White-water rafting on the Nile is another one of those unique experiences. One advise: don't do it unless you absolutely LOVE to be out on the water and are prepared to get completely submerged by the water. A one day rafting adventures takes you about 24 kilometers up the Nile, going through 8 rapids, including two grade 5 ones. So be prepared to tip over. Initially I didn't sign up for the rafting, but the 3 others in our group who did convinced me to join them. I already had an idea of what I was getting myself into because I went rafting in New Zealand. Though that was only a very short session tackling basically one big obstacle, the Okere waterfalls. You cannot compare it with a full day rafting experience on the Nile.
We arrived at the starting point nearly an hour before all the others. Today 50 people would go rafting, a total of about 8 boats. Our gear consisted of a helmet and a swimming vest. We were advised to wear long sleeves and trousers below the knees as protection against the sun. It doesn't really look sexy, but after nearly 20 days in Africa you learn that functionality is more important than looks :-)
Our team consists of 9 people: Sofie, Ellie, Toon and me + 4 American guys + 1 Irish woman. Our captain is Ugandan and I have the feeling we don't make a good impression on him while we do the training right before we hit the first rapid. We practice the paddling, floating, flipping,...And to be honest, some tension kicks in when we do the flip. I end up onder the boat, and I don't like it. ANd this is only still water..
Stil, I've started it, so I'm going ahead! The first rapid is a grade 5, no warming-up, the serious stuff immediately. But we get through it fine and don't flip. Excellent!!
The names of the rapids go from Big Brother to Point Break, Vengeance, and Super Hole. We tackle 4 before lunch, and 4 after. The hardest one is called Itanda (also known as the Bad Place), it's right by Wildwaters lodge and we have to get on land, because it's actually a grade 6 here (grade 6 = drowning) and the only way to get through it is jumping back in the boat on the part where we can stick to the right side of the rapid, the part that equals grade 5. I look at the raging water and can't wait to be passed this point, it's terrifying!! But we get through all right, and it does feel thrilling.
Lunch is excellent, a well organised buffet - on dry land ofcourse :-) - and then it's time to hit the next 4 rapids. In between rapids there's plenty of time to swim, but to me it often feels like stretching the time. The whole route could easily be done in half a day.
There's a lot of joking on our boat. The Irish woman, Ayshling, actually works for Human Rights Watch in New York.
The last rapid is called Nile Special and our captain asks if we want to hit the 'Great Curve' with a 50% chance of tipping. Everyone says yes, and there we go. As soon as we hit the heart of the rapid, it's clear that we don't stand a chance against the power of the water. We tip over and we end up in the raging water. I see Ellie panicking, but our captain helps her out. I'm floating, and only get my orientation back after a minute or 2 when the worst waves have come over me. We're all drifting, all over the river, and now I know why the rafting company is called 'adrift'. A cano guy gives me a lift to one of the rafts, and they take me to my original raft, where we're short of passengers and paddles. But we've survived! It's clear they tip every boat in the final rapid, not in the least because they take pictures there. But it works, I buy the pictures.
One of the American guys describes his experience of falling out: "Really I could only think about myself, at that moment I didn't care about any of you!" He says it smiling, but also serious. It's true, for a moment you feel that instinct to save yourself. I guess there's a reason why they make you sign a disclaimer before you go on board.
The day ends with a drink and a little BBQ. We say goodbye to our captain and fellow rafters and get on board the big truck that will take us back to WildWaters Lodge. The truck is full of Ugandans, and I enjoy the drive. In the village there's a market and it's hard to get through, people have their stuff stalled everywhere.
It takes one more boat trip to get us to the Wildwaters lodge shore, time to catch up with everyone and enjoy our dinner.