Off The Ledge At The Sipi

“Are you sure I am strapped safely?” Twice, I asked Robert the instructor about my safety. Should anything go wrong, it will be not because I didn’t take precaution, it will be sheer fate. A genuine accident. I’d die a fearless person who dared to live life and not just go through it. The next group of people to abseil here would do so in my memory. My mind went on and on. Not even prior knowledge from the Google pages I’d earlier pulled about the activity to stay ahead, the assured safety precaution and my mind-generated pep talk would prepare me for the nerves when it was time. In fact, in Robert’s cautionary words: “Your mind will lie you that you’re going to fall.”

2 sides of a climbing rope: one side hooked and fastened onto the carabiners on your waist and the other, although fastened through metallic hooks half-buried in rock, is controlled by one mere mortal. Another human being who should he slack too long, it could all go wrong in a second. I’d never trusted a son of Adam with my life so much. This is not normal, I thought. But I’d come too far to turn back now. Shell had not fuelled a 287 kms journey to the East with the refined, high engine performance V-Power just so I could have half the experience. This had to be finished if not by me, then by the same Jesus who finished it on the cross. So I walked to the ledge…backwards.

On the first metallic step I put my right foot; and the left after that. “Keep going, you’re doing great Edna,” Robert prodded. Onto the second step I stepped. It was shaky. Panic. Just for a bit until my mind was quick to register that either way my feet were going to be hanging in the air seconds from now. This was it. I let go. Hands in the air, feet loosely on the rock. Liberty. Slowly I was lowered into unknown space, gradually I lost sight of Robert and Fred who was controlling the rope. There was no more rock on which to place my feet. I was on my own now, hanging in the air. I closed my eyes and thought of whether to look up or look down where I was headed. When my mind and I had decided on neither options, I opened my eyes and looked around me.

Before my eyes were the most beautiful surroundings I’ve ever seen. Floating in the air now by what seemed like a force defiant to gravity, it didn’t matter much that I was suspended about 60 meters off the cliff, 40 more to go with just a rope fastened to my waist. Suddenly it didn’t matter that there was no sight of a single human being but me. I wanted to stay here forever. The skies were a special blue; a crystal clear one with little white patches like birds seemingly flapping their wings from high up above. The roaring water cascades of the Sipi seemed to have muted their sound so my senses of sight could be uninterrupted while taking in this magnificence. With only a distant swishing of the water in my ears, it looked like yarns and yarns of pure white cotton rolling out of the rock above me. Behind and beyond, the hills of Kapchorwa seemed to be bowing down to pay their respects and I could swear I saw a rainbow on the horizon. It was, at the risk of sounding cliché, heaven on earth.

A shift in adjustment of the rope holding me up later awakened me from this beautiful dream of reality; and as I got lowered towards the bottom, I began to feel the full force spray of the Sipi. Benjamin, another guide who was there to receive us held my legs, helped me out of the harness and asked how it was. To which I replied, “Amazing, the view is insane!” I was a conquerer. An item had been ticked off my bucket list. It didn’t matter much that I was drenched in water up to the last toe in my Vans sneaker shoes or that I’d now have to shampoo my dreadlocks again. I had won. So when Alex, a 14 year old dutiful boy stepped forward, introduced himself, asked for my name and held my hand to guide me up the hill, I didn’t think to ask how long we’d be going. It was, as I would later learn, 460 meters…uphill.

Up the hill we walked and walked…and walked. Through gardens some of which had women cultivating. Through a small tree forest from which children emerged carrying firewood and literally racing uphill. To a wooden ladder on which Alex took large steps covering two steps in every leap. To a massive rock whose belly had a wide opening capable of sheltering you against a storm for days. Many times when my breathing escalated, I stopped and asked that he slow down, which he did. Sometimes he suggested we rest, during which time we talked about this and that; before continuing uphill. “Your friends are there,” he said signaling ahead and indeed in a distance I could finally see some of the crew at the waiting point. About 10 steps later I thanked Alex and sat heavily on the ground exhausted. In that moment, a strong commiseration with those that had missed this #KoiKoiUg experience crept up from deep inside my heart, for there wouldn’t be any other quite like this one in a lifetime.