In the second century A.D., the greek geographer Cladius Ptolemy wrote of a great snow covered range of mountains near the equator in Africa. He gave the mountains the name Lunae Montes or Mountains of the Moon. His reports were disbelieved until the late nineteenth century when they were rediscovered by Henry Stanley, the man we know for uttering those famous words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume?" when he found Dr. David Livingstone in the depths of Africa. Stanley just happened to be at the right place when the cloud cover that almost always obscured the mountains lifted, and he was treated to a dazzling view of these snow capped peaks. He had found the fabled Mountains of the Moon, although he referred to them by the name that the native Africans knew them by – Ruwenzori or ‘Rainmaker.’

The Ruwenzori Mountains lie just north of the equator and provide a natural barrier between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are 80 miles long and about 30 miles wide and reach a peak of 16,763 feet. They remained unknown to outsiders for so many years due to the fact that they are very rarely visible, but are enshrouded in clouds and mist most of the time, a situation that gave the mountains the name 'rainmaker'. The rain is continuous there, and the so-called dry season is only slightly less wet than the wet season. The mountains are rugged and heavily eroded, with many large beautiful lakes tucked in among the peaks.

One of the unique things about the Ruwenzori Mountains is the size of the vegetation there. A Lobelia, for example, that would grow to only one foot in most places, reaches a height of 20 feet in the Ruwenzoris. The rain forest that covers much of the mountain slopes are covered with thick vegetation, including moss covered heather trees which reach a height of 40 feet here.

Animal life is also abundant here. Many of the birds here are unique to the Ruwenzoris. The range also contains elephants, chimpanzees, bushbuck, leopards and colobus monkeys.

There was a movie called Mountains of the Moon released in 1990 that was based on the adventures of Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke. These men, especially Burton, wanted to find the source of the White Nile river, and were convinced that the river arose in the fabled Mountains of the Moon. Using maps made over 15 centuries earlier by Ptolemy, the explorers penetrated deep into Africa, and eventually found what they considered to be the source of the Nile, a huge lake that they named Lake Victoria. Lake Victoria is indeed, fed from waters running off from the Ruwenzori Mountains, so ultimately the explorers were proved at least partially right.

There is a thriving eco-tourism trade going on in the Ruwenzoris, but it is often stalled by the continuous civil wars that rage in the area, making travel unsafe at certain times.


Someone please node the words to the song by the Grateful Dead called Mountains of the Moon. It's got some great lyrics, but it doesn't really belong in this w/u
Mountains Of The Moon
Lyrics: Robert Hunter
Music: Jerry Garcia


Reprinted with permissions copyright Ice Nine Publishing

Recorded on:
Aoxomoxoa (studio 1969)
Fillmore East (2-11-69)
The Strange Remain by The Other Ones (22-7-1998)



Cold mountain water, the jade merchant's daughter
Mountains of the moon, Electra, bow and bend to me
Hi-ho, the carrion crow, folderol-de-riddle
Hi-ho, the carrion crow, bow and bend to me

Hey, Tom Banjo
Hey, a laurel
More than laurel you may sow
More than laurel you may sow
Hey, the laurel, hey, the city in the rain
Hey, hey, the wild wheat waving in the wind
Twenty degrees of solitude, twenty degrees in all
All the dancing kings and wives assembled in the hall
Lost is the long and loneliest time, fairy Sybil flying
All along the, all along the mountains of the moon

Hey, Tom Banjo
It's time to matter
The earth will see you on through this time
The earth will see you on through this time
Down by the water, the marsh king's daughter, did you know
Clothed in tatters, always will be, Tom where did you go?

Mountains of the moon, Electra, mountains of the moon
All along the, all along the mountains of the moon
Heigh ho, the carrion crow, folderol-de-riddle
Heigh ho, the carrion crow, bow and bend to me
Bend to me

In the 5th century B.C. Herodotus visited Egypt and travelled up the Nile as far as Elephantine. On his journey, he met a priest who claimed to know where the source of the Nile was. There were apparently two mountains called Crophi and Mophi, and in the centre of each was a vast bottomless fountain. These two fountains gave rise to the Nile. Herodotus was sceptical. Ptolemy (A.D. 90 - A.D. 168)elaborated upon this story, and located the fountains in a range of mountains south of the equator, which he named "TheMountains of the Moon". Why he chose this name is not known for certain. Arab explorers in the dark ages spoke of the Mountains of Gumr. Gumr was believed to be a corruption of Kama meaning moon, but it could also be derived from kumr meaning pale green. Abu el Fadel, an Arab traveller, writing around A.D. 1098 suggested that the mountains are so called, "because the eye is dazzled by the great brightness" He goes on to explain that:

"Some have said that certain people have reached these mountains and ascended there and looked over the other side where they saw a sea with troubled waters, dark as the night. This sea being traversed by a white stream, bright as the day which enters the mountains from the north, and passes by the grave of the great Hermes, and Hermes is the prophet Idrisi.

It is said that Idrisi there built a dome. Some say that people have ascended the mountains and one of them began to laugh and clap his hands and threw himself down the other side of the mountain. The others were afraid of being seized with the same fit and so came back. It is said that those who saw it saw bright snows like white silver gleaming with light. Whoever looked at them became attracted and stuck to them until they died and this science is called human magnetism.

It is said that a certain king sent an expedition to discover the Nile sources and they reached copper mountains and when the sun rose the rays reflected were so strong they were burnt.

It is said that in the days of Am Kaam, one of the kings of Egypt, Idrisi was taken up to heaven and he prophesied the coming of the flood so he remained on the other side of the equator and there built a palace on the slopes of Mount Gumr. He built it out of copper and made 85 statues of copper, the waters of the Nile flowing through the mouths of these statues and then flowing into a great lake and thence to Egypt"

The white stream on the black sea sounds to me like a description of the Milky Way, as though this is a legend about the edge of the world, where the earth meets the sky.

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