Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park

In terms of heritage, the Park, your ultimate destination is a place of natural beauty rather like the breath-taking Grand Canyon in the USA but with a plethora of flora and fauna instead. It is not man-made like cathedrals and castles in Europe.

In 1957 the American literary naturalist Loren Eiseley wrote:
“If there is magic on this planet, it is in moving water.”

You will find the “moving magic” in Nile River, particularly, at the world renowned Murchison Falls, and the preceding cascade of rapids and falls at the roaring Karuma Falls.

As was the custom during Victorian era the Falls, the Acoli tribe call “Wang Jok” – the place, eye or manifestation of God, was named by Sir Samuel Baker in 1863, after Sir Roderick Murchison the President of the Royal Geographical Society. Downstream Lake Albert, called “Onek Bonyo” – the killer of locusts, retains its Victorian name. All other places in the Park are called by their original Acoli names – “Paraa” – the place of hippos; “Pakwach” – the place of leopards; and the three entrances to the Park are called – Chobe, Wang Kwa and Tangi Gates. The names represent the dynamic and fluid nature of culture and heritage.

Sir Samuel Baker in Wild Beasts and their Ways (Macmillan, 1891) narrated unforgettable travel scene around Albert Nile in 1863:

“a vast concourse of elephants, grouped in parties of varying size from ten to one hundred animals, while single bulls dotted the landscape, with their majestic forms in all direction.”

At the turn of the century, Winston Spencer-Churchill in 1907 wrote in “My African Journey”

“The profusion of flora and fauna – birds, insects, reptiles and mammals are fused by nature on a vast scale astride the almighty Nile”

“One has to remember that here Kew Gardens and the London Zoo combined on an unlimited scale”

On Saturday 23rd and then Sunday 24th January, 1954 Ernest Hemingway the Noble Laureate, a tall, powerfully built man, who combined a life of action with writing some gripping fiction, was involved in two plane accidents, in company with his wife, whilst flying near the Murchison Falls. As reported by “The United Press”
He quipped:

“My luck, she is running very good”

The single-engine Cessna hired for the flight to Murchison Falls crashed trying to avoid a flock of black and white Ibises. The Pilot, Captain Roy Marsh landed with a jolt on an “Elephant Track” – the other landing option was a “Sandpit Where Six Man-eating Crocodiles Lay Basking in the Sun”

Hemingway the action orientated man survived the crash with a limp. His wife had two broken ribs. They had to camp overnight near the wreckage before the rescue the following day by a tourist steamer from Butiaba.

In the morning Hemingway joshed his wife, saying her snoring had attracted elephants as they camped:

“We held our breath about two hours while an elephant twelve paces away was silhouetted in the moonlight, listening to my wife’s snores,” Hemingway roared.

On Sunday 24th January, 1954, the second plane ground-looped and crashed in a plantation at the end of the run way in Butiaba. The action man had survived the second accident too. The trip to Uganda, he said, was his wife’s Christmas present. On Monday 26th January, he arrived in Entebbe by road in bandages, carrying a bunch of bananas and a bottle of gin.

The mystery of Wang Jok – the place or eye of “God” never ceases. In 1961 a foot bridge was constructed over the 6 metres rock- gap over the Falls. In the deluge of the following year’s rainy season the well-engineered viewing bridge was washed away overnight without residue. Since that day the Park engineers have stayed their hands.
Read more about Wang Jok in the Poems called – Murchison Falls and Riverside Experience at the Heritage Safari Lodge.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.