Last weekend , while I worshiped at the altar of education, the cool story tellers of #koikoiug made their first trip of 2017 courtesy of airtel and shell to Eastern Uganda. I have dealt with all my grief from missing out to the point of acceptance, but I am also a bad loser, so while I had a conversation with one of my friends who made it for the trip, I asked her to tell her experience with abseiling.
So ladies and gentlemen, meet Debbie’s #KoiKoiEast story.
You walk to the falls thinking, “yes I am going to abseil, its no sweat”.
There are a few spots where you watch your step but you are not fazed in the least. You catch your first glimpse of the falls and can only see the top part. Like nature does not want to reveal all its secrets at once. I mean who does that? It is all in the suspense.
It is when you get to the drop point that your heart catches up with the mind and the nerves launch. You can’t see the waterfall or even the drop of the cliff. Peter the guide makes it look easy, “let your weight fall back, keep your legs straight and walk backwards on the rock”, he instructs.
These are all English words that make sense yet they don’t. Its a questions frenzy in your mind.
“Where exactly do I put my weight?”
“How can I hang on a rope and not hold on tight?”
Not sure how many times he had to repeat the instructions because with fight or flee,response heading towards flee the instructions just cannot sink in. So you psych your self up, join the KoiKoi banter. And together you try to joke yourselves out of fear to find your iron will, it should be inside somewhere. Or you hope it is.
Your time has come. No one has yet shed tears so that is out. No one has yelled “walalala mama nze” so that is out too (or if they did, you did not hear).
There were some freaked out faces, so you shall have none of that, because the picture MUST look good.
So you allow to be strapped on the rope.
You smile and pause for the picture. Start taking backward steps to take the plunge. Never is not an option, the time is now.
You are not sure where to place more faith….
Is it in the Lord your keeper who may be shaking His head saying “now look at this child of mine, after all the wisdom I gave her!”
Is it in the guide who will rope you down- who by the way does not look big and face it, you are not dainty?
Or is it in the rope which is just one?
It does not help your case that there are no fancy gadgets for this expedition like safety gear or helmets or elbow and knee pads. (Why can’t these people be like safe boda?)
Anyway with your back in the air there is now no way out except down.
The instructor: Walk on the rock, until your legs can’t reach the rock because the cliff is not straight...
Me (my head):I do not remember anything like this being said earlier, why are you changing the rules? (insert shocked emoji)
The instructor: Don’t hold onto the rope so tight….
Me: But I am hanging in the air here, holding on for dear life is the wise thing to do
After one pleading look to your guide to not let you die,you figure this must be it.
The lowering pauses so your partner in crime Sandra Awiili can start her descent too. Only problem is when the descent pauses, you rotate 360 degrees feet in the air – not once, not twice. Round you go.
And there it is; the waterfall, rock formation, escarpment, valley beyond, the sky (and maybe heaven).
If you have the courage, you look down and see how far you have to go or possibly fall. But the falling is now at the back of the mind and the crazy has moved to the front. You are excited and amazed that you have done it. And some might say it is all physics but that beautiful rainbow you see when you look down must be a sign that all is well and you are forgiven for this deranged episode. You even let go of one hand for the photo-op and grin like a fool.
Touch down is amidst rocks, wet slippery rocks of various sizes, but who cares, you look up and you feel like a conqueror, like it took a long time, even though the 100 meter drop took about 5 minutes. You need to take a seat for a while because man, the adrenaline is still coursing through your veins, fingers are shaking and the selfie of the conquerors has to be taken more than once.
You recount with fellow crayzies what you had thought versus what happened; what they told you verses what you found; and what they DID NOT tell you! It is all cool now, laughter, joy and some praise in the heart that gravity didn’t win.
In the next phase, talk of geography wanting to reap you of your abseiling conquest,
Something like “thou shall not prosper that much. If you think you did great, let me prove you wrong’. First, you cannot see a path. It is a freshly tilled field on the steep slope that you need to cross to get to some ladder millions of miles away. Second that is the way back.
Lungs are burning, screaming ‘I was not made for this’.
Hands are digging in the soil because you can’t walk upright.
Manicures are forgotten because survival first please!
Feet are trembling , this must be what the psalmist meant all along in Psalms 18:33 when he said,“He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights”.
So you call on the Lord that the Elgon slopes are not how you will meet Him.
Heart beating on a different scale, not sure if it is pumping blood or just freaking out because the blood and oxygen sure aren’t reaching the other parts of the body. Meanwhile you keep an ear out for your neighbor with a hope that they may forget their own struggle and grab you when you start to slip.
The mind goes into tunnel vision mode, trying to focus like a telekinesis. The sabiny kids on the slope keep passing you by moving up and down, cracking jokes and giving each other sly smiles kind of asking ,
“Whats wrong with these Kampala peeps? Why are they heaving? Which one do you think will make it?” and feels like you are a survivor contestant with a live audience.
But like the conqueror you are, you overcome and make it out alive. Once the body is fed and convinced that there are no more slopes in the near future, the heart is flooded with that abseiling joy once again.
You refuse to be robbed of those ‘awesome sermon inspiring- fear conquering-display of lunacy-one with nature and its maker-heart singing-liberating-story for the grandchildren; oh my word, my English is failing – 5 minutes…
No you shall absolutely not.
PS: Follow the Ugandan story from the trip at #KoiKoiEast