Samuel Baker Foot steps at Baker’s Historical Trail

The popular Murchison Falls National Park is Uganda’s oldest and largest protected area and albeit one of the visited parks. A visit to the park is incomplete without a hike to the top of the falls using the famed Baker historical trail which offers the best viewing points for the Murchison and Uhuru (Freedom) falls.

Julian Monroe Fisher, an anthropologist, together with David and Christopher Baker, both descendants of Victorian explorer Sir Samuel White Baker have recently added value to the top of Murchison falls trail by installing interpretational signage specifying the journey that led to the discovery of the spectacular falls and Lake Albert.

The group hopes to correct the map of Uganda by establishing the true location of Baker’s View, the location where Sir Samuel Baker became the first European to see Lake Albert and to subsequently name the lake after Prince Albert.This is the bold vision of Fisher who, in early 2013, travelled along the trail in the footsteps of Sir Samuel Baker.

Setting out

A boat cruise upriver to view the famed Murchison falls presented a unique new year’s gift to Christopher Baker,64, a mechanical engineer as he mused at schools of hippos, a diversity of bird species and stunning landscapes.

Christopher a great-great grandson of the famed explorer, Sir Samuel Baker thought this was the best moment of his adventure, until he caught sight of the water falls, as great volumes of the Nile gushed through a narrow gorge to plunge into a 40 feet abyss. Though he was still at the bottom of the falls, he had already concluded that this was the most romantic place he had been to.

However, better sceneries were yet to come when Christopher and his brother David embarked on a one and a half hour hike to the top of falls including a stop-over at the renowned Baker’s view rock to view river basin, the northern banks of the park as well as Nyamusika cliff.

After this ride Christopher and David installed monuments to commemorate the 150th anniversary of their ancestor’s expedition into Southern Sudan and northern Uganda. David said, “This was a trip of a lifetime. Chris and I would like to thank the Uganda Wildlife Authority for all their assistance in putting up the markers for the Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Trail.

We hope the trail will be more popular with those who want to see the awesome sights of Uganda, to understand the historical importance of Sir Samuel’s suppression of the slave trade along the Nile, and to experience the welcome Ugandans give to visitors.”

The Baker Historical Trail

The opening up of the trail to the bottom-top of the falls entails hiking from where the visitors disembark from the boat along the cliffs and the gorge to the top.

According to the Baker’s descendants who are armed with the 19th century explorer’s diaries and publications, this trail is part of the historical course along the Victoria Nile river banks followed by the Bakers in their expedition to discover sources of the world’s longest river before they named the falls after Roderick Murchison, the then President of the British Royal Geographic Society.

The goal

David says, “Sir Samuel Baker and Lady Florence Baker’s achievements are to be commemorated by the establishment of a trail through South Sudan and northern Uganda to Baker’s view of Lake Albert. The trail follows the shoreline of Lake Albert northwards to the Victoria Nile and the mighty Murchison Falls and up the river to the Karuma Falls.

But this is more than exploration for the Bakers who have pledged to market the trail as a tourism product with unmatched cultural and historical significance.This month alone, they have installed markers in Masindi, Gulu town near the Acholi cultural leader’s palace, Karuma wildlife reserve after the bridge on Kampala- Gulu Highway, Fort Patiko north of Gulu town- a rocky fortress Sir Baker captured from the Arabs in a bid to end slave trade as well as Sir Samuel Baker Secondary School built in memory of the explorer. There are other markers to be planted in South Sudan.

Significance

The historical trail has already received wide acclamation as one of the greatest trails in the world and many visitors have already expressed interest in retracing the 19th century explorer’s footsteps to compare the communities, physical features and other aspects of the time to present day developments.

The markers highlight the exploration and lives of Baker and Florence. The Bakers are nostalgic about the impact the discovery and subsequent publicity for Murchison Falls their ancestor made to the tourism industry. The magnificent falls have attracted high profile personnel like former US President Theodore Roosevelt in 1909, Winston Church Hill in 1907, Ernest Hemmingway, and Queen Elizabeth in 1959.

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