Friday, October 31, 2014

Climbing Luwazi Rock

I carried a Jansport with my sleeping bag, tent and climbing gear dangling from the bag with carabineers, one arm supporting a grocery bag with beans and booze, and the other a gallon of water and a large saucepan on my head.

I hiked with 9 other people knee deep through rice paddies, through the weedy farmland and up onto Luwazi Rock.  The famous Ugandan rock is higher than anything else around it for as far as the eye can see.  The sides are scraggly and jut out into deliciously shady and climbable overhangs.  The top is smooth and clear except for the few collected raindrop puddles.  I’m with a group called the Mountain Climbing Club of Uganda: young, fit, stupidly attractive men and women from all over the world.

The sun was scorching and slapped me silly.  We pitched our tents toward the center of the rock—so as not to roll off in the middle of the night.  With nothing to directly stake the tents, we piled our bags into them and hoped they wouldn’t fly away.

After a few bites from a hunk of cheese and loaf of bread (when I’m camping, the only thing that satisfies me is to eat like a peasant), we set up our climb.  Those more experienced, knotted the ropes around the bolts in the rock.  I leaned over and tested my bravery.  I put on my harness, grabbed the rope, and literally stepped off the cliff, repelling down.  So. Much. Fun.  Once down, the point was to climb back up.  Village kids came to watch us and think “only white people.”

I love rock climbing.  It’s adrenaline inducing.  It’s a riddle to try to figure out where to place your weight, your foot, your hand.  At the bottom of the rock all the beautiful people are cheering you on, then at the top they get bored, and you’re alone with your heartbeat and the sun. 

I climbed up a few times but couldn’t climb up the hard one.  “The Crack.”  Kept swinging off the rock when I jumped to reach this one grip.  I’m going to go back and I’m going to climb it.  Might need to beef up a bit first though.

We climbed until the sun set.  We set up a big roaring bonfire and I cooked my signature: beans and bacon stirred with an oversized spoon in an oversized pot directly nestled in the fire.  We drank whiskey and beer.  The kids stole our speakers so we had to dance to the frog croaks.  I snuck away to quiet spot of the mountain, laid out my sleeping bag on the rock, under the stars, and fell asleep.

At 3am I awoke to a crack of thunder.  All the late night dancers peeled themselves from the rock around the fire and ran to find shelter in the tents.  There were far more tents than people so we crammed in.  The sky was dark green.  I picked up some friends who were too drunk to make it into a tent.  I was afraid they would walk right off the cliff in the night.
“Come with me!” I screamed in way of nurse during wartime battle.

The thunder got louder and the people in my tent started to count the thunder from the lightning. 
“It’s getting closer,” said my German friend in a doomsday voice.
Should we pack the tent and run off the rock?  We were in structures with metal poles, on the top of a rock, in a lightning storm. 
But I was too tired.   Eh, if I die, I die, but at least I’ll be well rested.

We woke up at 6am.  I hadn’t been drinking heavily the night before and was too chipper for some people’s liking.  I’M ALIVE!!  I made some bonfire coffee, my fave, and went to a secluded part of the rock to look out on the villages’ own fires starting up and dotting the green farms far below us.

We spent another day climbing on the cooled down rock.  On the way home we stopped at a village to share a warm beer from a bar without power.

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