Easter on the White Nile

Trip Start Jan 14, 2007
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

I still can not believe I was white water rafting on the White Nile! So I went to Uganda for Easter weekend, Friday and Monday were TZ holidays..so I decided to fly off to Jinja for a rafting and cycling trip.  Claudia my friend from Water Aid came with me as she had some work to do in the Kampala WA office for a few days.  It was one of the greatest trips and well worth the 5 hour flight delay from Dar to Entebbe -- at least we got free donuts out of the delay.  Anyway the only airport in Uganda is in Entebbe which is 3 hours from Jinja, so we landed and caught a taxi to Kampala($40) and checked into the Red Chilly Hideaway backpackers ont he edge of the city...not the greatest of accomodations but it was only $15 per night and it was the meeting place for the rafting trip pick up in the morning.  Claudia and I headed out to dinner at a nice Indian restaurant, we were able to walk which felt great.  Kampala is a much smaller city and it has a more chill vibe than Dar and I really felt good being there and much more confident walking around the streets.  I am not sure if it is because most everyone speaks English and I felt more at ease knowing that I could talk my way out of any situation or ask for help if I needed it..not sure but I immediately liked Kampala.  After dinner we hoped on the Boda boda the Uganda version of a taxi, a motor bike with a seat on the back and attempoted to go listen to some music..we got to Club Obligato to find one patron at the club and no music, we had a chat with the bartender and decided to skip the drink and get to bed early so we would be fresh for our 7AM pick up for our 8 hour rafting trip with Nile River Explorers.  We were travelling with 2 other expats, one from Japan working for the Japanese embassy and Dev from India he has some small businesses in Kampala.  Very interesting people and the ride was made better b/c they brought some good music cds for the car!  We arrived in Jinja at the backpackers lodge to prepare for our 8 hour raft trip, a little bit about the raft..

"We have chosen the perfect 30 kilometer stretch of the Nile River. The first few rapids are low grade, 1's & 2's, and give clients a growing sense of confidence. As the river meanders through beautiful scenery, we guide the rafts into the mighty challenges of some of the best grade 5 rapids in the world. Twelve major rapids are rafted plus lots of lower graded runs; all selected to maximize your safety and fun."

Well I have to say the trip down the river was very exhilirating, we had 3 boat loads of people with us, Claudia and I chose the 'calmer' of the 3 boats, which meant we were not going to be flipping over everytime we went down a rapid. When we were not navigating through a rapid, we relaxed and floated with the current checking out the Nile river wildlife..it was an amazing day although I got a terrible sunburn it was worth it.

That night we hung out at the campsite overlooking the Nile river and had some beers and chatted with all the river rafting guides, which of course I loved.  There were also a bunch of semi pro kayakers there who were training for the world kayak trials next month.

The next day Saturday, we headed into Jinja town on a boda boda for our mountain biking trip around the town.  Our guide Nash was ready with our bikes and helmets and we set off on what were thought would be a 4 hour trip..we wound up cruising around for 7 hours, checking out Jinja town, the markets, the highest point overlooking Lake Victoria, and lastly the source of the Nile. The source is on the  eastern bank of the River Nile, at a point where the river begins to flow from Lake Victoria (Source of Nile) to the Mediterranean Sea.  It takes water 3 months to complete this journey of 4000 miles." For thousands of years the source of the Nile remained a mystery and it wasn't until the late 1800's that the British Explorer John Hanning Speke was credited with discovering the source of the mighty river at Lake Victoria."  What a great bike ride, felt great to be out and about rather than stuck in cars or taxis which is mostly how it is fo rme in Dar.  That night we treated ourselves to a dinner of pork ribs and fresh lake fish at the Black Lantern back up by our campsite.  That night was very crazy at the campsite as it was one of the river raft guides birthdays and the shots and beers were flowing -- not sure what time I actually fell asleep think around 3 or 4 but the music and the partying was still going on at the bar!  Easter Sunday, I attempted to go to church, I found a small Roman Catholic church in a nearby village, the church service was supposed to start at 9:00, I showed up around 9:30 and it still had not started and the priest had not arrived yet. So I sat there and listen to some beautiful singing and then the mass finally started a30 mins later..however it was all in Lugandan so I did not have any idea what was happening.  I stayed for a bit longer, it was really cool to watch all the dancing and singing, but when I realized that the service was most likely going to last another 2 hours, I snuck out the back door as we were leaving for a trip to a small island further down the river to Hairy Lemon Island, a resort that is popular with the Kayakers that come from all parts of the world to experience the Nile Special, a part of the Nile River that offers some of the best river rafting.  The drive was 1 hour north and carried us to a remote area where we parked, tapped on an old wheel rim tire and were immediately greeted by a boat man who picked us up in a canoe.  Check out more about the island at www.hairylemonuganda.com.  When we arrived, Claudia immediately started feeling claustaphobic, the island is small and if you are not a kayaker there is not much to do other than read and lay by the river.  I actually was fine relaxing and attempted to go for a quick swim but slipped on few rocks and got taken down the river a bit by the current -- quite scary but I recovered and headed back to my towel to take a nap.  We also went for a walk in a nearby village, we were attempting to find and watch the kayakers do some tricks on one of the rapids, but we did not go the right way and ended up having a nice walk through the village and hanging out with the kids who were entertaining us by banging out some tunes on their water buckets.  The 'ferry' across was lovely and on the way back we got to enjoy a nice nile sunset.  We headed back to our island had some dinner and headed off to bed, I slept in a tent and Claiudia found a spot in one of the dorm rooms.  We woke up early the next day and headed back to kampala as claudia was at this point was bored and had a dodgy stomach and a slight fever.  I dropped her off at the clinic and headed to Entebbe to check in to a nice hotel and have my first shower in 5 days!  Tuesday morning I had a few hours to kill before my flight and hoped on a boda boda and took a tour of Entebbe town, I was also able topay some guy to take me out on his small dinghy boat for a quick tour of Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa. At 2PM, still tired I dragged myself to the airport and headed back to Dar..all in all great weekend and I have to say Uganda is a country I will put on my list to come back to. 
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