Kithasamba, or The Great one who does not Climb*

A six day walk in the Rwenzori mountains, the Mountains of the Moon


20/08/2013: Trekkers Hostel, look out of door, lots of people, what are they doing there?, never seen a mzungu coming out of bed? Maybe? Rwenzoris in the background, first spotted by Stanley, in 1876, only feature on the map of the Reverend MacKay of Rhynie, go to the washroom across the field, breakfast with egg and bacon, now even more people, omg, are they all coming?, I thought one porter only, that is different enough, or awkward, or embarrassing, and then one guide, Enock, also another guide, Tembo, he tells me that means speed in German, yes and no, Tempo means speed, but it’s a nice thought, not looking forward to the Tempo though, all those people are coming, I had not realised, did you Rocca?, yes, they have to bring the food and the charcoal, and the more people we are the more food and the more charcoal we need. I am night introduced to Aida, my porter, a girl porter, I am excited, she carries the rucksack, others carry the things hanging from their head, twenty we are, in total, feels like a Victorian expedition, not my usual Room to Roam, think of Baker, and Livingstone and McKay, is this the aftermath?, breakfast with Jacque’s coffee, Rwenzori coffee, they don’t drink it here, left at 9.30 am, walk past school, leave Kilembe, former coal mining, but left during Idi Amin regime, Chinese are coming back for it soon, steep up, national park border, check point, 1727m, $$$, sign, stamp, steeper, cross Nzuranja river, OMG, no bridge, life and legs in porters hands, steeper, Bamboo forest, chameleon, lunch with SPLASH, steep, good I have my poles, arrive at Sine camp, at Sine cave, 2585 m, river bath, Jacques gets hot shower with watering can, from Enock falls, (are they named after our guide, or our guide after the falls?) play UNO, love UNO, rain, so much rain, corrugated iron, noise = deafening. 6.30 hours.


21/08/2013: cooked breakfast, sausages + eggs, J’s Rwenzori coffee, steep, uphill, 500m, rubber boots today, Room to Roam / Ekiffo Ekyokwetariramu wellies, rain / forest, mud, porters, all this charcoal, never thought about this, no TISO in Uganda, bamboo, this is how far Stanley got, 3000m, and Emin Pasha, in 1888, Bamboo finishes, giant heather, 15m high, mud, mud, mud, is this where the Nile comes from, at least its waters, Ptolemy, clouds, mists, SPLASH lunch, mist, mountains hiding from early explorers, and today’s tourists, Aida is 26 and went to school for 8 years, then her dad died of malaria, she has 2 babies, lobelia, phallic, mist, so much mist, Jacques helps with the rain, red watering can, the rainmaker’s helper, mist, where is Jacques?, do I panic?, talk, Mutinda camp, 3925 m, giant rock shelter, so muddy, fire with porters, all Bakonzos, talk Lukonzo, clear night, mountains of the moon. 7 hours.

Mutinda Camp
Mutinda Camp

22/08/2013: Kuutji, up, up, alpine terrain, giant heather, not like in Scotland, where they are like midges, tiny and purple, more mud, sink, sink, get out again, mist, sink, Nyamugazani Valley, mist, sink, get out, slow, SPLASH lunch, slower, slowest, poor Aida, stupid Mzungu, so slow, red watering can, Bugata camp, 4060m, Spag bol, porters room, jokes, tomato joke, exhausted, sleeping bag, 3 pairs of socks, feel ill, sick, why?. 7hours.

Among Giant Heather
Among Giant Heather

23/08/2013: sick, porridge, porters cabinet, Nick + Rocca head up, good for them, good anyway, Jacques offers to go down, kind omoatija omuhanji, kind rainmaker’shelper, thanks, down, just down, Nyamwamba valley, with Aida, and Jessica, still slow, gives Jacques time for rain making, sit, sleep, so tired, up, move, so slow, look to Congo, is it there, today is the border walk, Congo, its vexing history, but not much to hide here, among the lobelias, giant penises, amazing, but they do cheer me up, up again, why?, down, rain forest, burnt trees, a fire, why? Giant heathers are black sticks, area recovering, thanks to the rain, mud, mud, past camp, cant it be here?, Jacques talks about Kilimanjaro, very different, SPLASH only, mud, mud, down, Kiharo camp, yes, bed, sleeping bag, 3 pairs of socks, thanks god, thank the Rwenzori gods, Enock comes, Nick and Rocca stayed up, at Bugata, but succeeded, great, Enock is good guide, best ever guide. 8 hours.

Lobelia Garden

Lobelia Gardens

In the Lobelia Garden
In the Lobelia Garden

24/08/2013: Up, much better, Jacques’ coffee, porridge, lets go, jungle toilet first, down, chat, Aida, Jessistar, Enock, great guide, so smart, colobus monkeys, lots of them, down, mud, down, mud, slip, up, Turaco, Jessica spots duikers, from far, another one, mud, lots of rain making, by Jacques, Jessica, clever woman, wants to be a guide, has a baby, called Priscilla, go Jessicastar, become a guide, spot Samalira Camp, musungu there, its Rocca here, how comes? not possible, but it is, good hut, Enock tells about Attenburgh expedition, he never sent the video, we must send it, noodle soup, camp on ravine, see lights, Kasese, oh no, PCs, internet, email, texts, no, not yet, please, noodle soup, whisky, good spirit. 7 hours.

Rainmaker's Helper
Rainmaker’s Helper

25/08/2013: last day, 12 of us left, rest already down, 1500m down, trails getting dryer, faster, faster, faster by the minute, change into boots, half way, hanging bridge, National park check point, stamp Room to Roam / Ekiffo Ekyokwetariramu, down, school, eucalyptus, coffee plants, coffee beans, all colours, bananas, cassava, millet, Kilembe, old mines, hello Mzungu!, hello Mukonzo!, the very clean butchery, backpackers, the Slowest Marathon ever, beer, beer, for all, artachat, how would you call the peaks? My son’s name, my name, what do you think the rainmaker’s helper did? Do you think it is strange that Mzungus like to climb mountains? No, not, we would do the same! In Nepal, and in the Alps, and in Patagonia, if we could; but for us it is good, if we see a Mzungu in an anorak, we know we have work. 5 hours.

Room to Roam

Stamp Room to Roam / Ekiffo Ekyokwetariramu. The slowest Slow Marathon ever.

Good Bye Jessistar, good bye Aida, good bye Enock, good bye all. Thank you all. Thanks also to Rwenzori Trekking Services.

I wont come back. But maybe my daughters. Maybe my son. I will tell them all about it. They must. To feel this all, before its too late.

European climbersThe porters strongly believe that Europeans (or whites) will do anything, regardless of their lives, so long as they get riches.
Bearing, this in mind, the porters think that the motives which incline the whites to climb such malicious and spectacular mountains are that they search for gold or precious stones, as they put it, and that they for there for acclimatisation. The whites are used to cold climates and so when they become equatorial regions they feel habitually that they should go to cold areas.
They say that no white man has ever succeeded in getting the stones because these stones belong to a great, cunning god called Kithasamba, who owns the whole of the Rwenzori. When they are about to reach the stones, this god moves those stones even farther away. This is why when you are on the foot of the mountains, their peaks seem to be shorter than they really are: but as you climb, the peaks are moved further by the gods so that you may not reach these stones. If the god realises that you will succeed in getting to the summit, he transfers his stones from one peak to another. For this reason, the Ruwenzori has many summits, if the climber is unlucky, the god strikes the sky and it soon begins to snow so heavily that the climber abandons his climb. Thus weather on the Ruwenzori cannot be forecast. Sometimes Kithasamba’s soldiers, who overlook climbs and stand by the gates to the stones, push the climbers over the rocks.

From: guide to the Rwenzori; Mountains of the Moon by Henry Osmaston

*Kithasamba is the name for the main spirit among the Bakonzo cosmology, the name means the Great one who does not climb, because there is no bigger one to climb to.

Rwenzori Room to Roam team

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