The Experience of a Lifetime

a report from Derry Kelleher
You will never forget a visit to the Mountains of the Moon and there is no more experienced guide to take you there than Hezron Kule. Some years ago, I was lucky enough to join a party of 5 on a trek of the Central (Mount Stanley) circuit.The route into these Mountains traverses every form of mountain environment from the tropical rainforest at their base to the glacier on the summit. All variations of mountain terrain in between these extremes can be found in the Rwenzoris. With Rukenga Hill Tours, you are buying into a locally based service with guides who come from the locality and whose sole focus is the trekking of these mountains.Your fees will go straight into the economy of this area not to an externally based travel company.

We left from Nyakalangija village on the Mubuku river, climbing gently up-hill to our first night at Nyabitaba hut. The mountains were visible as a massive curved wall filling the skyline. We the crossed the main river and followed a tributary called the Bujuku.The path climbs steadily beside the river through the tall tree like plants to the second hut: John Matte. From this hut at 3400 metres, the terrain best suits rubber boots, which we had been advised we would need - now we saw why. Underfoot the ground is wet peat saturated by the river but manageable by staying strictly to the path, the ground becomes steeper as the route passes through the vertical section of the Bigo bog with lush vegetation. Plants that we have in our gardens are here in giant form - heather and lobelia, bamboo and violets. The next day involves a climb of 500m to Elena Hut by which point the path is on solid ground much of it bare rock. This feels like mountaineering and indeed we are only one day's climb to the summit. Leaving early, our route took us over snow fields to the foot of a vertical icy rock face. The skills of the guides were crucial here as were our crampons and ice axes. We were belayed up the climb singly to a ledge which took us along and up to the first summit and then onto Margaritta peak at 5100m. Sadly it was misty but the sense of being on top of the world was intoxicating though the mist prevented us from seeing the view. We descended carefully but in high spirits with some 'snow leaping' across the open snow fields only moderated by the need to avoid some large holes in the surface. Passing the snowline around Elena hut we branched south, descending to Kitandara hut by the lake at 4000 metres.This is a truly spectacular setting with a primeval feel to it, sleep came easily that night. The return took us over the Freshfield Pass then steeply down - some wooden ladders involved - to the banks of the upper Mobuku river and the Guy Yeomans Hut at 3,400 metres. After one more day in this unique environment we trekked down the river Mobuku to the village at the gates of the National Park. The river that had been our companion and guide now offered a cooling bathe adding to our sense of achievement and well being.

I was most grateful to Hezron and his colleagues for guiding us through this experience and hope that some readers of this account will be inspired as I was, to visit the Rwenzori's. I can recommend Rukenga Hill Tours.
Derry Kelleher


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