A Wet and Wild Escapade

By on May 29, 2017

If anyone had suggested a few months ago that I indulge in an extreme water sport, I would have insulted them in Ateso, stabbed them with a blunt object, broken their left arm off and used it to beat them to death, and then spat on their grave. My aquaphobia has persistently stopped me from participating in otherwise juicy escapades like lavish pool parties with skimpily dressed millennials and explosive beach parties with older but even more gorgeous women. I have for the greater part of my life not properly enjoyed the sights and sounds around water bodies for the simple reason that my worthless body feared being within meters of a water body.

Even the time I was in Dar-es-Salaam for what was a mind-blowing visit to the Indian Ocean I was careful not to stray too far away from the shore lest my body gets swept into the wilderness of the water where pirates, mermaids and water demons would torment me for the rest of my life.

A few years ago, some of my friends thought they’d drag me to the beach on my birthday and throw me into the water – as a surprise. That did not go well for them as a few had to nurse black eyes and shattered ribs, from the struggle that ensued. The person who came up with the idea ended our friendship right there, at the beach, because apparently friends don’t break other friends’ noses over reasons as flimsy as being thrown into the water on their birthday.

This past weekend when some of my friends suggested a trip to Jinja, there was a general understanding that at some point we might go for White Water Rafting but at the back of my mind I knew I was only playing along so the team would not tag me a buzzkill or any such bogus titles. Everyone knew how much I disliked water and so they kept saying if I did not want to indulge, I would simply watch, from a safe distance, with a drink in my hand.

Not a bad idea.

And so we set off from Kampala early in the morning, everyone else preparing for a thunderous white water rafting episode, and me secretly just looking forward to the fish and beer at the Source of the Nile. The journey drifted by quickly as Charlotte, Peter, Truth and Myself engaged in sharing stories about the scenery between Kampala and Jinja. By the time we arrived at the Nile River Explorers Camp in Jinja, it was clear that everyone had nothing but the upcoming rafting on their minds.

And then it sort of started to dawn on me, albeit a little late, that perhaps I should get myself ready for the rafting as well. Everyone agreed that the breakfast that consisted fruits, a rolex and some coffee tasted good but my taste buds were more occupied by the upcoming raft – and my possible death.

The drive from the Camp to the location for the rafting reminded me of Genesis 22 – the chapter in the bible where Isaac was taken by his father Abraham for sacrifice. There was little opposition and hesitation from Isaac as the two walked to the location of the sacrifice but they each knew that something terribly odd was on the cards.

That was me right there – being led to the slaughter house but somewhat numb, unable and almost unwilling to open my mouth and question what was happening.

When we got to the starting point of the rafting, everything was happening so quickly one moment we were getting off the bus and the next moment ‘Muzungu’, one of the guides was telling us how if one fell off the boat all they had to do was float and the ‘chicken boat’ would collect them – if they were still alive.

As someone who had absolutely no idea how to swim, my heart was pounding a few decibels louder than usual and the guides were working overtime – to reassure me. My suggestions to sit out the rafting, wear two life jackets or just bribe the guides to let me go back into the bus fell on deaf ears.

PopcornPopcorn. This thing was definitely going down!

‘Muzungu’, our guide, volunteered to take me through a crush course on how to swim which turned out to be quite hilarious because swimming is actually way easier than I had anticipated. I did swallow quite some water and I am sure I appeared like a two-year-old baby struggling across a slippery floor but in a few minutes I had mastered the basics; Relax and move your limbs about aimlessly – I think. Having left behind my ‘How to Swim for Dummies’ copy, I had to rely on the crush course before finally handing myself over to the gods of rafting to deal with as they pleased. Moments later, it was ascertained that I wasn’t the worst first timer and to reinforce this, some of the other rafters cheered me on as I drunk liters of water, struggled to float and basically saw my life flash right in front of me.

But I wore a brave face. And it seemed to scare away the fear, for a while.

And then the moment of truth arrived. The boats began to drift towards the rapids and Muzungu started barking out the final instructions as the noise from the rapids almost drowned out this life saving information I had just heard moments back.

The first rapid hit us as a surprise. One moment we were paddling hard, and the next everyone was being flung off the boat in different directions. For a second or two, I tried to recite the ‘Our Father’ prayer but could only manage the words ‘FUCK’ and ‘AARRGGHHH’ as the boat was tossed left and right by the uncompromising rapids. Having been told to hold onto the rope on the side of the boat, it was pretty obvious that if the boat was getting crushed, we were getting crushed with it. Lucky for us, our boat didn’t get crushed and so everyone emerged at the bottom of the rapid in one piece. Shaken, slightly terrified but screaming for joy.

white water rafting Nile River Explorers (2)Not for the faint hearted! (Photo by Davey O’Hare)

The first rapid was done. A few more to go.

This was not as bad as I had feared. I was still alive – and I was already looking forward to the next rapid.

One of the things you will be told before you go white water rafting is that this sport, no matter how extreme, actually has a very low casualty rate. Apparently, one is more likely get injured by falling on a mattress than while white water rafting.

This sounded like a bit of a stretch but when a few other experienced rafters corroborated the information, I figured if I was going to be the first victim of rafting, the gods would probably ask what the hell I was thinking going rafting yet I did not know how to swim. Then I would respond by asking what business they had letting me come all the way to Jinja and not just kill me in a car accident on the way to Jinja.

Throughout the rest of the rapids, we screamed, shrieked, shouted and basically threw around swear words – out of the sheer excitement and out-of-this-world emotions we were going through. By the time our half day session had ended, I could have sworn that I was already looking forward to the next rafting session – with more intense rapids.

white water rafting Nile River Explorers (8)The moments between being partially alive and being fully alive. (Photo by Davey O’Hare)

When it comes to rafting and Kayaking, Nile River Explorers will give you what I have now started to term ‘the mother of all deals’. While me and my buddies were struggling for our lives on the rapids, some other less scared folks were going about their kayaking nonchalantly, and they seemed to be having the time of their lives battling the rapids with precision and tact it was a wonderful sight.

Out of the twenty-seven who went rafting that morning, just two of us were native Ugandan and only I was the non swimmer (before the rafting). By the time the rafting had ended, each of the rafters knew a thing or two about Uganda, while myself and Truth (the only Ugandans) were certain this activity was probably way better than we had anticipated.

white water rafting Nile River Explorers (7)The rafters getting ready for another rapid. (Photo by Davey O’Hare)

Most of us Ugandans will persistently say we will not go white water rafting, bungee jumping or zip lining for the mere fact that some of us are wussies. Others think these things are mostly for foreigners who are fresh from filming fear factor or Survivor. Some other people imagine that activities like these are reserved for mentally unstable people who are looking for an adrenaline rush and will do just about anything for it.

No matter the reason for white water rafting, you can be sure that a visit to the Nile Rivers Explorers Camp will teach you that water can be quite friendly but equally brutal yet still fun. White water rafting will now rank highly among the extreme sports activities that I have taken part in while sober. Up to now, I am not so sure how I was able to go through with it and I am still unsure why I let Truth, Charlotte and Pete talk me into it. However, one thing is for sure – it was totally worth it. Truth is a water lover, Charlotte is a lover of tourism who documents her fabulous stories here and Pete is simply a geek who doubles as a photographer and new dog owner.

white water rafting Nile River Explorers (10) Left to Right – Pete the thrill seeking South African, Charlotte the Brit who is in love with Uganda, Myself a future extreme water sport expert and Truth the water loving Ugandan with hitherto unknown Spanish heritage. (Photo by  Davey O’Hare)

Leslie and Mark who run the Nile River Explores Camp are pretty cool guys. They were up and about and I didn’t quite get pictures of them but you can be sure they sure did have huge smiles on them the entire time we were at the camp. They were probably secretly grinning that they had managed to convince a non-swimming water fearing bloke to go rafting. After my near death experience at the rafting, they asked if I would return for another rafting session and I kept telling them that if rafting had not killed me, nothing ever would. And then they gave my friends and I popcorn, as if to celebrate my graduation from a non swimming wussy to a high level extreme water sport loving maniac.

Wild rivers are earth’s renegades, defying gravity, dancing to their own tunes, resisting the authority of humans, always chipping away, and eventually always winning – Richard Bangs

a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
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All Photos were taken by Davey O’Hare

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