“Trust me Spacey, you can do it, I’ve got you!” I still hear Robert’s reassurance playback in my dreams.
Have you ever been told to go jump off a cliff if you’re bothered about something? Well, I never like it when someone says that to me. Matter of fact, I will fight you if you say that to me. But here’s something, if you want some excitement in your life, go jump off the edge of a cliff, 100 meters of overhanging rock. I can assure you, it’s not for the faint hearted, but it’ll guarantee 10% fright and 90% fun.
My crazy girlfriend and I started the day in high gear. We had planned activities for the day; almost checked every tour that was being offered, as if it were a complimentary trip sponsored by the government of Uganda. Soon our carts were full and so was the bill – raised to the roof. So, we started taking out activities that seemed a bit costly. As we hadn’t visualized walking back to Kampala – low budget things. Rock climbing? Off the list! Coffee tours? Off the list! Abseiling? O- Now wait! What’s the point of coming this far if we can’t take our adrenaline on a ride? So abseiling gets back on the list. Seems easy to do, just jumping off a short cliff with 100 ropes wrapped around you, so I thought. I turned to my buddy, “let’s go get some great shots. Matter of fact, let’s go swing upside down those ropes!”
Sharif Chebet, my awesome guide led the tour very excitedly. First to the nearest water falls, about 20 minutes’ walk from Sipi River Lodge, the falls are 65 meters high, very refreshing. We met a few daring boys swimming between the rocks. “Won’t you like to swim too, Spacey?” Sharif asks. “Nope, not a chance in this shallow water buddy. I can’t come ready to eat Steak and you show me grasshoppers. Boy, bye!” I flipped my bouncy afro and turned around to walk away, not knowing what awaits. I then asked Sharif to lead us to the Promised Land. The trails were very refreshing, very green, the aroma smelled of peace, and adventure; oh, did I mention these are the friendliest folks in the entire universe? As we went on with our trek, we’d occasionally be stopped and greeted. “Takwenyo! Welcome to Sipi, enjoyyyyy,” they would say. Soon we were at the second falls. This time, I dared for a swim under the falls that sprung from 85M high- that’s a story for another day, but then again, this wasn’t the steak, so we carried on.
Time check about 2 hours from the first waterfalls, after another half-an-hour walk, there it was, an empty field, with a few guys standing next to what looked like the edge of a cliff, overlooking more rocky terrains. A bit disappointed, i turned to Sharif “now where are the falls we walked all morning to see?” i startled as we approached the men standing on the edge of the cliff. Alas! My eardrums caught something, it was a thundering sound, is it going to rain? But the skies are clear. My good man, those were the sounds of the falls I couldn’t see. And then it hit me! I headed straight to the men at the edge of the cliff, but just before, Robert stopped me: “No Miss, don’t look down the cliff, your head will spin!” Ha! Now it started dawning on me, where in the world are we? Why in all tender mercies can’t I look where I’m going to jump? And then I noticed a rope around Robert’s waist, which was also hooked to a strong metal fitted on to the rock on the ground. Robert was the abseiling instructor.
“Ladies,” he addressed us, “welcome to Sipi Falls, you are at the highest altitude on the edge of the tallest waterfalls standing at 100M high. This activity you are going to do is called Abseiling, it’s a controlled descent of a vertical drop using a rope, you will be roped down alongside the falls. Climbers use this technique when a cliff or slope such as this one is too steep and/or dangerous to descend without protection. Sharif will demonstrate how the activity is done, please watch and learn as you will be doing the same thing.” Sharif went forward and got geared up. A climbing harness strapped to his waist for safety. A second rope clipped to the harness connected to Robert the professional instructor, to ensure complete safety throughout the descent. And then, majestically, like he’d done this for as many times as the number of hairs on his head, went and jumped off the cliff with the precision that would startle God Himself. He made it appear easy, and seemed to be having the best of fun, but I couldn’t look there for the world as I didn’t want my head to spin. Robert got hold of my camera and took some great shots, which, after showing me, inspired and scared me at the same time. He was kind enough to take us through the instructions again, patiently and confidently.
Next was my turn, and it’s not too hard to imagine that I was panting and dripping with sweat. Just from hearing the theoretical explanation of how the activity is run, should I take off my boots? That question kept on drilling itself into mind, but how is that related to anything, and how does it help? So I decided to suck it up, and like any grown woman, I couldn’t bear the thought of having sweaty buttocks in front of these men! I walked towards Robert to go get geared up. He held my hand, looked me in the eyes, through my sun glasses, and broke out with a rather wide grin: “Spacey, this is supposed to be fun, don’t be afraid, you’re going to love it! I am here to control the activity, and I’m good at this!” I wanted to trust him, but as usual, being the West Niler i am, we just don’t accept things fwaaaa. “Has anyone ever died from here? When was the last time these ropes got replaced?” “These ropes,” continued Robert in a reassuring tone, “can actually can lift up to 1,500Kg, and you don’t appear to weigh more than 60Kg?” So I smiled, reassured, got him to wrap the harness around my waist, heart pumping hard and then I walked to the edge of the cliff.
For the first time I finally saw where I was supposedly going to land. No woman in her right sense of mind will go jump off an ACTUAL cliff even if she were to be paid. I have kids, a career, just got engaged, probably going to get a promotion, why kill myself now?? seems dumb, right? I started struggling to unstrap the climbing harness from myself. There’s No WAY in hell I’ll go kill myself. Robert came over and held my hands again, firmly, “Do you trust me? This is supposed to be fun, it’s safe and I am with you all the way.” “If you do exactly as Sharif demonstrated, you will find it so easy, you will love it!” That is what sent me to my death row!
I walked and got off to the shaky poles, with each step backwards. My heart sunk, deep down to my womb, until, overcoming hesitation, I final fly off the cliff, hanging on to the rope for dear life, teeth clenched, slowly asking myself, “who brought me here? What am I trying to prove?” I almost shit my pants when I let go of the edge, Robert’s words of genuine reassurance playing in mind while I hung lifeless quarter way the cliff.
About 20M below, I took a moment to recover from the heartache I had gone through when I just flew off the rock, and also for a photo break, there was the moment I actually caught sight of what was around me. Like I’d just woken up from a long dream; The views were fantastic. Those fascinating views immediately gave birth to the adventurous Vacation Whisperer, conquering them fears! Only then did I realize how beautiful it was, and how excited I was, as I was lowered down slowly, the rope would take a 360 degrees spin. Now that’s S-P-E-C-T-A-C-U-L-A-R. Oh My! The falls graciously sprung out from the rocky cliff, by the will of their own casually falling on to the rocky basement, the mist coloring the sky, giving it the milky look, while the smell of nature filled my tiny little nostrils. I wanted to hang on the climbing ropes for eternity.
Robert helped me make my way down, slowly alongside the falls, occasionally the winds would blow the falls and that would cause a splash on me. A bit scary, but it felt good. Robert was in control after all, I’d strive to remember. He would check on me with a “wooohoooo! I knew you’d do it!” to which, on top of my lungs, I would respond: “Yeeeeeeaaaahhh wooohoooo!!!!” It was heaven. As I got closer to the basement, I could make out a few daring tourists swimming between the rocky basement where the falls hit. It looked glorious and Sharif was right there, cheering me on, waiting for my celebratory landing so he could help me out of the harness. Right after my successful descent, I was burning with an uncontrollable urge to do it all again. This time with more confidence and zeal, bigger and better than my teacher, guide and now good friend, Sharif Chebet!
You can go conquer the world if you put your heart to it.
Let me know if you’d like me to tailor a trip just for you to specifically go Abseiling along the Sipi Falls. I shall walk you through every step of the plan to make sure that your experience blossoms with memories of being a true conqueror! Uganda Iko Poa Kabisa! Until Next!