I wake the next morning around 8, quite happy to see the hurricane lamp did a good job drying much of my clothes. I might actually have both clean AND dry underwear to change into at some point!.
I go down for breakfast and have a “rolex” which is an egg/vegetable scramble inside a chapati – a local favoriate, apparently – which was quite good. I then meet up with Joseph, my guide for what I later termed “the hike from Hell.”
The long hike route is around 7km, and you need to have a local guide accompany you. Apart from giving money to the local economy, they not only help guide you on where to go, but serve as an intermediary between you and the locals whose farmland you are crossing. Not that I ever felt there was a problem, but I was glad he was there. He also pulled me up some sheer rock faces. He may be a little guy, but damn if he isn’t strong!
We leave the Crows Nest around 9 or 9:30. As we were walking out we passed some bamboo poles and Joseph said “take a walking stick, it will get steep.” Word of advice. When a local guide says “take a walking stick”, TAKE ONE. I don’t think I would have managed the hike without it.
From the perspective of our campsite, it looked to me like the falls were miles and miles away. In fact they weren’t that far at all as a crow files, but a lot of ups and downs.
First we walk away from the lodge for about 15 minutes and then we come to the craziest set of steep stairs carved into the rockface. They were covered with water streaming down them and I wish I’d gotten a photo but was a little more concerned about my not breaking my neck. After the rock stairs we climb MORE down (an omen for things to come as what goes down must go up) an almost ladder-like set of steps that were currently under construction. If it wasn’t for the fact that I saw other people about to come down them, I might have gotten a little worried about where we were going.
We continue down this slim, muddy trail and eventually it gets less bad and more of just a muddy hike. We are going through farmland as this is one of the prime coffee-producing areas of Uganda. We saw aribica coffee beans (which for the life of me I can’t remember if that is the cheap stuff or the fancy stuff), eggplant and bananas. After about 45 minutes we get to the base of the main falls which was very wet. We then begin the LONG HARD trek UP to the other side of the canyon. Wait for the photos, as you’ll see how steep and forever it goes. Even though the vegetation is dense enough to keep out the sun, I am still completely sweat-soaked and covered in mud halfway up to my knees.
We come to a cave where he offers for us to go in (Joseph advised me to bring a flashlight). I thought, oh, a cave, that will be nice and cool inside. So I crawl around to get into the hole and it’s about the hottest, most boring cave I have ever been in. I’ve been in some awesome caves in Spain and France (my favorite, Pech Merle, go there if you are ever anywhere in the southern half of France), so there wasn’t much reason to stay. We get out of the cave and I’m hotter and more tired than when we went in, which had not been my goal!
So we continue on our trek up and up and further up. We have to climb this crazy ladder at one point and I swear this will never end! EVENTUALLY we get to the top to the road and I’m thinking “Whew, we’re done, we can go home now.”
Then Joseph says “Right, so now we’ll go on to the second falls.”
Second falls?? Um, exactly how much “up and down” will there be for this second falls? He says some, but not as much as for this one. OK, what am I here for afterall but to kill myself.
So we walk on to the second falls, stopping at a place at the base where they sell drinks and I get a second bottle of water (as I’d been meteing out my first not knowing if I’d get more) and buy one for Joseph who didn’t seem all the phased by the journey thus far and by the end of the entire trip had maybe drunk less than 1/3 the bottle. These people aren’t human!
We then proceed to go up and up and up, about half way up another steep slope, and then cut over on a horizontal path toward the second falls. These had had a cave behind it, so that was pretty cool.
We take the horizontal path back to the steep one and he says “OK, to go to the third waterfall we have to continue this up to the top of the slope”. I look UUUUPPPPP and think “are you freaking kidding me???” But just then who do I see coming down that slope but the Irish couple. They were obviously doing the circuit in the reverse direction of me. I wait until they get to the part where I am and I say “is it worth going to?” And they say “oh yes, definitely.” Now, it did dawn on me that I’d been walking for well over an hour, and they left the same time I did, so if we’re meeting here, that means they’ve ALSO been walking for an hour or so. But, I figure they must know what they’re talking about and decide to go on.
As you will later see, I have now come to learn never to trust the Irish.
So, Joseph and I continue up the rest of the freaking mountain and get to the top of the next waterfall, which was nice enough. There were locals doing their laundry at the top of the falls. Its funny that here we have people fly half way around the world to see this, and they’re there casually doing their laundry. But why not, after all?
We need to cross to the other side of the falls to get back to the lodge and it is too wide to do so here, so we go farther upstream and then take a path into the dense foliage. At one point we reach a fork where I’m fairly certain if we went right that would take us back in the direction of my lodge (and the bed I fully intended to pass out on). Instead Joseph goes left. Well, he must know what he’s doing so I follow along.
This next part is not particularly steep, and in fact was quite interesting. We are literally walking thru tiny gathering of huts and passing cows and goats tied up to tethers and seeing people go about their daily lives. At one point we’re on a path that wends between huts and barbed wire (ouch!). The kids of course all treat me like I’m the Queen of England, coming up to me and saying “Hello” and “how are you” which I answer and then they dissolve into a fit of giggles. Sometimes we have the same conversation in swahili which I suspect when they dissolve into fits of laughter it’s to make fun of me. Anyway, it’s really cute, except when you have 2 year olds waving and saying “Hello, give me money” and then dissolving into laughter. It’s not very cute then… I did’t take many photos of this part because I feel it is somewhat intrusive. I got some photos of huts and animals and things.
So, we proceed on and eventually reach a road where I can see the next path UUUPPPP to the fourth waterfall. I say, “Is that it?” and Joseph says yes. I say, does it have a cave behind it? Joseph says No. I say “you know, I can see it just dandy from here, we don’t need to get any closer”. Joseph chuckles and we start back. I might have gone if it had a cave behind it, as that was pretty cool earlier. We eventually make it down down down down to the road, but not nearly as crazy a path as earlier. We then walk around 3k on the main road back to the lodge. That was also interesting because I got to see the local buildings and people, and watching the women dry their coffee beans on the side of the highway. Again the kids all line the road to wave to me and get my attention.
We get back to the campsite and I pay Joseph (who didn’t try to scam me on the price, which I was impressed with, so I gave him a good tip), get some lunch, take a cold shower, and then spend the rest of the afternoon in bed.