By Nigel Nassar
You would think that with more than half of the 400km charity walk from Kabale to Mukono already covered, things would be getting a lot easier. Far from it!
Instead, the walk, whose aim is to raise awareness about issues affecting the elderly, is hardening by the day.
The progress so far. Mukono is nearing by the day. GRAPHIC/Brian Sekamate
It is true that The Walking Man, Kenneth Edmund Mugayehwenkyi, founder and executive director of Reach One Touch One Ministries (ROTOM), is a hard chap; no doubt at all.
But even he, who is by the way the Trojan horse of the walk (forget that he’s not exactly Arnold Schwarzenegger-built), confessed Monday morning that things are not exactly as cup-of-tea as before.
Reason? Well, he and the other 13 charity-minded people walking with him, including yours truly, have been doing downhill since kick-off on September 28.
From Kabale, through Ntungamo, down to Mbarara, Kiruhuura, and pretty much all of Ankole, we have either been doing downhill or flat terrain.
But Day Eight on Saturday, which ushered in Buganda region at Lyantonde, also introduced the uphill terrain. And the task has since been uphill.
Writer Nigel Nassar knew it would be a tough walk, but did he expect his shoe sole would get ripped off along the way?
Early to bed
Day Nine on Sunday was even harder, as we did three really daunting hills to make 17km from Kyazanga, where we had spent Saturday night, to Mbirizi.
In fact, the walkers even hit bed early on Sunday night, an unlikely thing over the previous days. And by Monday morning, two of the walkers had a knock-out: one with swollen feet, the other a debilitating backache, at which point ROTOM nurse Lydia Naggujja, who is specialized in taking care of the elderly, did her magic.
Speaking of nurse Lydia aka Miss Fix It, she is the last person we want falling sick – no she shouldn’t. Which is why she has herself a permanent seat in the car that’s trailing us with logistical support – stuff like water, yellow bananas, and our luggage of course.
More often, nurse Lydia and our logistics assistant cum driver Jeremiah Nyabenda can be caught parked somewhere at a trading centre way ahead of us, each napping away while we catch up. But it’s alright to all of us, as they are the gasoline running this engine.
Logistics assistant cum driver Jeremiah Nyabenda sometimes takes time off for a siesta.
They go ahead of us to arrange meals at the best restaurants – by “best restaurants” I mean those with the best of the bad cooks littered all over the journey.
Also, when no school, church or individual is offering us accommodation, nurse Lydia and Jeremiah book us into the best motels (forget that some of them have bedding that smell like pee – they are the best in some places).
One getting 'fixed up'
Any way, back to our two victims of the hilly terrain, one is back up and running, while nurse Lydia is till fixing the other, who is also now hitching a ride in Jeremiah’s wheels.
The hilly terrain of course had to slow us down on Monday October 7, when we did only 11km. But as of today, Tuesday October 8, we upped our game and went back to the big strides, doing 27km from Kinoni to Masaka town, the hilly terrain not gone though.
One of us, 61-year-old Linda Hallet, who is based at ROTOM Canada and helps mobilize funds for the senior citizens’ organisation, has left the walk.
Linda Hallet (L), who helps raise funds for ROTOM, engages a granny in a traditional dance.
As you read this, she has already made it to the ROTOM headquarters in Mukono, helping out furnish the state-of-the-art ROTOM Health Centre for the Elderly, which opens on October 19, when ROTOM will celebrate 10 years serving older persons, two days after the walk. Which celebrations actually come in handy, as October is the International month for the elderly.
The walkers actually miss Linda’s rib-cracking jokes, as well as her amusing weird attempt at pulling off the famous bakiga dance, ekitaaguriro.
The dance has become a favourite of all of us on the walk since the senior citizens walking with us have been summoning it at every opportunity while singing and praising.
What would the walk be like without some bit of dancing? It's another case of "walk without play, makes . . . "
Well, Linda’s departure aside, a new walker has joined us – ROTOM board member Dr. John K. Kimbe, who got off the bus Sunday night to catch us at Mbirizi, 204km into the walk. And quite visibly, the fresh legs have ushered in renewed energy, and with his equally good sense of humour, soon Linda will not be missed much (sorry Linda).
Today’s walk has been long but fast – probably because John K kept ahead most of the time. It’s 4:00pm, and we are already done with our 27km, which puts us at 242km covered so far.
We are to spend the night at Yesu Akwagala Bible Institute in Masaka town, who have given us free accommodation as part of their contribution to this walk.
The walkers seem to be enjoying every bit of the walk. Inspiring!
We have 158 miles till we make it to ROTOM headquarters in Mukono, just in time to celebrate 10 years in service. Keep on the lookout for us on the Masaka-Kampala highway.
Also, more updates coming…