Rafting the source of the Nile River

Trip Start Jun 10, 2011
Trip End Jul 26, 2011

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Flag of Uganda  , Jinja,
Sunday, June 19, 2011

One of the pinnacle experiences in Uganda is to raft the rapids of the Nile River, the longest river in the world that starts from Lake Victoria in Uganda and runs to the Mediterranean Sea in Egypt. I had never gone rafting before, but I wasn't going to turn down what I had heard was one of the most amazing experiences of this country.

Along with us, we sponsored two African Hearts boys to come with us and to experience things in their country that most locals never even know existed. Both of the boys did not know how to swim and were deathly afraid of water. Despite us paying for this trip, the boys were actually reluctant to do the rafting until we did some last minute convincing.

Our guide for the day was Paulo, a local Ugandan who wears his life jacket over his topless attire and is as black as they come. He claimed he was actually an Italian who ate too much chocolate. He told us that he has competed in world rafting competitions and it was hard to tell at first but he seemed to know what he was doing. We told him about the two boys who did not know how to swim and he seemed too cool to care and worry about this.

He give us a few directions on what to do if you fall out of the boat: Stay on your back in case you get smashed into rocks. Try to swim back to the boat if you are able to. If you start getting carried down the stream, they will throw you a line and you must swim to it. After 15 minutes of learning the commands, we went off to our first rapid - Class 4 (As a reference, Class 6 is the max and even experts would call it crazy). I looked at the boys, they were scared shitless. I figured I had no control of this so I might as well just relax and enjoy the ride. In the front seat, I watch as the wave approached and eventually engulfed us in the pleasantly warm water. In fact, the water was so pleasant, it was warmer than the air!

Soon thereafter came the second rapid. I watched as a 6 foot wave came straight on at us. I held on tight as we got completely engulfed. Disoriented, I felt the boat tipping over to my side and the rapids begin to pull me into the water like a vacuum. Feeling that it would be safer to let go and let the water take me than to hold onto a capsized boat, I let go of the rope. I get sucked under the heavy current. My life jacket lifted me up as I swam up for a gasp of air only to feel the current pull me down once again. I try again for the surface only to have boat land on top of my head and get pulled down once again. Staying as calm as I could, I try one more time, this time successful as I reach my hands up and catch of a glimpse of the boat. I grab onto the rope and pull my head out of the water gasping…. only to realize that I was the only one who fell out of the raft. Hahahhaha.

The rest of the day was absolutely amazing. We floated down the Nile and rode the rapids as they came. Paulo turned out to be absolutely amazing and we were the only raft which did not flip all of its passengers over. We had lunch delivered to our boats as we drifted down the Nile and went swimming in the lukewarm water. There was something surreal about swimming in the source of the Nile, a legendary river I had only learned about in school and the Old Testament. The scenery and wildlife was absolutely gorgeous and pristine.

At the end of the day, we came up to shore and were treated to an all you can eat and drink BBQ. It could not have been a more perfect day.

On the bus ride back to our campsite for that night, the boys told us how much fun they had on that trip. They had both conquered their fear of water, and even went swimming in the river with us (albeit with some convincing). One of the boys, who is normally quiet and shy, said this to me:

"Lawrance, I learned something today. Sometimes we are afraid of new challenges in our life, but we must try to overcome these fears."

I was honestly touched at this profound statement and we had a good talk with the boys on the importance of taking risks and challenging yourself in life.

If two boys who have a fear of water can raft Class 5 rapids, think of all of the things we are missing out on in our lives due to our (often irrational) fears.
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Richard on

I can just imagine you letting go before the raft (in fear of death) started shaking pahahahaha. Anyways, awesome rafting trip, huge tourist attraction there. I watched a documentary of a group rafting down the entire nile. I forgot how long it took them but it was like 3 months+.

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