Hiking is the preferred term to mean long and vigorous walk, usually on trails in forests or mountains which can be found in the countryside; while the word walking is used for shorter distances particularly urban walks. On the other hand, the term walking is used to describe all forms of walking, whether it is a walk in the park or backpacking in the Alps. It is a popular activity with numerous hiking organizations worldwide, and studies suggest that all forms of walking have health benefits.
Hiking can sometimes involve bush-walking and hiking is sometimes referred to as such. This specifically refers to difficult walking through dense forest, undergrowth, or bushes, where forward progress requires pushing vegetation aside. In extreme cases of bushwhacking, where the vegetation is so dense that human passage is impeded, a machete is used to clear a pathway.
The idea of taking a walk in the countryside for pleasure developed in the 18th-century, and arose because of changing attitudes to the landscape and nature, associated with the Romantic Movement. In earlier times walking generally indicated poverty and was also associated with vagrancy. However, today hiking or walking on the trails is considered to be one of the expensive activities one can engage in and therefore it is considered as an activity for the rich or the activity is considered by many as luxurious.
In Uganda there are various places where hiking can be carried out and enjoyed both on the big mountains like Rwenzori Mountains, Elgon, and Mgahinga and also this activity can be carried out on some small hills like Kagulu in the Busoga region
Requirements for hiking
Apart from a decent level of body fitness, you should ensure at least the following equipment is in your possession prior to attempting the trek up to the mountains
- Rucksack: A strong, waterproof bag is a good idea because most of these mountains can be wet most especially Rwenzori and elgon can be really wet. This will help keep your essentials dry while you walk.
- Hiking Boots, Gum boots: A sturdy set of hiking boots is crucial, particularly in the early stages of the climb, and in the trek across the glaciers. Gum boots (wellingtons) are essential equipment in the muddier sections of the mountain trail.
- Warm Clothing: Past the first camp the mountain gets significantly colder (definitely below 10°C and certainly below freezing at some camps). A good fleece, warm shirts and pants, a decent sleeping bag, all count as bright ideas. A good pair of warm, waterproof gloves is essential as well (particularly for those attempting the peaks).
- Emergency kits: Emergency medication (e.g painkillers) is a good idea. For a significant part of the journey, you will be at least a day away from even the best emergency services.
- Equipment: There are huts at all camps in Rwenzori, but you may wish to carry a tent as it can improve journey flexibility. Be sure to carry the usual camping gear: Lighter, torch, toiletries, GPS, etc. However keep in mind that while you will have porters to help you carry your equipment, there is a hard limit (22kg) as to how much each porter will carry: You therefore have to hire more porters if you have lots of kit.
- Food: Most trekkers bring their own food. Some food can also be bought at the Park HQ. Be sure to carry food that provides lots of energy. Glucose packs, sugary juice mixers, chocolate, dry porridge mix are advised. There is usually no good reason to carry water, as the mountain provides lots of natural, clean, safe drinking water
- Cooking utensils: If you plan to do your own cooking, a light stove, some plates and cups are in order. It is possible to hire a cook for the trip (and might actually be a good idea given how tired one gets), but do still plan to have at least the bare essentials (plate, cup, fork, knife, etc)
High-quality camping gear is generally not readily available in Kampala. The Park HQ has a limited number of tents, rucksacks and boots for hire, be sure to speak to them before-hand to establish availability. Park HQ also provides crampons; ice axes and ropes for hire, for those intending to attempt any of the peaks, but you can of course carry your own.
Warm stuff can generally be purchased in Kampala. The second-hand clothes market in Kampala is a rather excellent source, if you don’t mind that the clothes are used. Food and medicines can be purchased from any decent supermarket in Kasese, Kisoro, Mbale or Kampala.
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