Thursday, November 21, 2013

Rediscovering the Source of the Nile

As many people reading this blog are aware, I choose the title, Dr. Phelan, I Presume? in honor of Dr. David Livingstone, the explorer who spent the better part of two decades discovering Africa and searching for the source of the Nile River.  Despite his efforts, he died in 1873 before completing his mission. But it turns out that Dr. Livingstone, and several other explorers before him (John Hanning Speke and Sir Richard Burton were his main competitors) were correct.  All of them suspected Lake Victoria to be the source of the Nile, but none of them conclusively proved it.

Seeing as that I am in Uganda, home to Lake Victoria, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the Source of the Nile.  Lake Victoria is considered one of the African Great Lakes and was named after Queen Victoria by John Hanning Speke.  It is located mostly in Uganda, but Lake Victoria also extends across the borders into Kenya and Tanzania.  At the northernmost tip of Lake Victoria is the town of Jinja, which is where the While Nile begins to flow north into Egypt.
I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting, but the town of Jinja and the Nile were rather anticlimactic.  The Nile was a very calm and quiet river, but considering that there are two hydroelectric dams situated within a few miles of one another I suppose that may be partially to blame.  The official Source of the Nile tourist attraction was even less exciting; it was mostly small stalls selling souvenirs (most of which were probably Made in China) and offering boat cruises.

We decided to skip the boat cruise, and just take a look at the water.
Here is the official Source of the Nile marker:

Here is a small restaurant/bar where you can eat and prepare or recover from your boat cruise:
And of course there is no such thing as a visit to a tourist attraction without buying some stuff you don’t need.  As you can see, here you can buy your “My name is not muzungu” (white person) t-shirt, beaded necklaces and bracelets, and if you are concerned you’ve gained weight on your vacation, there are three different stalls which will let you step on a scale and weigh yourself for 500 shillings (about 20 cents).  Of course, the scales aren’t on level ground, so I wouldn’t put a lot of stock into the reading if I were you:
Perhaps one of the more surprising things about the Source of the Nile is that there is a statue dedicated to Gandhi there.  Gandhi spent 21 years in South Africa, which apparently had a significant impact on his political views.  I couldn’t find any record of Gandhi spending time in Uganda, but he requested some of his ashes be spread in the Nile, hence the statue.

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