My second ‘mountain- climbing’ attempt was Mt Wati, in Arua district. Standing at approximately 1,250 meters above sea level, it is believed that back in the day, rebels used to hide in the mountain to monitor advancing government soldiers.
Today, the mountain makes for a great hike, a chance to bond with nature, and an opportunity to experience very scenic views from the top. I arrived on a Thursday just before sunset and set up camp at Miriadua falls. The falls are stunning and the pouring sound of the waterfall made the campsite feel homey and the night sleep beautiful. The cascading water also created a natural shower spot in the evening.
My trip was during this naughty rainy season, but our guide insisted that we had not witnessed even half the beauty of the waterfall. Well, the next morning, my colleagues and I began the much-anticipated hike. We drove about one hour from Miriadua falls to Mt Wati and started our hike at about 11 am.
The climb was a test of perseverance and patience, trekking through savannah grassland and steep rocks. The sun’s rays beat harshly on my back and I stopped to wonder why the skies would not open up and dump some rain on our hot adventure. We took a rest and chugged my personal energy boost of water mixed with glucose, groundnuts and biscuits.
Our guide was helpful as he led us through the rocks – at some points on all fours (not because of the dangerous terrain, but out of exhaustion). It is hard to describe how thrilling and bittersweet the experience of mountain climbing is. As you climb, all vanity ceases and all survival relies on your instincts and Mother Nature.
Climbing as a group is a bonding experience like no other; a first-timer is more likely to reach the summit when climbing with others One step at a time we climbed and lived in the moment, never knowing when exactly we would reach the top as it all depended on the group pace.
We encouraged and supported one another along the way, as through dry grass, bush and thicket, through sharp rocks, we kept ascending. The summit was a surreal place to be; the sense of accomplishment that engulfed us at this point as we overlooked the vast savannah! We were standing at the highest point of West Nile and triumph and jubilation filled the air.
I was proud of myself and knew that this moment would be indelibly etched in my memory for a long time. We made our way down, off this mountain steeped in Lugbara tradition, legend and ancestry. Besides it being a tourist attraction, the mountain top is the burial site of Oli Banyale, a man said to have had superpowers and was central to the Lugbara ancestry.
Well, that is a story for another day; for now, we concentrated on getting back to the campsite, especially in this rainy season when Mt Wati is also infamous for lightning strikes.