocky surfaces; it was very cold and foggy making it near impossible to see where I was going. My toes felt frozen and numb, my lips were dry and partially cracked. In fact my entire body felt extremely cold despite the fact that I was warmly dressed. For a moment I thought I was lost, everything around me was calm and quiet, a bird flew from one tree top to the other just in front, scaring me shitless. I almost thought a wild animal was ready to attack me. Though my eyes were partially blinded by the mist and fog, I caught sight of the Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) sign post at a distance. The summit point was about a three minute walk from where I was, but due to the excitement, I decided to run there instead. My cold and fatigue was temporarily forgotten, I dropped down my back pack, and yelled “summit point’’, at the top of my voice for the rest to know that they were close by.
After taking several photos at the summit point and taking in some refreshments we quickly retraced our steps back to camp. It was an extremely cold day and we wanted to warm up at the fire place. We had hiked for 18km that day from 8.30am-4pm. At the camp, we had a warm meal with coffee and tried to fall asleep on the cold, hard floor of the camp.
The fourth day was the last day of the trek, which meant we were finally heading home. It was also one of the most difficult days as it had rained so much, leaving the trails muddy and slippery. We slipped and fell down numerous times, it was a frustrating walk. The strain on the ankles and knees was extreme resulting in a lot of pain. We were very excited to see Allan our driver waiting for us at the base of the mountain; it was such a relief and the end of a physically challenging but mind blowing hike.