National park Murchinson Falls is the biggest protected area in Uganda. It was proclaimed in 1926. In this process played his role also Winston Churchill. He called Uganda, that time British colony, „Pearl of Africa“ and savannas around Nile „immense botanical and zoological garden of unexhaustible wealthiness of animal species“. National park got its name after Murchinson falls, place where wide Nile has to go through a narrow, only seven meters wide chine. Vigorous strength of river explodes in a place called Garrulous caldron and after it falls from forty meters down into the river basin. Nile continues in his journey another 55 kilometers and then discharges into the Albert lake.
Winston Churchil climbed, bicycled and floated towards Murchinson falls in 1907. Two years later Theodore Roosevelt came. But he didn´t have so peaceful purpose. He traveled to Uganda for hunting of wild animals. He payed 1,8 million US dollars for this safari. Today it would be inconceivable, of curse. In national park is allowed to hunt only fish.
Ernest Hemingway fell here from the sky. He wanted to fly over Murchinson falls together with his wife in 1954 to get some inspiration for his new book. But his small aircraft catched on old telegraph line and crashed in the forrest. Famous writer wasn´t able to assume a Nobe prize because of injuries.
In 50. and 60. was tourism in Uganda on its top. Travellers from all over the world came here for beautiful, untouched nature. Paraa Lodge, hotel on north river bank with small ship port, was a busy place with 150 beds. There were elephants, lions, impalas, giraffes, water bufallos, hippos, crocodiles and many species of birds were living in the park in large amounts.
But then period of mad dictator Idi Amin came. Nobody was interested in nature preservation. Soldiers made live targets from animals and train shooting on them.
This area was a conflict place for a long time. Lord Resistance Army was operating here, and also another armies crossed the national park – Sudan and Congo borders are close. When there was fighting and masacres, people couldn´t cultivate anything and there was nothing to eat, rebels simply took a gun and shot some animal. Government of Uganda sent soldiers to protect protected animals.
Five years ago, when there was civil war in northern part of Uganda, road through national park was the only one safe way from north to south. All vehicles, drivers and passengers had to pay an entrance fee.
There is a peace in the north Uganda now. Numbers of animals are increasing. But oil was found near the Albert lake, in Uganda – Congo border, four years ago. It can change everything.
To observe „muzungu“, white foreigners, must be funny for local people. Fat Americans who can hardly breath walking from their bus to the ship, very pale visitors from Northern Europe, getting pink colour into their skin after several hours under the sun, turists from Asia with cloaks and sunglasses. All this „muzungu“ want to see safari but then are so tired from the sun that fall asleep in the ship... When they wake up they start shooting photos and videos by one hand while holding plastic bottle with water in second hand. Despite of their weight and fitness they want to climb Murchinson Falls – but after few minutes sit down and wait a ship which would carry them back to Paraa Lounge. Strange.
And how many citizens of Uganda you can see in this tourist group? Try to guess. National park and Murchinson Falls are there mostly for tourists. Local people just work there as guides, cooks, chamberwomen or souvenir sellers. There was a plan to produce electricity in the falls. For nearby villages. But government finaly decided to devote falls to tourism. With humanitarian worker Norbert we were talking about it. „What do you think? How many locals can afford visiting the falls? And how many villages here have electricity?“ So, that´s a question. Beautiful view for foreigners or electicity for locals?
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