Forget about Mbale. Kapchworwa is beautiful. It is serenely quiet, green and cold. It is raised on high and waltzes thick with life. The hills and the rounding corners are nothing compared to the clean air that runs through your nostrils from the time you cross the line after Sironko that point when your eyes can afford to zoom in the sight of the waterfalls from afar. You should visit Kapchworwa, I do not know what you are waiting for but you ought to give yourself a treat, if not for Sipi, then the beautiful people, if not that just go for a renewal of your mind at the Twilight Lodge. It’s amazing.
The day we arrived at Twilight Lodge, Thomas and Timothy were in charge. I had tagged along the adventurous Babishai team that was to celebrate poetry at the Sipi falls the following day. Before that we could lodge in, we were treated to a traditional Sebei meal of grilled goat mchomo served with organically grown and freshly served salad and roasted matooke all from the Sebei neighbourhood.
Among the Sebei, a homestead shall always keep a stick of roasted goat’s meat for any guest. That’s the beauty of being born in a place which has never known food scarcity.
At Twilight Lodge, it was time to explore the good things that eyes had not seen nor the ear heard. The beauty of Kapchworwa! But first things first, we were to be camping outside in the tents. Wow! For a person like me whose camping experience has always been nothing but an icing of the same, this did not necessarily come off very well. It was a mixed feeling of both. First I needed to check in and my first attempt was to check whether I fitted in the tent. As adolescents in secondary school, we had a challenge at school. The wielder of the beds must have been not necessarily a tall man. He could, I guess, take measurement of the size of the beds, using his height as the ultimate. When a few of us—gifted with long leg came—it was a nightmare. You could not sleep with your legs stretched out of the bed because they would protrude beyond the bed confinement into the walkway. This was a sport for the walkers-past as they pinched and pulled at your toes. But I digress. Back to Twilight.
I got a tent that could accommodate the whole of me and given that there were other campers who were visibly taller than me, it was a bit more comforting.
One thing about sleeping in a tent is the endless questions that keep running through the head, about turning endlessly, tripping over with the tent and of course having to negotiate with the weather. On our second day after the Sipi excursion, about four of the campers found their tents soaked by the rain having forgotten to close up the window opening of their tents. How sad!
You wonder of the quality of dreams that are to be scripted that night. Will they be as curved as the exterior, will the characters be on the move, will the dreams be registered in memory for reference in the morning or will they be equally pitched up like the enclosure in which they are encapsulated?
But it’s just a tent, only a tent.
In the night we sat down by the bonfire as piles of wood whizzed and rambled with burning slowly breaking down into ashes one after another. We stole the pride of the night away reciting poetry. One by one, they stood up in poetry performances throwing the word out tickling the wind. Neither darkness nor coldness could stop us from enjoying the company of words well arranged. Meanwhile, from a distance, the falls poured out their hearts with a bang relentlessly. They rattled like a faraway rain storming towards us. And our heads often lifted to see how far the rain was only to find the darkness. Then we stretched out our hands for any drizzle to fall down and there was none. It were just the falls going on with their business as they have done for the ages past.
When the weight of the night bogged down on our shoulders, we dropped off leisurely to go sleeping like leaves off a tree on a Sunday afternoon. Our tents were waiting having turned cold with dew. We spent a night at the Twilight in the tent and the coldness sunk to the marrow.
Twilight Lodge is pitched on top of a hill overlooking the lower falls that makeup the Sipi falls. There are three different falls that make up Sipi layered out on the slopes of Mt Elgon below the national park.
A morning drive to the upper bed of Mt Elgon national park leads us to our first stop of the hike, sits up at the highest. The hike is very engaging and drilling, driving away the adrenaline out of our bodies. The sound of the falls gets louder and hits harder for every corner and turn we take.
Before our excited eyes get to the falls, we have to jump out of the bus and walk the rest of the distance. Before long the road comes to an end and we have to queue up for the heights above as the falls keep towering above us.
We turn to twigs for support as we rush to go up. We cannot wait to be in presence of the mighty falling of the falls. At about 100 meters, we reach the watching point where the magnificent sight of the falls was upon us sweating and panting for breath. At this moment in time, our hair has all turned white, we have crossed the heights where it is always raining. Our clothes are getting wet yet the noise is hard to containable. Everything is new, brilliant and all.
The place experiences “rain” and mist that rise from the falls every day. It carries on. It creates that ecstasy of things hoped for. And yet this is not the end of it all. There is a sharper bend leading to the corner of the rock which comes closest to seeing the falls.
This is not for the faint at heart. The falls are so rapid and very loud. They can consume anything that crosses their path. The beauty of this spot is how the sun kisses the falls before it is interrupted by the brief rain and the sun again. In between this back and forth argument between the sun and the rain is the bold glitter of the rainbow. And seeing the rainbow below at the base of the falls as opposed to the skyline as the eyes are used brings back all the memories of the seven colours that make it up.
We get a chance of counting the colours one by one.
In our wetness and excitement, poetry is recited.
After about forty minutes of pacing about by the girders marveling at the beauty that we have seen for the first time, we set off to go back and join our colleagues that had not made it above.
We were retelling the stories to each downhill like what had happened had been a dream experienced individually.
We rushed through to the second and third falls against the rain. We had become too wet to be afraid of the rain again. Our guide Thomas, warned us of the slippery rocks and the dangers of slipping down. He warned as we scampered for warmth. Our bodies shook like leaves yet we had to cross log-built-bridges.
Joan and I walked ahead of the team, tired. Joan had an idea of the place and besides it was holiday time and children were out to play. We interrupted their play asking for directions.
You have not run for your life when you see your bus from the top of the hill yet you have to be swallowed by its valley to access it. We dive into the unknown pathways taking corners, holding on to shrubs and stopping to breathe some fresh air. Fresh air that knows no word as “stuffy”. Overarching canopies of trees whose birthday no one can trace but only the assurance of having lived long enough. The softness of the ground, the black soil on which Arabica coffee and matooke have grown for a lifetime bearing fruit without tear or wear. As we touch the tarmac, our gratitude is greeted by fresh ripe mangoes, sweet bananas and avocado grown in the land. They are all succulent and very organic.
Much as are tired, we are very happy. It was worth. Not even the weight of mud on our shoes or the wetness of our clothes or the shaking of our bodies could take the joy away. These had been four hours very well spent.
Would I go back to Sipi? Anytime even if it meant going now.