Rapids and near-death adventure fun

Trip Start Aug 31, 2005
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Trip End Aug 25, 2006


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Flag of Uganda  ,
Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The bus ride to Uganda was lovely - after a slow start (African time is always 2 hours later than advertised!) we relaxed back in our comfortable seats and slept, and next we knew it was 6am and we were at the Ugandan border. Once again we manage to scam a cheap visa - the English lad in front of me got a discount for being a student, so I demanded one too, and low and behold, got away with it even though the official knew we were not students!

After a minor detour to Kampala (the bus forgot to let us off at our stop) we finally arrived at the small town of Jinja late afternoon. We headed to the minibus station and piled onto the most packed minibus we have yet to encounter - 22 people - and, holding our breath (near impossible to breathe anyway) we headed off towards Bujagali Falls. We had seen the source of the Blue Nile in Ethiopia, now we were headed to the source of the White Nile, and white-water rafting adventure.

Once again we were let off the bus at the start of a dusty road with no end in sight. Backpacks strapped on we headed down it, not really knowing (or caring) where we were going or what was waiting for us. It was only a short walk as it turned out, before we arrived at Nile River Explorers Bujagali Backpackers. We checked into the dorm and headed for the bar. It was so strange to be amoung so many foreigners again - as it turned out, we were the only backpackers around though. Everyone else was off Overland Trucks (word of advice for anyone considering them - DON'T! They are huge expensive party buses who whizz through Africa not getting to see much but bars) or were English 18 year old GAP year students having their first taste of freedom away from Daddy (and having to pay GBP3000 + airfares + accommodation for the priviledge of 'volunteering' for 3 months! Go figure!).


The view and location however were absolutely stunning - right on the edge of the Nile. We stayed away as much as possible from the (expensive) bar and restaurant and quite quickly discovered a local lovely restaurant run by 5 local guys just outside our gate. Green Light was to be our local hangout while we were in town!


The next day we hired mountain bikes and set about discovering the undiscovered Uganda! We pedalled for 4 hours in the sun (so much hotter than Ethiopia) through villages, waving and talking (where we could) to the villagers. Despite the thousands who head for the Backpackers and the rafting, not many seem to make it to the villages, and so we were somewhat of a novelty. Kids and dogs ran after us, mothers and fathers and babies waved to us, yelling out friendly "Jambo"s along the way. We stopped on two occassions at clusters of villages to talk to people and to play with the children. An exhausting but satisfying day.


After giving our legs a work-out, the next day our arms were in for some exercise, in the form of a day of white-water rafting. We had heard of the rafting here from a German couple in Nairbobi. They raved about the rafting, insisting on showing us their DVD. It DID look spectacular... but $95 is a hellova lot of money... after a day of pondering over it we decided that you only live once and it just had to be done.

We set off at 8.30 in the morning on the back of trucks, along with 35 others (mainly Kiwis and Ozzies on the Overland Trucks) and headed into Jinja where we were fed breakfast and got a brief safety briefing before heading down to the river. A lot of fluffing around later we were finally sorted into groups and out on the water. Our group, of course, was the best and maddest group. Kirsty, myself, a Swedish guy travelling on business, a South African professional hunter (!!) and two mad Australians. Our guide was Alex and the first thing we instructed him on was that we wanted to take on all the rapids, right down the middle.


Alex delivered well. He showed us what to do when the raft tips, threw us into the river a few times, played silly buggers, and then basically let us have our own way. The White Nile is enormous, and extremely 'forgiving' - ie very deep, so even if you tip out you aren't in too much danger. The rapids are incredible - we got to go down about 6 grade 5s. I have done rafting several times in New Zealand, a couple of times once on a flooded Buller River, but nothing I did at home ever got close to the Nile. Its bad!

We were a finely honed machine, with girls on oneside of the raft and the boys on the other. We went right through all the rapids in the morning (most with names far too rude for me to write here....) - our favourite was the Grade 5 'Silver Back and his 4 Wives' - 5 big humps of water over which we were the only raft to ride all 5 humps without tipping. We were pumping and loving it. In between the big rapids we had kms of straight patches where we jumped in the river and floated down on our lifejackets. All around us were local kayakers, there to save anyone who fell from their raft. They were a horney bunch mind - I got many a proposition from a kayaker, inviting me back to their room afterwards!

The best fun was to come at the end of the journey, with 2 massive rapids. The first of the two ('Restrospect'?), we were assured that we would never be able to ride it. Sure we can, we said with the utmost confidence, being the only boat so far not to tip on the rapids. We went straight down the rapid into the waiting hole, in which the boat jumped up majestically in a vertical line, doing a backward flip and falling down on Kirsty's nose. We were swept under water (we were told to count slowly underwater to stop the panic, once you get to 10, 'start again'!) and came up spluttering, and swam to the safety boat. We were all pulled onboard grinning and insisting we wanted to do it again.

The final rapid was the finale. We had to walk around the first part of it (an enourmous grade 6 that even the kayakers couldn't take on) before jumping into our boat and setting off with our hearts in our mouth. What followed is impossible to describe in words - the biggest meanest rapid of my life! Needless to say we ended up in the water quite quickly, and I was swept down under with the force of the current. I could feel myself drifting and tumbling, not sure which way was up but knowing I shouldn't panic. The thought did cross my mind that my lungs were about to explode and maybe I could just die. It was at this stage that I briefly surfaced, and managed to take a quick gasp before going under again. I was, of course, absolutely loving it, and came up with a big smile on my face, before being rescued by the nearest kayaker (who just happended to be Ugandan Women's Champion!).

A BBQ dinner on the edge of the river followed. We all had adreneline pulsating through our bodies. What an adventure!!


That night our backpackers came alive (as if it wasn't already....) All the rafters came out to watch our crazy rafting video and to drink themselves under the table. Kirsty and I did our washing then had a quiet drink with our rafting companions before excusing ourselves for the night and preparing ourselves for Kampala the next day....
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