Hills for the mind atop Wanale

Sunday September 06 2020

By Enock Nsubuga and Jaqi Deweyi

Yes, hiking is a physical and at times emotional challenge, but you experience the most gratifying, unique and memorable experience of your life! All the positives vastly outweigh any niggly negatives. The fatigue will wear off and soon be forgotten, but the good memories and lasting friendships will remain!

In this article, we not only share our recent experience hiking the Wanale Ridge, but hiking recommendations too. Wanale Hill is considered a sleeping tourism giant of Mbale by some writers - Wanale Ridge or Hill is just 6km away from Mbale City.

Any visitor to the new Mbale City will see it, standing tall with pride and gloriousness; it is such an imposing beauty from a distance. Wanale Ridge has had a magical appeal for many, like us who have been to Mbale, as it appears to be a stone’s throw away from the new city centre.

Standing at a height of 6,864 ft, the Wanale Ridge can be viewed from all areas in Mbale and neighbouring districts. It covers a huge portion of Bugisu’s land surface.
This towering ridge adjacent to Mbale City has glowing stony hills that look like a white sheet. That is why Semei Kakungulu, the colonial agent, described it as a white cock (Nkokonjeru).

Although little is said about Wanale, it is worth visiting. The place has had unique happenings and history.
Legend has it that Wanale Hill is named after one of the sons of Masaba; the patriarch of the Bamasaba [Bagisu], Wanale is believed to be the place where Nabarwa, the Kalenjin woman who prevailed upon Masaba to get circumcised before they got married, came from, on her way from Kenya.


How we got there
Joined by a group of five from the new Mbale City, we were driven in a van by our host - Casa Lodges and moved approximately 16 km to Wanale’s base.
It was a 30-40 minute ride - taking a left turn after the Mbale High Court and following the road that goes down to Busamaga Primary School. From there, we took a right turn to Bumboi road for 15-20 minutes and we were there.

Our hike took us through challenging nature in the hills - jumping over stones, small streams, caves and forests. A walk through several homesteads with coffee and banana plantations made a difference in this new environment.
Children and elders waved at us, wishing us a successful hike. Gerald Nambale from Casa Lodges Ltd, a well trained guide who has been doing this for the last three years, led our hike.

We started the hike as strangers with the other group, and ended it as friends. We were all there for our own reasons but united by this common purpose. We bonded, and laughed so hard, even developing our own hike ‘in jokes’, and everyone was naturally in such high spirits.
We all got emotional at some point or another, especially when we reached the Wanale Waterfalls.
We made sure that the fitter members held back and supported the less confident or less fit members, like Jaqi and I, so there was no pressure, and we just did it at our own pace, thanks to our professional guide, he was so patient with me especially.

Gerald Nambale, our guide gave us hiking tips;
Unlike walking on a treadmill or paved path, hiking involves sometimes unpredictable variables.
To make your first treks successful:
1. Pack: food, water, hiking boots, and comfortable pants (not too much cotton).
Never base your gear list on the conditions outside your window.
2. Warm up. Walk for five minutes before you tackle a steep hill. Going uphill will work your muscles intensely to propel you forward.
3. Shorten your steps: Like a bike shifting to a new gear to go uphill, shorten your steps when you are walking uphill. This will make it easier to lift your body up the incline with each step.
4. Maintain or quicken your step rate: With shorter steps, you won’t be going as far with each step.