National Geographic : 1962 Mar
elephant and rhino. In the language of science, the hyrax of the Ruwenzori belongs to genus Procaviaof the order Hyracoidea, which was widely represented eons ago. Ten fossil gen era are known. But Procavia,as we find him today, dates from recent geological times. The little beast makes a fairly tasty dish when boiled with a pinch of salt. We saw ducks on a mountain lake and iri descent sunbirds (the African counterpart of hummingbirds) sipping from lobelia blooms. Once we spotted a white-necked raven soar ing through the peaks at 15,000 feet. Three-foot worms? We found one squirm ing in the mud at trailside after a heavy rain. Thick as a man's thumb, it was simply an oversized earthworm. It would have made enough bait for a fortnight of fishing. Peaks Tower Above Great Rift Valley The animals gave us no cause for concern, but the weather did, as it has done everyone who came to these heights before us. The weather is bad, partly because of something that happened millions of years ago-the formation of the Great Rift Valley. In a series of gigantic fractures in the earth's crust that continued for 100 million years, a chain of depressions appeared, extending 4,000 miles-from the Jordan Valley in the Holy Land, southward under the Red Sea, through Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and Tan ganyika, to Mozambique and the Rhodesias. Some sections of the earth sank thousands of feet; others heaved skyward. Sometime lat er, the Ruwenzori country tilted at an acute angle to thrust massive peaks of Archean rocks into the cold sky. The resulting mountain range leaps abrupt ly from a high plateau. Hot winds of the low land strike it and bounce upward. Where hot and cold currents meet, such violent weather is bred that you can hope for clear skies only twice a year-late December through Jan uary and late June through July. The course we followed that late Decem ber was the one originally established by the Duke of the Abruzzi as best for approaching the peaks from the east-that is, up the Mu buku Valley to its junction with the Bujuku River, then on to the river's source, Lake Bu juku (map, page 414), which drains the Speke Glacier and part of the Stanley ice sheet. In all, it is about a three-day climb. By nightfall of the first day we had attained a site known as Nyinabitaba, at 8,400 feet. Here I felt like giving three rousing cheers for the Mountain Club of Uganda, some of whose members a few years earlier had man aged by dint of sheer endurance to transport the wherewithal for constructing a modest aluminum shelter here and at several other key locations higher in the mountains. We were not yet in the zone of sleet and snow, but the air was biting cold as we gulped down a quick supper and, dog-tired, crawled into our sleeping bags. The porters huddled round a log fire built where a huge overhang Giant Lobelias Sprout Yucca-like Spikes Reaching for the sun, be quaertii grows at an alti tude of 11,000 feet on a mountainside usually en veloped in swirling mist. Here, in a rare moment of fair weather, Jim Cog gins (left) and Pat Hender son inspect a waist-high bush of everlasting flowers amid the lobelias. Sunlit lobelia flowers shine with frosty radiance. Blue beaklike blossoms and mauve-pink bracts of a wollastonii appear four times life-size. 426 KODACHROMES©N.G.S.