One of the things I remember Matt telling us when he got back from the trip was how grateful he was to the porters for carrying all of their luggage up Mount Elgon. I have been told that climbing at altitude is a very different experience to ‘normal’ climbing, even for the fittest amongst us, so although they had spent some time acclimatising, having to lug all of their belongings around on top of everything else would have been very difficult. I can only read Matt’s journal with awe and admiration as I know I could never be fit enough to manage something like this – even with the assistance of porters!
Day 18 – 2nd August
Today we rose early and made final preparations. We ended up selling half of the potatoes and some other cooking equipment that we no longer need to Rose, incorporating them as trade goods into the price of the 2 nights accommodation.
We shipped out and headed over to the U.W.A. H.Q. for a briefing and to meet our guides.
Our journey to the mountain then began in earnest with a 7 hour drive along a soaking wet, boggy road which felt like we were in the middle of a rally cross as we swerved and skidded all over the place.
We arrived soon after at a small village where we passed on our main bags to the porters and set off.
The initial terrain was basically hot and boggy jungle crisscrossed with streams.
We passed several passion fruit and coffee trees, and yet more banana trees. The air was unbelievably humid, and sweat soon poured off me.
Disaster struck when Sam was hit by a sudden migraine and we crashed to a halt. Worse still he had left his medication in his main bag which had been carried halfway up the mountain by the supremely fit porters.
One of our guides kindly dashed up the mountain to stop the porters and within an hour we caught them up and Sam took his meds.
We plodded on at a steady pace, sometimes climbing quite steeply, but always taking in the amazing view.
At one point we reached metal stairs bolted to the rock, replacing the famous ladder of death* in climbing up the cliff face.
It was just over 5 hours after we left “base camp” this morning when we crossed over the Sasa River and reached our destination: Sasa River Camp. We filled our bottles from the river and set up camp. The campsite is surprisingly well built, with a roofed bamboo dining area and log cabins for the porters to sleep in. We sat down and relaxed, enjoying a much needed cup of tea. Craig regaled us with stories of his army days, in particular a lance corporal named Milk who faked insanity in several hilarious ways in order to be medically discharged. Craig used to be an R.S.M first class, and he has a lot of experience to share.
Dinner was served at 6, we are paying extra for a cook but it is so worth it; we had tuna pasta bake and chips and it was the best meal I’ve had in a long time. We washed up by sticking things in the river and holding on; the current is quite strong. Afterwards we sat around the fire, telling stories and playing word dissociation (you take turns saying random words, game over if your word is in any provable and reasonable way connected to the previous one).
As always I have an early start in the morning, so it’s goodnight from me.
*The ‘ladder of death’ that Matt refers to during their ascent to Sasa River camp is so called because prior to the installation of the metal staircases by U.W.A. the only way to climb up was via frayed local ropes!