Not all those who wander are lost - but I'll be disappointed if I don't get lost frequently!

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

I'm In DeNile!

God knows why we had organised a full day of grade five whitewater rafting for the day after the booze cruise, but it didn't seem like that much of a good idea when we had to get up in the morning and be ready to depart at 8.15am. I got out some of my rehydration salts to help kick the hangover.

We were driven into Jinja for a safety talk and grabbed brekky before hopping back onto the rafting truck. To get to our rafting start point, we crossed the dam to the western side of the Nile and headed downriver for about half an hour. At the launch site, we were split up into rafting groups: me, Vicki, grace, Dave, Susanna, Jules and a random (Rudy) were in the "easy" group with rafting guide Henry. Easy meant that our guide tried to avoid the roughest route through each rapid, and we'd hopefully make it through the day without falling out the raft.

Henry took us out into flat water, and we spent twenty minutes practicing our rowing, getting back into the boat, getting out from under boat when it flips, and flipping the boat back over. It was a beautiful hot day, so we happily jumped into the Nile for these practice drills.

Then we headed downstream towards the first rapid, called Overtime, which was a 16ft drop over about 20 metres, and is pretty much a waterfall. Due to the low water today, we had to bounce the raft over the first part through the shallow water. James managed to fall out of his raft on the way down, and snapped his oar, but everyone else made it through ok.

Throughout the day we did 8 rapids over 25km, ranging from grade 3/4 to grade 5. We also walked around grade 6 rapids! We swapped positions over the day, I started at the back of the raft and ended up the front for the last few rapids. Between rapids, we jumped in for a swim and cool down. For my first rapid up front, we went down a steep incline and I looked up to see us heading for a huge wave and yelled "holy shit!", then everyone else looked and screamed too! After walking round the grade 6 and going down a grade 5, we had half a pineapple each and some biscuits for lunch.

Before each rapid Henry would give us a run through of what would happen, and how we would tackle the rapid. Most times it went along the lines of paddle hard, then he'd call "get down" and we'd all huddle in the middle of the boat. Then he'd say, if you fall out, hold onto the raft, or if you can't grab the rope, float down the rapids feet first, don't fight the current, let the life jacket do its work.

Coming up to the last rapid, called the Nile Special, our raft was 7 for 7 rapids without getting flipped or having anyone fall out. We were the last to go over the Nile Special, and we watched as one by one, the other rafts were annihilated by the whitewater. We watched as the raft ahead of us got stuck in a wave and were thrown around like they were in a washing machine. They were picked off one by one until four of them were left in the raft, trying to figure out what to do. At that point, Henry looks at us and says, "if you're having fun, stay in the raft, if not, jump out!" He then tells us that whatever happens with this rapid, if we do fall out, DO NOT hold onto the raft!

Then it was out turn for the rapid, and away we went. I was at the front of the raft still, so when the boat went sideways and then backwards, I knew things weren't looking good! Henry yelled get down, so we crouched in the middle of the boat. We must of bounced hard in the water or something, because next thing I knew I was heading for the water, face first! I still had hold of the rope on the raft, and desperately clung to it while getting thrashed in the current. Even though Henry had told us explicitly to let go, consciously making the decision to let go of that rope is one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life.

I was swept under for what felt like ages, and the current was really strong. Initially I was flailing like a madwoman, but then sanity returned and I remembered our safety instructions to not fight the current and let the life jacket take you to the surface. I popped up out of the water just in time to see a huge wave coming at me, and I was pushed under again, and I remember desperately thinking 'I hope I'm not stuck in the washing machine like the previous raft was!' but then I surfaced again, past the rapids, alive! My raft flipped a little while after I fell out, so I found the rest of my raft buddies floating along beside me.

As scary as going into the water was, it was such a thrilling experience, and I'd happily fall overboard again! I'd definitely recommend the company we went rafting with, they were very professional (Nile River Explorers), and according to Malcolm, have an impeccable safety record. The four rafts were accompanied by a safety boat, as well as six kayakers, whose job it was to pluck people out of the rapids if they fell out.

After a thrilling day on the Nile, it was finished off by an early BBQ dinner and drinks, included in the rafting package. Then we drove back to Bujagali Falls. Grace, who is a trainee tour leader, had been feeling pretty crappy for the second half of the day, went downhill pretty quickly from that point on. After we got back to camp, Malcolm took her into hospital, and turns out she had Malaria! She stayed in overnight to be treated.

The rest of us headed to the bar at 9pm to see the video made for us of the days rafting. It is pretty spectacular! So many thrills and spills throughout the day. When they showed the clip of me falling out, it looks as though I've decided to dive overboard! Quite a few laughs were had at that little clip of me!


  1. This is such an exciting account Sammy! What an amazing experience! xx

  2. Sammyyyyyyyyyy I miss you!!! Love reading snippets of your blog they put a massive smile on my face!!!

  3. Glad to hear it! There are quite a few laugh out loud moments on my end too when I write them up!