My very first mountain-climbing attempt was Mount Wati, in Arua district, West Nile. Mount Wati stands at approximately 1,250 meters above sea level and 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 Friday just before sunset and set camp right next to Miriadua falls. The falls are stunning and the gushing sound made the campsite feel very homey as if to say “welcome, you are not alone.” Miridua falls made for a practical camping spot too as the cascading water created a great shower spot that evening. My trip was during the dry season and our guide, Gerald Iga, insisted that we didn’t even witness half the beauty of the waterfall, as it gushes with even more power and vigor during the rains.
The next morning, and the group I traveled with, begun the much-anticipated hike. We drove about one hour from Miriadua falls to Mount Wati and started our hike from the base of the mountain at about 11 am. The climb was a test of perseverance and patience. Trekking through savannah grassland and steep rocks, we felt the hot West Nile sunrays on our backs and stopped occasionally for rest and my personal energy boost of water (mixed with glucose), groundnuts, and biscuits. Our guide was very helpful and he led us as we navigated the rocks, at some points on all fours! It’s hard to describe how thrilling and enjoyable the experience of mountain climbing is. As you climb, all vanity ceases and all dependency relies on your instincts and Mother Nature.
Climbing with a group is a bonding experience like no other. As much as you have yourself, I’d say a first-timer is more likely to summit when climbing with others. As the great African proverb goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” One step at a time as you climb and truly living in the present moment, you never quite know when exactly you will reach the top as it all depends on the group pace. We encouraged and supported each other along the way and through dry grass, through bush and thicket, through the rocks, we kept ascending.
The summit was surreal. A sense of accomplishment engulfed me as I overlooked the vast savannah. At that moment, we were standing at the highest point in West Nile! Triumph and jubilation filled the air. I rested, relaxed, took pictures, and gazed at my surroundings. I was proud of myself, and I knew that very moment would be indelibly etched in my memory.
The mountain descent was a shorter expedition though nonetheless challenging. Resisting the pull of gravity, we made our way back through the rocks and eventually onto the mainland. I completed the hike at about 6 pm and headed straight to camp to freshen up, enjoy a bonfire, and indulge my palate with local dishes of angara, enyasa, and osubi.
On Sunday, we made our way back to Kampala. Both fatigued and excited, nostalgia for Wati and the entire experience immediately sank in as we set off. On our way, we stopped at the market to buy some kitenge (East African cotton printed fabric) which is much more affordable in the West Nile region than in Kampala city. I still haven’t made a dress out of my kitenge, but when I do, I know that I’ll have something to remember my first mountain climbing experience and the glory of the West Nile.