Fort Portal
Western Uganda

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In western Uganda is the beautiful area of Fort Portal. Below is an article that appeared in the Monitor, one of Uganda's daily newspappers. You will also enjoy another feature article from the Sunday New Vision magazine "Discovery." It appeared on December 19, 2010.

Beauty on Mountains of the Moon
The Monitor (Kampala) October 23, 1999
By Wamboga-Mugirya In Fort Portal, Kabarole

Kampala - FORT PORTAL: The twenty year-old town in Rwenzori is ideal for tourism but lacks promotion. I've been to almost all the big towns and townships of Uganda's 45 districts but the beauty of Fort Portal, in the extreme West of Uganda, recently showed me that I ain't seen nothing yet.

Fort Portal's misty evenings and picturesque mornings of panoramic greens, blues and oranges made me feel like I was walking on sunshine.

It was Oct. 11, when we arrived in this 24-year-old municipality snuggled away on the slopes of "The Mountains of The Moon" as Rwenzori Block Mountain ranges are fondly called. We drove into the town on a rainy night.

Although a heavy mist hang in the air, the over 20km tarmac stretch from Kyenjojo into Fort Portal was a sweet breather after the gruelling race on the murram of the Mubende-Kyenjojo patch.

Fellow journalists; Collins Vumiria [Radio Uganda], Johnson Aisu [Uganda Television] and I, were at one point shaken out of our quiet reverie when our driver braked sharply because our Toyota van had 'rammed' into a cloud of mist!

The driver said he could barely make out the road. By then, our anxiety was at its crest - after the 317km drive from Kampala, we wanted to reach Fort Portal and rest.

However, we all agreed that it was necessary to slow down. It was shortly after 8:00 P.M., when we arrived safely into Fort Portal, a tiny municipality which the British colonialist, Maj. Sir Gerald Portal claimed to have 'discovered' in the 1880s.

My colleagues had been there before, but that was a long time back and they were struck by the changed face of the town.

The town's main street, a dual carriage affair is not only the widest but the most lively.

Fort Portal residents keep a long night and many of them streamed to the many bars, Continental, Mountain of the Moon, Wooden and Riviera -- among other hotels and bufundas -- it was the cold mountain area equivalent to winter and everybody needed to warm themselves.

Thank God the town wasn't load-shedded, and Lugard Road was well-lit -- compared to towns like Mbale, Gulu, Lira and Kabale, and others.

Wooden Lodge boasts a live band playing to sedate patrons, while down the street is a Wandegeya of sorts - a drinking zone with the largest crowds in the town at night.

I love to be where people are and my colleagues agreed that we check out this capital of Fort Portal's drinking zone.

Our bartender was a tall and muscular man, who serves patrons and lets the waiters and waitresses do other things.

But that was at night.

During the day, the morning sunshine rises like a tranquil goddess unveiling a picturesque tropical mountain vegetation, and blooming yellow and red flowers.

Later the clouds will begin to form and the sky will darken before the rain but now, only the several green valleys and rocky hills shine beautifully with the bright day.

From such high peaks, we were lucky to catch the sun setting "behind" the Rwenzoris in a motley of unforgettable colours.

Its a splendid bright serenade of light, painted against a grey and purple- blue skyline. Fort Portal has a busy vegetable market in the morning.

Rural farmers in shabby sweaters, and penny hungry portly traders mingle with the local urbanites wearing gaudy lipstick and daring nail varnish to haggle over the price of abundant tropical fruits and vegetables.

Some market-goers make a bee-line for the busy animal and pottery products market.

This rural town has great potential for development of eco-tourism. It's found about 15km west of Kibaale Tropical High Forest (THF) National Park and several tea plantations not to mention, Mt Rwenzori and the numerous flora and fauna. But for the two days we were there, nothing showed tourism was being exploited by either the central and local governments or private investors.

Apart from some lodging available at the Continental, Mountain of the Moon, Wooden and Riviera; Kabarole has little desired tourist-designed housing or facilities to attract large numbers of visitors to the area.

The quality of existing ones is low and services by staff clumsy. The town boss, LC-III chairman of municipality (West) division, Ramadhan Tinkansimire says the town, granted municipality status in 1975 by the Idi Amin regime, would have have started construction of modern taxi and bus parks before the new millennium sets in.

"Fort Portal is peaceful and on a fast track for development," he said.

Big words, we say, but where is the action?

Fort Portal; you steal a traveller's heart.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Monitor - Kampala.

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