Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Addis to Kigali

 We were the lowest people in Africa. Minus 123m in Ethiopia's Danakil Depression. Mount Kenya was tamed with a bunch of rabble rousers and only  We were the highest peoplein Africa. Uganda's Margherita Peak (5109m). I know what you're thinking - we could actually see Kilimanjaro from the top and nobody was on top so it must go down in the record books. We've been across Africa's largest lake and we met a man who owns one ofthe oldest dogsin the world. I saw a photo ofthe dog and it's very convincing. The mightiest ofthe greatapes havebeen tracked and reckoned. I think they liked us.

We're pushing 20 000km on some of Africa's finest public transport and our cause for The Key School is now as urgentas ever. Sing it from the rooftops, turn your wealthy relatives upside down and shake them for all the loos change they are worth. And let no person say your contribution in this great ocean is but a drop. For what is it, if not a multitude of potent, single droplets!

Over and Up!

Here are some of the stats:

Mileage to date: 16444km

Funds raised for the Key School: R40,000

Peaks: 4 - Abuna Josepf (4300m), Mt Kenya (4950m), Mt Stanley (5109m), Mt Gahinga (3600m)

Troughs: 2 - Danakil Depression (-116m), David Cloetes naked arse (sags -1,5m)

Times vomited on while in transit: 2

Times been crapped on by poultry while in transit: 1

Chapatis eaten: >400

Prostitutes encountered in Kenya: 52

Prostitutes hitting on Tough Guys father:  52

Prostitutes hitting on Tough Guy: 0

Monday, 9 July 2012

Journey to The Mountains of the Moon

First Days

The rising sun clears the mist to reveal the Portal Peaks, protectors of the entrance.
Trees, taller than we have ever seen - a canopy of lush, green undergrowth and amazing flowers;
pansies, bluebells and the Rwenzori Rose. Troops of Colobus monkeys entertain as they fly through the canopies, birdsong, magnificent butterflies and a three-horned chameleon all making their way through the exaggerated foliage - leaves, twigs, and roots all far greater than they should be.

Mystical at moments as the path winds its way upwards from Nyabitaba Base Camp, moss-clad boulders, rickety wooden steps built from yesteryear. The Bigo Bog looms ahead with strange tree phantoms and primeval woodland, with its own sense of antiquity. We meet a brown-faced Rwenzori mountain rat. He has the look of Mr. Tittle-mouse and is just out of hibernation for a little snack in the bamboo forest. His thoughts are slow but he is quick to escape down his hatch when we pass through his 'danger perimeter'

It seems that the sprites, fairies and elves of the Rwenzoris, dance to their own spirit, in their own step. The light changes as mist and cloud roll back and forth along mountain peaks and it is as though our ancestral spirits are moving along the valleys. Antiquity and time are merged in this unique and remote piece of paradise and one feels like a minute mortal.

We reach John Matte Hut, perched on a piece of grassland, overlooking the old, unchanged forest - always the sound of water and the call of the Rwenzori Turaco. We are alone in our own silence as we swim in the freezing river.


As we climb into the heather zone, slopes of tall Lobelias, watching over the young ones, who are already retaining water deep within, for the season's growth ahead. Ever upwards, we ascend - over 3 000m now - and the path twists and turns. Many gnarled roots of the bearded Hagenia trees block our path. Above us, throngs of Rwenzori roses, pink in colour, with occasional snowdrops peeping through.

As we forge the Upper Bigo Bog the sun reveals the surrounding peaks - Baker and Stanley - stnading in awesome grnadeur and we have our first sight of the Margherita Glacier, sparkling white and incandescent in power and splendour, the very top of the jungles of the hinterland.

Bujuku Lake

Bujuku Lake welcomes us. Dark, high and opaque. Somewhat reminiscent of a remote Loch. That night the plump moon bathes the surrounding peaks in sepia and we gaze up at the giants to come.

On the morrow, a freezing but clear dawn greets us. Deep silence. We are constantly reminded of our smallness and we look up at the saddle separating us from the Congo. Our steep ascent to Elena Hut (4 500m) begins through fields of the everlasting flowers scattered throughout. Ladders are climbed against the rock and we have magnificent views from Omukandeye, 4150m. Our first sighting of Mount Stanley Glacier and a cold thrill hums in us all.

Profound quietness as the air thins out. Everyone conscious of their own breathing and small rests are important. Jagged rock faces are now in view as reach Elena, a ramshackle corrugated iron structure. We begin to understand the Mountains of the Moon.


Mist circles and clears indiscriminately and the mountains jeer us on, throwing down a challenge. Awake at 3:30am in the bowl of light beneath the spires. The team heads off - over and up - into the dimness, their headlamps lighting the way for the 150m ascent to the snowline. Crampon-clad, they breach the Stanley Plateau, the dawn to their right and the waning full moon from the other side.

Margherita and Alexandra Peaks are only left now. A snow storm wheels in from the West as they trudge up 60 degree inclines, scrambling over the strewn rocks that lead the way. They are engulfed now, a constant drizzle of snow soaks them to their marrow. As they finally scramble to the highest point, whiskey is shared on the grounds of the gods - a pat on the back - and they must leave. The altitude is disorienting. No thoughts of conquering the summit are within, only how small they feel now that they are on top.


Thoughts rush in with increased oxygen. How special to tread a glacier on the equator, in the footsteps of the explorers of yore.

7 days walking in the highest mountain range in Africa. A dream is fulfilled and many more are conceived.

Words: Jan Mallen

Saturday, 30 June 2012

Coming Soon...

The Mountains of the Moon; Bwindi Impenetrable Park, Mgahinga volcanoes......

Coming Soon......

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Toward the South

Here we are, geographically.

From Gonder to Nanyuki. Over 1000km in southerly direction. This has been our longest stretch in our favourite direction. It fills one with exhilaration and is just the tonic for morale - that tangible sensation that we are nearing the bottom of the continent. Our merry band has been bolstered. James White, Dave Cloete, Lawrence Mallen - all mentalists - have joined us for a gambol up Mount Kenya. McAlpine and I awaited their arrival with relish, deliberately abstaining from merriment on the Friday that they spent in transit in Nairobi. We couldn't wait to make contact with the outside world, and embrace family and friends who really knew us. No such approach for them, they had hardly touched down in East Africa before the Tusker started flowing. James lost his fleece on a grubby dancefloor and now he is very cold. Lawrence, who tripped on a cats eye and landed on his head in Comrades last weekend, arrived wielding a 12 year old single malt. He has made it very clear that we shall share the burden of this most prized possession and that James should rather focus on its safekeeping than his shivering bones.
She leers from the horizon.