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Wanale ridge, the sleeping tourism giant

The maginificent 6,864 ft Wanale ridge is indeed a magical appeal in Mbale and tourism gem in Uganda (FILE PHOTO)

MBALE – When you ask Ugandans what their dream destination would be, the majority would cross not only the national borders but the oceans beyond to find their destinations.

They will mention lands faraway, glorifying foreign beauty over their motherland because they have not ventured into discovering the beauty in their country. If you are in this category, visit Wanale Ridge just 6Km away from Mbale town.

Any visitor to Mbale will see it, standing tall with pride and grandeur; it is such an imposing beauty from a distance.
Wanale ridge has had a magical appeal for many who have been in Mbale, as it looks to be a stone throw away from the town.

Many visitors to Mbale municipality gaze upon the imposing beauty from a distance. But a visit up close with Wanale will reveal just how much Uganda is gifted by nature.

Rising majestically above the municipality, the 6,864 ft Wanale ridge has beckoned too many climbers who visited Mbale since Sir H. Hesketh Bell, then Her Majesty’s Commissioner made it a town on June 26, 1906 according to the Official Gazette of the East Africa and Uganda Protectorate Vol. VIII No 161.

Standing at a height of 6,864 ft, Wanale ridge can be viewed from all areas in Mbale and neighbouring districts. It covers a huge portion of Bugisu’s land surface.

This towering ridge adjacent to Mbale town has shimmering stony hills that look like a white sheet that is why Semei Kakungulu, the colonial agent described it as a white cock [Nkokonjeru].

Activities such as camping and sight seeing shine the light on Wanale Ridge as Bugisu’s temple of nature (FILE PHOTO)

Mbale town literally lies at the foot of this ridge. From town, one can discern three splendid looking waterfalls which all originate from the mountain top, many a visitor mistake it for Mt Elgon.

Wanale or Nkokonjeru Mountain, as some people call it, is an impressive mountain replete with precipices, escarpments, deep valleys, water streaked cliffs, caves and rocks.

“Wanale is Bugisu’s temple of nature. From the days of old, many visitors were awed at the sight of this mountain. The waters that flow from Mt. Wanale spread to every river in Uganda,” says William Madanda, 71, an elder in Wanale sub-county.

Although little talked about Wanale, is worth visiting. The place has had unique happenings and history.

For trekkers or climbers, Wanale should be a great attraction, the ascent to its peak is exhilarating. Wanale ridge or Nkokonjeru, is an impressive mountain replete with precipices, escarpments, deep valleys, water streaked cliffs, caves and rocks.

According to Mr Madanda, Wanale Mountain is named after one of the sons of Masaba; the patriarch of the Bamasaba [Bagisu], Mt. Wanale is believed to be the place where Nabarwa, the Kalenjin woman who prevailed upon Masaba to get circumcised before they got married, came from, on her way from Kenya.

Mr Madanda says that the Nkokonjeru name that the colonial agent Semei Kakungulu’s people used to refer to that mountain came from the legend that Wanale, son of Masaba, reared only white chicken.
Wonders at Wanale Mountain

Mr Erizafari Wambedde, an elder at Mukhuwa village in Wanale says many of the mountain’s earliest inhabitants lived in caves and that such caves still exist at the mountain.

“There are many caves on the mountain, though people know only one, the Khaukha cave. The early Bamasaba who called Wanale home dwelt in these caves,” says Mr Wambedde.

“A hike through a trail at the western end of the ridge will lead one to Khaukha cave, which is the most prominent cave at this mountain,” Mr Wambedde adds.

Legend has it that Khaukha cave which has calligraphic inscriptions on its walls, has an ill-fated water stream and one such inscription reads, “James Wambwa was here, remember me.’’

Nature and simplicity

The hike to the mountain will take you through breathtaking nature and forest walks over water streams as the trail painstakingly winds its way through numerous homesteads with coffee and banana plantations with barely-clothed and barefooted children among mud and wattle houses that stand proudly in the plantations.

Caves and mystery

Mr Wambedde says the cave has unsaturated salt locally known as magadi in Lumasaba and kisula in Luganda or rock salt commonly eaten by animals and people.

Legend has it that Khaukha cave has an ill-fated water stream known as Mwausa, a tale supported by one of the residents.

He adds that the other wonders that Wanale offers are its many cascading waterfalls; Namatsyo waterfall, for example, drops two miles down from the mountain top and makes deep tunnels in the rocky bottom.

“The waterfall disappears down in the rocks under. It is completely obscured and immersed then the water re-emerges and hits the surface from its underground pathway in villages of Bumboi and Mooni,” Wambedde says.

Wanale Ridge Water Falls is a spectacular waterfall where water cascades over 6864 feet, 2092 meters down the sheer cliff rock wall onto the valley.

You will hear a clapping sound, a rumbling and roaring, a wave of white surging down the mountain side and a huge wall of mist crashing down.

How to get there

From Mbale town, one can walk approximately 16 Km to Wanale’s base. By taxi or personal car, it is a 30-40 minute ride. Take a left turn after the Mbale High Court and follow the road that goes down to Busamaga Primary School. From there take a right turn to Bumboi road for 15-20 minutes. Wanale Ridge is located about 6 kilometers from Mbale town in Eastern Uganda.

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