First day hiking in the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda, start of a ~70km loop including the summit of Mt Stanley, the third highest peak in Africa. The Rwenzoris are notorious for heavy rain and thick mud, and are apparently significantly harder, and therefore less busy, than Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Kenya (the two peaks higher in Africa). With less than 1,000 people a year walking the well managed tracks, they’re one of hikings best kept secrets.
The hike started in the village of Kyanjuki, near to Kilembe, home to many of the porters and guides working in the Rwenzoris. At 1,620m above sea level it was still hot and humid, making for a sweaty start heading up the hill, but it did become significantly more pleasant after climbing nearly 1,000m to reach Sine Camp.
Above the village is a new looking road, presumably related to the smart project office for the Nyamwamba II Small Hydro Power Project. This project will generate 33.5 GWh a year, to be sold to Rwanda. The local community will benefit to some degree though from the employment it generates, and it will reduce the risk of floods down the valley, which have caused significant damage in the past.
There were some pleasant views down the valley before reaching the National Park checkpoint.
In the tree behind the checkpoint was this wonderful three horned chameleon.
The rainforest was quite atmospheric.
And home to this huge worm, maybe 30cm long and unusually colourful.
There was a bridge which I didn’t cross, my porter took me the at first flattener, then much steeper route, while the other person on my trip was taken by the guide and her porter across the bridge for a more gradual climb. Unintentionally these choices perfectly suited our preferences, I do like a nice challenging climb!
It did involve crossing the river without a bridge though, I don’t think these two thin branches really count, so we rock hopped instead.
After which was a reasonably steep, occasionally muddy and rocky, half hour ascent.
Sine Camp (2,596m) was one of the older camps but still impressed, with the best mattresses I’ve ever seen in a mountain hut outside of the Alps. The camp sits on Sine Ridge, which incredibly is moraine, a rock pile deposited by glaciers 20,000 years ago. At that time glaciers ran from the peak of the Rwenzoris to this area, demonstrating how far the glaciers have retreated.
We had an eight bunk hut for just the two of us, and the crew brought out fresh pineapple, and a tasty dinner, definitely hiking in some style. This style required a guide and six porters per person, as everything was carried by hand for the ten day trip, the terrain is too steep and muddy for pack animals.
There was even a natural shower, I.e. a waterfall, with Enock’s Falls (named after the Rwenzori Trekking Services head guide) being a great place to wash away the sweat from walking nearly 10km, up 1,000m, in just over three hours. The trip notes suggested that it would take 5-7 hours, which suggested that I would have a lot of spare time at the various camps over the next nine days…