Tuesday 21st July
Sipi Falls – the name conjures up very mixed emotions for me. On the one hand it is a beautiful place 1,700 meters up on the Uganda / Kenya border. On the other hand, it is where my Di lost consciousness before later passing away from us in Kapchorwa Hospital and the words “Sipi Falls“ have been in and out of my mind for nearly five months. I had not been looking forward to today – for today I had to return there and we had to carry out our risk assessments of the Falls and the footpaths.
It’s a bit like visiting a prison and asking a convicted burglar how he would suggest making your house, which he has just stripped, safer. So, not knowing how I would be, we set off in our newly repaired minibus for the two hour trip to Sipi. We arrived at Lacam Lodge for coffee. The bus clutch failed in the car park. Again. (This is becoming a habit – see yesterday!). So the rest of the day became more leisurely.
The first thing that hit me was the altitude. I do not remember this from before. At 1,700 metres the altitude begins to have an effect on your breathing. The air is a little thinner and I was out of breath more quickly than usual. I am sure Di noticed this five months ago but she did not say anything. I wish she had. Back to today – We hired motor bikes to get up to the beginning of the walk (the bus would normally have taken us). We sat on the back of four bikes. My driver could simultaneously converse with me, hold a discussion on his phone, and corner the bike, one handed, on gravel roads at speed. How appropriate that I was conducting a risk assessment. The volunteers will not be using local motor bikes, then.
The next thing I realised was that the path that we used last time has disappeared. Gone; the ground scraped clean and levelled. The last path she walked on in her life has been graded into a new road. Actually, I was glad. This was not the first time in the last few months that I have thought “that was then – but this is now”. A new road, a fresh start, a level highway for countless people who will never know what happened there. She had taken those footpath memories with her. But I have my memory of how the path was on that day, and if that is all that is left – then that is just fine !
Walking with a lighter step, I continued on. We saw the waterfalls and startlingly colourful flowers; walked through coffee plantations and then back down a steep muddy path, past more streams, waterfalls, over rickety bridges until we returned to Lacam Lodge, for lunch. It rained hard – warm rain that cools you gently and you do not need a waterproof. Richard read David Harkins’ poem to us over the lunch table and we had a few quiet moments in her memory.
With the bus fixed (yesterday’s new part replaced by another new part) we returned to Kumi.
Despite my trepidations it was a good day.