The Source of the Nile

Posted April 16, 2007 in Uganda

Some time in the late 19th century, an explorer named Speke made his way along the famous River Nile, starting at the delta in Egypt and ending in what he named Lake Victoria. The village which was here was called Jinja, and Speke discovered it.

Naturally, in the century following, the village became a hotspot for adrenaline junkies. After all, not only is the river suitable for kayaking, white-water rafting, river boarding, and other extreme sports: it is also the Nile.

I am a visitor to Africa within an age bracket which gives me no options: I had to do it, sooner or later. And so, on Saturday, I went white-water rafting down the Nile.

I was part of the majority in our raft who had never experimented with white-water rafting before. Our guide taught us the ropes with some conveniently-placed small rapids. We then got to the real fun. Scattered along the first few kilometres of the Nile are five class five rapids. (Whatever that means. I'm told class five is pretty impressive.)

Bujagali Falls is one of them. It is somewhat interesting because there is an impending power plant which will render it nonexistent.

Of course, adrenaline junkies are keen on names, and so each interesting rapid has an interesting name. The best name is, hands-down, the G-spot: the name comes from a protruding wave which, erm, has something to do with gravity.

At the G-spot, our raft was the last of our convoy of four: and so we discretely peeked at how the other rafts performed before giving our best effort.

  • The first raft lost two men right from the get-go. It recovered from this initial slip-up, however, eventually reaching the G-spot and flipping on schedule. This was the kind of pseudo-failure which makes the passengers want to give it another go; but, of course, there is no way to immediately try again.
  • The second raft flipped early. Hey, it happens to the best of us.
  • The third raft seemed to start well, but it ended up aiming too far to the right and missing the G-spot entirely. I get the impression that while most people won't admit to it, this situation occurs fairly frequently.
  • Our raft gave a very solid performance. In the end, we ran straight up the front of the G-spot: our raft (vertical at this point, naturally) stayed at the spectacular climax of the wave for a few seconds which seemed to last forever; it then smoothly ran down the other side, ejecting us all over the remaining rapids in a dismount which left our heads (and bodies) spinning.

I feel I may be getting too graphic here. I will skip other details. To make a long story short: after five exhilirating rapids (with recovery periods and exercises in between), we all felt quite spent.

It being the rainy season, we did experience rain. Our deluge chased us down the river and hit us while we were in a big, calm area. To avoid the cold, we all jumped into the Nile. The following twenty minutes or so were simply magical. Every drop of rain created an echoing drop jumping upwards from the river; the mist barely allowed us to see the shores on either side, though treetops showed through somewhat clearly; and because of the rain, there were no people to be seen. We basked in the dancing water and let the spirit of the river surround us.

Then we got muddy, got cold, broke down on our way to the camp, and finally (after an entire day of intense exercise) got fed. Then I took a (included-in-the-price) special taxi back to Kampala, hitting the usual weekend evening traffic. (I have not discussed Kampala's traffic problems in this blog and I will not have time to write about them. It took an hour and a half to get to Jinja; it took three and a half hours to get home. This was a good day: I hit no unexpected snags.)

There goes another two weeks' worth of cash, blown away in a single day. And here comes my last full week in Kampala.