On to the rest of rafting day…
A quick snack of pineapple and biscuits was had by all while floating down through the flat section and it was a nice time until the river boat came by. Nile River Explorers also runs a jet boat tour of part of the river. Well, the driver finds it a fun ol’ time to come blasting towards the rafters and then turn at the last second splashing us. Juma warned us to duck and not look up. Good thing we did just that as the water hits you like a thousand tiny little knives. I think he blasted us 3 times by the time the flat section was done. Not a fan.
A little while later Juma mentioned that the next rapid was a big one and we might possibly flip, so we mentally prepared to maybe flip for the first time. Now I’m not the most avid boater but I know a little bit about white water having done a few kayaking courses back home in the white water. The one big thing I know is that you hit waves head on because when you broad side it, the wave of course wins every time and flips you. As we descended this rapid and into the one large wave our boat “mysteriously” went into the wave perfectly sideways. Knowing what I know about Juma and his white water skills this was on purpose. Sure enough we went up, up, up, and over into the drink. It was a ton of fun, from my perspective. I grabbed onto the boat immediately and even still had my paddle. Ian and I both managed to do this and road down the waves attached to the boat. Juma eventually made it on top of the boat and told us we were going to flip it back over just like he had told us at the start. Miracle of miracles it worked. We ducked under the boat it flipped through the air and we pulled ourselves back in. Then the search for the others began. I found everyone, but Lindsay, and was actually a little worried until I saw the guys in the safety boat attempting to pull someone in. (Lindsay could not pull herself into the boat the whole day) I knew it was Lindsay struggling to get in. She can tell you all about her experience in the waves in another post, but the jist is that she felt that she nearly drowned while being stuck in a few waves that kept washing her back and forth and under until she was finally saved by a safety kayaker.
Down in the calmer waters we all gathered our selves back into the boat shared stories about our adventures being tossed through the waves and dried out. Lindsay was not feeling to happy at this point due to the near drowning but her spirits increased once she realized she was allright and could keep going and have fun. After a few more awesome runs through different sets of waves we made it to the class 6 rapid/waterfall. We did not run it. Most everyone does not. Unless you are from a not so good rafting company and your guides don’t realize it is there and decide to abandon the boat out of fear and leave their passengers to the mercy of the falls. Juma told us about how this exact story had taken place years before and that his tour was there to rescue this other rafting group with unqualified guides. Juma has also been one of the few people to run these rapids and falls on purpose. He did so in a kayak and says he’ll never do it again and it was only something stupid he would have done when he was younger. These rapids were something else and the falls 3 times the size of what we went over at the start of our trip. Unfortunately the photographer didn’t take a picture of the falls and I was so busy looking at them that I didn’t suggest that he should. When looking at this section of the river there seems to be no “safe” way through the rapids, lots of really fun and intense ways, but also life threatening.
After portaging the boats and ourselves around this section of rapids we put back in for some more fun. A ways down the river and after a rapid or two we made it to the surfing wave. At this point we turned the boat around facing back up stream and paddled until we made it into a wave that curled back up stream due to a large rock under the water. This made for a great spot to “surf” the boat. We managed to not go to upstream while at the same time not go down stream, a perfect surf. It was a lot of fun as the boat essentially got sunk over and over again as the front dipped under the wave. It also had a good chunk of rocking back and forth which almost knocked a few of us out of the boat at one point. Lindsay had the worst bucking of all of us and I just happened to see her going over board and reached out with my left hand and grabbed her ankle as it was 4 feet in the air while she was falling out. One good yank back down and she stayed in the boat. It was quite funny and we all got a kick out of me “saving” her.
Done with our rafting surfing lesson we headed down to the last few rapids of our trip. Sad. The second last one was a great bumpy ride with lots of water and excitement. Then Juma warned us about our last rapid for the day. Once again there was one big wave in the middle that might take us over. We dropped down into the rapid heading straight through the rapids towards the “big wave”. This time we took it head on as we should but it did not matter. I watched as the boat went up the wave and then as it threw the boat right over on top of myself. This of course meant everyone on the left side of the boat fell on us folks on the right side of the boat. So I got some significant knocks in the head from the boat and the people falling on me. I also let go of everything this time as I did not want to get stuck under the boat this time. This may have been a good or a bad decision, I’m not sure. Once I let go I was out in the rapids alone, somehow still facing the giant wave directly in front of me. I had just enough time after falling out of the boat to surface, breathe, look up and see the giant wave that took us out, before it crashed back down directly onto my head. A few seconds later I came up and did it all over again with the next wave. Finally after a few waves it became more fun floating through the waves, but the damage had already been done. I discovered later while bending over to put on my shoes that I had a concussion. I attribute it to the giant wave landing on me as I remember how much that hurt, but it could have also been the boat hitting me or 2 or 3 people falling on me. Who knows?
The safety kayakers went into their rescue mode and started picking people up. Apparently they figured I was good in the water so I never got rescued along with Ciara. We just kept floating down the river until the raft caught up so we could get back in to it. When it did I tried to get back in the fancy way that Juma had showed us earlier in the day. This was my second attempt at it and it went a little better. Instead of facing the boat to get in to sit in the water with your back to the boat. Then you push down on the ropes, purposely dunk yourself under water, and do a back flip into the boat. I could do it fairly well, except for the last bit where I needed to sit myself in the boat so someone had to pull my feet down the last foot so I could get into the boat and get my head abover water again. Fun, if a little tricky.
Once back in the boat we were at the trips end. We rowed a few more hundred metres down shore and then pulled onto shore. After hauling the boat onto the “grass” we walked up to the truck which was waiting to get our dry clothes and shoes which some folks changed into. The rest of us headed a little further up the path to a nice concrete picnic structure where there was a picnic lunch waiting. We dug into a bunch of salad type fixing and roast beef cold cuts to make as many sandwiches as we wanted. Tons of food after a hard 5 hours of paddling and it was needed. The drinks and beer were also greatly appreciated, and I finally had my “Nile” beer on the banks of the Nile. The photo guy was busy putting photos onto a computer while we ate so we ended up getting to see a slide show of the picture cd we could purchase, which of course we did for $25. A complete and utter rip off but how else are you going to get pictures of rafting? I only wish they would train the photographer a bit better on taking photos, how to use the auto-focus properly, and to take more photos than just the boat in the water. Overall there are some good memories in the pics.
As it started to rain we all headed back into the back of the truck for the drive back into town. The whole way back we passed many people in the villages and homes along the road. Mostly we saw children and they saw us so we spent a good portion of time constantly waving at every smiling child. We all enjoyed it and they were irrisistibly adorable.
Back at Nile River headquarters Lindsay and I were given the news that we had tickets for the morning on the bus. Yay. The bad news was that they were for 6 am in the morning and we had reserved a tent that night at the Nile River Camp, back out on the start of the river. After some humming and hawing I decided that we would only get to do this once so we were going to go with the truck to the camp for the night and enjoy our river view tent and the whole experience, we would bite the bullet once again of having to get up at 4:30 am to catch a taxi to the bus stop. So off to the truck we went. We bid Guialluame (William) goodbye as he was heading back to Kampala and Lindsay and I and the South Africans headed off to camp. Along the way we dropped off the different safety kayakers at points along the road until it was mostly us white folk and the drivers left.
Nile River camp was very nice. It is set into the side of a hill overlooking the Nile river. You can walk right down to the boat dock, (which before the days of the dam was a starting point for trips down the river) and sit and watch the sunset right on the water. Or you can watch sunset from up on the cliff/hill top where the bar is, or sit out in your chairs in front of your awesome safari tent on the hillside. It was a spectacular place and I wished we had another night to stay and just enjoy the camp. Our very nice safari tent came complete with two beds that we were able to pull next to each other and electricity! We had a light inside, woot!. That was very helpful in the morning when it was dark. Dinner was all right and we enjoyed some more conversation with our South African boat-mates. Sunset was great and we even ran into Mark one more time to thank him for setting up the bus tickets for us. We also set up a taxi pickup for the next morning at 5 am so we would make it to the bus stop on time. Apparently we are to meet the driver we saw out front in the morning in the parking lot at his white car that he showed us.
After dinner is usually video time for watching the days rafting trip, but we had no videographer since we were such a small group. Tonight they were showing some sort of Red Bull snowboarding video. It was disturbing to see snow since it was the last think I wanted to think of while in Africa. We skipped out half-ways through the video and headed to bed. Once all tucked into our tent, our wet socks now “drying” out on the chairs, we were able to see the sun burn damage. Lindsay looks hilarious as she has a perfect white strip across part of her neck and shoulders where he bathing suit was under her shirt, but the rest of her neck is bright pink. I have a pseudo Union Jack on my left knee where I had taped up my stiches to make sure they didn’t get banged around to much on the trip. I burned both knees quite badly, they will hurt for a while I’m sure.
They have some really nice bathrooms at the camp here, one of the best on the trip, sad to see them go so soon. But when you gotta go, you gotta go 🙂