I’m committed now. You have it in writing. There’s no going back – only up!
I don’t know when and I don’t know by which route; I don’t know who is coming with me, nor do I know which obstacles I’ll find on my path to getting fit again, but I’ve committed to climbing the Rwenzori Mountains. I’ve been looking for a new challenge, and this is it.
A few weeks ago, I received a phone call asking if I would be interested in helping to put together a rebranding and marketing strategy for the Rwenzori Mountains region. Would I be interested? Our client is the Uganda Tourism Board and the donor is World Wildlife Fund. Interesting fact (for me, at least!) WWF is the first conservation organisation I ever encountered. In fact, ‘back in the day’ (at primary school) I was a member of the WWF’s Panda Club! I can’t tell you what an honour it is to be working with WWF-Uganda and Associate Professor Wilber Ahebwa to develop tourism in the Rwenzoris. By developing and promoting successful community tourism projects, we can help keep encroachers and poachers out of the National Parks. (Doesn’t that tell you how significant it is for young people to learn about the environment?)
And so a fortnight ago, our team (who I will introduce next week) departed for the Rwenzori region to visit a few of the key stakeholders and communities who will be part of this project. A lot of research has already been done on the ground but WWF wanted us to see for ourselves some of the tourism activities that can be developed and promoted.
I’m as guilty as the next person for having bypassed the region many times and rarely stopping. Several years ago I stayed at the excellent Ruboni Community Camp (where all profits go back to the local community). I’m delighted to hear it is still firmly on the tourist map, but like so many tourist activities in the area, it could do with a boost.
This month’s visit was the first time I actually entered Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Like most people, I thought I was too unfit to scale any of the peaks so I dismissed the whole idea of walking in the Rwenzoris, “for the timebeing.” Well, that was several years ago now.
My week in the region has been illuminating. Full-scale peak climbing is just one of the options, and only a few people will have the fitness and time to do this. There are actually dozens of shorter walks suitable for just about everyone: one day, two day, three day or more, and now I want to do all of them of course! There are an incredible 50 lakes in the Rwenzoris, waterfalls, rivers, spectacular chameleons, birdlife that you will see nowhere else, and so much more. Over the next few weeks and months I’ll be telling you a lot more about the Rwenzori region.
First, let me tell you what I’ve been doing this week.
Last Friday we had an opportunity to sit with John Hunwick, owner of Rwenzori Trekking Services. I’ve thrown a few enquiries his way thanks to a guest blog my friend Jane Goldring wrote about her Rwenzori climb with RTS (one of my most popular blogs incidentally). John was quick to invite me to climb the mountain with RTA, for free. Well Diary of a Muzungu would be nothing without complementaries (!) and this is just the opportunity I’ve been waiting for.
I’ve neglected my fitness over the last two years I’m ashamed to admit. I hurt my foot (through too MUCH exercise, ironically) and gave up while I waited for it to heal. In the meantime I’ve been getting depressed. I’ve missed hanging out with my Boot Camp and Hash House Harrier buddies… but enough already, time to get back on track.
Climbing the Rwenzoris is not going to be simple. Even at my fittest, I know I’m susceptible to altitude sickness. I felt pretty rotten on my last day of climbing Mount Elgon, and that particular summit is ‘only’ 4,321 metres. I’d love to reach one of the Rwenzoris’ peaks. The highest, Margherita Peak, is 5,109 metres.
I’ve been studying mountain climbing a lot these past weeks and if I don’t summit, it’s not going to be the end of the world. It’s not make or break (although of course I want to!) I relish these next few weeks and months of training almost as much as getting as far as the Rwenzori Mountains. I’ve done similar challenges in the past. They are a real BUZZ!
I need to get fit and I need to lose weight. Losing a few kilos will get me up the mountain a bit easier! Losing a few kilos lessons the chance of injury as well.
Positive stuff I’ve done this week! (Keeping a record keeps me motivated):
Visited Boot Camp to discuss a training schedule with our coach Diamond (didn’t actually exercise, I confess!) Walked from Naguru to Kisementi (45 minutes); ate Super Vitamin salad and healthy chia seed juice for lunch; walked the Hash (1 hour, lots of steep hills, and no beers afterwards); walked one hour today, upto the top of Naguru Hill. (I haven’t given up alcohol completely nor am I exercising every day yet, but I will get there). I have committed to a workout at 6 o’clock tomorrow morning! Gulp.
I have approached two travel writer / bloggers to climb the Rwenzoris with me. One said yes and one said no. I don’t know which worries me more. The first one said yes immediately (because he has absolutely no idea what’s involved!) The second one said no immediately (because “I climbed Mount Kenya once and my experience was so lousy when I hear mountain climbing I shudder with fright.”) I’m glad for the second reaction, it will keep me focused. I have to train for an absolute minimum of two months. If I don’t climb by mid-September, I will have missed the good weather window for this year. (Let me get on and train anyway).
Do you want to climb the Rwenzoris? Have you climbed before? Do you have any tips to help me prepare for this hiking experience? (Do you think I’m mad?)
Wish me luck!