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Saturday, January 02, 2010

More thrills

From the bungee jump (see below) we continued eastward to Mt. Elgon National Park, on the Kenya border, a massive spreading extinct volcano with countless ridges, crevices, acres and acres of dripping rainforest and flowing streams. Through providence and persistence we ended up booking cabins in the park for two nights, bargain prices and so hard to find out about that no one else was staying there in spite of making the reservation very late. The road was barely marked, a narrow slithering mud track that climbed the lower mountainside, past huts and cows and cabbage-gardens, until it ended in a wall of dense forest at the park gate. Four mud-huts huddled in a line in the narrow strip between the road and a stream, we had been in the car most of the day, light was fading, everyone was hungry, and we were resigned that this was to be our cheap accommodation, AT the park but not IN it, watched by the ubiquitous handful of curious kids. But the park ranger opened the gate and instructed us to proceed up the track another two hundred meters. And we found ourselves in lovely rustic pine cabins, surrounded by forest, quiet and peaceful. My original plan (prior to the family meeting in which my kids voted on thrill-adventures rather than endurance-adventures) had been to camp and hike in the park, but we didn't have enough days to reach the peak, so we settled on the cabins and a day hike. We were VERY GLAD as unseasonable el-Nino rain has drenched East Africa, and we were snuggled beneath warm blankets in an actual bed, reading books while rain pounded on the tin roof. It was a perfect total get-away, nothing but birds and mist and shy monkeys, rustling trees. The staff cooked us hot Ugandan food, and we played games and read aloud our annual Christmas kids-book.
We did venture out on a day-hike to a waterfall, just as the sun finally made an appearance, we climbed over slick rocks to stand behind the sheet of falling foam, getting drenched by the spray. The trail took us later to a high ridge, where we could glimpse the peaks of Mt. Elgon as the clouds miraculously parted, leaving us under a shockingly blue sky. Fantastic wild flowers, some bamboo, a troop of blue monkeys and black-and-white colobus. Our guide took us to a cave which I was not so eager to enter, given the whole Marburg-bat-cave connection. He did not buy into that science, and when I expressed relief that no bats were hanging around in sight, he promptly knocked his walking stick echoing into the recesses and a huge fruit bat swooped over our heads.
The real reason we came to Elgon, however, was that our kids' second request after bungee-jumping was to rappel down Sipi Falls. This is a 100-meter (300-ish-foot) water fall nearby, a free-fall of water that spills over a rock lip into a canyon of deep green ferns and flowers. An Italian mountaineer trained some local residents and helped them put in a few rock screws and get harnesses and ropes, and now tourists can rappel over the edge, right beside the falls. The first twenty or so meters one's feet bounce off the crevices of rock, but most of the way you are hanging in the air, with views out into the plains far below, watching the torrent of water rush down beside you and crash into the distant pool at the bottom. More terror mixed with beauty. This time all four kids and I did the descent. The owner of the equipment later said they'd never had someone as young as Jack and Julia go before . . . guess I'm glad I didn't know that before-hand, but they all did great, I'm sure I was the most scared. Scott graciously allowed us to do it and took pictures from a view-point on the side.
Then a strenuous hike back up to the level of the top of the falls. I hope everyone's thrill-deficit has been filled for a while, and we can stick with the really dangerous activities of surviving on road trips . . .

1 comment:

Frank Kraljic said...

Heck yeah!!!!