On November 3, 2013, the ministry of tourism, wildlife and antiquities declared Nyamulia rock in Ogul stream bordering Panyango and Alwi sub County in Pakwach district as a cultural tourism site.

This was on the day when global attention was focused on Pakwach because of the celestial marvel of a total solar eclipse dazzling the sky.

The clearest view point of the eclipse was Owinyi primary school football ground just a few kilometres from Nyamulia.

That was also the day many foreigners visited Nyamulia due to the vibe generated about the place as a result of the ministerial recognition.

Nyamulia rockStanding in between the hills is Nyamulia, the cultural gem of Pakwach. PHOTO BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU

Mr John Olum, a resident of Azupani village, in Alwi Sub County says since then he has not seen many foreigners visiting the place.

He attributes the drop in tourist visits to the remote location and lack of measures to preserve the site.

Nyamulia stands isolated in the middle of the Ogul stream that cuts through massive hills on both sides.

The place looks ordinary at first site with poor access roads and heavy thickets and savannah in the surrounding.

“This is a home of snakes, pythons and wasps. Early morning visits are discouraged,” Mr Olum cautioned.

He claims on the day when The West Nile Web team visited that he saw a number of snakes but declined to tell us so that we were not scared.

White colobas monkeys, rodents and foxes are also said to be plenty around here. But I only saw a monitor lizard running at speed to dive into a stagnant pool of water.

And when my colleague was stung by a wasp, Mr Olum said that would have made him impotent had it happened in the past.

Nowadays such implications don’t occur because stewards have stopped interfacing with the gods, he said.

Rich tales of heritage

Nyamulia signboardA sign post directing visitors to Nyamulia in Pakwach town. PHOTO BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU

Nyamulia is Alur word for bride. Neighbouring residents say the site boasts rich primeval tales of cultural heritage transmitted through folklore and that is why the tourism ministry recognised it.

According to 50-year-old Gaudacio Olum, a cultural leader of Pangeth clan of Alur who has gardens near Nyamulia, the place’s cultural importance makes meaning to the Madi people living at Ajibu, a village in Arua district.

He narrates that there was a Madi girl called Anyiri which in Alur means 50 cents. She got married to a man named Akolu which is a millipede in Alur.

There was a time when Anyiri went to fetch water very early in the morning and she never returned home.

When Akolu went searching for his wife four days later, he found the tall rock had emerged in the middle of the stream. He believed it was his wife who had been turned into that rock by the gods.

Annoyed by this incidence, Akolu moved west wards to a place called Ondiekuyika and as if by sorcery, he also changed into a rock.

Over time, the Madi and Alur developed misunderstanding and clashed. The Madi were driven out of the area and migrated to Arua instead.

“When those Madi people face cultural issues, they come here to offer ritual sacrifices. They slaughter sheep and drink a lot of local brew,” he said.

Cultural beliefs

A lot of cultural beliefs about the Nyamulia rock abound. Mr Olum says many miraculous events take place here and some of them stun people.

“Sometimes you hear a baby cry or somebody talk but you do not see anybody. Beautiful rocks appear suddenly and you do not pick them otherwise you would die or get barren,” he said.

Mrs Judith Acan, a droopy grandmother whose date of birth indicated on the Social Assistance Grant for Elderly persons’ identity card is 1920 says Nyamulia was the only source of drinking water because there were no boreholes in the area.

But fetching in the early morning hours was strictly forbidden and women never bathed at the valley as that would constitute a dishonour to the bride turned-a-rock and attracted a plethora of punishments in form of misfortunes.

Mr Steen Robert Omito, the Pakwach district chairman says those fascinating stories about Nyamulia could be capitalised on to promote tourism.

He however added that the place needs to be fenced in order to preserve its tourism potential.