After months of planning we, Mairead, Paula & Niall headed off to the wild-water of Jinja, Uganda. You would imagine with all the pre-planning one of us would have the address of where we were to take a taxi to from Entebbe Airport – oh no, there we were after a days travelling, not without its own traumas, 3-paddies with kayaks dumb-founded when asked by our enthusiastic taxi-man ripe for a $100 fare “where are you going?” we all looked blankly at each other willing for an answer, it didn’t come! We eventually tracked it down via the tourist information centre booklet .Kayaks were strapped to the top of the roof-rackless car, we were off. Having passed through Kampala we were on the road to the NRE, home for the next 2-weeks on the banks of the mighty Nile.
Arriving in the dead of night, we were met by what was to become a frequent dead-of-night sight, an unusually tall black man, head to toe in a Russian-style overcoat complete with hood up, eyes shining in the moonlight and carrying a pre-1945 rifle, devoid of bullets we hoped. Home was a banda for 3, complete with nothing but our 3-beds, holey-mossie nets and luggage arranged neatly in the corner, we set about checking out how to get on the river. . . . lots was promised, in the end we hired a guide and headed off to the slaughter !
Day 1: hit by wave, swam, Day 2: hit by bigger wave, swam, Day 3: hit by millions of waves, swam, swam & swam again. . . . Niall of course is excluded from this description ! (well until at least a little later. . . ). It was an intimidating introduction as the sheer volume of water spilling down the rapids & wave trains was alien to those of us not-familiar with African white-water. Days off the water were spent lazily in the Ugandan heat, eating, reading or just generally hanging out observing the comings and goings of the NRE bar.
Everything in Uganda was measured in time so it was beer-time, boating-time, food-time and nothing was rushed. . . . A luxury trip to Murchison Falls in the north of Uganda was bashed out and complete with our own driver we embarked on a road trip, the term road is used very loosely in Uganda as its makes Dublin look perfect in road-conditions ! The run into Murchison Falls looked pretty ropey and sure death was guaranteed if an attempt to kayak it was made. . . a spectacular sight ! On the trip we almost lost Paula to malaria and it was a finely stocked clinic in the middle of Murchison that was able to bring her back from the brink. . . . !
After much deliberation we decided it would be an untrue account if Nialls spectacular swim on Buwagali falls was omitted, luckily for the occasion I was armed with his very own video recorder and captured his technical exit after a pounding in the stopper river right.
After the swim, we all continued down the Silverback run, starting at 50-50 and as the name would suggest you might or might not fall over, I was following Matt who preceded to cart-wheel his way into the first wave, I wasn’t sure he wanted me to do the same, I for obvious reasons declined, followed by total-gunga which contained the infamous g-spot hole, we decided to run the safer line or lesser of two-evils line, but had to grapple with huge boil-holes to go from river left to right. . . through surf-city into the finale, silverback ! the line is right down the middle of the HUGE green tongue, I took it to the extreme, went too far right and managed to capsize BEFORE the first mountainous wave but rolled back up to be wiped out backwads on impact, rolled back up, up again, up again and finally came to the end of the train, next time I would like to try that right-side up!
Our experience of wildlife in Jinja was limited to a German who paraded at every opportunity in his speedos’, but whose company on the river was welcomed along with his companion, seasoned kayakers who revelled in the rapids of the Nile. . . . On one trip, the infamous Nile Special rapid tried to grab Paula into its abyss but Paula won, albeit out of breath and a bit paler for it. . . . ! Stackallen will never look the same after that for her !
Kayak travel of the non-luxury style we had earlier experienced, consisted of converted Hi-aces’, some complete with leopardskin seat covers, for a paltry fare you were transported to a section of the Nile, for one of the shorter runs accessed directly from the camps-site, a boda-boda (Honda 50) was arranged in advance to collect you. Up you jumped in your gear behind the driver, kayak on your lap and paddle tucked in neatly by your side ! Flying through villages, potholed paths & sometimes fields, the likehood of being ejected from the seat was high . . . !
There were moments when even Wicklow seemed tame and longed for but in the end we warmed to Uganda and its powerful waters, its only water after all, a lot of it and you still can’t breath in it no matter how warm and fluffy it is (quote on quote from Colin Irvine) but if you are patient it works and suddenly you are right-side up, bobbing on top of the waves facing into the next one, and the next one. . . . . .
We were happy to stay an extra day due to an aeronautical fault and travelled via the equator with the very random UCDer Sean, Patrick out driver almost lost his undercarriage due to some reckless on-road, no lights, plenty of potholes short-cut from the equator town to Entebbe airport. . . . Home we arrived, lighter without kayaks, paddles & luggage, back to the Boyne for us!