After a pretty laid-back week meeting new friends (curry at New Delhi was delicious and drinks at Bubbles O’Leary‘s was fun), it was time to turn up the adrenaline and head to Jinja – the source of the Nile (blog on this soon!) and the adventure capital of East Africa. And rightly so… not only can you whitewater raft rapids on the Nile, you can kayak, ride quads, horseback ride, gorilla raft, “booze cruise”, mountain bike, and bungee jump! Two friends and I decided to go whitewater rafting – something “tame” this time around. One friend got sick the night before (all the drinking and dancing at Iguana… I tell ya, these Ugandans can party hard!) and couldn’t make it on the day of. So it was just SF and I off to Jinja. I’m sure my tweets suggest otherwise, but we’ll just bypass the fact that I got sick on the bus and blame it on the bumpy ride.
After reading about Nile River Explorers (NRE) in the Lonely Planet East Africa guide, we thought it safe to go with a company that was well recommended and had 15 years of experience. We booked our tour through one of the guides we met at a local African jam session (more on this another time), Destreet of Destreet Art Foundation. The “Grade 5 Full Day Rafting” package came with a shuttle right from our guest house to their city hostel in Jinja, breakfast, rafting, a snack on the rafts, dinner/drinks, rides to and from the campsites, and a shuttle back to Kampala (right to our guest house again) the next day. Also included was one night’s free accommodation at one of their sites. For $125 USD, this was a great deal… especially since we didn’t have to hunt around for the campsites and arrange our own transportation, which can be a pain in Uganda!
Early morning pickup and one emergency stop later, we arrived at NRE in Jinja. We were briefed and headed to the river! Sadly, I don’t have any pictures leading up to the rafting, as we were advised against bringing valuables with us. After some basic instructions, we went down eight rapids. And with names like Vengeance, Hair of the Dog, and Overtime, it’s no wonder they’re a class 4 or 5. The gist was this: we would go down one rapid for a few minutes, and regain our composures at the bottom (we only flipped once but others flipped often). There were flat portions on the journey where we could take our helmets off and enjoy the views and sunshine. We had a chance to go swimming in the Nile, too! Here are some pictures of our rafting experience:
I met some wonderful Canadians on our raft, and ended up rooming with them at the campsite and dancing the night away with them. NRE has a city hostel that’s much quieter, or a campsite near Bujagali Falls whose bar is VERY lively until about 1am. We stayed in three-bunk dorms, but tents were available, too. The bar’s internet was *painfully* slow and outlets were only available at the bar. The views were spectacular and this is definitely a place to go if you want to meet other travellers. Especially Canadians! Fifteen-odd people sang O Canada after midnight on July 1st… Canada’s 145th birthday is nothing to be scoffed at! We were proud Canadians that night.
We drove through the Kayunga district in order to get to the river. I managed to take some pictures of the countryside and how people live:
It’a kind of crazy to think that a bus full of 40+ muzungus drives by here everyday. We paid $125 each to have this “adventure”, and we drove by houses and families whose annual income is less than that. Puts things into perspective sometimes.
And for something a little less sad, here are some picturesque views around the campsite:
NRE has the most amazing showers. I’m so sad we didn’t find out about them until it was too late!
We went to try and find Bujagali Falls nearby, only to see the river. Sadly, the building of the Bujagali Dam in 2011 completely submerged the falls. Here’s where they used to be:
Overall, the rafting experience was wonderful. I was a little disappointed with our guide though, as he seemed fairly new. We found out that, although he’s been guiding in India for 10 years, it was monsoon season so he came to Uganda to be a guide on the Nile for three months. This was his ninth time on the river and you can tell he was a bit nervous. I’m sure it didn’t help that we had seven weak girls on the raft and whenever he told us to paddle harder or faster, it felt like he was a disappointed father telling his children to pick up toys. Ha.