White Nile Whitewater
After our long day with the mountain gorillas, we had a free day in Musanze, so a group of us went to see Lake Kivu, which forms the border between Rwanda and the Congo. It’s a limnically active lake, which means there’s a risk, however minuscule, that an underwater eruption would cause captured CO2 in the lake to bubble up to the surface. And because CO2 is odorless and heavier than oxygen, anyone near the surface would face certain death due to asphyxiation without having any warning (except perhaps the lake suddenly appearing carbonated). So of course we went swimming.
The next day we said our adieus to beautiful Rwanda and crossed back into Uganda, spending the night at a campsite on the shore of Lake Bunyoni. From there we continued on to Eldoret, stopping for the night, before finally getting to Jinja where we planned to spend three nights. Jinja is something of an adventure playground, with most activities centered around the class 3-5 rapids that occur just beyond where the White Nile exits Lake Victoria. The first day we were there, everyone signed up for a full day of rafting (I mean, c’mon, whitewater rafting at the source of the world’s longest river—hells yeah!), and on the second day folks did whatever they wanted: more rafting, kayaking, tubing, quad-biking, or in our case, not much of anything.
On the morning of May 28th, we got picked up at the campground and shuttled over to Nile River Explorers to get suited up. With our packed breakfast in hand (fruit salad and egg chapati) they bused us over to the put-in, gave a quick safety talk, and got us into the rafts. 70 people in 10 rafts, and this was the slow season. The rapids in the White Nile are separated by long pools of fairly deep, still water, so whereas most rafting guides would try to avoid the tricky parts of a big class 5, the guides on the White Nile seem to relish every opportunity to send the raft, and everyone in it, flying into the drink. So after a comprehensive out-of-boat training session in the calmer waters, we started off.
The day consisted of 8 series of rapids, most of them class 4 and 5, one of which was the tail end of a class 6 we had to portage around. Though several folks in our group desperately wanted to flip, and we came close a few times, we never went over (which I kind of appreciated). However on one occasion we did lose Stephanie, as we hit a rapid unexpectedly off-center. (Sadly we didn’t get any photos of this momentous occasion.) One of the other reasons we weren’t too worried about falling out was the dozen or so whitewater kayakers along with us who acted like pickup trucks whenever anyone had the “misfortune” of having an out-of-boat-experience. Stephanie was quickly towed back to us, a little shaken, but still in one piece.
The most memorable rapid for our group was probably the first, a class 5 which had two possible exits: a gradual chute off to the left, and a 3 meter high (10 foot) waterfall straight ahead. Of course everyone wanted to go over the falls, but we ended up being only one of two rafts that successfully did—and we were the only raft to do so without losing anyone in the process! As a result, we felt pretty awesome for the rest of the day. Here are the photos:
Lunch consisted of some crackers and half of a pineapple per person (probably the best and most pineapple I’ve ever had), so by the time we reached the take-out, after most of the day spent in the direct sun, with the promise of barbecue just onshore, (our first meat in several days), we were ravenous. Here are some shots of our greatest “hits” from our day on the Nile.
The photos are *awesome*! And what a great experience!