Lorna and Spacey go Hiking and Abseiling at Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa

I sat inside the bus to Mbale impatiently waiting for Spacey to show up. The driver seemed fed up with my countless pleas of “she is on her way, ssebo (meaning sir in Luganda) “please be patient she is on a boda boda(motor-bike) and will soon be here!’

“But Madame you have been saying that for the last 15 minutes. It’s 10.00am and we are supposed to take off right now’’ he argued back as I sat helplessly wondering why she was taking so long.

Just as the driver was about to leave the bus station, she breathlessly appeared, and jumped into the seat next to me. “I am never on time, Lorna, and am always late!” she said with an apologetic grin. She could see that I was exasperated after repeatedly calling her to hurry her along and cajoling the bus driver not to leave without her.

Spacey and I were in the same class in 2016, we both pursued an IATA course, graduated and started working in the Ugandan tourism industry. However, we had never done a tour together. This was our chance!  We dreamed up the idea of exploring Sipi Falls in Kapchorwa, a beautiful series of three waterfalls that lie on the edge of Mount Elgon and the Kenyan boarder.

The Sipi Falls area is perfect for a number of exciting activities like trekking along the magnificent water falls, rock climbing, nature walks, coffee farming tours, cave visits and birding safaris.  We opted for backpacking since we were both on a shoe string budget. That is why we were using public transportation through Mbale town to Kapchorwa. The drive to Mbale was rather long and uncomfortable, inside the rattly bus. It was really hot inside, and the dusty road outside made it unbearable to open the windows. It was a huge relief to finally disembark in Mbale, and take a few photos with the famous Wanale hill in the background. We ate a quick snack at a restaurant then grabbed a taxi to to take us to our accommodations in Kapchorwa.

We chose to sleep in a back-packer’s lodge since most of the Accommodation in town were fully booked. Of course, it was also the option that perfectly fit our budget. We got to our room late, and the weather had turned extremely chilly. The water in the shower was cold enough to induce hypothermia. I squealed, shivered and danced around until I felt clean enough to get out of the frigid water.

The next morning, we awoke to a lovely sunny morning. We were super excited about the Adventure that awaited us. Sheriff Chebet, one of our guides, picked us up on a motorbike and drove us to the office to register, make payments, and to meet our other guide, Juma Chebet. We safer with each of us having our own guide to provide the information and assistance we needed.

Grabbing long bamboo poles that aided us in our trek up and down the falls, we set out. The view was captivating and gave us the chance to pose for pictures inside the caves and to dance under the water falls. One of the three water falls had a massive pool underneath it that prompted us to quickly change into our swimming attire and jump into the water. We splashed water on each other, screamed our lungs out, and danced as we sung off-key to Beyoncé’s songs. Juma and Sheriff watched with amusement, and took photos of us.

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We decided to wind up the day by walking to another fall and abseiling 100meters beneath it. As soon as we arrived, we were welcomed by Robert, the Director of Rob’s Rolling Rock Company.  He helped us each to wear a harness around our waists in preparation for our decent.

Even though the guides had warned me not to look down, my curiosity got the best of me and I did. ‘’Girl, I don’t see myself going down there ‘’, I muttered to Spacey as I was overwhelmed by fear. I started to wonder why we ever came up with this idea, I knew we were out looking for adventure but we didn’t need to risk our lives in the process. We had already paid a non-refundable fee of UGX 100,00 (about 30 USD). If we decided to walk away, we would have lost our money and feel disappointed for the rest of the day. We decided to go for it, with Spacey opting to go first. I watched her shake like a leaf as Robert instructed her to place her feet on the crossbar, hold tightly to the rope, and let go. She tried at first but then begged to be pulled back up, she was really frightened and wanted to give up. “Lorna come and do it first, I will follow after you’’ she said. ‘’No, you can do it Spacey, it’s going to be fun!’’ I yelled back. In reality I was even more scared than she was and probably didn’t sound too convincing.

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Photo:Spacey getting ready

Robert did a great job of encouraging Spacey’s confidence. “I won’t let anything happen to you. Just relax and trust me!’’ he repeatedly assured her. “What if the ropes break?”  What if I fall down?’’ Spacey stammered out a number of anxious questions, and he answer them reassuringly until she eventually gained the courage to let go. Her first screams of fear were followed by shrieks of laughter and excitement ‘’I love you Robert. This is so beautiful!” she screamed. “I love you too Spacey. Now look at me and let go of the rope” he shouted back as he shot a great memorable picture of her.

Fifteen minutes later, Spacey was safely on the ground 100meters below and it was time for me to give it a try. I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up, my heart was beating faster than Usain Bolt has ever run. My stomach churned so loud it sounded like an active volcano was about to erupt through my mouth. “Spacey did it, I need to do it too!’’ I repeated over and over again to calm my jittery nerves.

“Place one foot on the crossbar, place the other against the wall, hold the rope and slowly let go. Be careful not to get too close to the wall as you may hurt yourself.’’ I heard Robert say as I fumbled around to put my feet on the crossbar. It felt so unstable, and I could barely stand on it since the wind made it shake from one side to side.

‘’Do I have had to stand on the crossbar?’’, “Can’t I just hold the rope and go down? ’I asked as I struggled to get my feet firmly on the pole.

‘’Yes, you can…Are you ready?’’ he asked. I was too nervous to reply and quickly let go of his hand, held the rope tightly and let go.  My eyes were tightly shut until I heard Robert shout “You are doing it Lorna, open your eyes and look at the beauty around you.’’ I slowly opened my eyes and glanced at the Jaw dropping beauty that surrounded me. The reddish-golden sun sinking in the horizon, the rays of light glimmering in the clouds, images of a magnificent waterfall as white as snow, all dazzled me magically. The waterfall roared majestically as the perfect background for the stunning view of the distant hills and beautiful valleys. It was spellbinding!

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I could hear gleeful cheers from Spacey and Sheriff who were watching from below. My spectacular ride lasted about ten minutes. On the ground, Sheriff hurried towards me and helped take the harness off my waist. Spacey was jumping up and down in excitement “Lorna we did it!’’ as we both hugged and laughed. It was such a great experience from fear to a rush of utter joy and excitement.

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We all posed for more photographs and then jumped on Sheriff’s motor bike to ride back into town. We went laughing, screaming and singing. It had been such a lovely day. We ended it that evening by drinking Ugandan Waragi, eating chicken, listening to music, dancing, gossiping, and laughing out loud until we finally fell into an exhausted sleep.

We woke up to a lovely breakfast the next morning at Noah’s Ark hotel. We took a lazy walk around the town, and then grabbed a taxi to head back to Kampala that afternoon. We felt brave and content from our great adventure!

Many thanks to my friend Spacey for going on this adventure with me, and of course to our lovely guides Juma, Sheriff and Robert for their commitment and professionalism. I highly recommend them as the best guides to contact at Sipi Falls. You need to experience this too!

Republished with permission www.lornasadventures.com


Hiking Mount Sabinyo the Second Highest of the Virunga Mountains

By Lorna www.lornasadventures.com

“You are not supposed to indulge into any vigorous activities for the next 6 months. You need to heal properly’’, my surgeon said to me as I lay in my hospital bed at Pulse clinic. I had just under gone a sigmoid colectomy operation that had 30cm of the left side of my colon (sigmoid colon) removed. I had been suffering from acute stomach pains for the last 3 years till the doctors decided it was time for corrective surgery.

“Six months is too much! I will get bored and probably pile on some weight, am an active outdoorsy person I can’t stay still for six months doing nothing for exercise’’, I protested as I waved my hand from one side to the other. The I.V. drip on my hand was so painful.  It was the 15th one I had received in three days since I was severely dehydrated.

“It’s for your own good, Lorna!’ He said as he watched me wave my hand around to ease the pain.

“If your wound fails to heal properly from the inside you will be in so much trouble. My team will need to carry out another operation which will be costly and more complicated to fix.’’ He held my hand and tried to slowly take the needle from the most visible vein on my right hand. He had noticed the discomfort it was giving me, the large swelling and blood clot it had caused. He thought it best to place it on my left hand instead to relieve my right one.

“I have a feeling you won’t even listen to me. You are so stubborn Lorna, you annoy me sometimes’’ he continued to say as he got a brand new needle and injected it into the most visible vein on my left hand. He excused himself briefly after to go attend to an emergency, giving me ample time to take a much-needed nap. I was dog-tired after my long surgery.

A month went by and I was lying uncomfortably on my bed feeling unfit and bored. The urge to get some physically active was growing bigger day by day. I turned on my laptop and googled “Hiking Mount Sabinyo’’ and read some reviews from trip advisor. I immediately decided to take my chances and just hike it. I walked towards the large blue and white calendar that hung up on the left wall of my bedroom and searched through the dates to find the best time for the hike. November 24th-26th perfect! I had the dates ready all I needed now was a team of fellow mountain climbers to come along with me.

Being a member of the mountain club of Uganda meant it was going to be as easy as a pie to convince a group of ten climbers to go on this adventure with me. I posted my desire to summit this mountain on the group’s facebook page and the response was extremely positive.

On Friday the 24th at 2pm we were all seated in the taxi we had hired at the parking lot of Game supermarket in Kampala. We were ready to drive out of Kampala and head out for Kisoro where Mount Sabinyo is located.  Mount Sabinyo is one of extinct volcanoes that make up the Virunga mountains in the western part of Uganda and contains 3 peaks the first being 3423 meters high, the second 3537 meters high and the third and highest boasts of an amazing 3669 meters in height. The thought of the challenge that lay ahead of us sparked so much excitement within us!

Our first stop was at the Uganda Equator historical landmark along the Kampala-Masaka road for some memorable photos, a chance to stretch our legs and catch a breath of fresh air. We later stopped at the Agip motel in mbarara to relax and grab some dinner before we got to Kisoro.

At about 2am we got to the Mgahinga National park which is also the base of Mount Gahinga and Mount sabinyo hurriedly pitched up our tents and went to bed. We were up by 6 am for breakfast which delayed a bit alongside paying for the hike and a briefing session from Zachariah who was the lead guide for the hike. Clad in a black and yellow-stripped Uganda shirt and a Ugandan flag in my hand I convinced the team to pose for a historic photograph with the Ugandan flag. With the members being nationals of different countries like Belgium, America, Germany and the Uk I felt it was worth proving to their family and friends that they were once in Uganda summiting one of its various astonishing mountains.IMG_20171125_080336

We started the hike at an altitude of about 1890-2200 meters. It was quite enjoyable as the sun was shining brightly giving us the warmth we needed. Kisoro is one of the coldest regions in Uganda. The group was cheerful; there was laughter and plenty of chit-chat going on.  There was lots of lush vegetation, giant lobelias, and a variety of bird species singing to a melancholy tune that prompted a few bird lovers in the group to take out their binoculars and take a closer look.


There were lots of massive elephant footprints and piles of buffalo poop on the trails. Golden monkeys could be easily seen swinging gracefully from one tree top to the other. The hike was smooth for a while but later got much steeper after the first hut where we stopped for refreshments.  Just before getting to the first peak I was starting to get concerned about whether I would be able to complete the hike. I had just gone through a very physically and emotionally demanding week, had hiked a 2400 meter kilembe hill at one of the many islands of Lake Bunyonyi  that Thursday prior to the hike on Saturday and had started feeling the fatigue getting to me.

“Lorna adjust your bag, let it be closer to your body’’ Charles said to me as he noticed beads of sweat flowing down from my forehead. “Your bag seems heavy, what are you carrying inside?’’ he questioned. I quietly stood and watched him adjust my bag as I secretly wondered if I was going to make it through this hike. Charles is a professional hiker of Kenyan nationality he was once a hiking guide on Mt.Kenya for a good number of years. He has also hiked the Black cullins in Scotland, Mt.Kilimanjaro in Tanzania the Siemens in Ethiopia among many others. I was glad he accepted my invitation to come along with us.   It’s always good to have a skilled climber with a positive and encouraging attitude like he has.

“Let me carry your bag for you, Lorna!’’ He said to me an hour after he noticed my pace had drastically reduced and that I was breathing with difficulty. Charles, two guides and I were lagging behind from the rest. ‘’You don’t have to rush, just go slow we are soon getting to the first peak.’’ One of the UWA guides said to me as he looked at me and smiled.

The beauty of the Afro montane vegetation, Bamboo trees and low altitude equatorial forests helped to relax my mind, and my pace picked up considerably. I felt new energy that I was ready for whatever challenges lay ahead. After climbing a few steep handmade wooden ladders we finally got to the first peak at about 11.30am.

The rugged nature of the terrain along the slopes has very sharp ridges making it only possible to hike Mount sabinyo in Uganda as much as it’s also shared by Rwanda and Congo. The trails are quite challenging but the spectacular views from the peak were extremely rewarding.

After taking plenty of captivating pictures we soldiered on for another 30-45 minutes to get to the second peak which was even more steeper and had more ladders to climb. At 3,537 meters most of us got to the second peak, two had called it off as it was getting much more challenging. I could hear my friend Dahil whining every now and then “Am fed up of these stairs, they are too many!’’….”I am so tired, I think I’ll stop here,’’ she continued to whine as she sat down next to me and pulled out a packet of crisps to munch on.


The ladders to the third peak were the type that could easily break anyone. The wooden ladders were so many and so high – they seemed like a staircase to heaven. They literally disappeared in the clouds making me wonder where they ended.

I felt very dizzy going up the ladders despite the fact that I had swallowed some Altitude sickness medication before the hike started.  My knees felt weak almost like they wanted to give way, my mouth felt dry and all the joints in my body ached from fatigue. I glanced behind to check on the rest of the team that was behind me and it was quite obvious we were all struggling to get to the top. We finally got to the third peak at 3,669 meters and If I had a third hand I would have tapped myself on the back and said ‘’Good job Lorna, you finally made it’’.

Rwanda and Congo were very close by and the view from the third peak was spectacular. We rested for about 15 minutes till Zachariah urged as to start heading down before the rain or wild animals caught up with us. Mount Sabinyo boasts of about 86 recorded mammal species which include herds of buffaloes, troop of elephants, mountain gorilla families, Okapi among many others.

The thought of descending the mountain using the same route we used to ascend the mountain made my heart skip a beat. “This is not going to be easy!’’ I thought to myself as I lay down on the grass to rest for a few more minutes. I shut my eyes and listened as the others hurriedly followed Zachariah down the slopes.

Nick, Charles, Dahil, Cyndee, one of the UWA guides and I were the last ones in the group to descend the mountain. Climbing down the ladders was equally as difficult as going up! My toes hurt so much from stubbing them on stones several times, and to add insult to injury a few members of the trek had accidentally stepped on them.

Three hours later it was just Nick, Cyndee, and an Uwa guide and I taking our own pace as we slowed down. It started to rain heavily making the trails even more slippery and wet. We kept on falling and slipping as we may our way down the trail. We concentrated on slowing our pace to avoid any serious injuries. I felt like we would never reach to the camp! My energy had run out, and I was soaking wet from head to toe despite the fact that I had a rain jacket on. I was pleased to have Nick walking patiently behind me and quietly dealing with all my tantrums. He made sure I didn’t fall and pulled out a torch when it grew dark.

At about 8.15pm we finally got back to the camp, and we all rushed into our tents to put on some warmer clothes. Ten minutes later we were seated next to a warm fire, with some warm food and a hot cup of tea. I felt proud looking around and seeing the rest of the team chatting about how beautiful the hike was and how glad they were to have come along. Despite the fact that we encountered a few challenges during the hike, the satisfaction derived after successfully completing it is all that matters at the end of the day. I was glad I didn’t pay attention to my doctor and secretly hope he never finds out I hiked Mount Sabinyo without his consent!

I would like to thank Alexia, Charles, Hannah, Cyndee, Dahil, Stuart, Bara and Jesse who are all members of the Mountain Club of Uganda for coming along with me to conquer Mount Sabinyo and for being the best team I have ever hiked with.