January 31, 2012
Nile River Explorers Camp
On our second day at Jinja most of us opted to take advantage of the opportunity to go white water rafting on the Nile ($125 pp). We joined a few other groups and there were almost 50 of us in total.
After going to the company headquarters for coffee/tea and a light breakfast we boarded the buses for our trip to the shores of the Nile. Once there we divided ourselves into groups based on what we wanted out of the day. The rapids ranged from grade 3 – 5 and sometimes there would be an easier or harder route within the rapid itself. Our group chose to go hardcore, with only minimal complaining from a couple people.
Before even getting close to the rapids we got in the boat (with life vests and helmets) and practiced paddling in unison, following commands (left, right, get down) and what to do if the raft flipped. It took about an hour to go through everything and when we actually started down the river everyone was in a great mood.
The first couple rapids we came up against were grade 3 and 4s and on the second one I got a huge mouthful of water, but everyone survived and only one raft flipped. If your raft flips we were told to hang onto the safety line and keep your legs up. If you get separated from the boat you are to lay on your back, with your legs in front of you and ride through the rapids until you pop out on the other side. If you do get caught underwater you aren’t supposed to kick. You are supposed to curl into a ball and let the life jacket carry you to the surface, the theory being if you are tossed around underwater and start kicking you could be fighting against the buoyancy of the vest. All good things to think about as you’re getting slammed about by massive waves.
At the 4th rapid we had to get out and walk around a grade 6, which I think some of us would have liked to try until we saw the grade 5 that laid right after it. It was called ‘The Bad Place’, aptly named for the suicide machine that it looked like. After an initial drop into a churning whirlpool of white foam, a large wave would constantly rear up and slam back down. The rest was 7 or 8 small rapids to navigate and large rocks to avoid and almost all of it was white water.
We all swallowed our fears, got in the boat and said we didn’t come all the way to Africa to wimp out. So we went for it, straight into The Bad Place, hoping we would come out whole on the other side. We paddled into the rapids head on, urged forward by our guide yelling ‘GO HARD!’ My arms were killing me as we paddled straight into that first drop when the guide yelled to get down. We all dropped into the boat, scrambling to grab the safety line when I saw the wave on the other side of the raft well up and tip our raft to a 90 degree angle. The wave gave its final push as we were all dumped from the boat and my head managed to find the sweet spot between the water and the raft as I was bitchslapped by that massive wave.
I was pushed underwater and all around me was a rushing, pounding chaos and I realized I was still holding onto my paddle, but not the raft. Immediately I started kicking, struggling to get to the surface when I remembered what I had been told. I stopped kicking, fighting against what my nature was telling me to do and curled up, hoping I was going the right way. The water started getting lighter and I thought for a second, ‘if anything happens to me my mom is gonna kill me.’ After what seemed like ages and just when my lungs were about to give I broke the surface, took a quick sip of air and was pushed back down again by another wave. We danced this terrifying dance through the rest of the rapids until I finally popped out the other side next to my friend Kristen. We both looked at each other with huge eyes and asked if the other was ok. My head felt like it was being crushed inside my helmet and my belly was full of Nile water. One of the boats picked us up and I had to stop myself from vomiting over the side.
When we all regrouped and were back in the raft we watched the others go through. Of the 7 rafts on the river 6 of them flipped. Luckily no one was hurt, though Kristen hit her ankle on a rock and some of us have various bruises from god knows what. We took a bit of a break at that point and floated down the river, snacking on pinepple and biscuits. I was still pretty shaky so I just sat there with my head down, enjoying the air. When some of us were tired of being in the boat we jumped in the river and swam alongside. I was surprised at how swift the current was, pulling us down river towards the last 4 rapids.
The swim helped my headache so we got back in the raft and pushed forward. The ride down these rapids wasn’t as bad as the last one and it was easy to forget how scary it had been just 30 minutes before. When we got to the last rapid of the day we were told we had a 50% chance of flipping again, but we decided if we had survived The Bad Place then The Nile Special would be a piece of cake. We did flip this time but because we were prepared for it it wasn’t as bad.
Having finished the last rapid we paddled to shore and had a great lunch provided by the company. Our truck got a flat on the way back to camp but I was so exhausted I really couldn’t care less. There was a videographer following us the entire time and we all got a good laugh watching the video in the bar later that night. We all looked terrified going into some of those rapids and of the 50 people who rafted that day I would say all of us were dominated by the Nile.
Breakfast: hard boiled eggs, bread, peanut butter, jam, bananas, pineapple coffee/tea, juice
Lunch: (provided by Nile River Explorers) spaghetti, potatoes, roast beef, chili
Dinner: fried potatoes, fried fish, veggie mix, juice