After almost four weeks of living in Kampala, I was patiently awaiting an opportunity to travel out of the city and explore up-country. Though the city itself is nice, I could not wait to see more of the rural communities, green areas, and water sources (particularly the Nile River) Uganda has to offer. Luckily for Rachel, Jeremy and I, Tuesday June 9th was National Heroes’ Day, which anticipated a day off from our daily routine at work and in the city.
Eager to take on a full day excursion, we looked into several options for day trips to Jinja; a beautiful town about an hour north of Kampala and home to the source of the Nile. Last minute – Monday evening at 6pm to be exact – Rachel called a water rafting and bungee jumping company called “Adrift” to see if there were any available spots for a water rafting tour on Tuesday. After two short minutes, Rachel exclaimed we were going! The company had indeed three spots left. They arranged for our transportation the next morning and evening, as well as a small breakfast, lunch, and beers afterwards.
Bright and early the next morning, Rachel, Jeremy and I, joined the tour bus with fellow travelers from all around the world. Among others, most of the rafters seemed to be Female Canadians who came to East-Africa on a separate program called Operations Groundswell; however, we also met people from Uganda, the United States and New Zealand. The hour drive was full of excitement and anticipation – It was hard to believe that we were about to raft on the world’s longest river.
Once outside the city, the air became fresh and the scenery lush. The ongoing green hills resembled a perfect painting. As we ventured deeper into the country side the more beautiful it got. Trees were tall and strong, baring grapefruit resembling the size of a large football. Many homes were patched together with wood, brick, mud and straw; consoling a cool place to escape the warm sun. Families and young children played outside and stopped to smile and wave as we passed by. I imagine they were used to seeing buses like ours pass by every day.
Upon arrival, we were treated to a small breakfast of traditional Ugandan tea, muffins and bananas. Before I go any further, I must first tell Kendra and my grandparents not to worry – we were then equipped with a very safe life jacket and a very safe helmet! Proceeding the safety equipment, Jeremy, Rachel and I joined another group of three onto our boat. Ironically, our new boating companions were named Rachel, Shelby and Martin. Martin and Rachel were from Uganda and Shelby from Florida. Our first task was to paddle out onto the river to undergo some safety instructions. At first I was nervous to fall into the river, but that was soon dismissed as we were forced to purposefully tip the boat over as practice for what could (most likely) happen while rafting over grade 5 rapids.
Leaving everything behind, we pushed forward toward the sounds of rushing water and cheers of rafters ahead. The full day consisted of 9 rapids; three hours of rafting in the morning and two in the afternoon. At noon we stopped along the river at an Adrift camp site, where the company had prepared plenty of vegetables, wraps, potato salad and slices of pineapple. It was the closest thing to Subway we were going to have for a while. Before heading back onto the water, we made sure to reapply sunscreen as I was already starting to resemble one of my grandfather’s lobsters. After two more hours, we had successfully completed five hours of rafting with just two flips and lots of swimming.
The last rapid, a level 4 monster, was cleverly nicknamed the “Nile Special”, after a man rafting with a pack of Nile Special beer didn’t make it without flipping himself out of the boat and all of its remaining contents into the river. I wish I could say we made it but the Nile Special had us soaked too. To finish the day, we enjoyed a nice dinner back at the camp of fresh veggies, beef kebabs, and Nile Special beer. After saying goodbye to our new friends, we headed home on the bus, both exhausted and happy to have had some fun! (more photos coming soon!)