Rwenzori Mountaineering – the company with concession for trekking in the park - you make the booking here
www.rwenzori.com with good descriptions of each stage and how to get there
Kabarole Tours – a locally bases tour company – swift response every time from Richard, the owner
Most of the trek, I was traveling with Sepp
from Spain - he has better descriptions than mine, so do read it - here in original in Spanish or
(translated with google translater)
1 US$ = 2100 Uganda Shillings
Language: English, though it is not the first language for the people in the mountains
guidebooks - get them from here:
bus at 15:00 from Århus – good bye to Birgitte and the
children. 1½ hour to Billund. London. Out with my luggage after
10 minutes! Transfer from south to north terminal. Check-in – the
flight is 1½ hours delayed – this is going bad, I thought. Only
75 minutes to change planes in Dubai, UAE. Sigh. Three scenarios: 1)
the plane waits in Dubai (unlikely) and everybody is happy. 2) We make
it, but the baggage doesn't make the transfer (meaning lot's of
shopping in Kampala) or 3) we don't make it and I have to stay 24 hours
in Dubai and no Mt. Speke.
Emirates is the only long distance flight this evening (except for Male), so when we are delayed, we are by far the latest flight at 22:45.
Good wide-screen personal monitors with lots of movies – good food
The title of my
Lonely Planet book was the same. Had just bought and
read Matheson: I am Legend in Gatwick (see link above). The Entebbe
flight is still on
the ground when we land, but just barely. So I'm rebooked for a Nairobi
bound flight at 15:00 and onwards with the last flight of the day to
Uganda. The mobile works here in Dubai, both for SMS, e-mail and talk,
so starts off with Richard (Kabarole tours) who have arranged my
driver. He'll make sure he is there tonight, and then we'll stay the
night in Entebbe and drive early morning – yes! We are still on for Mt.
Speke – had almost given up on it.
In all the glimmer of Dubai airport, I find a set of free internet terminals. Hazy outside, so cannot even see the highest tower in the world being build (until later when we fly). Reading and free lunch.
Flying over the empty quarter (sand, sand, sand), couldn't get my head from the window flying over beautiful mountainous Yemen (have to go there some time), right over Djibouti (on my top two future destinations), Ethiopia (thunder clouds all the way). In Nairobi (Kenya) at 19:00 – considered a dinner-visit at the Carnivore, but didn't go. Departure at 22:00 with Kenya Airways (25% full) to Entebbe, Uganda. 1 hour. Five nurses welcomed us with masks and formulas to discover if we had A H1N1 flu. Easy getting a Visa (50$) at the two left hand booths (everybody got it there) – even got a receipt for my money. Outside all shops and banks were closed, but a guy quickly opened up his phone-store and changed money for me. Kind of no other options. 2030 Shillings / US$, which was not that bad. Vicent, my driver, was outside with his Toyota Corolla and we drove to the nearby guesthouse Kabarole Tours used – forgot its name, but they had a company called Gorilla Tours. 70.000 Sh times 2 since I had to pay for my driver. So we had a quick good night 'Nile' beer with Vicent and the host. They laughed when I asked if we could go at 5:00 next morning – better at 8:00 they said. But I had to be at the park gate at noon. Was only able to negotiate it to 6:30 – sunrise.
was different about Uganda. Many things were right – the red
earth, cicadas, etc. Then I realized: It was not full of trash
everywhere! And that actually makes a difference.
North along the lake Victoria - congestion around Kampala before going west. Vicent stopped a couple of times – once he pointed at a tree with big blue birds, and another time a tree with 6 Columbus monkeys. Realized at 11:40, approaching Fort Portal, that we would not make it to the gate for noon. I saw that there still was 75 km to Kasese :-( Visited Richard at Kabarole Tours and then on south along the high mountain range that had appeared not long ago. Saw the first sights of the core-peaks of the mountains. At the gate at 13:30. Had thought it was necessary to go to Kasese to pay and rent equipment, but it could be done here at the entrance. Well, it was still too late and even though I had had much writing with the Kampala office on e-mail, it didn't seem as they knew that I was coming. It turned out the next morning that it is more based on who shows up in the morning, and then the trek is organized immediately. But no Mt. Speke – there were just 6 days now to trek. We continued 1½ km to a lodge with good views. A nice cabin and full board (65$). There were several other community camps nearby, so that would probably have been better. Only I was here. The staff was friendly and after afternoon nap, lunch at 15:00, I had a walk into the park with a guy from the lodge.
Breakfast and pick up at 8:30 – to HQ where there was
activity. Sepp from Austria/Spain was also organizing his trek. The
lady in the office said it was possible to include Mt. Speke in a 6 day
trek – "if you are strong". A guy had done the circuit and both
Margarita and Speke in 5 days… Well, then I needed more porters and the
Park entrance fee which was included on pricelist from Kampala was not
on hers – so 1500$. I didn't have that. How much do you have? 1300$.
The boss was summoned – and it was OK (!). My guide was Jomado and
Sepp's was Peter. We were briefed and driven to the park entrance –
near the lodge where I stayed. 15 rangers where at the entrance ready
(for what?). We left at 10:00. The four of us walked together, slowly –
amazingly quiet. No rain, not humid and nice weather. The most of the
way we only had views behind us, but after lunch we could see the
Portal Peaks to the North West. Not the big animal life, except a
totally multicolored chameleon – wow. Up a ridge to Nyabitaba Hut –
arrived at 14:30. Today's walk had been through the forest and zone.
Then the porters, cooks and workers started arriving. Sepp asked his guide how many people he had – 8 porters! My backpack had not arrived and when my cook came, I could see that Jomado was not looking happy. He ran down the path and was back around 18:00. It turned out that one of the porters had forgotten the ice axe and had gone back, so Jomado had taken the backpack up. Wonderful views to the Portal Peaks (Rutara) when the clouds opened up.
Chicken with rice – fine – and pineapple. Each of our cooks served us our dinner, and they did not seem to cooperate a lot. Rained this evening – maybe 12-15 degrees.
Had not been stung by mosquitoes, so stopped with my Malarone, since we are over 2500 m in altitude.
at 7, breakfast, started walking at 8:30. First we walked down to a
bridge crossing a river and still a nicely cleared path. We soon saw
why – many of the people we had seen arrive yesterday was path-clearer.
We passed 15 today whacking the path clear. Soon in zone 3 with bamboo
and then to zone 4 – the heather zone with bearded trees. The most of
the walk was up a ravine. Several books and descriptions had said this
was the hardest part, but is was not so bad. Vertical walls several
places and more and more of the mythical forest – a ghost forest some
would say. The clouds changed positions all the time, so the views were
different constantly. Lunch at noon by a streak and then: bogs.
Strenuous but very, very beautiful. Surreal – but nice. Difficult to
describe, but they have put out many logs to walk on, but hard not to
step wrong. Your brain runs on full speed to calculate the next
position of your foot – if I was a computer, I would have been very
warm. The porters had put my boots before the bogs, so that was
John Matte hut was in a very nice place, though the peaks were hidden. The first glimpses of the glaciers could be spotted. ½ hour of rain, but then sun, clouds – yes, it changed all the time. The guide and ports kept to them selves.
I don't really feel the heights, except that it is cold – 10-12 degrees. Every minute reveals new views, so have been watching mountains, nature and sky for hours, drinking coffee and relaxing.
I measured my pulse – it was 107 while resting…
had measured 7 degrees in the hut this morning. My personal
butler, Vincent served 'plain omelets' and coffee. Again a fine
morning. Had a little headache, but don't think it is the altitude but
my usual neck problem I get when I don't have my usual pillow. And the
small backpack weighing down on my shoulders.
Left at 8:15 – first jumping from plant to plan. Today is rubber boot and swamp day. But after 10 minutes we were into the lower Bigo Bog and there was a nice new bridge spanning the whole bog – wow, nice work. Good views all around – specially north towards the Mt. Speke massif. Next hard walking up towards Upper Bigo Bog which was very tiresome. A few places there were remains of an old bridge, but mostly nothing. Lunch a little higher up with views down the valley we had climbed. From before Lake Bujuku and around the lake – that was the hardest part. Totally buggy. At one point, I fell in all the way up to my groin and maybe I had continued if Jomado hadn't caught me. At Bujuku Hut at the end of the valley at 13:15. Views to Mt. Stanley (Margherita and Alexandra peaks) from the time we got to the lake. Speke is not easily seen, since the hut is right at the mountain base. Mt. Baker to the south east was not seen today – in the clouds.
Coffee and a mini tour up to the Stuhlmann pass – the pass into DR Congo. Only 45 minutes. Not a great view since the valley on the other side twists. A few minutes from the hut, there is the Garden of Eden – super, super beautiful and lovely. Spend a couple of hours there by the small stream, the mountains, the small blue birds, the giant lobelias all around. I had brought a Coca Cola and a Mars bar for each day, so it was a good spot to enjoy it.
at 4:15 (!) and left at 5. The hut is at around 4000 meters, so we
were climbing about a kilometer up today. The temperature was just
below freezing point. We were again the 4 of us going, wearing head
lamps and the gear for today. The first 20 minutes up to just below the
Congo pass. Then the hardest part with (a little) rock climbing, zero
degrees, water, ice. That was tough going. Next up along the South West
ridge. Clear skies. Beautiful vies to Mt. Stanley to the south. Sunrise
at 6:30. Views west, down to Congo, but clouds covered the whole basin,
way, way below. Below the glacier, we done the crampons, walked up the
glacier (about 300 vertical meters) and the last bit on ice/snow/rocks.
And suddenly we were there at the top. Mt. Speke – Vittorio Emanuele
Peak – 4890 meters. My first 'real' peak. And it was beautiful beyond
measure. We were there 20-30 minutes, taking a lot of pictures while
watching small clouds blowing away below us. Now I was a real
Mountaineer, Sepp told me. Well, Sepp was the real mountaineer, and I
was happy for the things he taught me on the trip. Peter told us that
it was him who had brought the sign to the top of Speke, Margherita and
Baker. He had been on Speke about 60 times after putting up the sign,
Down the glacier again; this time it went very quick and also ok down the ridge. The 'hard' first part was not so difficult going down in daylight. Back 8 hours after starting up (13:00).
Well, I was somewhat tired, but I had to be back Monday, so decided to take another stage. Said good bye to Sepp and Peter, and left at 14:00. The swamp was a killer, and it was the hardest climbing up to Scott-Elliot Pass – the pass to next valley. Phew. Quietly and slowly down again towards Kitandara Lake and Kitandara Hut – arrived around 18:00. Could not really enjoy the nature on this stage. Vertical cliffs towards Mt. Speke and good views to Mt. Stanley. The hut was just next to the lake.
up, up – hard – to the Freshfield Pass. 1 hour. Bog, mud, down,
down, bog, mud – to Guy Yeoman Hut. It was the normal 'today's stage',
but after less than 5 hours, we decided to continue. Mud, bog, swamp,
vertical cliff side which took ½ hour to descend. Ladders a
couple of strategic places. Before the descend, Jomado said that 'this
is the last dangerous place'. Thank you, but he didn't tell me about
the other dangerous places before. The porters waited below and when I
took the last hop down, they applauded... Jomado held a small speech
of us about the place being named from old times where the baggage was
thrown down, or somebody was paid to carry it – or something like that.
Vincent translated. Next – surprise – bog, mud, swamp, mud,
bamboo-swamp, bamboo-mud. Getting warmer but we had also descended from
4100 meters to 2700 meters. But all the time down, so it was an easy
stage. Thought it was like 'the earth is poisonous' like we played in
school – jumping between the logs put down in the bogs. My guide showed
me a place where the chimpanzees had split and eaten the bamboo.
Warm and sunny at 17:00 when I was back in Nyabitaba Hut – finishing the circuit and back where I stayed the first night. The air was rich with Oxygen. Had asked Vincent about soup and it was the best soup from a bag I have ever had.
Jomado, my guide, is 58 years old and was a good guide. Easy to understand, though not a very large vocabulary. Had 8 children of which one was dead. One of his boys was with us as a porter.
breakfast I should give the porters 'the word'. I thanked them,
and said they should take good care of the park for the rest of us. I
quoted a passage from the book of psalms, and after being translated by
Vincent, they all laughed – the obviously all knew this by hearth.
Tipped the porters 15$/cook 30$/guide 55$. The porters looked
surprisingly happy and a bit further down the path, the cook said to
me: "look porters are very happy". Going down didn't take long – 2
hours. Jomado knew all we met after leaving the park – many related
like a son or a daughter in law.
Picked up at park HQ at 11:30 by a new driver. Had used all my shillings for tips, so visited a bank in Fort Portal to change money. Then to the Rwenzori View Guesthouse (70.000 Sh). Had a great bowl of tomato soup and a beer. I was more hungry than I had thought. Took a motor bike to "internet café" – which turned out to be a copy-center with a few computers in the back – but worked ok and I could upload my Mt. Speke picture to facebook.
The Rwenzori View Guesthouse is a couple of kilometers out of town, but still in walking distance. It has 7 rooms and dinner is together around a big table with the other guests. It was great to discuss travel experiences over dinner and I could only recall one similar experience – the La Casa del Mundo in Atitlán lake in Guatemala. I went to bed smiling. The guest house is run by a Dutch/Anglo couple and comes highly recommended.
day – picked up at 7 and at the airport around 11 – much faster
and in too good time for the afternoon flight. A short stop in Addis
before onwards to Dubai. Change of flights in the night and on to
London on time.
find my e-mail on my main page - questions or comments are welcome.