To let off steam and get a great chance to hang out and have some fun, the volunteers from The Real Uganda as well as my friends from KACCAD Brooke and Chris decided to head to Jinja to do a day of white water rafting on the Nile! It was especially cool because at this time next year, the opportunity will be gone; a dam will be built to provide water powered energy to more villages. Of course, this is a good thing but these incredible rapids will no longer be up for rafting. Besides being the last opportunity ever to raft this area, its’ the NILE! The birthplace of civilization, the most well known river in the world, the, well, the NILE!
This in mind, we all met in Mukono Friday night at stayed at The Real Uganda guesthouse. Dinner was amazing street food including rolexes, chicken, chapatti, and roasted corn which apparently I am the only one who likes! Instead of boiling the corn and then roasting it, they just go right to roasting which leaves the taste slightly chewy but tough. I think it’s great where everyone else is not a fan!
Saturday morning we walked to the way too pricey for us hotel in Mukono where we were picked up for the trip to Jinja. At this point I jumped in the front crammed between the driver and another passenger, both Ugandan men who happened to notice the book I was reading discussing AIDS and why during the 90’s the rate of transmission went dramatically down in Uganda while shooting up in almost every other Eastern African country. That led to a great discussion where I was asked if people in the U.S had a cure for AIDS and if they had to take drugs. I had to keep telling them it was JUST my opinion since they seemed to be regarding what I said as medical gospel when it came to future HIV/AIDS prevention and awareness problems and issues. It was really interesting to hear their viewpoint and encouraging to listen to an open discussion where did not seem uncomfortable to talk about it!
Arriving in Jinja, we had breakfast INCLUDING real coffee (with milk!) and listened to one of the guides explain our day. I guess at this point I should mention we were doing Grade 5 rafting which is the highest level allowed before safety becomes a serious issue. Anything higher than grade 5 is considered “unraftable.” I shoud also mention my incredible experience in the water. And by experience I mean lack of. A guide asked all of us if we had been rafting before. Feeling a little nervous and wanting to see his reaction I volunteered the information that while I have never rafted before, I HAVE been tubing twice and paddle-boating once! He didn’t seem impressed and that made me a little nervous. I started envisioning my National Geographic Most Amazing Moments video where people are plowing through rapids crashing over their heads and according to the narrator in an Australian accent, “inCREDibly Surviving!!” Whatever. I was excited!
We ended up lucking out fitting all 6 of us in one raft with our Australian instructor Johnnie. (There were 7 of us but Chris had already been rafting and decided that he should try out the golf clubs a former volunteer had left at KACCAD on the links!) I was a little nervous as we went through training when I realized my jacket was a little big and it was hard for me to get back in the boat because the jacket would come up to my neck. Then, when he explained about the “get down” cry and what it meant, I wondered if international insurance would accept a claim where I voluntarily jump into a situation lacking experience. (Actually, they do!) To make it short, our boat was awesome. Apparently it’s very rare to not tip and yet we managed to do it even on rapids called “50/50” and “waterfall” which is in fact, a small waterfall you go over. I had a great time and could not believe I swam and rafted the Nile river!
Arriving back to the hostal I found out another perk was showering over the Nile where you are surrounded by three walls but one is knocked out so while you shower, you are literally overlooking the Nile. It’s a pretty cool experience and is wild when you think about how you are near the mouth of one of the greatest rivers in the world that starts in Uganda and ends in Egypt!
If anyone has the opportunity I highly recommend this experience. Going with the company, Nile River Explorers (NRE) also gives you the satisfaction of knowing your money is helping the community. Most of the safety river guides-the guys who ride in mini kayaks and are always there to help rafts that tip or people that go over are some of the best kayakers in the world. Some have competed and won really prestigious championships throughout the world and they are from Uganda. Not only that, they support soft-power education, a program founded by an Englishwoman to use tourist dollars to improve the education system in the nearby communities. After marrying the head of NRE, the program really took off and you see signs everywhere showing where soft-power aid has been given to schools and neighborhoods.
The other must? Trying a rolex burrito. Finally, some guys with savvy business sense. Everywhere you go you can buy a rolex-chapatti with eggs and usually cabbage and tomoato. However here, they give you options including diced avocado, meat, and potato to add to your rolex! It’s a few 1000USH more depending on your preference but absolutely worth it and very filling!
Again, my weekend was amazing and it was really nice to spend some time with the volunteers who are leaving. (Have a blast in Zanzibar Greg and Todd!!)