Saturday, October 12, 2013

Walls of Death – Sipi Falls pt. 2

The third waterfall of the day and our final hike was to the 'biggest waterfall' on Mt. Elgon. Saving the best for last, or so we thought.

We couldn’t have been more wrong. . .

Our trek started out with our guide joking about how hard this final hike is and did we all think we were tough enough to do it. All of which was said with a big grin and a lot of chuckling. ‘Of course he’s messing with us,’ we all thought, though not completely convinced.

He wasn’t.

What started out as a nice easy journey quickly turned into a hike from hell as the trail took a downward turn, literally. We were no longer hiking a mountain, we were scaling a cliff! And that is NOT an exaggeration. I went down twice. The first because we were attempting to walk down an especially steep area and the dirt started rolling under my shoes and I couldn't get any traction - a few seconds later 'I can't stop!' Luckily, Danielle was in front of me and threw out an arm for me so I could stop. If I thought that was bad, I was in for a rude awakening.

Enter the ‘Walls of Death.’ A rickety wooden staircase/ladder mutation that becomes completely vertical about halfway down. Descending the contraption was not so much difficult as it was frightening, due to the fact that if you slipped you’d fall to a ton of broken bones, at the very least.

So far throughout our hike we’d had a few rain showers, using banana leaves as umbrellas. Now however, there were no more showers, just a downpour. Through this we made it to the bottom of the falls.  While enjoying the view, which was incredible, we couldn’t help but dread the answer to ‘how are we getting back up to the top?’ To our monumental disappointment our fears were confirmed. The only way back up the mountain was the exact way we came down.

Going back up the sheer mountainside was pretty much the worst thing ever. Imagine the worst, most exhausting workout of your life and then double it – at least.

 My second fall of the hike I think Karma played a hand in. Earlier in the day (during lunch after our morning hike) I made a comment how I was glad I didn't 'pull an April.' Which means going for a walk before dinner and coming back all muddy . . . because you fell down . . . in the mud, or in our case, falling on the trail and getting all muddy. Needless to say, this comment was followed by peals of laughter from me. Fast forward to going back up the mountain, in the pouring rain. There was a particularly slippery spot where even our guide had trouble. I started up it and even with his help I still ended up dirtying my pantaloons! (ok, in reality they were jeans – for any of you who look up the real meaning of pantaloons)

It was a really hard struggle to the top, complete with frequent breaks, dread of the climb remaining, and many attempts at self-motivating internal cheerleading. I was so tired afterwards! My clothes were drenched and muddy and we were all soaked to the bone.

I think it’s safe to say that this is an experience I will never forget, and truth be told never want to repeat. But hey, it makes for a good story!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Say Cheese

Last Saturday Katie and I went to eat lunch at Moti Mahal, a really good Indian restaurant. They have an awesome meal deal where you can get unlimited rice and naan! Anywho, we go there quite often, but this last visit we had an experience unlike any of the others. 
We sat down, ordered our food and drinks, and shortly after an Indian family comes in and sits at the table diagonal from us. Our food comes and we start eating, occasionally taking note of the nearby family when they are yelling to the waiter. Then I notice that they have moved on to taking pictures of each other around the back of the restaurant. A beat later I see the mother make a motion as if pointing to us, and I let out a laugh thinking she was making a joke of taking pictures with me and Katie. 
It wasn't a joke. 
Before we knew what was happening two GROWN women come over to us, sit down, and start taking pictures with us in them. No hello, no asking if we'd mind being in a picture with them, they just did it as if it was completely normal. Then they switch sides so they can both get a picture with me and with Katie. Once the pictures are done they walk back over to their table as if nothing had just happened, still not saying a word to either of us. 
Still in shock and a mild disbelief at what just happened we finished our food. As we were waiting for the bill the family left with only the mother saying 'bye' to us. One single word from one lone member of the group, and she didn't even take the pictures! It was bizarre. I mean, it occasionally happens when some random person comes up to you and asks to take a picture with you. Or you catch a random person trying to take a stealth picture of you. But to blatantly go up to a person, SIT DOWN, and not say anything to them before taking pictures without permission was mind blowing! Especially because Indians in Jinja generally don't give Mzungus much attention at all, at least not like Ugandans do. Needless to say it was a strange experience.