By Asiimwe Wilson, Josephat Sseguya & John Thawite
Locals at Ibanda trading center put their business on hold for hours as they scrambled to catch a glimpse of visiting American model Marlina Moreno who started Saturday an eight-day hike of the Rwenzori Mountain ranges.
She was flagged off by the Ugandan minister of tourism Maria Mutagamba, and said she had enjoyed every bit of her stay in Uganda so far.
Despite admitting to having no experience in hiking, Moreno said she was determined to make it to the highest summit of the mountain ranges – the Margherita Peak (5,108m or 16,761ft).
This is her second visit to Africa, having visited South Africa previously, she said.
On her part, minister Mutagamba said government is committed to promoting tourism in the country because Uganda is endowed with several tourist attractions.
She said government is set to construct all the major roads leading to national parks to ease access to those locations.
Minister Mutagamba cuts a ribbon to enter Mt. Rwenzori national park on Sunday. (Photo credit: Wilson Asiimwe). Here, the group took time to cross one of the several rivers in the park.
Moreno being guided by UWA’s Raymond Engane and other park rangers.
Moreno is a model for the Nike, Samsung, Virgin Atlantic and Siemens brands.
Earlier, she had said she would go to the Source of the Nile in Jinja, go bungee-jumping and then to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest for Mountain Gorilla tracking.
She had predicted it would be a “marvelous experience”.
James Mbahimba, the Kasese Municipality MP, was the chief guide to the super model.
He said that the visitation of Moreno to the park is a clear indicator that that government was determined to promote tourism in the country.
“She has very many people following her up on her social media and am sure that Rwenzori mountains national park and Uganda as a country will reap much from her visit,” said the legislator.
At the end of her visit, the avid traveler and blogger, who boasts of over 50 million followers on social media, expects to profile her experience and produce a documentary to be carried on her travel platforms: Examiner.com, Huffingtonpost.com and WhenInManila.com,as well as her travel blog BrunetteAbroad.com.
Meanwhile, Mbahimba said the Rwenzori Mountains are unique in the whole world because they are the only one along the Equator with snow at the peak.
He said that the local communities living along the Rwenzori Mountains national park have formed an association to help the tourists while hiking the mountain ranges and also doing the marketing.
The national park was gazetted in 1991 and was also declared a world heritage and RAMSAR site.
Minister Mutagamba inspects a Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) guard of honour at Mihunga where she flagged off Moreno into the Rwenzori Mountains