Since the day I arrived in Rwanda, I have wanted to climb all of the surrounding volcanoes (there are five in Rwanda). Ok, I take that back, it was too cloudy to see any of these volcanoes my first few days here….so maybe since my fifth day in Rwanda. Regardless, my favorite of these mountains is Mt. Sabyinyo, which means old man’s teeth. Seeing this volcano nearly every day, I have wanted nothing more than to stand at the top of it. This past weekend I got to do just that. The idea of scheduling and planning doesn’t work here quite like it does in the states, but after rescheduling our hiking trip a few time, we finally made our way to Uganda this past Sunday (you can’t hike sabyinyo from Rwanda). After being dropped at the boarder, making it through the immigration process and dealing with the moneychangers, we hopped on some motos and started our journey to Amajambere Community Camp (which was a great little place to stay) just outside of Mgahinga National Park. Apparently anything goes in Uganda, including riding two people (three including the driver) per moto, without helmets. So we decided to save a few schillings and ride two per person plus our bags on what ended up being about an hour drive on rocky, hilly, dirt roads. It was more like off-roading. We only had to get off and walk a few times, and my friends’ bike only flipped once (ours tipped on the way back) before we made it safely to our camp just before dark.
After some dinner, euchre, and a much-needed star gazing session under the clear Ugandan sky, we headed to bed to rest up for the hike. I’m not much of a morning person, but thankfully my good friend S.J. is. After some unsuccessful attempts to coax me out of bed, she mentioned the sunrise outside of our dark, cozy sleeping quarters. That’s all it took. I was up, and it was worth it. The sky was on fire and after some breakfast I was ready to make my way up the mountain that had brought me there. We were pleased to discover that our camp was only a few steps from the entrance to the park where we met our guides (more like armed escorts) and had a short briefing before making our way towards the volcano. As we made our way up the trail, we passed through several different types of terrain. After starting out in an open field with a view of our goal (which looked really far away), we made our way through some areas of deep foliage at which point a massive buffalo jumped across the path just in front of us. Next came the swamp. Our guide stepped very strategically and seemed to float over some spots of land where I quickly sank despite my attempt to carefully follow his every step. On the way back I was not as successful and at one point slipped, sending my foot deep into the thick muddy swamp. With little struggle I pulled my foot out of the mud…unfortunately only my foot came out, but after a little more struggling my shoe made it too. Thank goodness for my Gortex shoes. Five years of wear and tear and they still kept my feet dry, swamp sinking and all. As we made our way up the mountain we walked through a bamboo forest, an, “enchanted forest,” of trees covered with moss, and then began to make our way up some ladders leading to the first of three peaks.
At each of the three peaks we stopped long enough to rest our legs, catch our breath, take in the view and do some serious snacking before making our way back down and up to the next peak. At the top of the third peak Rwanda, Uganda and Congo all meet. On each peak the ladders and stairs got a little steeper and were vertical at some points. After some more serious snacking at the top of the third peak, and a few attempted handstands in a sort of hole where the three countries meet, we made our way back across the first two peaks and back down the mountain.
This hike was everything I hoped for and more. The trip that we packed into about 28 hours was food for my soul. Maybe because it was a much needed break from life in town, maybe because I finally reached the top of the jagged giant that I admire every day. Or perhaps it was because of the reminder of what and incredible God we have, and what an imagination he has. And the great friends I was with; People that have been an unexpected blessing during my time here. No matter how much I write (or how many photos I post), I won’t be able to accurately describe the beauty of this place or the way it feels to peacefully stand on top of a mountain in the middle of three countries filled with so much pain and destruction below.
We made it back down the mountain just in time to catch our cramped motos for a final (off) road adventure. With a full heart and tired muscles I caught glimpses of the sunset as I tried to keep the dust and bugs out of my eyes on the moto ride back to the border. Once we crossed back into Rwanda, a friend was kind enough to pick us up and give us a ride back….in his truck with no headlights. So, with the hazard lights on we ended our adventure dodging people, motos, and holes in the road as we hoped our driver could see at least a little more than we could.
A few more photos…