Wednesday, April 05, 2006

IBIHWIHWISWA: La source du Nil se trouve-t-elle au Rwanda? ou au Burundi?

MacIntyre, McLeay and McGrigor at what they say is the newly found source of the Nile River. (Reuters)
Team finds 'new source' of Nile

Surviving a rebel attack and braving crocodile-infested waters, a group of explorers has completed an 80-day voyage up the world's longest river reaching what they say is the source of the Nile.

The three explorers from Britain and New Zealand claim to be the first to have travelled the river from its mouth to its "true source" deep in Rwanda's lush Nyungwe rainforest.

"History has been rewritten," British explorer Neil McGrigor told reporters on Friday. "This is the end of an 80 day amazing and exhausting journey."
The expedition, dubbed "Ascend the Nile", travelled over 6,700 km in three boats, tracing the Nile from the Mediterranean through five countries to what they say is its origin.

Mr McGrigor and New Zealanders Cam McLeay and Garth MacIntyre suffered a rebel attack in northern Uganda, which killed one of their team, and overcame a cocktail of testing climates, massive rapids and crocodile charges before reaching their final destination.

The last leg of their journey saw them abandon their tiny boats and trek some 70 km for seven days through thick forest, sometimes being forced to wade in the fast-running Nile waters.

"We have followed the Akagera river system to its longest point up in the Nyungwe forest and it's this point that we now finally know as being the longest source of the river Nile," Mr McGrigor told Reuters.

The team, which used a Global Positioning System (GPS) and inflatable motorboats, believes the Nile is at least 107 km longer than previously thought.

Debate over the real source of the Nile has raged since the late 1850s, when British explorers like John Hanning Speke began staking their reputations, fortunes and health on finding it.

It was not until the 1864 expedition by American journalist Henry Stanley - when he found missing British David Livingstone in 1871 and circumnavigated Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika for the first time - that much of the area was mapped and many questions answered.

But not all experts were convinced by the team's discovery.

"Their claim to have found a new source for the Nile just depends on what counts as a meaningful source," Pasquale Scatturo, who documented his descent of the Blue Nile in the IMAX film Mystery of the Nile, was quoted by National Geographic's Web site as saying.

Robert Collins, author of the book The Nile, was quoted by National Geographic as saying: "They're talking about a difference of a few miles. ... These chaps are really just out for adventure, and I'm all for that."

Journey to the source of the Nile
The origin of the world's longest river has fascinated explorers for centuries. But could McGrigor, McLeay and MacIntyre succeed where Livingstone and Stanley failed? Lisa Grainger joined their quest. (Filed: 01/04/2006)

It's 8.45am on March 23 in Rwanda, and an hour and a half into the journey north from the capital, Kigali. My driver, John, is looking increasingly worried. We're on a small, winding, rock-strewn road, and no one along it appears to have heard of our destination.
Our main problem is that our map - while the most recent, topographically detailed available - is a photocopy of a 1:100, 000 version printed by Rwanda's Belgian colonial government in 1937. Consequently it shows only a few roads and none of the modern towns - not that there are any nearby. It does mark contours, rivers, altitudes and bridges - jolly useful if you're exploring a river, as the three explorers who have sent it to me are doing.

But not much use, frankly, if you're haring around cloud-capped mountains trying to find them.

Fortunately, in the aptly named "Land of a Thousand Hills", the gods join us. As we turn the umpteenth bend, and look down at the rust-coloured river below, we spot three tiny white inflatable dinghies in the water. And as we get closer, three white men in filthy shorts and T-shirts stand out from the hundreds of Rwandans gaggled on the river banks. The locals have come to see with their own eyes the mzungus (white men) who could be about to rewrite history.

The three, Neil McGrigor, 44, Cam McLeay, 43, and Garth MacIntyre, 43, are on a mission which has been attempted in parts by some of Britain's finest explorers - Speke, Grant, Gordon, Baker, Livingstone - but never fully achieved: to follow the Nile all the way back to its "longest" source way above Lake Victoria. When I join them, they are about 4,100 miles from their starting point at the Nile Delta.

If they reach their destination, the precise spot where the stream that becomes the Nile springs from the ground, which they think is about 95 miles away, they believe they will have done what no man has done before.

McGrigor, a Briton, and McLeay and MacIntyre, both New Zealanders, claim that they will have become the first explorers to travel the entire length of the Nile. They believe they will have proved that the source of the Rukarara river in the heart of the Nyungwe National Park in Rwanda is in fact also the source of the world's longest river: the tributary of the Nile furthest from its Mediterranean outlet.

They also think that by monitoring their route with the help of GPS and MarineTrack, and registering their data with the Royal Geographical Society, they will have proved that the Nile is far, far longer, and much more winding, than previously thought. They will have redrawn the map of Africa.
So far they have travelled for 70 days - in two phases. In November 2005, on Day 53, they were ambushed by Ugandan rebels who killed their driver and friend, Steve Willis, and left the rest of the party with serious injuries. Each of the explorers went home to recuperate - McGrigor to Hampshire, McLeay to Kampala and MacIntyre to Wellington - and they resumed the expedition on March 3.

The day I join them, Day 17 of their second phase, sees a neat double repetition of history. Not only was The Daily Telegraph a co-sponsor of Henry Morton Stanley's expedition to the Nile in the 1870s, but today McGrigor, McLeay and MacIntyre will pick up a hamper from Fortnum & Mason, which also sponsored and supplied Stanley with provisions such as thick-cut marmalade, humbugs and sardines.

As I scramble down the river bank (and, to the hilarity of the villagers, almost slip into their latrine pit), the men are fine-tuning their boats for some large rapids ahead. All three look fit and happy - and unbelievably muddy and wet. After spending a day with them, they promise, I'll look exactly the same - particularly if the next stretch of river is as testing as they expect.

Ideally, McGrigor says, we will ascend the rapids - which on the map look "difficult, but hopefully not impossible" - by Zapcat, a light-hulled catamaran version of a Rib (rigid inflatable boat). If we can't, another plan will have to be made: carrying the boats ourselves, or arranging porterage. Whatever happens, it will be a long day.

Not knowing what every day will bring gives the journey its edge, the men say. Above the Murchison Falls, for instance, the 60 miles of Fola rapids were so massive and impassable that the only way out was on a Fib (flying inflatable boat), which they crashed, just before the rebel attack.

Over the rapids from Lake Kyoga to Jinja, the only way out was to helicopter each craft to safer waters. In Tanzania and in the Akagera National Park in Rwanda, the bush was so thick that they had to hire porters to help carry the boats, and men on bicycles to move the engines.
Speeding off in his four-metre inflatable Zapcat, in hot pursuit of the New Zealanders, McGrigor admits that several times he has feared for their lives: when they were crossing Lake Victoria "the stormy skies were so black, the only way I could see the other guys behind me was when lightning struck"; having a gigantic Nile crocodile snap at him at the Fola rapids; taking off in the Fib on waters teeming with hippos; and being forced by Ugandan rebels to climb on to the roof of the Land Rover with a broken leg, and then watching them set it alight.
When McLeay first told McGrigor, in 2003, about his childhood dream of ascending the Nile, the British adventurer wasn't convinced it would be possible. But having undertaken the longest free abseil in the world (550ft) in an underground cave in Oman, set a Transatlantic record of 11 days 14 hours in a yacht in 1998 and broken the record for circum-navigating Britain in a vessel under 30ft long, McGrigor isn't a man to shirk a challenge. If anything, the logistics that the trip would entail enticed him.

"For me, the best part of a journey like this is planning it," he shouts, deftly avoiding floating trees, sandbanks and shallows as we whizz through the churning waters. He points out the extensive medical kit and the maps rolled up in waterproof vials, and talks me through the reconnaissance journeys he has made by helicopter to plan their route, the Google Earth journey he has mapped out on his lap top, the GPS and computerised tracking equipment he has installed to trace their journey, and the visas, customs forms and security clearance he has had to get from five African governments.

Making sure the three of them would be reasonably comfortable has also been a challenge. The four-metre boats were chosen to be as light as possible, while being strong enough to carry sufficient food, water, medical supplies and fuel to keep them going for long distances. The small size, though, meant that there was nowhere to sleep, hence the biminis - strong canopy roofs which provide shade in temperatures that often hit 50 degrees C - and a clean, dry base on which to erect a tent or put a sleeping bag.

If there's one thing they haven't been short of on the trip, it's sleep, McLeay tells me when we stop upstream after an hour, and start a two-hour hike on the river banks in order to ascertain the size of the waterfalls ahead. Bugs, he says, often came out in their thousands after dark, as did massive Nile crocodiles. "In Uganda, we'd look out with our torches and see their eyes around us in the water. So really the best place to be once the sun had gone down was on the roof, in a tent."

After 11 hours in his tent, each man was more than ready to get up at dawn. Not that there was much privacy, even that early, for morning ablutions. "In southern Sudan, where some people had never seen mzungus, crowds would watch us do everything - and I mean everything - and then afterwards would even inspect what we'd produced in the sand, " McGrigor says, grinning.

"It was like being some rare species in a zoo, being prodded and stared at." While people have generally been "more than friendly - incredibly helpful and welcoming wherever we've been" - it's the landscapes that will stay in his mind for ever. For MacIntyre, travelling through Sudan - "with its amazing coloured desert and beautiful light" - reminded him of the six months he'd spent in the Sahara with his wife, Sue, during a two-year expedition through Africa from 1988.
McLeay relished the game and savannah of Uganda and the Akagera National Park in Rwanda, "where for once there were just trees, skies, hippos, crocodiles and us". McGrigor, who owned the largest crate-hire company in Britain and partly underwrote the £100,000 cost of the expedition, says he will forever have memories of the Sudd, the largest marsh in Africa, all reeds and birds.
While crocodiles and hippos have not always been friendly, the people almost invariably have. In Egypt, at one stage, the Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Water and the coastguard were aboard as passengers, and provided armed escorts for 900 miles to ensure the trio's safety. In southern Sudan, McLeay remembers, they came round a bend at dawn to find hundreds of Nilotic tribesmen, surrounded by their white cattle, waiting in the dawn light.

"It wasn't just that they were incredibly tall and black, but they were covered in this grey dung ash to ward off insects," he says. "It was an amazing sight - and also pretty scary, given that they carried spears and automatic weapons."

While the men, who have eight children between them, say that being out of touch with their families has been emotionally difficult, keeping healthy has been the biggest challenge. All three have foot rot. Two of them are on antibiotics to cure infected cuts, which have made their groin glands swell.

McGrigor's sternum - which he broke when the boat flipped up on a rapid - still aches, as do the ligaments he tore and bones he broke in November. MacIntyre's ankle is still swollen from ligaments torn recently on a rock, after being thrown out of his Zapcat.

After a day of thumping along churning rivers, hiking along precipitous mountain slopes, hacking forest with machetes, slipping on rocks and leaping muddy ravines, my legs are aching. And this part has been pretty straightforward, they tell me.

"Some of the waves have been 50 feet," says McLeay, hiking barefoot through the slippery undergrowth, because the cuts on his feet are too painful to tolerate shoes. "They go on and on. At Murchison, I think the rapids cover about 60 miles. So, yeah, at the end of the day, you're ready to sleep!"

Having established that this five-mile stretch of the river, meandering through room-height waterfalls, is too narrow and treacherous to be traversed, and that the mountains beside the river are too steep to carry the Zapcats, the four of us reluctantly turn back. McGrigor has alerted the porters by satellite phone to tell them we're returning to the bridge. As we zoom downstream, the banks are lined with Rwandans, waving and running alongside us.

"Of all countries, this has been one of the most incredible," says MacIntyre, as crowds of singing men help to haul the Zapcats on to the waiting truck, so they can be taken by road to a point above the rapids. "Wherever you go, they appear: from banana plantations, sitting up trees, alongside us on canoes. And if we can help to put their country on the map, and to persuade people to come here, and to see what we believe to be the real source of the Nile - if we get there - then it'll be a great achievement."
For today, the journey upriver is over. Tomorrow, from a point four miles from here, above the rapids, they will travel upstream as far as the narrowing river will take them. Then they will start a 40-mile hike through dense mountainous forests of Nyungwe: the biggest montane forest in Africa.

If all goes to plan, they hope to reach what they consider is the true source - a stream far deeper in the forest than that found by the German explorer Kandt in 1898.

Just before I leave the bedraggled trio on the side of the road, and head to Nyungwe National Park on my own mission to track chimpanzees, the team realise how close they are to their goal. McGrigor, particularly, goes misty-eyed as he contemplates what they've been through - and are on the brink of achieving.

"If anyone was to ask me whether they should do this trip, I'd say no, that you'd have to be mad," he says. "I'm not saying it was the same for us as for the Victorians, who were constantly ill and up against aggressive tribes, and in boats without engines. I couldn't really mention us in the same breath as those great explorers. But what we have done I think we should be proud of.

"But then," he adds, "I have had the best team anyone could ask for - we haven't had an argument, and Cam and Garth have amazed me with their constant humour and strength. Without them we would never have achieved what we have. So, yes, it's been really good."

As we went to press McGrigor, McLeay and MacIntyre were about one mile short of their goal.
Shane Winser of the Royal Geographical Society, described the men's journey as "absolutely marvellous".

"I'm thrilled for them that they are on the point of accomplishing what they have set out to do," she said.

However, she added that verifying that the new source of the Nile had indeed been located would take some time and be complicated.

"Until the experts in the various mapping agencies of the countries along the route of the Nile have had a chance to see their data, and compare it with data from earlier surveys, no one will be able to confirm or deny the claims," she said.

Whatever the outcome, what these three men have done is "incredible", she said.
Nile expedition basics

To find out more about the expedition, see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/exit.jhtml?exit=http://www.ascendthenile.com/ . Lisa Grainger was a guest of the Rwandan Tourist Board ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/exit.jhtml?exit=http://www.rwandatourism.com/home.htm ).
Abercrombie & Kent (0845 0700611, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/exit.jhtml?exit=http://www.abercrombiekent.co.uk/ ) offers primate-watching trips to Rwanda, taking in the Nyungwe National Park, from £2,699 per person, based on two sharing and including return flights from London to Kigali via Nairobi, seven nights accommodation, all meals and a gorilla-tracking permit for one day.

Nyungwe National Park

Set in the south-west of the country, near the borders of Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Nyungwe National Park is the largest tract of montane forest in Africa and home to 14 species of primate.

While most of the 13,748 foreign visitors last year came to see gorillas in the north of the tiny, central African country, increasing numbers are also heading south - not only to see chimpanzees but also the impressive troupes of monkeys that inhabit the 1,012sq km of equatorial forest.

I didn't see chimpanzees; the team of trackers had last seen them moving through the mountains four days before, hunting for food. But I watched a troupe of black and white Angolan colobus monkeys playing above me for over an hour. I heard grey-cheeked mangabey monkeys screech and howl at each other, as they swung in the canopy above my head. And I watched a blue monkey stuff its face with wild fruit, while reclining casually on a mahogany branch like a tourist on a sunlounger.

Although the accommodation was simple, the food basic, and the trekking tough, I would love to return to the country to try to track the elusive chimps. The air was thick with the fresh smells of foliage and filled with the chattering of tropical birds.

Neon-coloured flowers lit up the thick green undergrowth. Trees rose 50m into the sky, some with trunks as thick as cars. Rooms were sparkling, and bedlinen perfectly pressed. And the Rwandans were some of the most friendly, warm, open and helpful people I've ever met.

In the Kigali Memorial Centre, where I spent my last morning, a curator caught sight of my tear-soaked face in a room full of skulls, and came over to put his arm around me. "Please, don't be sad," he said. "Things are different now."

They certainly are - which is why in 2005 alone, tourism generated $26 million, and why by 2010 the country hopes to attract 70,000 visitors a year. As the Minister of Tourism, Rosette Rgumba, told me: "The world has come to know Rwanda for all the wrong reasons.

"With this expedition, we hope that they will start to visit for the right ones. It's not every country which can say it has the longest river in the world. Now we can say that, we're going to party. The celebrations are just beginning."Lisa Grainger
Carolyn Mac Askie Yasezeye Aburundi Arira
Ngo azakomeza kurwana k'Uburundi
Isoko y'Uruzi rwa Nil Yavumbuwe mu Rwanda
Nil ngo yiyongereyeho ibindi birometero bisaga 100
Mayibobo Zikomeje Kwiyongera i Kigali
Aho gukenera mu cyaro ngo bacyenera m'umugi

Isoko y’Uruzi rwa Nil Yavumbuwe mu Rwanda
Jeanne D'Arc Umwana Kigali04/04/2006

Abibazaga aho isoko nyakuri y’uruzi rwa Nil yaba iherereye babonye igisubizo nyacyo. Ntibikiri ugushidikanya, uruzi rwa Nil, rumwe mu nzuzi nini kandi ndende za mbere ku isi yose, rukomoka mu Rwanda.

Ibihugu bitandukanye byo mu Karere k’ibiyaga bigari nk’u Burundi na Uganda byajyaga byiyitirira ko isoko y’uruzi rwa Nili ariho ituruka ; amatsiko yabyo rero yarashize.

Abagabo batatu bakomoka mu Bwongereza no muri Nouvelle Zelande, ari bo Neil Mc Grigor, Cam Mc Leay na Garth Maclntyre, bakoze urugendo rw‘iminsi 80, bagamije kumenya igihugu isoko ya Nil iherereyemo ; bakemuye impaka kuri icyo kibazo.

Mu rugendo rutaboroheye, bagenda mu mato, barara mu mahema aho bageze, barashyize bavumbura igihugu n’agace isoko y’ukuri ya Nili iherereyemo.

Bamaze kurangiza urugendo rwabo, bariya bagabo batatu batangaje ko basanze isoko y’ukuri y’uruzi rwa Nili iherereye mu ishyamba rya kimeza rya Nyungwe, mu ntara y’Iburengerazuba bw’u Rwanda.

Abo bagabo bavuga ko basanze uruzi rwa Nil rufite ibindi birometero bisaga 100 by’uburebure bitari bizwi. Ubundi urwo ruzi rwabarirwaga uburebure bw’ibirometero 6695.

Kuba isoko y’uruzi rwa Nili ikomoka mu Rwanda, ni ishema rikomeye ku gihugu nk’ u Rwanda, dore ko uruzi rwa Nili rufitiye akamaro kanini ibihugu bitari bike byo muri Afulika ; nk’ibihugu byo mu majyaruguru y’Afurlika, byugarijwe ahanini n’ubutayu, byifashisha cyane uruzi rwa Nili mu mirimo ijyanye n’ubuhinzi.
Ibindi bisobanuro kuri iyi nkuru biri aha hakurikira:

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200604/s1606427.htm -
Team finds 'new source' of Nile – ABC Online


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