During this year’s Easter holiday, we decided to take a road trip to the western region.We found ourselves at the foot of Mt. Rwenzori National Park, also known as the “Mountains of the Moon” on a sunny Friday afternoon. In the company of two colleagues and Joram Wakahindaba, our guide from Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, we decided to explore the rainforest, just for fun. The experience was more than what we had hoped for:
The three horned chameleon
The mere mention of the name chameleon sent chills all over body. See, I am not a friend of reptiles, never have been. And here I was, walking through a forest in the company of possibly, hundreds of them (reptiles) as Joram had mentioned in his briefing. Before we could even go half a mile into the rainforest, Joram suddenly stopped us to have a look at this creature that sought refuge in the green and yellow branches of forest montane vegetation.
The thing (chameleon) looked on, with three horns at its forehead and its tail coiled at the back. My first inexact glance wasn’t clear because I didn’t want to really look there; I hated them anyway- thinking to myself. However, a second look turned into a sustained stare, and then admiration set in. It was such a colorful sight as the small creature camouflaged into a floral combination of yellow, aqua around its belly, and dark green strips with a brown shade around the eyes. After taking some pictures of it, Joram informed us that the three horned chameleons are endangered species only found in Mt.Rwenzori National Park.
The plants, thick vegetation
Uganda Wildlife Authority website states that Mt. Rwenzori has five deferent vegetation zones that include the vast grasslands that cover an altitude of 1000 to 2000 meters, the montane forest between altitude of 2000 to 3000 meters, this disappears into the bamboo zone at 2500 to 3500 meters, the heather zone at 3000 to 4000 meters and further higher the afro – alpine – moorland at 4000 to 4500 meters. Each zone supports a different plant cover with the giant lobelia as well as the giant cactus being the most prominent plant species, the website explains.
We enjoyed our long walks into the vegetation. We learnt about the different tree species in the forest, some of which are a favorite delicacy for wildlife in this park and others are used as herbs to heal ailments. The most interesting was a plant that was used in ancient times to enlarge or reduce women breast sizes. Joram explained that when one wanted their breast to enlarge or reduce, they simply just rubbed it on the breast as they commanded their wish, and it happened overnight. Fascinating huh? Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of that interesting plant.
Another common sight at the bottom of the Rwenzoris are a number of rivers. We even got a chance to see and listen to the rumbling fast flowing waters of River Mobuku that flows from the top of Magherita, the highest peak on the mountain. One will find many intermingled rivers during their walks or hikes into the Rwenzoris. The forest receives rain throughout the year that is why it is gifted with clay soil rich for agriculture.
The jewel of the Pearl of Africa
The most sought after and certainly the most attractive activity in the Rwenzori Mountains is mountain climbing. Rwenzori Mountains are the third highest in Africa with a world class climbing experience. This great feature lies in the western part of Uganda, shared by Kasese, Kabarole Bundibugyo Districts and Democratic Republic of Congo. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is a great wonder in Uganda and Africa.
Any tourist to Rwenzori Mountains should make it a point to go mountain climbing while on a tour to this park. This is one of the premier mountain climbing destinations in the region and in the African continent in general. It offers some of the highest hiking peaks and glaciers. The Mountains have six peaks in total with the highest of them all, Magherita stands at 5109 metres. The others include Alexandria peak standing at 5083 metres, Mountain Stanley and Speak at 4890 metres, Mount Emin at 4791 metres, and Gessi Mountain peaks.
The highest mountain peak is covered with snow throughout the year. Climbing to the highest peaks takes between four to nine days depending on the route one uses and the pace. Shorter routes to nearer peaks can also be enjoyed.
We are saving up to go mountain climbing in Magherita during our next visit.
We approached the mountains from the central circuit trail, one of the key routes in mountain climbing. According to Joram, using this trail takes seven to nine days to reach the peak of Mt. Rwenzori. The routes begin from Mihunga, to Bujuku Valley via Nyabitaba then to the peaks of the Rwenzori Mountains.
He also adds that the other alternative route is called Kilembe Trail. This one ascends the southern slopes of the Rwenzori from a trail head at Kilembe near Kasese town. This route offers great scenery of glacial lakes and the great Nyamwamba Valley. This route takes lesser days and makes trekking more rewarding.
If you want to make arrangements to visit and tour the Mt. Rwenzori peaks, do it through Rwenzori Mountaineering Services and Rwenzori Trekking Services in collaboration with Uganda Wildlife Services.
What to carry to a mountain climbing exercise
According to our guide and other online sources, below is a compiled list of items one can carry to a mountain climbing exercise
- Strong hiking shoes
- Insect repellants
- Sun cream
- A sleeping bag
- A camera
- Some snacks and food
- A cup and plate
- A rain coat
- Light warm clothing
- A pair of cloves
- Scarf, jumpers or a heavy warm jacket
Other tourism activities
- Bird Watching
- Nature walks
- Touring the Bakonzo villages
Enjoying cultural performances from neighboring villages