FORT PORTAL- It was a long rough day at Fort Portal, where I had gone to attend the launch of the Community Action to end violence against children – a project undertaken by the Forum for African Women Educationalists. When all was done, four of us decided to do some sight-seeing of the land of Tooro.
One of us suggested we check out any of the resorts. Fort Portal is not lacking in terms of hotels and resort centres, but we all wanted something extra – anything that could be unique to only Kabarole.
The thought of visiting the palace of the cultural leaders, Omukama Oyo Kabamba Iguru II, came to mind, but I could not suggest that as it may require prior arrangements. At about 4:00p.m; we decided to go check out Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru. Two of us remembered well enough the historical site that made part of our primary school history and geography lessons and so we wanted to live the childhood lessons our teachers laboured to teach us. At the tourist site, we each paid Shs7,500 and Latif Muhumuza was our guide.
After a 400m walk we had started our tour of the Amabere ga Nyina Mwiru. Before we could venture into the thick jungle, Muhumuza gave us a brief background of the place we were all visiting for the first time.
The story told, is that once upon a time, there was a king named Bukuku of the Bachwezi dynasty. The Bachwezi who lived between the 13th and 14th century were mysterious people that were believed to live forever as nobody had ever seen a dead body or grave of any of them. Bukuku, had visited a friend in the area but eventually became king. Nyina Mwiru was Bukuku’s daughter.
It is said that once a foreteller told Bukuku that his daughter would give birth in the future and if the child was a girl, there would be no problem, but if the child happened to be a boy, he would grow up kill his grandfather and become the king instead. That prophecy got Bukuku worried. In a bid to make his daughter ugly, so that no man could desire her, Bukuku plucked out one of her eyes and cut off her breasts then proceeded to toss them in the caves. Those are the breasts (Amabere) that form part of the formation of the caves.
The prophecy did not wade off though. A young man in the kingdom, Isimbwa stumbled on Nyina Mwiru, in a cave where the father had hidden her and madly fell in love with her and eventually got her pregnant. The king then decreed that if she gave birth to a baby boy, it was to be killed on the spot. Indeed Nyina Mwiru had a baby boy named Ndahura.
Bukuku out of anger attempted to kill the baby boy, but the servants managed to save him and nurtured him until he grew into a young man. The young man then had running battles with the king’s servants over grazing areas for their cattle. It was during one of those incidents that the boy killed the man, that unknown to him was his grandfather. Naturally he became king instead of Bukuku.
The scientific explanation of the so-called breasts is stalactites which are made up of calcium carbonate and when blended with water they drip down and form stalactites. The dripping water looks like milk emphasizing the legend that the breasts actually give milk.
The stalactites and stalagmites advance by one inch each year and join to form pillars which support the cave. The active caves are only two but there are others that are no longer active due to lack of water.
You will need shoes with a good grip as the path to the Amabere is quite slippery, we were only helped by walking sticks as we were not prepared for the trip.
Apart from Nyina Mwiru’s breasts there is an udder, which is believed to have been of one of Bukuku’s cows and there are also parts of two dogs, confirming that where there are cows there are always some dogs.
The climax is the Amabere waterfalls. The sound of the waterfalls which flow permanently with the chirping of birds in the background is an awesome relief from the hectic and noisy urban life.
The waterfalls although permanent tend to have lower levels during the dry season as the water volumes reduce. The glacial waters from the Rwenzori Mountains and the swamp are the source of the Amabere waterfalls. As you venture in the caves, make sure your camera battery is good as you will forever regret if you fail to take some pictures at the falls.
There are private cottages which accommodate families of eight each, but as you read this, they are all taken. Each cottage goes for 200,000, inclusive of bed and breakfast. For those willing to camp, tents are available for 55,000 to 100,000 depending on the size.
At the end of the exciting tour of the Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru caves we continued with a guided tour of the explosion crater lakes. We decided to take our jumping photos just next to Lake Kigere, which got its name from a footprint the locals then identified. On the other side we could see lake Kikere, believed to have, any frogs and our guide pointed us to lake Saka too. It was an evening well spent, but we had to end our tour because it was getting dark, leaving me with a determination to return to Amabere Ga Nyina Mwiru (which means mother of a servant), sooner than later. Maybe you could go for a Christmas holiday there too.