Waaa-hooo! Today was white water rafting on the Nile river, only second time I’ve been rafting in white water and Lindsay’s first time! This morning started like all mornings in Africa, up bright, this time not so bright out, and early. We packed up our now dry clothes, yay, the fan did its job all night and then turned to the socks hanging on the window. They did not dry 🙁 So our very wet socks went into a plastic bag for the day in hopes of having some where to dry over night tonight. After moving out of our room and turning in the key I did a last walk around the main building of Red Chili and took some pictures of the place so we could remember the one place we spent most of our time in while in Africa. After a while the Nile River Explorers bus came to pick us up along with another guy we would meet later, and a girl. We all boarded, got ample space for our bags and ourselves as this bus would hold 30 people and there was 5 of us including the driver. It was a nice luxury ride out to Jinja. As we were leaving Red Chili a staff member did a quick receipt check to make sure we were all paid up from our stay and then we were let out of the gate and on our way to Jinja.
Jinja is aproximately 1 hour away from Kampala, depending on traffic and your driver I guess. We slowly made our way out of Kampala towards Jinja, heading east this time so we once again were able to look out the window on a new part of Kampala we hadn’t seen yet. It was early and I was tired so I just watched and didn’t take any photos yet. Lindsay struck up a conversation with the girl on our bus who ended up being an American that was touring around after having completed her time in the Peace Corps. We had a conversation with her for quite a while and then began looking out the window as the landscape began to change. Between Kampala and Jinja it is very lush and green. There was forest and rolling hills full of trees and where they were not was field after field of sugarcane. I did manage to take a picture or two of the fields but easier said than done while speeding along in a rocket bus. Our driver was very quick and he has obviously done this route a lot before.
Eventually after a lovely, if not fast, drive we made it into the Nile River Explorers HQ in Jinja. Hopped off the bus and went inside to find out what to do next. First off we got to meet Mark. Mark is the guy I have been emailing with for quite a few weeks now trying to plan this day while not actually knowing when we were going to show up. He has been extremely helpful and he was just getting started. We paid for our day with a load of Ugandan cash to make the $125 USD each required. Then Mark talked to us about catching the bus tomorrow to Kenya as I had mentioned that in my emails and had asked him questions about how to go about that. I figured he would just shoot me off some advice and we’d go into town after rafting and get some tickets for the next day or at worst catch a slower bus the next day. Instead Mark said he would get the tickets for us! We gave him some cash for the tickets and he took care of the whole thing and when we got back from rafting we had two bus tickets waiting for us. This was the best service from anywhere on the whole trip and we appreciated it very much as sometimes it is really hard to get all the things you need in the time frame you have, Mark made it happen, yay Nile River Explorers.
After all of that we grabbed some tea in the lounge, met our fellow rafters for the day and went outside to get the safety lecture. It was pretty straight forward as we’ll be getting another one from our actual guide once on the river. Our fellow rafters for the day are Ciara & Ian from South Africa (we apparently like to do things with South Africans), and the guy from our bus, William (but in French), who is of course from France currently working at an NGO in the Congo. William was more or less kicked out of the country due to the current fighting going on there and he’s not sure if he’ll get back in after his rafting holiday to go help at the NGO some more, hopefully he did. We all got our breakfast, fruit and ROLEX, finally got to try some, and hopped into the open sided bench truck that was taking us to our put in spot on the river. So us 5 very white folk and another 5 Ugandans, not counting the drivers, came with. They all turned out to be our guide, Juma, and the safety boat skipper, and a bunch of safety kayakers that all come along with you on the river. We drove for an hour or so over very bumpy dirt roads to get to the put in spot. Along the way every child wanted to wave at you so we all waved back. It felt a tad like the queen waving at everyone but it was a lot of fun as most children were genuinely excited to see you and wave.
Our destination was the top of a steep hill that went down to the river banks where we would put the raft in. The people walk down the stairs the boats have there own metal shute that they ride down, sometimes faster than wanted as the guys lose the rope and the boat flies down the ramp like a ski jump. There was a squatty potty changing room you could use a little ways away from the top of the hill so I went there to change. Of course I did not need to use the squatty potty 🙂 but in the midst of changing I got attacked by the massive ants there and they started biting my feet. So I’m jumping around the changer “room” trying to stay clean and not get eaten at the same time. I quickly got in my swim trunks and ran away from the mean ants.
Down at the river we all put on our life jackets, helmets, a load of sunscreen (not enough of it), and got into our boat with our awesome guide Juma. Throughout the day we learned that Juma is a world class freestyle kayaker and quite popular on the international circuit. He has been to two Olympics, including the last one in London, doing demonstration of the freestyle kayaking on the slalom course with other “best of” kayakers from around the world. Nowadays he leads rafting as all the kayaking gave him some back problems and you make a lot more money guiding rafting than being one of the safety kayakers. We even chatted about composing music with different software as he records onto his own system he has put together here in Uganda (no small feat). He’s doing quite well for your average Ugandan I would say.
In the boat we all got a spot, I of course wanted to hit things head on from the front so I went there. Juma then sent us through a whole bunch of drills, paddle forward, backward, right side forward left side back, and my personal favourite, get down and hold on to the boat (because nothing you could possibly do will help you at this moment in time). Lots of instruction on how to hold the paddle so it doesn’t become a weapon when you’re knocked around the boat orwhen you flip how to keep your paddle and grab back onto the boat. Then there was the fancy instruction of how if the boat flipped, and we were still holding on to it, Juma would climb on top of it, we would be holding onto one side in the water, then he’ll flip it back over while we duck under water and the boat so we come out still holding onto the boat but now able to climb back in. Yeah right. So Juma did a good job of freaking Lindsay out which was not helping as I’ve had to talk her into this the whole morning, but by now she was in the boat and had no choice – other than the safety boat, but luckily (in this case) she’s too stubborn to admit she’s scared and so stayed to fight all challenges, good job babe.
Then we were ready to take on our white water for the day, a large portion of which are class 5 rapids (there is even a 6 but we’re not allowed to do it, and for good reason). The very first rapid is a class 5 as it is essentially a waterfall with a drop. Ian got out and went into the safety boat as he has a bad back so needed to avoid all the really bad stuff, the rest of us headed into the really bad stuff. It is quite exhilarating heading downstream and seeing only open space in front of you knowing that you must fall in order to keep going down the river. I had seen photos of this part on the website so I was excited to do this, a little less once going down the waterfall. We came to the lip, Juma, called for us to “get down” so we all put a death grip on the boat ropes and over we went. The boat went straight down and since I was in the front me and Ciara disappeared into the water below, followed by most of the rest of the boat. Conveniently, the boat is full of air so we popped back out, soaked, shocked, and ready for more.
More would not come for an hour or so as there was a giant flat section before the next rapid. We picked Ian back up and then we paddled and chatted with everyone for the next hour heading towards the next rapid. Many more exciting rapids ensued where the boat seemed to disappear in the waves then magically come out and we were all still in the boat. It was great and since we were in Africa it was warm and the water a nice temperature; this is a great place to get an intro into rafting. One the next big flat section we all went for a swim as we had been drying off and apparently needed to get wet again. So we drifted down the current in our life jackets just enjoying being in the water. Well some of us enjoyed it more than others. The one question I had asked just before we started paddling was if there were any crocodiles in the water. The answer, yes. Yes, what do you mean yes, and now you want us to go swimming? Lindsay was very much not keen on this idea and only got in the water to swim due to peer pressure. Juma did mention that they have never ever had any incidents with crocs, and then added “their is a first time for everything”. He was enjoying toying with Lindsay’s head. She distinctly remembers our guide from Murchison mentioning that the crocs hang out in the churning water after a water fall, or rapid, to catch the stunned fish. We are now the stunned fish and she reminded me a lot that the crocs would just come wait for us and eat us now. They didn’t, but it is unnerving knowing they’re in there somewhere…
Read about the rest of the trip in the next post…