Saturday, May 10, 2014

Trekking of Mount Muhavura in Mgahinga National Park, 4127 meters

There are moments in which you feel it is important regaining a bit of freedom from the congestion of the daily routine, something that can fresh up your mind. Of course it is not easy working in office then spending time in the traffic jam of Kampala and breathing all air pollution every single day. However there are those things which everyone knows can give you freedom: in my case, those things are going cycling, trekking in the mountain and, to a different extend, lying down in front of a beautiful sea. Well, I got my new bicycle ready for new adventures; meantime, there was a trekking I postponed over the years, waiting for the right time to come, the trekking of Muhavura Volcano.
On 15th November I travelled all the way from Kampala to Kisoro, at the foothills of Virunga Volcanoes. The following day, early morning, the check in time for the Muhavura trekking was at 8 am from the gate of Muhavura of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. I climbed the rocky mountain roads which take up to the national park boundary, which is visible because it is built with a wall made of volcanic stones all along. The weather was not easily predictable for the day, with some fog in the air but also some promise of sun. With a guide from the Uganda Wildlife Authority and a porter which was carrying my small bag, I started walking through the mountain forest. I felt like when I was in the Italian Alpes, doing the day excursion with the group of the scouts, with the difference that I was not carrying the rucksack by myself this time. I immediately appreciated the good, fresh air as the route was not proceeding steep but zig zagging up. The starting altitude of the trekking is at about 2500 meters. After one hour we reached the limit of the ericaceus zone, at 3.116 meters where a small shelter allows you a stop over and to take some photographs. From this point on the mountain forest leaves the ground to an alpine vegetation of ericacia plants, senecios and lobelias, something like a heather zone, where the vegetation is basically shorter and, with good weather, you can see the panorama far distant to Lake Mutanda and Lake Bunyonyi behond Kisoro and even up to Bwindi. The second stop over was at 3.855 meters, where another small shelter indicated that we are in the giant lobelia and senecios area. The trekking was becoming more steep and we were now climbing the upper part of the volcano. I found a bit distressing the presence of a lot of wooden ladders which were supposed to help the walk, but in fact for what concerns me it was actually causing more delay and fear of sliding as these ladders are not much sophisticated and not straight.
We arrived at the peak, at 4127 meters, when an icy rain started to beat our heads and we could not enjoy the crater lake in the caldera. Of course even the temperature went down with the rain at that altitude and a good warm jacked was necessary. On the other side, it was very difficult to prevent the rain from entering our shoes and from making us wet, however even this experience reminded me of some torrential rain beating me while walking along an alpine route and the rain coat was never enough. It took us basically four hours to arrive at the peak, keeping a moderately slow speed allowing the body to breathe and also to enjoy the environment. The descent was much faster, though a bit complicated by the wooden ladders which I was trying to avoid all the time (but some acrobatic fall here and there was inevitable). I was comforted by the fact that I did not feel to be unprepared for the trekking; indeed I had a minimum training in the last period, though not so much preparation. I was also comforted by the fact that the guide was falling down much more often than I did, poor guy, I guess it was the shoes and I felt sorry for him. During the descent, actually we had good panoramic views of the valley in front of the Muhavura, we could see Lake Mutanda and Lake Mulehe. By 4 in the afternoon we were back to the gate, I imagine this can be an average time for completing the trekking. Walking in the mountain is something that takes away my fears, which brings my mind back to the ground, a kind of natural therapy.  
Costantino Tessarin

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