Sep 17

Welcome to Uganda: Rafting the Nile

by Nikki

Uganda is a unique country with the heart and diversity of a giant. It provides a taste of all its surrounding countries, with thick rain forests resembling Congo at Africa’s core, vast stretches of lowlands mimicking Tanzania’s Serengeti and Kenya’s Massai Mara, mountainous highlands where silverback gorillas don’t bother to distinguish Rwanda from Uganda, and countless refugee camps to remind you that the country is a work in progress, sustaining itself amidst regional turmoil.

“Tourist,” Uganda is a special place. One of few untouched territories for the let loose, free flow, and jump into anything type of person. The thrill of risk is around every corner, and lurks in even the simplest activities, like getting from point A to point B on a boda boda (motorcycle taxi). Uganda’s rugged beauty is a heavy handed combination of risk, adrenaline, abundant nature and beautifully uninhibited culture and people.

My journey through Uganda began at the source of the Nile River. The mission was to raft, so after a couple nights in Kampala, I made my way to Jinja, the town where Lake Victoria ends, and the Nile River begins. David Livingstone spent the second half of his life looking for this gem, and, having experienced it, I pity the old soul for never making it there, let alone rafting it.

My adrenaline addiction usually overrides my fear of open water, but on this occasion, my fear was right in my gut, standing its ground with no intentions of fleeing. It was a stand off, the winner to be determined in the water. Or so I thought, until a new fear arose. Bilharzia. A parasitic worm who happily lives in the Nile, infecting rafters every so often, eating their internal organs if not properly medicated. Great, two reasons to afraid of the water, one with an immediate effect (crocodiles, snakes, fish, etc.) and another that won’t start nibbling until six weeks later. I was freaking out. And, for the first time in my life, I elected to get in the sissy boat.

An hour long safety briefing later, we hit the first rapid. It was Amazing! Water gushing into the raft, all of us paddling as if we had any say in our fate.  After the first rush, I knew I wanted to flip, or push the limit on all seven of the rapids to come. Then I remembered which boat if was in. I was outnumbered and wouldn’t win the battle to go for the extreme. So I jumped ship to join the most insane raft I could find.  The “no pants” crew took me in, a rule not enforced, but practiced by Patrick, an esteemed Kiva Fellow, with a knack for…insanity. On the second rapid he sat a the head of the raft, shorts in hand, buns to plastic. Blinded by pasty white ass, I finally had a third fear to cancel out the first two…please let him keep his pants on for the next six rapids!

The raft flipped, and all I could see were white bubbles, gasping for air, but loving every minute of it. Pantless Patrick, worms and all, I’d picked the right raft.

We went on to flip 3 more times, and took a class five rapid head on, losing all but three crew members in the process.

The next 4 hours of adventure pushed me to the limit, exercising facial expressions that usually only came out when I was given a deadline at work or assigned a 20 page paper about a book I didn’t read in undergrad. From no pants to no paddles, to no oxygen rafting the Nile was an unforgettable experience. A spectacular introduction to the country, soon to be followed by a trip to the Buganda Kingdom for an equally enriching cultural experience farming with the founder of WWOOF Uganda.

To see more pictures from my journey up the Nile, head to my flickr page. All photos compliments of Nile River Explorers, except for the bilharzia one, that’s from NHS England.  If you’re in the mood for an adventure, I highly recommend booking with Nile River Explorers, they rock, plus you get free transportation from Kampala and a free nights stay!


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