What I thought I had signed up for: A moderately demanding hike that would deliver some great views.
What I actually signed up for: Brutal hike up a 4137m Mountain (Mt. Muhavura) with a total altitude gain of 1700m (2600m from the location of my hostel) on a round trip distance of 16km in a single day. Needless to say, my legs are still hurting while I’m writing this. And course it was too clouded to see anything. But before getting to the hiking path, I first had to make my way there on the back of motorcycle in the dark and over a bumpy road. With ‘road’ being a euphemism for a random scattering of dirt, large stones and pot holes.
The hike was supposed to cover several vegetation zones – from former farmland that slowly turned to forest again, to actual rain forest to sub alpine forest (and the one or two others inbetween and after). While rain wouldn’t really be that surprising in a rain forest, hail was something different. Yes, it actually hailed. I wasn’t completely taken by surprise though, since a day earlier I ran into some Swedes who mentioned one of their friends being hit by hail stones so big, that they were actually drawing blood on his arms. Always nice to put things into perspective. But that wasn’t the only difficulty I encountered.
Altitude sickness, mud, shoes that were too thin and slippy as well as the aforementioned hail turned everything above 2500m into a tread of misery. Altitude sickness was interesting. It started with a slight headache, that got somewhat stronger, then I just felt tired, similar to the lethargy that comes with a proper cold. Add nauseousness to that and and you can imagine that halfway through, I was utterly convinced of on never setting another foot on a mountain. But as we got down again and the supply of oxygen improved, so did my outlook on my future hiking career.
After all, there were some good highlights: Seeing clouds race up from behind you and engulf the landscape around you in fog was pretty amazing. I also got a chuckle out of the reason provided for the accompanying guy with a Kalashnikov. The official explanation given was that ‘we might run into young, aggressive buffaloes’. Yeah, right. I decided that close proximity to DR Congo and a nearby national park that recently saw 8 rangers getting killed was the more likely cause.