travelogue Central Circuit
December/January 2017/2018

On 25.12.2017, my wife Andrea and I arrived in Entebbe at 23:45 after a 17-hour flight from Hamburg via Brussels and Kigali. The aim of our Uganda trip was to hike along the Central Circuit of the Ruwenzori Mountains together with Hezron, to observe animals in Queen Elisabeth NP and to visit Hezron's family in the mountains.
Hezron was already waiting at the exit of the airport with his driver Francies. After 45 minutes driving we reached our hotel in Kampala. We were asked what we wanted for dinner. Since we were well taken care of in the plane and were totally tired, we refused - only showering and sleeping.

Day 1

At 7 o'clock in the morning, Hezron and Francies picked us up from the hotel and we started in the car direction Kasese. Due to the Christmas day there was hardly any traffic, so we quickly left Kampala. Past maize fields, tea and banana plantations and green forests and crossing smaller villages, we reached Kasese after a 7-hour drive.
In the hotel we discussed with Hezron the formalities of the trekking. We should max. Plan 12.5 kg of luggage per carrier, as much as your own luggage as possible, certainly rubber boots and warm things take etc. In the evening our chef Philly came to discuss with us the meals during the trekking, whether vegetarian, which meat we prefer.

Day 2

Today the big adventure should begin. Circumnavigating the Baker massif on the Central Circuit.
At 9:00 am we drove from the hotel to the starting point of the trek in 30 minutes. Here there was already busy, luggage was weighed and repackaged. Through an information board we were informed about the course of the trek, otherwise we enjoyed the warm sunny summer day and the excitement before the start. After registering and weighing our luggage, accompanied by Hezron and observation of the villagers, we went through the village towards the entrance to the National Park. On the way we met many villagers, carrying all sorts of luggage, most of the firewood. Again and again children called us in the fields a friendly Hello. On the way surprisingly many and beautiful butterflies flew past us. After reaching a picnic spot, it was a good 2 hours uphill, at 25 ° C through forest and open areas to the Nyabitaba hut (2,650m). The cabin is located in the middle of the forest and offers a beautiful view of the Portal Peak.
More hikers were waiting for us at the hut. As it turned out, they all wanted to go to Margherita Peak, i. we were the only pleasure walkers.
Overall, we were three groups. Sabine, Jürgen and Marcus, Jenny and Nath and both of us.
Sabine, Jürgen and Marcus worked very well, but they had first met in Uganda and only by chance booked through the same tour operator. Over time, our carriers came with the luggage one after the other. However, Marcus had to wait quite a long time. As it turned out, the sole of his hiking boot has come off. His porter then ran back to the village and got glue so that his shoe could be repaired immediately upon his carrier's arrival.

Day 3

At 8:45 o'clock it went on for us. First through the forest and then through forest and fern landscape. We felt like we were on another planet. The higher we walked the more moss-hungry and mystical the forest became. Many flowers, orchids and ferns lined the way as well as beautiful views of the mountains and the river. The further we went, the more beautiful and magical it became.
On the way we were able to cross three smaller swamps thanks to our wellington boots. During the hike Hezron explained some plants and their medicinal effectiveness. We also learned that on our trekking we will walk through five different vegetation zones, each one unique. At 15:30 we reached the last group John Matt Hut (3,480m). Philly had already prepared pancakes with honey and orange marmalade for us and we enjoyed ourselves.
A short time later excitement in the warehouse. The rare red Dyker was spotted on the opposite side of the valley at the edge of the forest. Unfortunately, I did not have the camera so fast.
However, the clouds had cleared from the Mount Stanley massif, so we had a beautiful view of the massif with the Margherita and Alexandra peaks and well see the ascent path over the glacier Thanks to Nath's organizational skills, we got a small tub of hot water for washing. Against the cold nights, Nath had brought a hot water bottle, which was filled with hot water every night, as I found a great idea.

Day 4

Today we continued through the mystical rainforest. Then leaving the forest we saw for the first time the giant lobelia and serencia, which was really beautiful. Over a marshy plateau, which is completely built with wooden bridges, we made slow progress. There were just too many photo opportunities. The last section passed a mountain lake. At 16:00 we reached the Bujuki hut (3,970m), which is beautifully located on a long valley end.
At the hut we met three other climbers, Angelika, Bernhard and Jürgen. They had climbed Mt. Speke today. Jürgen showed us on his smartphone the great view from the summit. He enthusiastically told us about the gorilla trekking in the Bwindi National Park and also showed us video sequences of the gorillas.
In the evening, we hikers sat together and played a little.
A nice hiking day with pleasant hiking temperatures and fascinating plants came to an end.

Day 5

Today we continued for the mountaineers to the Elena hut, for us pleasure walkers was the day goal Kitandara hut. So we had to say goodbye. It's amazing how well we got to know each other in the three days and how familiar we were by now.
Together with Hezron we left at 10:15. First over swampy terrain, later on ladders and boulders up a hill. Here we met again our mountaineers and took leave a second time.
After we had enjoyed the view back to the hut and the surrounding mountains we went through a valley with giant Senezia. This time we went directly through the Senezien forest past many-colored moss areas. Continuously climbing over a boulder field we reached the first pass of the Central Circuit, the Scott Elliot Pass (4.372m). Passing the Senezia and Lobelia, we had a tremendous view of Lake Kitandara and the surrounding mountains.
The Kitandara Hut (4,027m) was the coldest place to stay on the Central Circuit.
In the evening we sat with Hezron around the campfire and enjoyed the mountain atmosphere and the silence of the Kitandara Lake.

Day 6

Today, in my opinion probably the most beautiful section of the Central Circuit waiting for us. Anyone who has come to Lake Kitanda, does not believe that nature can do anything better than the one seen so far. Before we came to the beautiful section, it went over the rocks and gullies constantly steeply uphill on the Fresh Field Pass (4.215m). The name is really correct. Undeterred by the cold and the fresh wind, some Sunbirds searched the Senezien for food. After passing the pass, it passed through the fog of the vast Senezien, light drizzle increased the mystical atmosphere. Descending to the hut, it was really mystical, huge trees with huge multi-colored moss hangs conjured up a fairytale forest. In the middle of a flower meadow we reached the late afternoon Guy Yeoman hut (3.505m). Our porters and Philly were already sitting around the campfire preparing hot water for tea and washing.

Day 7

Get up at 6:00 am, breakfast at 6:30 am and start at 7:00 am - a longer day's journey was waiting for us. Normally, the following part is hiked in two daily stages. Over tree roots and several marshy places and ladders we went towards Nyabitaba hut. After about 2 hours we reached the section that used to be a key part of the circuit. Long steep rocks had to be overcome. Today, the entire section can be easily descended via ladders. Through bamboo and rainforest over wooden planks and marshy places we continued towards Nyabitaba hut. On the way a porter overtook us. Hezron informed us that this carrier had departed from Kitandara Hut this morning to bring a trekking pole that a hiker had forgotten to the Nyabitaba Hut. Afterwards he carry food to the John Mat Hut, three daily stages in one day. At the Nyabitaba hut, we fortified ourselves with rice and fish in vegetable sauce.
On the now well-known way back to the village there was still one last highlight waiting for us. A chameleon grazed our way and was allowed to run as a model a catwalk on our trekking pole.

Day 8

For the last four days we wanted to visit the Kalinzu Forest Reserve for chimpanzee trekking, lake Edward Lake for the hippos and the mountains to visit Hezron's parents in the mountains.
For chimpanzee trekking Hezron picked us up with his friend Zave at 6:00 o'clock. On the way to Kalinzu Forest we drove past the border of the Queen Elisabeth NP. Thanks to Zave's eagle eyes, we often stopped to photograph birds of prey, kingfishers, buffaloes, Uganda kobs, waterbuck and warthogs.
At Kalinzu Forest our guide Robert was already waiting for us. Robert explained that the chances of seeing chimpanzees are very good. However, we expect to run about 4 hours through the forest. In addition to the chimpanzees would live in the forest even more monkey species, such. Colobus monkeys and, of course, many birds.
Following Robert on a good path through the dark, humid forest. Bird chirping and monkey calls accompanied the walk. However, not a single animal could be seen. I was quite skeptical of seeing anything here in this dark forest. Robert telephoned frequently. After about 1 hour hike we left the path and went directly through the undergrowth. Robert indicated that he was now completely silent. Slowly we felt our way. In front of us we saw another guide named Josef. Suddenly Robert pointed to a tree and there we saw the first chimpanzee sitting on a slightly thicker branch. Absolute silence in the forest, suddenly a huge outcry and around us loud monkey screaming and rustling in the trees and then again absolute silence. Robert explained that we are in the midst of an 8-headed monkey group. After about 30 minutes of chimpanzee observation, we went back and we learned that Josef had already left early in the morning to track down the chimpanzees and Robert has given the coordinates.
On the way back we went a piece of tea plantations right on Forest edge along. Here we could still see a black and white colobus monkey, a silvery-cheeked hornbill and several beautiful great blue turacos

Day 9

Since the hippos do not come out of Lake Edward until early evening to search for food on land, we had time in the morning. We decided to go to the national park border to photograph birds and butterflies. At the national park border Sabine and Jürgen came to us completely sweaty and totally satisfied. The first question, have you reached the summit, was answered with Yes. However, the peak of Margherita was only reached with experience in ice climbing and over some secured spots over rock. We learned further that they were at the summit together with Nath and that Jenny had to turn around shortly before because she was not feeling well.
In the afternoon we drove to Lake Edward. This time a bit faster past the Queen Elisabeth NP. We only stopped once to observe a group of elephants.
In Lake Edward, a few larger groups of hippos swam near the lake shore, so we had good observation. In addition to the hippos, buffalo, waterbuck, marabou and storks were present. After waiting patiently for half an hour, the first hippo came out of the water and stood in front of us in the meadow and stayed there for a long time. At some point we passed the road into the forest. We drove a little further and closer to the riverbank. There the hippos were very lively for their circumstances. One child always swam around her mother and was submerged by it. Amazing that we were the only observers.
On the way back a full braking from Zafe. A leopard crossed the street and stopped next to our car. Zafe told us that he has often seen leopards and lions on this stretch of road.

Day 10

Together with Hezron and his brother Maurice, we went in the morning through the village and the mountainside up to Hezron's parents. His parents live about 1 hour walk from the village on a mountainside of Ruwenzori mountains. There are only two footpaths, both lasting about an hour. On the way there we had a nice view of the green mountainsides of Ruwenzori. Much of the way goes past a large gully, the water supply of the village. Shortly from arrival we are greeted by a large crowd of children. Hezron's parents live in this idyllic area with a son, his wife, their children and some grandchildren.
Hezron's father tells us that he used to guide tourists to Margherita Peak, but barefoot and without bars and ladders and sleeping outside by the campfire at night.
Today the family lives from the profits of the surrounding country.

Day 11

Our accommodation Ruboni Lodge is part of the community of the village. So our meals were made exclusively from the food produced by the community. Of the income of the lodge u.a. School projects for children, social projects and environmental projects in the area co-financed. With Isaak, who works for the community, we took a village tour. We wanted to know how the people live here
First, we visited an elderly woman who lives with her children and grandchildren on a forest slope away from the village. Upon arrival, we are pretty depressed by the poor conditions in which this family lives. The house is an old mud hut with no electricity and running water, the kitchen a covered fireplace outside the cottage and the living room a bare room with a bench and a table. We learn from the older woman that of her sixteen children only five live, but those in the immediate vicinity. Isaak informs us that the community is trying to provide education for one or two children of this family.
At the edge of the village we go over a bridge to the edge of the forest. There sits a man, at a hearth, which is protected with wood beams and fabric reasonably rainproof. Eduard makes knives and machetes for the villagers. He learned this trade from his father at the age of twelve. With the help of a bellows he keeps the fire going, in which the iron is made to glow. Then the glowing iron is smoothed with a hammer. He cleverly creates a handle from a branch with a machete and finally the finished knife. He can make about five knives a day.
Finally, we go to the community farm. In mixed culture, bananas, pineapples, tomatoes and various unknown fruits are grown here. Good to know that our meals have grown naturally.

Day 12

Departure day
Silently we sit in the car with Hezron, Zave and Zave's son and drive past tea plantations, cotton fields and green forests towards Entebbe. One of the most impressive and probably most beautiful holidays of my life is coming to an end. I am grateful that we were able to get to know one of the most fascinating trekking routes in the world. We experienced original nature with her plant wealth, many beautiful birds and close encounters with animals and we got to know warm friendly people.

Markus Wenzel


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