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Oct
21

White Nile 2004

The White Nile Uganda March 14th to 24th 

The world’s longest river the Nile flows from Lake Victoria in Uganda, the official source is Owens Falls Dam, Jinja. Staying a few miles downstream from here with Nile River Explorers our campsite looked down on the first major rapids, Rib Cage, The Hump and Bujagali Falls. Karine had already arrived a couple of days earlier and had arranged our transport from the airport, a 2 hour drive saw us arriving at the Nile River Explorers campsite having a bite to eat and loading the kayaks onto a Hiace for the trip down to Malalu, a surf wave at the end of day 2.

 

The locals appeared from what appeared to be nowhere as we unloaded the boats and got changed, Jambo and Mazungo are the only words that I remember, hello and white man roughly translated. A ferry across the river to the far side of one of the many islands saw us arrive at Malalu a great surf wave well serviced by an eddy from river right, we played until we dropped, the wave comes into its own as the afternoon wears on, the water levels rise steadily throughout the day and the wave becomes a little friendlier and easier to move around on.

Our second day on the river saw us joining one of the many raft trips and running downstream through Rib Cage, Bujagali, 50/50, Total Gunga, Surf City, Silverback, Overtime and on down to Itanda.

Ribcage is blind until the last moment, we entered about the middle paddling hard right to avoid the island half way down, a big strainer and a place to be avoided at all costs, I took a role, bounced off the bottom for a bit ( quite possible the only shallow rapid on the river ) before rolling up in the nick of time to get in a couple of good strokes away from the Island. I hit the eddy at the bottom and looked upstream to see Jo upside down, fighting to get back up in time, she popped up in time to duck under some low hanging branches to everyone relief. 

The eddies below are nasty, recirculating and boily, a little further down we jumped out and inspected Bujagali Falls, a big ramp down to a stopper and a white mess beyond, in for a penny in for a pound I followed Helen down and got my first trashing of the day, soon rolling up laughing…….ahhh the joys of big water paddling.

50/50 I missed the eddy, Total Gunga, I did the lower section upside down and up, upside down and up, until I dropped out of the bottom out of breath and slightly shaken, had I really brought the right boat for water such as this, the S6 feeling a little low on volume. Surf city for some playtime, the wave was big and bouncy, the water behind a mess of boils and swirls. I didn’t get on with this rapid at all. I took roll after roll after roll, struggling to get up, at one point I was one roll away from swimmingâ.  I retired to the bank to take pictures.

Silverback next, four huge standing waves with a long ramp leading down to the first, I back looped of the top of the first rolling up at some point before being spat into the eddy river left. After Silverback it calms down for a while, time to enjoy the scenery and discover just how uncomfortable play boats really are when paddled on flat water.

We floated down and watched a couple of rafts and one of the guides do Overtime then it was on down to Itanda, its reputation does not really do it justice, Itanda is a huge rapid incorporating a number of features, the Pencil Sharpener, the Cuban and The Bad Place, The rafts portage the top section and get onto to plough through the Bad Place, usually flipping and sending bodies in all directions, Karine, Helen, PK and Danny picked good lines through while the rest walked up to the waiting trucks, BBQ and beer.

Day 2 is more of a play day than a river running day, with four main waves to contend with, Vengence, Hair of the Dog, Kula Shaker and Nile Special

Vengence is big steep and FAST, break out river left and watch out for the spiders hanging in their webs a few feet above the water.

Hair of the Dog, is a channel wide surf wave, the eddy is on the left behind a big rock that becomes visible as you drop down into the feature, miss it at your peril, it’s a mighty long paddle back up in turbulent water, or just throw a load of wave wheels as you go down and wait for the others to catch up. However if you can catch the eddy and make it onto the wave the ride is fast and bouncy, speak to PK about that.

Kula shaker is at the top of an Island, a big green wave, we passed through to the right channel and on down to

Nile Special, on your right as you paddle down serviced by a huge eddy. To be honest for my money pile down river and arrive at Nile Special during the late afternoon when the levels are coming up, at slightly lower levels it can be a bit grabby and give you a bit of a hard time. When its sweet its soooooooooooo sweet tho, if you can do it, then you can do it here, I just wish I could do a bit more in a boat, spin both ways and poor blunts mixed in with some awesome surfs and carves across the wave, remembering to save enough energy to make the roll and the paddle back up when you eventually get washed off.

The rest of the week was spent combining all of the above. The river runs considerably lower at the weekends when the demand for electricity reduces, this is the time to tackle those alternative rapids such as the Hump, Brickyard and if you must Itanda.

The NRE campsite has all mod cons for $2.00 per night, the showers overlook the river and must afford some of the best views from a shower cubicle on the planet. The bar does reasonable food, the pork sausage combo is a recommended for breakfast, with a cheesy melt for an afternoon snack, we tended to eat out during the evening, making arrangements with Patrick one of the locals who also arranged transport for the days that required it, to eat at his friends place in a village ten minutes from the campsite or at one of the restaurants that abound.

The bar at NRE will keep you in Nile Special and you can watch the antics of the rafters on the daily video shown in the evening, have a word with the video guys, Ben Holland when we were there and they will take some extra footage of you when you hook up with a raft trip on day 1 and let you have it at reasonable rates.

Boda Boda’s (mopeds) can be booked at the gate to the campsite and will arrive to collect you and your boat at the appointed spot and somewhere near the appointed time, usually Silverback for about 3000shillings, the ride back with your boat across your knee is an experience, no Dancers or Canadian canoes tho.

My bar tab at the end of the week was $137.00, that included the obligatory t shirt, beer, food and camping, its just a shame it cost the thick end of £600.00 for the flight. Overall I would have to say that I preferred the Zambezi, it has a bigger wow factor.

The Nile is the better play river but you can’t beat a run down from 1 to 13 that the Zam offers for a days paddling incorporating amazing scenery and white water.

Having said that the rumour is that another Dam is to be built below Silverback which would wipe out the rapids I have described above, expect to find me on a plane with my boat in the hold, sunblock and mozzy repellent in my bag and a fist full of dollars before this happens. Big water paddling rocks.

Pictures:

http://ianjones.fotopic.net/c142238.html