By Kampala Post Reporter
“I have climbed many mountains, been to Mt. Kenya and Mt. Kilimanjaro, but none compares to what confronts you when you climb the Mt. Rwenzori Mountains.” Those are the words of RavichandranTharumalingam, who from 19th January spent eight days climbing the famous Mountains of the Moon, the Rwenzori Mountains.
He summited to the highest point, Margherita peak on Mt. Stanley, at 5109m. Fondly known as Ravi, the climber was on his first trip to Uganda at the invitation of the Uganda High Commission in Malaysia and hosted by the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities and its agencies.
Ravi’s nod for the Rwenzoris is no mean approval. The Malaysian climber is one few humans who have climbed the world’s highest peak, Mt. Everest. That group gets smaller considering that Ravi went as a solo climber to conquer Mount Everest and is listed in the Malaysia Book of Records for his feat in climbing the 8,843.43m mountain on May 15, 2006.
His badge of honor for his mountaineering feat is the eight fingers he lost after a rope cut through his frozen hands during a climb. Ravi praised Uganda for preserving the Rwenzori environment, which he found very unique and unlike any other he had seen in mountains he had climbed on all the continents. This, he said, is Uganda’s biggest seller for mountaineers.
Amb. Dorothy Hyuha, Uganda’s envoy to Malaysia, says the mission worked together with Malaysian organisation to identify a high profile individual to promote Uganda as a tourism destination. She added that the mission has taken up the call to use diplomacy to bring economic benefits to the country.
The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), which facilitated the mountain climbing trip, has together with other partners developed a strategy to market and promote the Rwenzori.
“This promotion by prominent climbers like Ravi is timely and in sync with the work we are doing at UTB,” says Stephen Asiimwe, the UTB Chief Executive Officer. “We have just completed a comprehensive marketing strategy to promote the whole Rwenzori region as prime mountaineering and cultural tourism destination.”
Ravi’s Rwenzori challenge was supported by both private and public sector institutions among them the Rwenzori Trekking Services, the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Ministry of Foreign of Foreign Affairs, the Uganda High Commission in Malaysia, Uganda Wildlife Authority, and Uganda Tourism Board.
Tourism has emerged as Uganda’s top export bringing in over UGX1.3billion, employing over 450,000 and a major contributor to GDP at 10%. The country’s international profile is also growing and more favorable for travelers around the world.
About the Rwenzori Mountains
The Rwenzoris – the fabled Mountains of the Moon – lie in western Uganda along the Uganda-Congo border. The equatorial snow peaks include the third highest point in Africa, while the lower slopes are blanketed in moorland, bamboo and rich, moist montane forest. Huge tree-heathers and colorful mosses are draped across the mountainside with giant lobelias and “everlasting flowers”, creating an enchanting, fairytale scene.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park protects the highest parts of the 120km-long and 65km-wide Rwenzori mountain range. The national park hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetation.
The Rwenzoris are a world-class hiking and mountaineering destination. A nine- to twelve-day trek will get skilled climbers to the summit of Margherita – the highest peak – though shorter, non-technical treks are possible to scale the surrounding peaks.