So, this is my last catch-up post, yay! Once again, photos to help will come when wifi is not horrible. This post is all about our trip to Nyungwe National Park. It was here that we did a waterfall hike, and a canopy tour. Let me just say this was definitely the most physically difficult experience of my life so far.
The first hike was in the morning and was to the waterfall. Unlike the Golden Monkey Hike, the mud here wasn’t nearly as bad. However, we had to deal with these switchbacks and slippery leaves and moss. I found myself once again thankful for the guide who stabled me every time I nearly fell, and the one time I did fall. What I didn’t expect was for my body to respond the way it did. For those of you who don’t know, I was apparently diagnosed with Fibromyalgia a few years back. For the most part it hasn’t truly affected my life in ways that stop me from doing what I do everyday. I also just look at my beautiful mother who deals with so much more and doesn’t complain. There are times where it’s annoying, like when my shoulders feel pain from just a gentle hug. But it’s otherwise pretty bearable.
It wasn’t that way on this hike. Every joint in my body felt like it was on fire, and perhaps it was the elevation, the steep hills, the crazy amount of uneven rock stairs, and the length of the hike, but I was hurting, badly. My knees cracked with each set of stairs, and when we reached the bottom of the waterfall, I actually cried. I felt like my body was betraying me. I love to hike. I love to walk in the woods. And walking in the tropical rainforest is incredible. The trees, butterflies, beetles, birds, they’re all so vivid and lush and stunning. Yet part of me was quite focused on how much I was hurting. Plus, I was embarrassed. I was slowing our group down, and I felt like a faker in a way, because fibro hasn’t really been a thing in my life except on random occasions. Then I realized that I was capable. I made it to the bottom of the waterfall. I did it. I accomplished that.
And so I looked up at the incredibly tall rock steps to the top of the waterfall and agreed to keep climbing. I made it to the top. I won, in a way. And then my professor, Dr. Thelen, reminded me that I’d done it despite what challenges I had suddenly needed to face. It was an incredible high, and even though I’m not a fan of how I look in these photos (you can see them on Facebook currently), I know they’ll serve as a reminder that it doesn’t matter if you have Fibromyalgia, you’re stronger than you know, and capable of making big things happen.
And I also realized it’s okay that it took me longer, that I had to stop and rest. The important part is that I didn’t give up. I made it. And the reward was a spectacular waterfall, with a mist of rain, in the middle of a tropical rainforest in Africa. How freaking cool is that? And it’s another reminder of just how incredible God is. He redeemed the waterfall hike for me, and I am so grateful.
After lunch, we went to the canopy walk. This hike was much shorter, only about 2 kilometers, whereas the first one was 8 kilometers. The problem was there were lots of red ants, and lots of stairs. That was okay though. I knew I could do it, even though I felt like I needed an ice bath a whole lot more than I needed to walk in the canopy.
We rented rubber boots from the park, and headed out. This time it was just endless stairs. But we got to the canopy bridge and it was all worth it. It truly felt like I was walking in the sky. The view was stunning. We walked across these shaky steel bridges, and then back across them to return. There is no way to express how incredible it is to stand in the middle of a bridge, overlooking trees that are hundreds of years old, a mountain, and the canopy of a tropical rainforest. It’s breathtaking. In a way, it makes you feel both invincible and insignificant at the same time.
It was remarkable. On the way back, Dr. Thelen and I sort of got separated from the group. It was okay though, because I got to learn more about the second guide, Fred. Like many Rwandans, he’s majoring in wildlife tourism, since it’s a huge industry here. I asked him what made him pick that job and was rewarded with a great answer.
First, he loved nature and wanted to educate people about it, do research, and work for conservation. Second, he wanted the opportunity to gain new experiences and understandings of life by meeting people from all over the world. He said you are always changed by the people you meet.
I thought that was profound. And I agreed. Just two hours with Fred taught me that it’s okay to put your trust in strangers sometimes, that some people are just naturally good at encouraging you, and that its really fun to take the secret paths. Plus, there’s always a chance you’ll run into a group of people from Luxembourg along the way, and will get the pleasure of learning about a country you only barely knew existed. It’s wonderful.
All in all, I discovered that I am capable of so much more than I thought, again. This trip keeps pushing my boundaries of what I think I’m capable of. It also reminded me how awesome people are. And, it let me walk on the sky. I can’t ask for more.
Until next time,