Over the weekend I went hiking in the Albertine rift valley or Semuliki Valley as some may call it, with hiking group Mountain Slayers.
The 370km journey from Kampala to Ntoroko district and the winding roads from Fort Portal to Bumaga tourist site where we were to set up camp did nothing or little to prepare us for what we were about to put our bodies through the next day.
Uganda is averagely 1100m above sea level but Ntoroko district is an exception to that. It’s one of the lowest regions putting it somewhere between 700m and 950m above sea level, so you can only imagine how humid it gets in the valleys.
5 hills Conquest
At the start of the hike, we were briefed by the guides about how we were just going up 5 hills that is Kyamutema, Nyamitoto, Nyamitwa, Kaleyale, and Mukonzo and descend to the Semuliki National Park hot springs, it sounded like it was going to be like a walk in the park and the hills gave off the perfect visual con.
Apart from climbing the Rwenzori Mountain, never have I ever started a hike and its incline in the first 100m. This should have set off the warning signs for most of us but alas, there was talk of flat ground ahead.
At the base of the first hill, the guide pointed to some trees which were majestically standing at the top of the hill and said “that’s our destination.” Little did we know what lied ahead.
We hiked and as soon as we would summit one hill, another one would be towering right ahead. “They said it was a journey of 5 hills, then why does it feel like I have summited more than 5 or the small ones don’t count?” I pondered.
The beauty from the top of the hills is one many of us couldn’t fathom, the way the rolling hills just blend with the valley, the sound of birds chirping and flow of water streams, the fresh air and burnt calories made the journey to the top all worth it.
The locals believe that on top of Nyamitwa hill there is a pool but it can only be seen by a select few. This left me wondering why this pool was selective on who sees it and who doesn’t. We would have so loved to feast our eyes but as the locals say, “it’s just a few of them who are gifted to see it.”
The journey to the top is never the same as the one to the base. It’s gruesome, this is where fitness levels are tested, where knees, heels and every muscle you probably have never felt before is felt.
The descend was the part that was omitted from the briefing. The journey back made people question why they would willingly spend their hard-earned money to come and torture their bodies while others wondered what we were looking for.
It was so draining and challenging to some people that it made them implement moves I have only seen kids do and that’s to move in a seated position. Others like myself resorted to walking backward, the pain my toes were feeling was unbearable.
It was surprising that when I decided to play music off my phone, the moods of the people next to me were lifted, I don’t know if it’s because music distracted them from the pain or the soothing “look up child” track by Lauren Daigle that just spoke to their situation.
The locals had a time of their lives as they laughed at those of us who struggled. The terrain was nothing to them, we often saw them run up and down the hills with ease.
The hike was about 13km but I kid you not, my body felt like it was 30km. It’s no wonder my friend thought we were looking for God because we hiked from 9 am and got back to camp after sunset.
But when it was all said done, the pain was worth it. We can’t have a rainbow without a little rain. Would I do this hike again? Definitely, it made us respect and fall in love with the Semuliki Valley.