Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Summit

Sitting at the summit of Mt. Bintumani in March 1969

photo © by Chad Finer

Climbing Bintumani was a goal of mine after I had heard about the mountain from Peace Corps volunteers from an earlier program. It must have been  in July or August of 1968 that a volunteer in community development told me about the mountain and about the area surrounding it. My first trip there was in 1969. In March 1969 fellow Peace Corps volunteer Skip Smith  (primary education in Matotaka) and I set  off on a very arduous ride to reach the mountain, followed by obtaining a guide from the local Paramount Chief, and then heading off to hike up the trail to the summit. However I had not anticipated the transport difficulties (noted in other postings) of getting to the base of the mountain and by the time we arrived at the end of the road, I was pretty beat up, apparently somewhat dehydrated, and far from wanting to head up the mountain without a rest. Skip had weathered the ride better than I and he headed out. I waited over night and followed him up the next morning in the company of 3 VSO's who I met while taking the break. The VSO's were an amusing crew of folks. One (named Bill) was Northern Irish. He had an accent that I found challenging to understand and I think, as a result he found me often puzzled by what he was saying - but with difficulty I found him to be an amusing fellow with lots of banter and jokes. He kept us going. The other two were proper Londoners (at least this was my thinking). The woman was my age, she walked in sandals, and her hiking clothes included a skirt - her gear was more proper for a party rather than a tedious hike in savanna country. The heat in the area was oppressive as we meandered up the trail. I was surprised at how agile she was with the somewhat marginal footwear. The other, a man, was very proper fellow with a somewhat dry sense of humor. In fact they all had wonderful senses of humor. To my surprise at about 4:30 pm as we all hiked through the low forest of the lower part of the mountain - the Brits stopped, pulled out their white gas stove and a very portable table from their packs, and made tea. Here we were in the very middle of no-where, during the heat of the day, somewhat protected by the shade of the surrounding trees which made the air temperature perhaps 10ยบ cooler - having tea. Although not my habit (i.e. drinking tea) I joined them all as Bill continued to entertain us with some of his incessant jokes and banter. They were a fun group to hike with. I have often wondered what happened to these fellow hikers. I was to return again and climb this mountain a second time in March 1970 - this time with Lloyd Ziegler, a fellow Peace Corps volunteer who taught secondary education at Holy Trinity Secondary School in Kenema. The transport for my second trip was easier. 

No comments: