Monday, December 6, 2010

Rafting the Nile

Too, too damn early a couple Saturdays ago, I got on a shuttle from Kampala to do something I've had people telling me I NEED to do for the entire year+ I've been here...


I've seriously been trying to do this for the entire time I've been here, and finally found a weekend I could steal away from work and other obligations to actually get it done. A couple friends/acquaintances were interested too, so we got a little group together for the adventure.

The source of the Nile in Lake Victoria is at Jinja town, about a two hour drive East from Kampala. Included in the price of a full day of rafting (pretty steep at $125) is transport to and from Kampala, dinner, a couple beers and a night's accommodation in a dorm-room. For some inexplicable (to me) reason, the people I went with elected for a half day of rafting and to travel back to Kampala that evening. I jump at any opportunity to NOT be in Kampala!

Getting kitted out

and getting my game face on. I dare the Nile to take on THAT face.

Let's do this thing. I'm in the faded-pink helmet at the front-left of the boat.


Okay that's one's a little bit intimidating

In we go

Hoo boy.

Aaaaand over we go. Right into the washing machine.

That flip wasn't too bad, and the guide all but admitted he'd done it intentionally. I managed to cling to the boat AND my oar, and held pretty hot for doing so.

A few minutes later, however, we hit Silverback - a serious class five rapid with four waves to traverse. We made it through the first three with some degree of grace, then we hit the fourth. I distinctly remember rapidly approaching a solid wall of water directly across our path and wondering how the hell we'd get up and over it...

We didn't.

Right now I was thinking about how suddenly gravity seemed weaker

And by now I was thinking "oops. I forgot to hold onto the boat"

Everyone else managed to wind up near the boat...

It was actually a pretty gnarly experience, that one. Despite the gigantic life-vest and my furious upward strokes, I stayed down for long enough to start getting... nervous. I kept looking up and wondering at how the surface of the water continued to stay so far above me. When I finally surfaced, having drank about a half-gallon of delicious Nile Riverwater, I was far enough downriver to not even be able to see the rapid, or any of my fellow raftmates. One of the rescue-kayakers appeared in front of me moments later and yelled for me to grab on. He dragged me towards the shore, smacking my tailbone solidly against a rock on the way, and instructed me to stay put on a stone on the bank while he went looking for other floaters. Eventually he came back, towed me to another raft, which delivered me to my original raft. I was a wee bit shaken up, but not enough to not keep going!

Fortunately there were also plentiful opportunities for less strenuous activities


At mid-day I ditched my lame half-day-er friends and joined another boat, full of Canucks

You can easily see who the serious power-house of the team was

Fortunately this boat turned out to be much less flip-prone. However, we did decide we needed a little more water-time. So as we dropped in to one class-four rapid, at the moment when the guide would normally have shouted "GET DOWN" he instead instructed "JUMP", and out we went. Unfortunately it turned out I was on the non-photographed side of the boat this time.

By the final rapid of the day, we were all pretty exhausted. We hit a pretty strong wave and all felt the boat catch air and start to tip

Shockingly, and much to our glee, the boat stayed beneath us. We were pretty impressed with ourselves

Finding myself alive and back on dry land made me feel like this

Except that this guy made me feel like a major weakling.

Dude carried that (not light) raft on his head the entire way up a very steep path (see the previous photo for the altitude dude traversed on his way from the riverbank) to the waiting truck. We first-world-ers are majorly weak.

Post-rafting, a beer overlooking the Nile was extra-necessary.

Not a bad spot

Next morning, we decided to have a little wander.

Learned some useful information:

See I would think morning sex would be safer than night-sex, since night-sex is more likely to be judgment-impaired sex. My buddy, however, contested that maybe you only have one condom and you use it with the night-sex (the first-sex) and thus wind up having unprotected morning-sex. Oh the puzzles of this life.

Child labor anybody?

We stumbled across this damn-impressive NGO-school. Nicest (non-private-rich-school) campus I've seen here.

Glad the mosquitoes aren't actually that big...

The school garden



Onions! In a hanging paint can...?

And a viewing tower?

Picked up a rolex (bastardization of "rolled eggs" - basically a chapatti wrapped around an omlette)

I love the sign. Good thing I had cash...

Found a lady selling colonial-era coins. Pretty cool, but I ain't gonna pay you 5,000 Shillings for a 1 Shilling coin!

Oooo... what about using some of these as buttons on an overshirt or coat?

Some local folks doing laundry in the Nile

Popped down to the "beach" for a few

Not a bad weekend. I could certainly use more of these!