HIKING MPANGA FOREST; A MOUNTAIN SLAYERS EVENT.

Winnie texted me asking if I was in a mountain slaying type mood one particular Monday. Intrigued I asked what she had in mind. She mentioned a plan dubbed ‘Mpanga Slay’ (catchy right!) to go hiking in Mpanga forest, I’d never heard of it so naturally my curiosity peaked, she’d also mentioned it was a group effort and after payments were made I got added to a WhatsApp group with all the details. A fairly large group of about 60, we’d be making our way to the campsite in Lungala Friday with the hike happening the next day.

Winnie, Peter and I left Kampala at about 7pm and got to the campsite a little after 9.getting close to the campfire, we went about getting acquainted with the rest of the group. The mountain slayers are a pretty eclectic group of likeminded fun thrill seekers. I liked them a lot, it’s nice to see so many more Ugandans embracing and owning the outdoors. Everyone was pretty friendly and welcoming, I’m normally a little weary around large groups but I felt pretty comfortable here. The slayers have a full calendar of activities all year round, this was probably the 3rd or 4th venture, I stand to be corrected in that one though. Dinner and several shots done and dusted, we got to our tent, a spacious affair and settled in for the night. I drifted off to the sound of the campfire party of sorts going strong. I woke up at some point to the sound of rain against the tent. I can honestly say, it was one of the most pleasant experiences I’ve had in a while. You think rain on a tin roof is great; this right here is a close second. I use to love camping as a kid, it didn’t particularly love me back but I made it work, it had been well over a decade since I’d been in a tent so being all snuggled up in my sleeping bag toes wiggling and the rain getting louder left me with a joker type grin well into the morning.

At day break, after a lovely shower and a powerful carb filled breakfast (I was particularly partial to the cassava) we set off for the hike a little after 8am.now last I checked I’m relatively energetic and my cardio has improved vastly over the last months so I started the hike with a lot of gusto. The route we were taking was from Lungala to Mpanga Forest where we’d stop at the office for lunch, then from Mpanga to Katumwa and back to Lungala.

Going up the first hill, it was definitely alive with the sound of heavy breathing and oohs and ahhs from the view at that vantage point, who knew Mpigi was that scenic! It was pretty beautiful with crisp clean air up there. We continued on with the hills, going passed a traditional shrine and ending up on a dirt road that led us through the villages. It was nice walking passed the countryside, waving at the locals and dodging safari ants. Troy our beloved mascot looked like he was having a great time despite the local mongrels trying to get him riled up. He handled himself quite well; a true champion.

The terrain changed and there we were dodging, unsuccessfully on my part, muddy pools and all round grossness. We stopped off for a water break where it was mentioned we had four more hills to go, crap! My knee was throbbing something fierce at this point but I figured a little rest would do the trick however like Kinjikitile with his bulletproof  holy water during the Maji Maji rebellion, I was dead wrong! Once the break was over, I stood up and lo&behold what I thought was a strong left future football team child bearing hip was on fire. After a brief woe is me moment, I kept it moving, Winnie and Viola in tow laughing all the way passed the highway to the Mpanga Forest office rest stop for lunch. We spent a little time here snacking, hydrating and yoga type stretching for some. At this point my lower body was pretty much leaving the building. Can’t say I blamed it, we weren’t even ¾ done.

Mpanga Forest is beautiful, the trees have some of the largest trunks I’ve seen, the forest floor itself is pretty impressive. I didn’t see any animals or birds despite this being a bird haven with over 300 species but that was fine as it’s the tress themselves I was here for. We made our way really slowly since I was dragging Winnie, Viola and Peter with me, super grateful for them egging me on, they did make the hike very bearable. After what felt like an eternity, coming in dead last (not that it was race but this type of defeat stayed with me) we rejoined the rest of the group at the rest stop. After overhearing someone say there were two more hills, I was officially and unequivocally DONE! In life you must know your problems and limits, I’d reached mine sadly! Rob got me a boda so I could head back to the campsite. The speed with which I wobbled on to that boda was nothing short of impressive if I do say so myself.

Riding a boda on a high way is nothing short of an adventure in itself what with taxis, busses and trucks going by at breakneck speed and me realizing I’d left my phone with Peter so I had no way of communicating if main man over here decided to branch off to Masaka or something, let’s just say I was alert and then some! Thankfully he dropped me off safe and sound without incident where I wobbled straight for my gin. It was really nice being in the empty camp, I sat drinking and staring past the pine trees, peaceful doesn’t begin to cover how wonderful this was.

Eventually, everyone trickled back slowly just as the bbq dinner roasting was getting done. After getting scrubbed and clean, we went down for dinner which was absolutely delicious. We spent the night by the campfire getting different levels of sloshed and dancing the night away. Even with my bum knee I still managed a partial pakachini.I refuse to be a weak link of the dance floor. I don’t know what time I went to bed but I was good and happy when I did. The next day it was time to get back to Kampala and reality marking an end to what was an epic weekend.

A massive thank you goes out to Andrew and Diana who organized the Mpanga Slay. It was absolutely lovely meeting everyone .The company was great, Troy is a sweetheart, the food levels of superb and my cup overfloweth. I’m looking forward to the next one with baited breath. Winnie, keep theses great plans coming. X