9/16/09: Nile River, Uganda
There have been days where I’ve woken up and thought, “Today’s going to be a really good day – a new episode of Survivor is on!”
Don’t get me wrong – those are really good days. This morning though, I woke up to the thought, “Today I’m going to white water raft the Nile.” And then I realized I’m not in Kansas anymore.
Our rafting expedition was hosted by Nile River Explorers (NRE). From what we had heard, they were one of the best on the river. On this particular day, there were three boats of six or seven people each. In addition, NRE always sends one safety boat and about four safety kayakers down the river.
Safety boat: A guy named Moses sits by himself atop a chair built into the eight-person raft. Moses is perhaps the most physically fit person I have laid eyes on. Think Terrell Owens, but smaller, quieter and with more muscles. I doubt he even works out away from work. Each day he takes this gigantic raft 20 miles down the river using two giant paddles that are attached to the boat. In comparison, I got tired doing one eighth of the work that he did (given the seven others in my boat helping me out).
The reason it is called the safety boat is because if you ride in this boat, you will be safe from the rapids. You don’t go around them – Moses takes you right through them just like the rest of the boats, but he doesn’t tip. Rumor has it that he lives up to his name and parts the rapid before going through it. Another rumor has it that he’s never flipped a boat with passengers in it.
Safety kayaks: Several kayakers go down the river ahead of the passenger rafts, then wait after each rapid to help any people who have fallen from their boat or lost their paddles or both. A couple of the NRE kayakers returned from the world championships in Sweden a week ago, and you could tell. They handled class 5 and 6 rapids as if they were in the kiddie pool.
Rapids: Outside of America, rapids are ranked on a scale of 1-6 (we’ve heard Americans rank their rapids from 1-10). A class 1 rapid could perhaps be the ripples created from a duck swimming by. A class 6 rapid is a miniature version of Niagara Falls – tour rafts are not allowed to go over class 6 rapids for safety reasons. Class 7 rapids are suicide, so they don’t exist.
Our trip: After a light breakfast (Side note: I had an egg with three yolks in it! Three full yolks! But I didn’t have my camera with me so I couldn’t take a picture… (Side side note: I do not count a three-yolked egg as a new food, even though I’ve never had one)), we drove to our launching point and met our guides. I bet you didn’t remember how that last sentence began by the time you got to the end.
This particular 20-mile section of the Nile is set up perfectly for touristy rafters, as the first five miles are calm waters that set up nicely for lessons and practice flips, etc. Then spread out over the next 15 miles are the six big rapids. Remember Bujagali Falls from a two posts ago? That was the first and easiest class 5 of the day.
The actual details of the experience are quite dull, even though the experience itself was quite… not dull. Our raft only flipped once, and Zhou and I were the only two who survived the flip still hanging onto the raft. When we were done, we went back to the campsite and had a barbeque.
One detail worth mentioning though is that they are building a dam that will block the river where one of the big rapids is now. It’s sad to see that the river is losing its naturalness, but the Nile is definitely a good source of untapped power, so I suppose I understand the project. It’s supposed to be completed in a couple years, so soon you won’t be able to experience the river as we did today. Go now!
Scrabble Picture: Even though we haven’t yet played a game of Scrabble, we still know how to spell. With any luck, pictures like these will be a running theme of ours.
Picture of the Day: This may be the worst picture of the day yet, but please enjoy this particularly spectacular shot of our campsite in Jinja where we spent three nights.