What do you know about Mbale ?
When most people think of paradise, they think of a place of extreme beauty or delight of happiness. To me, paradise is Wanale Hill as it embodies both qualities. Wanale is that hill with jagged slopes, located in the outskirts of Mbale Town and yes, it is from it that the town got its name. It is a grass green mountain that soars into the clear blue skies.
A visit to this place will leave you with immense respect for this hilly land upon whose soils Uganda’s favourite coffee is grown. Arabica is its name, an enchanting beverage with a crisp, sharp and pleasant aroma. Like Elgon, a Mountain to which it belongs, its sheer size, clear waters, and green vegetation make it way better than any theme park. That is why I call it paradise. But as is typical of paradise, it’s towering summit is not easy to reach. Only those who are patient enough to endure a two hours’ hike get to experience the champagne panoramic views it offers. From the bottom, Mbale looks very well planned and organized. However, from the top, the town looks like a beautiful mess. It looks busy and crammed with buildings. Surrounding it are virgin swamps and farmlands.
The hike starts with a walk through community land where you will be warmly welcomed by the people to whom this mountain is home. Along the trail, you will meet children who will brighten your day by high-fiving you. You will also meet locals who start hiking the Mountain from the day life is given to them to the day it is taken. To them, Wanale is not only an ancestral home but also a farmland off which they feed and drink. They are just as much a part of the mountain as it is a part of them. Through smiles and laugher, they will happily give you directions and tip you on how to maneuver the different obstacles along the way so as to taste the sweetness of victory.
As you journey, you will be seeing the famous Wanale waterfalls, otherwise known in Luganda as Nkonkonjeru. The name translates as white cock. It was given to it for its whitish colour. This usually turns chocolaty brown though, especially in the rainy seasons as the rich soils atop the hill get eroded by the river.
Beyond its beauty, Wanale means the world to the Bagisu as it is where Mbalu is flagged off every even year. Mbalu is a festival like circumcision ceremony in which boys are ushered into manhood.