After my first cautious explorations of Juba, I end up being directed the wrong way in search of a lodge that supposedly organizes hikes up Jebel Kujul, or so a friendly young guy tells me: the lodge is on the other side of the mountain. Since I am at the foot of the mountain anyway, I ask him if it is safe to walk up. When he replies that it is better to be escorted, I ask him if he wants to join me, and to my surprise, he does. Even though he lives close to the mountain, he has never been to the top, and his shoes are not perfect for the climb. Furthermore, from this side, the climb turns out to be a little harder than I thought beforehand. A bunch of boys joins us on the way up, and when we reach the top at 744 metres, my new-found friend is happy: it seems he almost cannot believe he actually just climbed the mountain he sees from below every day. We enjoy the views, and I also enjoy the freedom I now feel: I can take all the pictures I want, I can wander around the mountain, I can do whatever I want without having to be afraid that someone will apprehend me.
My friend tells me that just a year ago, fighting was still going on on this mountain, and it seems both incredible and plausible. This obviously is a strategic place from which you can control the city, and even though life seems to be normal down on the streets of Juba, it is a fact that the city was at war just a year before. There a small pools at the top of the mountain: it has been raining hard that night and morning. Grass and small vegetation grows here and there. The boys jump, shout, throw stones at birds flying over the mountain, and hunt for animals. With stones, they write their names on the rocks, and the young guy follows suit. And of course, they also ask for their pictures to which I gladly obey. Oh, if I only had that freedom down there, in the streets of the South Sudanese capital! So many beautiful, tall, slender people I would love to take pictures of. That already would be one reason to come back to this country one day, when hopefully the situation normalizes.
There is a nice breeze on top of the mountain, the sun manages to find its way through the thick layer of clouds, and it is just pleasant to stay here, also because it is so relaxed, and I know that once down below again, it will be different. Looking down, we can see big boulders which have probably rolled off this mountain. The neighbourhood at the foot of the mountain is conveniently called Rock City, and all around it, there are piles of stones which are sold for construction purposes. And while the mountain provides material to build more buildings in the city, it is at the same time home to wild animals; the boys tell us that they spot monkeys, antelopes, and other mammals here. Before we hit the main road again, I make sure to stash my camera away in my bag: I am back to high alert. After a drink with my friend and some more talking, I walk the entire eastern base of the mountain to find the lodge after all, where I have a tasty dinner and meet new friends.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Jebel Kujul (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Jebel Kujul.
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