Uganda’s 5,000m world record holder; Commonwealth gold medalist and the reigning World Cross champion, Joshua Cheptegei will be embarking on an expedition to hike Mount Rwenzori starting December 11th, 2020.
Cheptegei will be accompanied by celebrity, entertainer, champion kickboxer and actor, Moses Golola.
While announcing the Rwenzori Mountaineering Expedition- “I am Ready to Take on Mt. Rwenzori” an initiative geared towards attracting sportsmen and their fans to visit Uganda’s adventurous attractions, Ms. Ajarova said: “In my capacity as UTB CEO, but also as an avid nature lover, it gives me ultimate honor to be taking on this challenge alongside the reigning World Cross Country and World 10,000m champion and Moses Golola, Uganda’s kickboxer champion on an expedition to the thrilling ascent to Uganda’s highest point.”
Joshua Cheptegei noted that he is privileged to have the opportunity to take on Rwenzori as he had never been to the western part of the country.
“I am more than ready; I am so excited to take on the Rwenzori hiking challenge. When I returned back from the World Half Marathon Championship, I took some rest for a month and resumed training on November 17th just to prepare for this, I never wanted to disappoint, as you can see, I am fit, I challenge my friends to be ready” Cheptegei said.
Cheptegei thanked UTB and UNDP for coming up with this initiative to promote tourism and excite more people to come to Uganda.
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is sponsoring the challenge.
The UNDP is also supporting Uganda’s tourism sector to a tune of up to USD1 million (shs 3.7 billion) to help the industry recover from the negative effects caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the flagging off the hiking crew, UNDP’s Resident Representative to Uganda, Ms. Elsie G. Attafuah underscored the importance of tourism in the transformation of rural areas.
“Mountainous areas have harsh climate conditions, vulnerable to natural disasters and problems of remoteness and accessibility which hinder economic activities such as infrastructure development and industrial production. Tourism, a labor-intensive sector with multiple linkages across the economic value chain, presents an opportunity to uplift local communities and stimulate socio-economic growth in mountain destinations,” Attafuah noted.
She added that this expedition led by Joshua Cheptegei, is intended to showcase the beauty of the Rwenzori Mountains and in so doing, drive domestic and international tourism traffic to experience this magical adventure that the mountains offer. It is also meant to highlight the need for a collective effort to diversify Uganda’s tourism product range in an innovative way that mainly integrates multiple communities in the tourism chain while protecting natural and cultural resources.
The State Minister of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities, Hon. Godfrey Kiwanda who officiated the flagging off of the crew thanked UNDP for the support given to the tourism sector. He challenged Ugandans to use this festive season to visit Ugandan protected areas and benefit from the promotional packages being run by the Uganda Wild Life Authority (UWA).
Recently, UWA cut park entry fees by 50% for the festive season. The three-month-long offer runs from December 1st, 2020 up to March 31st, 2021.
Regarded as the “Mountains of the Moon” by Claudius Ptolemy, the Greco-Roman mathematician, astronomer, and father of geography, Rwenzori provides the third highest point in Africa (Margherita Peak) at 5,109 meters above the sea level (after Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya). The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) heritage site is the highest and most permanent source of the Nile River and constitutes a vital water catchment for Uganda. According to UNESCO, the Rwenzoris’ glaciers, waterfalls, and lakes make it one of Africa’s most beautiful alpine areas with diverse habitats of endangered species and a rich and flora and fauna.
Isolated, little-known, and less frequently climbed, the Rwenzori ranges on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo offer crowd-free hiking and a sense of wilderness absent on many mountaineering sites across the world. Official statistics show that in 2018, just over 1000 people trekked this high-altitude paradise.
The climb requires greater technical skills and endurance to get to the highest peak. The name Rwenzori means “rainmaker” and therefore being wet while on the climb is not surprising. UTB is taking on the mountaineering challenge around this time because December is relatively a dry season in the region, making the hike less laboring.
The surrounding Mount Rwenzoris National hosts 70 mammals and 217 bird species including 19 Albertine Rift endemics, as well as some of the world’s rarest vegetations.
Ajarova will be the first UTB’s CEO to hike the Rwenzori. Since her appointment in 2018, Ajarova has also successfully hiked Elgon and Muhabura mountains, Uganda’s second and third highest mountains.