Fort Portal and the foothills of Rwenzori Mountains National Park

In my quest to catch up on my blog, I am writing about a trip I took out west the weekend of October 25 to Fort Portal and the Rwenzori Mountains national park.

We left on a Friday afternoon traveling about 1hour to go 3km or so to the bus station in Kampala. Our trip to Fort Portal went by quickly. We arrived just at dusk, the indigo sky allowing us only faint glimpses of the environment around us, the mountains at the horizon. We hopped into a taxi and quickly found out that it had no functional headlamps, hence the driver put his hazard flashers on to alert people in the dark that we were in fact on the road. We made it to a lovely guest inn run by an expat British/Dutch couple. After one of the best dinners for my particular palate in Uganda, we rested up before getting ready for the big hike the next day.

We met the tour guides in the town of Fort Portal and were driven out to the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains. The Rwenzori Mountains are Africa’s highest mountain range (mountain sizes surpassed only by Kilimanjaro and Mt. Kenya) and straddle the border of Congo and Uganda. They are thought to be the “Mountains of the Moon” noted as the source of the Nile by Ptolemy in year 150 A.C.E., but the first Europeans known to have seen them did so in 1889 (see “Uganda” Bradt guidebook).

We began a steep, but not out-of-control ascent and stopped at a newly formed ecotourism station started by some local people on the mountain. After a pleasant visit with the owner and some excellent herbal tea, we continued on our way. The ascent, although difficult, was nonetheless awesome as views widened during our climb.

We reached the border of the foothill with the national park boundary and took a breather for lunch. The line sharply demarcated two worlds. The foothills had been largely deforested and used for crops. Although there were trees and grasses, none were ancient per se. Only past the boundary of the park though, we gazed at thick, lush, enveloping green cloud forest.

I steadily, slightly surreptitiously, entered the park but not without reprimand from our guides. I wanted to venture further, however, the results if a ranger would see me would not have been so great for the tour company. We didn’t see the snow-capped mountains of the Rwenzori’s unfortunately. Had we ventured not too much further into the park past the boundary, an amazing vista supposedly awaited at the ridge.

After lunch we started a ridiculous descent. People were sliding downwards everywhere. Had the trail been more muddy, it would not have been doable without injury. I mean, we were laughing as we would hear (but often not see through the dense foliage) people falling or sliding. All part of the adventure I am sure.

We came back feeling successful, dehydrated, and well-hiked to the guest inn and had intense political conversations with the British owner during another fantastic dinner. Quite engaging and thought-provoking. He provided me with some lenses through which to view some of the sociopolitical and cultural interpretations he had as a foreigner having been here for decades. My friend Brendan chatted it up with some interesting geological facts about Uganda and the Rift Valley before we called it a night.

My curiosity piqued, I definitely hope to return to the Rwenzori Mountains. The geography is fascinating and unusual and the mountains are known to have a slightly bluish hue. Here are some pictures from the trip:


One Response to “Fort Portal and the foothills of Rwenzori Mountains National Park”

  1. Tendo Says:

    I am Happy you had such a great time and I can’t wait until I go to fort portal!

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