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The Travel Journal of Jacqui and Lars

 

Uganda - 14 February, 2001

 

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Location Latitude Longitude Elevation

Travel Distance

Start Red Chilli Hideaway (Kampala) N0019.251' E03237.826' 1,183 m 80 km (mini bus)
Rafting the source of the Nile River 25 km (raft)
Finish Bujagali Falls on the Nile River near Jinja (Speke Camp) N0028.966' E03309.537' 1,111 m 25 km (mini bus)

Total:

25,095 km

4,175 km

 

Weather: Early morning showers that clear.  Then mostly clear, sunny and very hot.  Cool at night.

 

 

Daily Journal Entry:

Today we will go raft the source of the Nile, so we are up early.  After packing up our tent and stuff we have a quick breakfast.  We then get our stuff ready to go rafting.  A mini-bus from Adrift comes to pick us up at 8 AM and take us to the launching sight.  We had some of the crew with us and they were very lively and got us all geared up for the day.  We were ready to go (they also were able to sell us a few t-shirts).  It is about a 1 hour drive to Jinja and we head down to the river to set up.

 

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To get ready for the rafting, we have to do a number of things.  First is to take off all jewelry and other things hanging off the body.  It would not be good to catch them on the ropes or other things.  We then put on sun tan lotion - but not on our foreheads as it will run into our eyes if we get thrown into the rapids nor under our thighs as it will act as a lubricant on the rubber surface of the raft.  We then tie on our sun or other glasses as we do not want them washed away in the water.  It would be better if Lars could take off his glasses, but then he would not see anything.  Helmets and life jackets are then selected and tried on.  They must fit snugly.  Finally, after we get a paddle - very important - we separate into groups and get a group picture.

 

We are then ready to head down to the rafts.  After slipping and sliding down a steep bank, we jump into our raft.  Our river guide is Pete from South Africa and he spends about 30 minutes giving us a quick briefing on what we will be doing.  We learn how to row the paddles and what the different commands are.  We find out what happens if we fall off the raft and how to get back in.  The key thing that we learn is that we are using paddles and not oars - oars are what you find in brothels.  Not much too it?!?!  We are then ready to head off.

 

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We will be covering about 25 km of the Nile and going over (or through) ten rapids.  They are graded from "1" (like a ride in the bath tub) to "5" (death defying) - we were told that there are "6"s, but a "6" is when you die so we will avoid those (we hope)!  We are then off:

 

1.  Bujagali Falls (4):  Not too bad and we survived that one without too much trouble.  Jacqui was almost thrown over board, though.  She was too light and was bouncing all over the place - we had to find a good spot for her to hold onto.

 

2.  Easy Rider (3):  As the name implies, a piece of cake.

 

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3.  Total Gunga (which means totally insane) (5):  On this rapid there is apparently a "G" spot that you want to go for.  The other three rafts went ahead of us and Pete said that he did not see any of them hit the "G" spot, so we really wanted to make it.  Pete tried his best (not sure if his crew followed orders well), but in the attempt the raft tipped almost vertically and five of us fell out.  If we had not fallen out but held on, the raft would have tipped over and everyone would have gone in.  The five who went in were Paolo, Fred, Ika, Jacqui and Lars, with Pete, Craig and Glenn staying in the raft.  Was it something to be thrown into the rapids.  It felt like we were in a washing machine and going to drown.  While we were being washed down the river, it felt like you were in one spot with all these waves crashing over you.  You would be sucked under at times and whenever you tried to get a breath of air, it would be more water than air.  It was crazy, but also awesome at the same time.  What a ride.

 

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Here is Lars drinking in the Nile as he is being washed down the river.  Lars was picked up by one of the rescue kayaks and taken to one of the rafts. Our raft then came and picked him up and we were ready for more!!!

 

4.  Sibling Rivalry (3):  Another smooth ride without too much action - but still lots of fun.

 

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5.  Big Brother (5):  There are four big waves that formed by this rapid and the idea is to hit all four, with the fourth called silverback.  We made the first three of the waves, but were just not able to make the 4th one.  But it was still a great ride, even though we did not lose anyone when we hit that wall of water.

 

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Between many of the rapids, we have calm patches where we would paddle for a bit, but we were able to spend much of the time in the water swimming, cruising along, and cooling off from the hot sun.  We would hope back into the raft every once in a while.  As you can see, Jacqui is having a great time.

 

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Here is Lars - are we having fun yet!?!?!?

 

6.  Point Break (4):  Again, not too challenging, but lots of fun.  This is the last one before we stop for lunch on an island in the river.  It is a great spread that they put on and we roll back into the rafts stuffed.

 

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7.  Overtime (5):  This rapid involves a four meter fall down straight and if you hit it right you are in for one heck of a ride.  It was amazing watching the other rafts go over before us - all of a sudden they would disappear from view as they went over the edge.  In one case, we could see one of the river guides being thrown into the air as they fell over the edge.  It was then our turn and Pete did an excellent job of guiding us.

 

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He maneuvered us such that we got stuck on a rock and we were sitting there hanging over the fall.  It was amazing.

 

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Pete then rocked the raft and we slowly fell over the edge - backwards.  What a ride down.

 

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It was fantastic and even Pete gave a thumbs-up.

 

8.  Retrospect (4/5):  Another smooth ride.

 

9.  Bubugo (4):  This was also another "easy" one.  After this one we cruise down the river for a while and we stop before the next rapid to portage the raft over part of it.  This next rapid is too big and long to attempt the whole thing - if you fell in at the top, you would not survive the ride down.  So, we haul the rafts out of the water and carry them down almost all the way to the end of the rapid where we will get back into the water to attempt ...

 

10.  Itanda (The Bad Place) (5):  Pete gave us a number of instructions before we started.  First, if we did this right and hit the rapid in the right spot the raft would surf and we would have the ride of our life - then we would be thrown in the water as the raft eventually capsized in the wave.  Next, he said that to make it we would have to closely follow his commands as we would have to get positioned properly to be drawn into the wave.  Finally, he said that when he gave the commands "Throw your paddles and get down" - that is exactly what we should do.  We would throw our paddles away as they could be quite dangerous as we are thrown forcefully around in the raft.

 

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One raft goes through and they hit the rapid OK, but they tip over quickly and do not really surf.  We then find out that it is our turn.  We head down to the raft and get in - Lars is in the front right and Jacqui is second back on the left.  We push the raft into the water and are on our way.  Pete then starts to give his commands:  "easy forward", then "stop", then "hard forward", then "stop", then "hard back", and so on.  And we did very well in following his commands with great precision and were greatly rewarded - we hit the rapid right on and ...

 

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... Pete gave his command "throw paddles" (which most of us did) and ...

 

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... "get down" (which all of us did, along with hold on real tight)!!  We were heading right for a wall of water - where did Lars and Paolo go to??

 

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And then we hit the wave (and now we are really holding on tight) and ...

 

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... we were surfing it.

 

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We went this way and that way and at one point Lars (that is Lars in the front bottom) and Craig fell out - Paolo fell onto Lars (as this photo proves!!!).

 

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And the raft continued to go this way and ...

 

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... that way as it surfed the wave.

 

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Finally the raft could take no more and the inevitable happened - it flipped over, throwing the rest of the crew into the raging water.

 

And was it ever a ride in the swirling water.  We shall now tell the story from Lars' perspective.  "I had been thrown over early on in the surfing (thanks to Paolo) and was immediately swept into the water and sucked down.  The forces were tremendous and I was being pulled every which way.  My first instinct was to hold onto my glasses to make sure they stayed in place.  Then I felt my shorts and shoes being sucked away.  Well, the priority was the shorts, in particular as they were already part way off.  I pulled them back on.  Then, air started to become a priority and I looked for the surface, but everything looked green.  I must have been deep down as at this point in time my left leg struck the bottom of the river and a jolt of pain shot through my left knee.  But still, my focus was on air.  Finally I broke the surface and tried to gulp in some air, but a wave crashed over me and I swallowed more water than air.  I was now riding the rapid and crashing into successive waves as they broke over me.  It was hard to get a breath and at one point I felt like I could not go on. I was exhausted and hyperventilating as I tried to breath in without swallowing more water.  During this time I was wondering (and worrying) about what had happened to my dear wife, Jacqui.  I could not see anyone anywhere.  Finally a rescue kayak was coming towards me and I weakly grabbed onto it.  I held onto the back and the kayaker instructed me to kick in order to help him move forward.  My knee was by now hurting and I could not provide too much help.  He rowed me to the shore where I pulled myself up on some rocks.  After getting settled, I looked around for other people from my raft, but I had been sucked into the middle of the river and had gone down quite far.  I looked for Jacqui in vain, but could not find her - I hoped she was alright.  I laid there for a while and then the kayaker came back to collect me and tow me back to my raft.  Everyone was OK, except that Jacqui and I had lost our paddles.  They were not found, so we took it easy for the rest of the ride to where we took the rafts out of the water.  Later on, I was told that I had been sucked into one of the worst parts of the river with the longest ride in the rapids.  But it was an awesome experience."

 

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We beached the raft and got out and climbed up a hill to get to the mini bus that would take us back to the campsite.  We changed our clothes and Lars iced his knee.  In the ride back to the campsite, it was an open bar, so we took advantage of it.  Lars drank, in total, six beers - it was a good pain killer and relaxant.  By the time we got to the campsite, he was feeling no pain!

 

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We got back to the campsite and took it easy for the rest of the night.  After enjoying the sunset, we had a quick shower. We then watched the video of the rafting and we had a good laugh re-living the trip.  After dinner we retired to our tent, which we had set up on a slope overlooking the river and the rapids.  What a great day - even though Lars was limping at the end!!!!

 

It is also worth pointing out that today we crossed the 25,000 km mark in our trans-Africa.

 

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