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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU


My latest adventure started when I heard about a set of dormant volcanoes near the border of Uganda, Rwanda, and DRC. Who wouldn’t want to be in three places at once?

Yeah, I should have really thought this thing through.

So, as a very belated birthday gift to myself, I decided to get a merry band of misfits together to tackle this whole idea of three-places-at-once thing. Little did I know, not preparing would come back to bite us all in the behind. 

I began my disjointed journey at 6 am when I headed into Kyotera and found a taxi heading to Masaka, where I was to meet Allison on the post bus (the only way to travel relatively efficiently in Uganda). Of course, the POST bus wasn’t going to the POST office (clearly my logic was not shared by the individuals who were driving the post bus) so after waiting for a while I had to take another vehicle out to Nyendo where I was able to successfully catch the post bus. After a very long time (and a zebra sighting) we got to Kabale where we picked up the final part of the trio, Alia. After another hour (where we passed through an airfield and got to see an actual UN Refugee camp) we made it to the hostel in Kisoro just in time for a rain storm and no power. Oh Uganda, may God uphold thee…

While at the hostel, we noticed the immense mountains surrounding the area and we wondered which we would be climbing (clearly, we hadn’t done as much research as we should have). When we were told which mountain we would be hiking, the fear struck us like a bolt of lightning (it also didn’t help that we were told we would have to climb ladders towards the three peaks of the mountain). We went to bed that night with dreams of ladders and great heights swimming through our heads, as well as a very strong hope that we would be successful in our endeavor.

We weren’t.

When we started the hike, we quickly realized how unprepared we were. The initial slope to the base of the mountain was at such a steep incline, it took us twice as long as usual to make it to the base. From there it only got worse. Not only did we get our shoes stuck in mud (knee deep in some places), but the incline and altitude combination hit us so hard, we had to stop every few minutes. It also didn’t help that a lot of the trails were on the steep slopes of the mountain, making me think about the possibility of falling to my death. I’m sure the guide did not appreciate this. When we got to what the guide considered the ‘real’ incline, it was death, true and simple. After about 15 ladders I had to call it quits. It got to a point where I was on all fours, crawling across this ladder and all I could see around me were steep sides (forcing me to picture myself plummeting to the gorge below) and white fog (or clouds). I realized I could go no further and slowly climbed off the ladder and sat on a rock for a while, allowing myself to calm down for the descent (during which we never stopped to take breaks causing me to have Machu Picchu-like issues). At least I wasn’t the only one that had this problem. 

Me climbing one of many ladders to the first peak of Mt. Sabinyo.


Epic fail.


A promise was made to follow a training regimen and make a second attempt. Hopefully that one is a little more successful.

After the failed hike, I went up to Gulu to visit Michelle’s (another volunteer) site, Clean Water Initiative. Some amazing people back home decided to donate money to her organization and I thought I’d check up on the progress of the projects to which the money was going. 

The travel to the site was long and the road very dusty and bumpy which really showed me how remote the area was and probably how far the community members had to walk to fetch water. When we got to the site of the bore hole, there were mostly community members working on the pumping mechanism as well as the cement around it. It was really amazing to see how invested the community was in the project. Out of all the people there, only two were not members of the community, and those were supervisors and contracted workers who were merely watching the work to make sure it was done correctly. 
 
After they finished putting together the pumping mechanism, they pumped some water and it was just plain awesome. I don’t know how else to put it, really. The community members let me pump some water and while I knew I probably looked like an idiot, but it was cool to see progress in action. Knowing that the community had a cleaner and safer water source really made me happy.

Making a fool of myself pumping clean water.



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