There's a place in the Star Wars movies called cloud city, a place hovering in the clouds, neighbored not by grass and tree but by wisps and wind, stratus and nimbus. I was in this city not long ago.
A friend convinced me it would be a good idea to climb mt. Elgon in Eastern Uganda, approximately 14,000 feet up. I've never climbed a mountain before, unless of course Mackey Mountain counts, which rises probably 30 meters high from suburban Fort Wayne and which provides ample slope for sledding in the winter. With Elgon, I really didn't know what to expect. it's like the 11th highest peak in Africa with one of the largest bases of any mountain in the world. though I didn't know what to expect, 11 hours of climbing on day one quickly taught me.
Past village and farm, over rock, creek, and mud, we climbed. Every now and then I would remember to look up and around. "This is the primary forest," our guide said, "untouched by human hands."
What we passed was pure. Forests of bamboo bending down as if to have a look at us, blue mountain ridges off in the distance, Colubus monkeys jumped from tree to tree in an effort to escape our gaze. Or perhaps, just the opposite, to catch our gaze and let us know they were still here, still free. A bird perched on a branch above us. Black at first glance, but upon flight, revealing the truest red I've ever seen, it's wings covered with the untainted color. Untouched by human hands.
Still, we climbed.
We camped the first night, cooking macaroni and cheese over the fire, yielding to the sleepless mountain nights that cold air and hard ground thrust upon us. We would wake early the next day, climb to the summit, then climb 6 hours back down to another camp.
Cloud city was the place I wanted to live. There was something...transcendent about it all, living in the clouds. We we reached the peak, Wagagai, at 4321 meters, the transcendence returned. I took deep breathes of cumulus and stratus. The water from these heavenly bodies filled my lungs and i imagined them putting a light, mountain frost on the inside of my chest cavity. When the clouds moved on, they revealed the work below. valleys and hills, small ponds, and lands that spoke of an existence that neither relied on us nor held its beauty for our appreciation.
"When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?"
But earthly transcendence can only last so long, and as we climbed back down, the mountain reminded us that it's still wild, untamed. the rains came, the trail turned to mud and slop, and as we fell time and time again, our guide reminded us, "You're getting the Elgon experience."
A Wee Dram O' Ruxpin Muggle
5 days ago