Monday, May 25, 2015

Sabinyo, Rwanda & Gorillas! - Part I

These past few weeks have been hectic, challenging and somehow relaxing.  Ashley attended a week training of trainers to prepare for the new volunteers arriving early June and has been busy getting lesson plans ready. Matt has been busy planning for the next quarterly HIV testing event. All of this while we have been trying to prepare everything for our first visitors from the U.S.! , and in the middle of all this we decided to take our first vacation since arriving almost 1 year ago. 


We traveled with another volunteer and her boyfriend who is visiting from the U.S. Our first stop was Kisoro in southwestern Uganda. Being a vacation, aka, not a time for resting, we decided to get the most out of the trip. We took the boys up a trail we did last October that overlooks Lake Mutanda and headed to the lake to do some canoeing. Somehow everyone but Ashley, who was lucky enough to be handed a paddle, was able to relax as they were guided across the lake. 

Lake Mutanda

On Lake Mutanda-Center most mountain-Mt. Sabinyo

The next day we decided to try our luck at hiking/climbing/crawling, basically any way we could to get up Mt. Sabinyo. 

Mt Sabinyo is one of the three distinct volcanoes that can be seen in Kisoro, and unlike its neighbors, it has multiple peaks, the second being shared with Rwanda, and the third at 3,645m (11,959ft) shared by Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Mt Sabinyo-Starting our Journey 

We started our journey around 6am packed lunches in tow and made our way to the park entrance. Being rainy season, we really did not know what to expect. The sky was overcast and there was a chill in the air, but we decided we would take our chances. Once we arrived we were introduced to our guides, one armed just in case we ran into any forest elephants (to scare them away) and the other to serve as a guide. We were given the option to hire a local porter, who carries your bags for a small fee, which we decided to do and are very happy we did. Once we all had our walking sticks in hand we set out a little before 8am. 

The beginning of the trek takes you through old farm land that has been reclaimed by forest. As you trek deeper the forest turns into a bamboo forest that thickens and the ground becomes your enemy. The trail turns from a solid dirt path to a mushy boggy mud that has the potential of swallowing your legs whole. This is where the sticks and the ability to balance on small logs and stones comes in handy. Somehow regardless of how careful we were, we still ended up with soaking wet shoes and mud to our ankles. Further up the trail, the landscape changes drastically into what looks like something out of a story book. 

Bamboo Forest

Trying not to fall in the mud

Enchanted Forest

After the enchanted forest, we started our ascent up the first peak and were introduced to our friends, the lovely ladders. They really aren't that bad. In fact, Ashley discovered that literally climbing/crawling up them made it faster and not tiring.

Once we arrived at the first peak, we took a few minutes to look around. The clouds from the early morning had cleared up giving us great views. 

Once we caught our breaths, it was time to head down the first peak and start our journey up the second. We were challenged with more ladders and for those of us afraid of heights (Ashley and Matt), were challenged by our nerves and weak legs. The path itself is not too narrow, but peaking over the side makes it appear to shrink to the size made for one extremely skinny person. At the top of the second peak the views were even more incredible. To the left, the mountain slopped down with thick forest and rolling hills into Rwanda. To the right, the thick forested mountain led down into a beautiful valley surrounded by tiny mountains that were at one time volcanoes themselves. 

Our Friends-The Ladders

At Peak #2

Then it happened. We looked ahead and saw ladders. Ladders that looked completely vertical the entire way up. We were done, plain and simple. Our friend, determined to make it to the top, headed up the last peak with the guide as the rest of us sat and enjoyed our lunch. Do wish we had did the last peak? Yes, it would have been nice, but seeing the straight up ladders was a deal breaker....clouds would have helped at this point.

Our friend headed to the 3rd peak

Usually it takes an average of five hours to go up the trail and three hours to make it back down. We were able to make decent time and made it back at the car around 6pm with not a single drop of rain. Not bad for just a couple of average explorers. 

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