After East African war service and twelve years in the Tanganyika Veterinary Service
during which he visited Kilimanjaro, Mt. Kenya and Rwenzori, Guy Yeoman returned to
work in England, but in the 1970s an interest in conservation rekindled and he has devoted
much of his time (and not a little energy) to furthering the cause of conserving the mountain
forest areas of Western Uganda, in particular Rwenzori.
This book skilfully interweaves three major themes and one good story to give a text
which provides enjoyment and interest in equal measure. Add to this the illustrations and
the extremely high quality of production, and you have a magnificent book which makes
the price tag seem very good value.
After several visits in the 1980s to the Rwenzori range and the Virunga volcanoes on the
western border of Uganda, Yeoman decided to promote the case for declaring the Uganda
side of Rwenzori a national park and a World Heritage Site (a status which already exists
on the Zaire side) through the production of a book which would draw attention to the
pressures and dangers which were building up, as well as to the beauty and attractions of the
The story is of the 4-week expedition which he made in 1987 for the purpose of creating
the material for the book. One could not wish for a better collection of colour photos,
including many double page spreads which bring out the majesty and the mystery of the
snow peaks and the vegetation with tremendous effect. But the expedition was really
centred on the author's brilliant idea of communicating the beauty of the unique Rwenzori
flowers and plants through paintings. These were done by Christabel King, a freelance
botanical artist who paints for Kew Gardens. Twelve of her beautiful paintings are
reproduced in the book. The leisurely progress of the artist, three female companions and
the leader up to 14,000 ft and back tells the story of camping and cooking, mud wallowing
and tussock jumping, mist and rain and sometimes sun, and the companionship of the
Konjo mountain porters that are the stuff of Rwenzori expeditions.
Into this framework are worked a number of themes. The vegetation, flora and wildlife
are described as the expedition reaches each altitude zone - Rwenzori's giant groundsel,
lobelias and moss-draped heathers are larger and more luxuriant than those of the other E.
African mountains. The history of the exploration of the range is traced. The characters of
the Konjo porters who accompany the party are set against the background of this
mountain tribe's history and lifestyle.
The conservation theme had earlier taken the author to the Virunga volcanoes, another
source of the Nile and another candidate for the title Mountains of the Moon (is this why
the publishers chose an admittedly fine sunset photo of Muhavura for the dust cover?). The
result is two excellent chapters on this area in which the habitat and habits of the mountain
gorilla are described, and the conclusion drawn that Zaire has been more successful than
Rwanda and Uganda in protecting forest slopes from encroachment.
A Rwenzori national park, the author concludes, must protect the forested lower slopes
from further encroachment, but must also accommodate the interests of the indigenous
Konjo and involve them as partners in management of the area as a sustainable and
renewable resource. It is encouraging that the Uganda Government has recently made a
formal declaration of a national park and steps are in train to define its boundaries.
This is a book rich in interest, information and ideas: it is also a very good read and the
author has a very attractive style, both in the descriptive writing and in the way he works in
stories of his own experiences.