Friday, 26 September 2008

23rd September 08

Date: 23rd September 08
Location: Jinja, Uganda
Weather: Very few clouds, blue skies and hot, hot sunshine. 37°c
Status: Totally, satisfied and exhausted after a mental day!

So the day when I take on the River Nile….White water rafting is upon us! Yippee!!

Up at 6am ready for the day ahead, did some stretching with Bre to loosen the joints, had a look through the guide books for Kenya in preparation for the next few days and waited for our complimentary breakfast!

Enjoyed the hospitality of the backpackers who also run the rafting expedition and stuffed down eggs, toast, pineapple and pancakes; all essential of course to provide me with enough fuel to power the raft through the rapids of course!

The 5 of us who’d decided to risk our lives by sitting in a rubber boat to take on the churning, foaming crocodile infested waters of the upper part of the Nile had our lifejackets and helmets sized up (I promise they do have a good safety record River Nile Explorers but my jacket had one strap broken!) and then made our way to the waiting truck at the front of the backpackers. A safety crew of 5 kayakers, 1 guide and a trailer full of rafts, kayaks and equipment meant we were all off on an adventure!

If two people had decided to have copies of the dvd they produce then they’d have sent a cameraman with us but Bre seemed to be the only one interested so he stayed put for the day…which was actually a good thing as I took my camera along and managed to film the entire thing, saving us $45!!

The bumpy track to the drop off point took us past over the bridge housing the hydroelectric plant which separates Lake Victoria and the actual Nile. As we passed over it the guide, Ruben, pointed out a croc lying on the bank….reassuring!

The safety crew of locals all with ultra small kayaks got the rafts into the water, one for us the 5 hopefuls and Ruben and one as the safety boat loaded with lunch and Moses the hardcore rower. We donned our safety gear and entered our rubber coffin, mislead by the calmness of the water as it slowly drifted past the launch point and pushed off from the bank……so here we go then.

We had a briefing to show us how to paddle in time with each other, ran through a few safety procedures and buddied up with the person opposite in case something happened so we could account for each other. The first couple of rapids were nothing more than slight white water to show us the ropes but it was amazing how much speed we picked up as the current increased and we paddled hard to maintain direction and took them with ease.

Kate one of the Polish girls on the trip had already started to turn white and was nervous about the Grade 5’s which were still to come…those were Grade 2’s at worst, should be interesting then!

The paddlers at the back of the raft had convenient footholds under the buoyancy floats where they could jam their feet to hold them in…..Riddick and I hadn’t got them so we had to jam our feet in the sides of the boat. This quickly rubbed all of the skin off my heel so a slight readjustment made it better, this time I rubbed all of the skin off my toes! Arse, I have to climb Mt Kenya in 3 days and the last thing I need is bad feet before I set off!

Bujagali Falls was the first of the Grade 5’s we took on and as we prepped for it Kate got too scared to continue and decided to bail into the safety boat, bloody wimp! We all paddled like billy-o and crashed down the white water into the foaming cauldron below all tucked into the bottom of the boat like newly hatched birds in an emergency!

So that’s the first of them out of the way and no casualties, we all had a swim next to the boat as we slowly progressed downstream to the next awaiting monster, rumbling away in the background, 50/50 awaited – so named for obvious reasons, some make it, some don’t!

We stuck left on this one to avoid the rocks and the river level wasn’t at its highest and with the exception on Bre all made it through. She’d decided to go for a swim and as I tried to grab the safety rope myself noticed her bobbing away a few meters from the raft. A safety kayak picked her up and brought her immediately back then I yanked her lifejacket to bring her back into our craft.

It was awesome fun and almost the first part over, the level parts of the river allowed us time to swim, sunbathe and eat lunch building up vital energy to take on the harder second half of the day.

A total of 16 varying rapids make up the run all offering something different and a new paddling challenge especially towards the end of the day when I’d worn off all of the skin on my feet and thumbs paddling so hard! The last and best of the Grade 5’s was Bad Place; the width of the river, with two possible entry points the most furious of these being a Grade 6 to the LHS of the river which we wouldn’t attempt, instead we hugged the RHS and dropped into a 3-point wave section which chucked us up and down with all of its might but again we held firm but all had slightly worried looks as we surveyed our fellow passengers!

And that was it, a wicked day out, truly bruising and exhausting but also so, so fun and definitely something I’d recommend to anyone!

We drove back after packing everything up to the camp and enjoyed a fat BBQ and free beer overlooking one of the falls we’d just come down. Even though the sun hit us hard and we all had red faces by the end of the day the river water was refreshing and cool and unlike what I’d expected in terms of cleanliness and clarity!

End of day location: Jinja, Uganda
Distance covered: 30kms downstream, 30kms up the road

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