My last big mission of 2009 took me to the Dark Continent. With six weeks until I was due to start work in Murchison (NZ) I flew back to NZ, said gidday to Mum and picked up my brand new Bliss-Stick Smoothy care of the boys at.. you guessed it, Bliss-stick. With only a few days in NZ it was just enough time to really mess with my body clock before I headed out to Uganda.
48 hours of travel (22 in Jo'Berg airport) had me standing outside Entebbe Airport in the dark looking for my driver... Robert. Funny thing is, none of the 50 men standing in front of me looked like a 'Robert'. After some broken English and a few dodgy conversations I was whisked to the car park to our waiting car. Robert gave me my first introduction to African 'innovation'. He placed some cardboard (African roof rack) on the roof of his Toyota pulled out some string, tied down my shinny new Smoothy and we were 'good to go'.
3 short hours and 1475 pot holes later we pulled into my new home away from home, Nile River Explorers (NRE). No sooner had I stepped from the car, Josh Neilson and Bernard Oliver thrust funnel (beer bong) into my weary hands and said "welcome to Uganda".
The Nile River the world's longest at 6,695 kilometers long (the Waikato is 425km long). Due the dam being built at 'Silver Back', the Nile was kept at a relatively low 700 cumecs (the Waikato usually runs around 250 cumecs). Most of the paddling is done in the top 45km's as the Nile leaves Lake Victoria. Here the river is broken down into two different sections. NRE is situated over looking the river about 5km down on the 1st section which is referred to as the day one section.
Life in Africa is very simple and runs at a pretty mellow pace...unless you're near the NRE bar.
Most days consisted of being woken too early by the screaming village children that lived on the other side of the fence (seriously, they got going at 6am most days). Cooking for yourself is almost illegal in Africa so you'd stroll across the road to one of the many chapati stands (fried flat bread with your choice or fillings) and would cost you a whopping 700 shillings or about 50cents kiwi. From there it was back to NRE to re-live the night before (especially if Timmy Flowers or Fraggile had been in town).
Eden Sinclair getting some local beta @ Itanda Falls
Josh Neilson working on more frequent flier miles
Josh Neilson working on more frequent flier miles
After that the big decision needed to be made. Where shall we paddle today. Most of the time we would opt for the Silver Back run from the NRE base down to a take out just below the infamous Silver Back rapid 5km down stream. If you were feeling a little more energetic then you would join the raft trip and head downstream about 25km to Itanda Rapid.
If you chose to run Silver Back then it was time to tag into the local transport option. Boda boda (100cc motorbike). Another trip back to the gate (NRE is like a poor man's gated community Africa style) and about 25 guys on motor bikes would rush you vying for your custom. Every day they pretty much would run you over trying to get your precious shillings. A time would be made to meet at the take out and then it was time to go kayaking.
Paddling on the Nile feels likes paddling in a more pure form. This is because you don't have all the extra gear you would normally. No, thermals, no dry tops, no booties and not even a throw bag. Its almost too simple. The water on the Nile is pretty much the ideal temperature. Never to cold, never to warm it always seemed to be perfect.
This trip was my first opportunity to paddle the Bliss-stick Smoothy and I seriously recommend it to anyone looking at getting a new play boat. It was the ideal size for me because it linked in between the RAD 180 and the RAD 185. Fast, predictable and possibly even more comfy than my Mystic.. Believe it! I don't normally do gear plugs but I do fully rate the Smoothy if you're into that play boating stuff check one out...
Due to the size of the river there were often several channels running around various islands offering a variety of paddling options. Even at the restricted flow the White Nile is still BIG!
Silver Back rapid would have to be one of my favourite rapids on the run. Big flow and and a small gap make for good times and plenty of upside down time.
Another favourite would have to be Itanda Falls. It would have to be the biggest rapid I have ever seen.
Possibly the biggest highlight of my travels to date was a trip in Murchison Falls National Park. Amazing! The wildlife there is unlike anything I have ever experienced in my life. As odd as it sounds, we were in our very own national geographic feature. If its not on your 'to do' list then get it in there at number 1! I don't recall being that excited and amazed since I was about five... for real!
We opted for the self drive option (with a driver, go figure) and spent three days in the park. As far as $ goes in Africa it is expensive but in the bigger picture it is cheap as chips and money worth spending. We camped a night out in the delta under the amazing African sky with Lions, Elephant and giraffe as our temporary room mates. Priceless as!
Living at NRE proved to be the most dangerous part of live in Africa. Camping only 30m from a bar that is open 7 days a week is hazardous to one's health. Especially with the team we had there. Timmy Flower's, Fraggile, Berno Oliver, Jesse James, Josh Neilson, Kirk Hollis, Davey O'hare and JACK are all people to watch out for if your body is a temple. You will be corrupted.
Five weeks in Uganda sounds like a long time but in all honesty it is barely enough. I'll be back!
African Nasty. Jigger eggs