Monthly Archive for October, 2007

Dan: Kayaking the Nile

Last week was my first full week back at work, and boy did I need a break. So off we went to the river Nile. Only an hour’s drive to the east of Kampala, Bujagali Falls (8kms from Jinja, Uganda’s second largest city) marks the Official Source of the Nile. Jump in here and three months and two thousand miles later you will find yourself in the Mediteranean – quite a journey!

Thinking a jaunt in the stream would be a giggle, we arranged a day’s kayaking for beginners and packed ourselves off to Jina early on Saturday morning.

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At just after 9 we arrived at the Nile River Explorers Campsite in Bujagali. It’s a place I know well, having been rafting with the NRE team twice before. (I will always remember this location for a particularly jubilent drinking session enjoyed by Olly, Phil, Sara and myself that took place last December. We were celebrating our unlikely survival of trial by white-water, and the waragi flowed almost as freely.)

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Anyway, after a quick bite to eat and a cup of tea (see photo), we picked up our paddles and trudged off to the waterfront. Our guide for the day was Ibra, a seriously over-qualified kayaking professional from a nearby village. A nice chap, he quickly showed us the baiscs, and after a few hours of practicing eskimo rolls in secluded backwaters he led us out to the Nile proper.

Driving over the Owen Falls Dam earlier that morning, I’d spotted a concerningly large crocodile (2 metres my estimate), nonchalantly swishing through the ripples at the exact spot we now began our downstream journey. Ibra was of course quick to reassure us that crocs this close to Lake Vic are timid things and pose no risk to kayakers. So he said… and on we went. A few minutes later we faced our first rapid of the day – a grade 1 monster!

 (For those of you who know your white-water, you are probably scoffing at my designation of anything below grade 4 as a “monster”. Trust me, when you are strapped into a kayak for the first time you will understand what I mean!)

Like true professionals (!) we passed the first test with flying colours (that is, by not capsizing). However, at the next hurdle – a grade 2 which appeared almost tsunami-sized as we approached – the river was less forgiving. In fact, at the first ripple my kayak flipped instantaneously and I found myself at least 180 degrees in a concerning situation. Underwater and upside down, and not even bothering to test out my eskimo rolling, I abandoned ship and swam for the shore. Ibra was not impressed!

Back in the saddle some time later, we continued on, I managing to capsize repeatedly, Grania the teacher’s pet all the while showing me how it should it be done. Very frustrating, and incredibly tiring, but great fun nonetheless!

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PS Another sunset photo from our balcony!