Monday, February 26, 2007

Small small you catch monkey

This weekend we climbed Mount Cameroon. I am now asking myself why I did it? Was it for fun? As an endurance test? Because I can? Or because I live on the foot of it and see it regularly. Well to be honest I do not know why I did it and I spent most of the time thinking it was certainly not for fun!

We set of on Saturday Morning, we cheated and got a taxi to the end of the road near a prison called upper farms. It was about 9:30 by the time we left carrying all our provisions for the next 2 days. Our group was us two, Didimus and his brother in law Sanni. I was not too worried about the first bit of the journey as I had been before with Mum and Dad. Although for some reason I was finding it really hard work and had to keep stopping for a breather. We reached Hut 1 in about 2 hours had a rest and collected water from the spring, the only place to get drinking water on the route. So from this point Didimus was carrying 4.5 litres as well as a bunch of food on his back. Sanni took my bag so I had nothing - I do not think I would have made it with a bag too.

About half an hour from Hut 1 we reached the Savannah, when I went with Mum and Dad it was beautiful but they had burnt all the grass for the mountain race so was not as green this time. We trotted up to Hut 1b (a new intermediate hut), however most of this journey was done in the rain and a bit of hail. From here the going got really tough. the next part was really rocky, if you fell you would injure yourself. Twice we came across people who had fallen one had a few bad cuts the other a sprained knee being helped down by the first aid team who I gave some of my drug collection too. It was really steep and hard work, at many times I was on my hands and knees. We passed the magic tree (or magic stick in pidgin), not sure what it so magic about it, I have heard differing reasons.

It was a busy weekend on the mountain - most people climb the week after the race. As we passed people they would say 'ashia' - pidgin for I understand how you feel and 'courage' - which helped me going. Others said 'it is really difficult' - I did not need to be told that!

We then reached Hut 2, this is where we would stay the night. It took 5 hours to get to here so we had some time to rest. We visited an old lava cave which runs under the mountain for over a mile, we did not go down it though. We then made a camp fire and baked potatoes in the burning lava ash (or something like that, we kept being told the ground was on fire as it is old lava). And had them with spicy Chicken that Didimus had cooked. The next million hours were spent trying to sleep on a very uncomfortable wooden bed with a bunch of smelly men and women snoring. Needles to say I got little sleep especially as the rest of the people in our room got up at 2 am to start walking - crazy people it is still dark. We got up about 6:30 as it started getting lighter had some breakfast and set off.

It was hard going, I hurt from the day before, felt bloated after breakfast and we were climbing, climbing, climbing. So many times I almost gave up I had to keep stopping for a rest. My poor heart was doing overtime - I am sure next time I get my pacemaker checked my technician will wonder what on earth I was doing (then again I was wondering that at this moment too). Sanni (been to the summit 6 times) kept telling us Hut 3 was just over the next hill, I think he told us this 4 times. Each time we got over the brow of a hill another would appear. Your goal is constantly being made further and further away. The weather was really clear so we got a great view of Buea and further.

We eventually reached Hut 3, by now it was getting cold so we could not rest for long but finally we could see the actually summit. So we kept going, I was feeling really weak at this point and it was not longer fun in any sense of the word. It only took one hour from Hut 3 to the summit, Didimus had to almost drag me up to the top but I made it!! I am so proud of myself, shear stubbornness and determination got me there.

We did not spend long at the summit it was as cold as England is now (I guess I have kind of forgotten what winter feels like but my hands were freezing). Then we started to come down, I instantly felt much better. The descent was hard on the knees and we had to be really careful not to fall. The grass was slippy, the sand slippy and the rocks rolled under our feet. The mountain was basically made of grass, sand and rocks so each footing has to be secure. I feel on to my bum 4 times after slipping. The descent took much longer that I had hoped. Joe suffered with bothersome knees and I had 7 blisters by this point. My legs felt they would give way at any moment. The rocky steep bit from Hut 2 to 1b was even worse going down, stones kept rolling under our feet and the rocks were really sharp, if you fell here you would become a cropper. Again I was on hands a knees.

By the time we got to Hut 1 it was 6pm, it was now becoming a race against the light. We walked as quickly as we could manage through the forest but at 7pm it became dark, being so close to the equator there is not much of a dusk it is more of a light switch. So the last hour was done by torch light with some assistance from the moon, it was hard going but eventually we made it.

So I have been to the summit of Mount Cameroon and stood at 4090 M (that's 13 418 feet). The whole time my thought were 'why am I doing this' and 'they run this'. Before I went to the summit I was amazed people run to the top and back in 4 or 5 hours, now I really cannot believe it is possible! It took us 17 1/2 hours any faster and I would have broken something. It really is unbelievable.

So I did it, I am very proud I did it and will never do it again.


Ann said...

Wow, Heather-- amazing experiences you're having. Congrats on your accomplishment!

mum & dad said...

We are very proud of you but glad you are not going to do it again. Are we the only readers who know what it is really like? Well the easy bit anyway?

Rich said...

COOL! - sounds like real fun! well done!

Rich said...

BTW, can you explain the rather strange title to the blog entry?

Mum said...

Yea I wondered what that meant too.

Hev said...

I wondered if any one would ask about the title, well done Rich you get first prize!

It is pidgin and means if you take it gently you will get what you want in the end. Didimus said it to me as encourgement as went we up. To say if I go gently, bit by bit I will make it to the summit.

Joe tells me there is a simliar saying in English but I had never heard it. 'softly, softly catchee monkey'

Anonymous said...

"Small small catch monkey" = "Slow and steady wins the race".

Th proverb comes from a popular African/Cameroonian folktale about the tortoise and the monkey.

KT Lindsay said...

Don't they have hares in Cameroon? Monkeys are much more interesting! Howw are you legs now hev??

Hev said...

Not seen any hares. Legs still a litte stiff, almost back to normal but standing up is difficult - I am so unfit!