I have uploaded some of my photos from our Safari at Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda. The photos are available here on Facebook
I have started to put some of my photos from my Uganda trip online, available here on Facebook
Looking down the tongue at Silverback. If you look closely you can just about make out two paddlers in there
I thought that my previous post, earlier this morning, would be the last one I would write from Uganda. That was still my thoughts until I got half way down the last rapid this morning.
We started off running the Hump, which we both managed without a single roll. Next up was Bujagali and I was determined to master the right hand line, having got it wrong on my previous three attempts – each one with a different result; the first attempt I was too far right and ended up getting flipped and thrown onto the rocks on the bank, the second attempt I was still too far right, but not as far as the last attempt and I just hit the middle of the hole and got flipped, the third attempt I was so close to nailing the line, but instead I just clipped the edge of the hole and my deck popped. Today I watched Martyn nail the line, yet again, and then it was my turn. I actually managed to hit the line and stay upright! The day had got off to a good start. Next up was 50-50, which both Martyn and I managed to surf. The next rapid is one where we have been trying (and failing) to pull of either a Wavewheel or laterly a kick-flip as we went over the wave. Today I actually managed to nail the Kick-flip and boy did it feel good. However, I didn’t have much time to celebrate as I immediately started to see the sky as I got caught in a little whirlpool on the eddy line. I rolled up to see Martyn coming down the last part of the rapid. The penultimate rapid of our African adventure was Surf City. We both managed to get down the rapid without issue until we both found a selection of little whirlpools on the seam of a joining current which we both managed to escape from without any rolls.
The final rapid of our trip was to be Silverback. Since we first saw this rapid almost two weeks agoI have been determined to manage at least one run down it without getting flipped and/or chewed! This was to be my last opportunity. Martyn went first and I saw him hit the first wave slightly too far to the centre and was immediately flipped and thrown clear of the water into the second wave. I saw him roll up from this as I was approaching the first wave myself. The words of Ibra (our guide for the first few days) running around my head…. “brace hard right for the first wave and then immediately change to a hard left brace for the second wave…” I hit the first wave with a big brace on the right and didn’t get flipped. Before you could think I had hit the second wave and somehow had managed to change my brace to the left. I went through without getting flipped. That was the hardest part of the rapid over, with just two more smaller standing waves to get through. I looked up to see where Martyn was and saw that his boat was still upside down. I only managed to catch a glimpse of it as we were both still going up and down waves. When I next saw it a second or so later I thought I could see the red of Martyn’s helmet in the water next to the upturned boat. I lost sight of it again before I could confirm what I thought. My thought was correct…. Martyn had swam! On the last rapid of the last day of our holiday our trip became complete.
Martyn has since said to me that, only this morning, he had thought to himself how funny it was that I was going to be the only one out of the two of us that had experienced a swim in Africa. This just goes to show how dangerous thoughts like that can be!
Well, the time has almost come to say goodbye to this amazing place. I have really enjoyed my trip out here and will be sad to board the plane home later today.
Following our return from Safari on Sunday night we planned to spend Monday night at the Hairl Lemon campsite. We organised a Mutatu (taxi) to take all of our kit down whilst dropping us off at Kalagala falls so that we could paddle down. In the end only Max, Harry (Gimp) Martyn and myself were up for paddling down and the rest remained in the Mutatu for the journey. Having heard some not very nice things about Kalagala, we all made the decision to put on immediately below and run the grade three lead out as a gentle warm-up. Max decided to make it slightly more challenging and run the left line which went into a big wave at the bottom. Max hit this and was flipped. Next thing we knew we could see his helmet floating down river next to his up-turned boat. Max had swam on possibly the easiest rapid we had paddled! While all this was going on, Gimp was playing with a tree on the eddy line – trying to roll up using the branches dangling into the water! The remainder of the trip down was uneventful, except for enjoying fresh pineapple (best I have ever had) on one of the flat sections. We had bought it from one of the stalls outside NRE before we left and simply cut it into quarters for us to share.
Upon arrival at Nile Special wave we set up a rope for tow-on, before spending the next hour and a half failing miserably to even get close to catching the wave! Just as we gave up and headed to the campsite to get out, we saw loads of other paddlers paddling up for a session. They had slightly more success than we had experienced, with maybe 80% of attempts to catch the wave succeeding.
Tuesday morning started slowly, as everything at the Hairy Lemon seemed to recommend. It is one the most chilled out places I have ever been to. The campsite is on an island in the river, only accessible from the bank by a small wooden boat. There is no electricity on the island – everything is powered by solar or gas. There is no running water either, and the toilets were simple long-drops. As the morning wore on I decided that I had to experience Club wave, which is one of the waves in the wave train for Nile Special and works in the mornings when the river level is lower. The decision paid off and Max and myself had a great time surfing. I even managed my first proper blunt! We retird back to the campsite for lunch of beef chili, chapatti and potato salad before spending the afternoon relaxing, waiting for Nile Special to come into condition. By about 2pm almost everyone on the island was asleep, it was so chilled!
We were treated to a high water level in the evening, which meant that when we headed out for our Nile Special sesion at about half four, we would be able to paddle onto to wave – none of this messing around with this seemingly impossible-to-master tow-rope! The queue was almost as bad as a 3-gate session at Hurley on a Saturday, with everyone getting thrown around in the eddy by the surges and the crazy eddyline. The feeling of surfing a wave as big as Nile Special is unforgettable. The bounce you could obtain was some of the biggest I have ever seen, with people managing to get completely clear of the water with ease. All sorts of moves were being thrown down, with everything going big!
As the clock ticked towards half past six, it was time for Martyn and I to say our goodbyes to the people we have spent the last two weeks paddling with as we headed back to the campsite to collect our kit and get the pre-arrannged taxi back to NRE for our last night in Uganda. On arrival back at the campsite we dropped our kit in our dorm and headed straight to the bar, where we spent the evening chatting to a couple of Danish guys who have been travelling around East Africa for the last couple of months.
Our plan for the day is to do a run down to Silverback, for one last run down the rapids that will all be lost when the dam ins completed, before getting our shuttle back to the airport this afternoon for our flight home.
I have met so many great people, seen some truly fantastic places and padded some amazing whitewater during my short trip to Uganda that this is a place I will really miss and hope to return to some day not to far in the future.
I am now off for a shower which backs out overlooking the river here. There is no wall or anything between you and the view over the river. You feel slightly exposed when using these showers but the view is definitely worth it.
Once I am back home I will sort through the many photos and upload some of the better ones, so keep your eyes peeled.
Well, it turns out I spoke a bit too soon in my last blog post on Thursday. Following my post we went to run some backchannels – namely Bladerunner and Brickyard. Bladerunner we have run before so know the line well. Max went down first and just flipped in the hole and the bottom. I went next and managed to screw up the break-out from the eddy above the rapid. The normal line is left, but I ended up running it just right of centre. All was going well until I landed in the inoccuous looking hole and the bottom which proceeded to give me a working. I was in there for longer than I wanted to be going round and round, end-over-end, trying my best to escape the grasp of the hole. Eventually I managed to flush out and roll up. Kip ran it next and messed up at the start of the rapid and did the remainder either backwards or upside down. Martyn then came down without any issue at all. There is video and photo of us all running this.
Next up it was time to inspect Brickyard. This is a rapid none of us had done before, nor had we watched anyone do it. We knew the line was left and from inspecting it we could see this went. We just weren’t sure how easy it would be to make the line for the second part of the rapid. If we missed the line we would either end up going over a lot of rocks, or just simply end up in a nasty looking hole! We ended up walking away from it to come back another day. Instead of Brickyard, some of us decided to have another go at Bujagali Falls. Kip ran it first down the right hand line, in Max’s boat, and ended up getting worked for a couple of seconds in the whole at the bottom. I ran it next and, just as I hit the hole at the bottom, my deck imploded (I broke my deck on day 3 so have been using a borrowed one since. This was very tight on my cockpit and was only a matter of time until it popped). I then proceeded to go down under the hole, resurfacing what felt like a few seconds later slightly downstream with my boat full of water. Unfortunately the easiest way to get to the bank from here was to climb out and swim. At this stage I would like to point out that my boat was upright when I exited it and that I did not pull my deck release. This is all on video as well.
Friday was spent travelling up to Murchison Falls National Park for safari. It was about an 8-9 hour drive, most of which was down unsurfaced roads. On arrival in the park we headed up to look at Murchison Falls itself. This is probably the most powerful piece of whitewater anywhere in the world as the entire River Nile is forced through a gorge about 7 metres wide and over a set of falls about 43 metres high. From here we headed up to the campsite we were to stay at. During the night we endured a another tropical thunderstorm and can happily say that the little pop-up Quechua tents are thoroughly waterproof!
Saturday saw an early start (0600!) in order to get the first ferry across the river for our game drive. Kip and myself spent the majority of the ride sat on the metal roofrack of our Mitsubushi Delica as we saw Lions, Elephants, Buffaloes, Antelopes, Giraffes and a whole host of other animals and birds. In the afternoon we took a boat trip up the river to see Murchison Falls from the bottom. On the journey we saw Hippos, Crocodiles, Elephants and a wide selection of birds. The falls from the bottom is just as impressive at it was from the top. For Saturday night we were to share the campsite with a few Warthogs who were happily roaming around.
Yesterday (Sunday) we spent the day travelling back to the NRE campsite at Bujagali Falls. This morning a couple of people are popping into Jinja before we all head down to the Hairy Lemon campsite for this evening. We are going to get all of our kit transported down on a truck and we will be dropped off at Kalagala Falls on the way, from where we will paddle down to the Nile Special wave and Hairy Lemon campsite. Martyn and myself are travelling back to the NRE campsite tomorrow evening before we fly back on Wednesday 🙁
I have had such an amazing time out here – the places I have seen and the people I have met will stay with me for a long time. If you have the opportunity to come out here, jump on it.
Off for breakfast now – Chapatti with omlette rolled up in it.
The internet has been down here for a few days so I have not been able to post sooner. Since my last post we have run all of the main rapids on the river. On Saturday we paddled from the bottom of Kalagala Falls down to Nile Special. Paul made it as far as a rapid called Vengeance before dislocating his shoulder and having to get off the river. On Sunday we paddled from the campsite down to Itunda (only to look at it – not paddle it!). Since then we have been running just the section down to Silverback from the campsite. On Monday we managed two runs down, running Bladerunner (one of the backchannels) on the second run. On Tuesday we experienced Boda-Boda’s for the first time when we took a trip into Jinja. On the way back we stopped off to see the Source of the Nile. In the afternoon we took run down to Silverback, in the rain, which made our first experience of transporting kayaks on the back of a Boda-Boda that little bit more interesting. The wet clay mud roads had about as much grip as an ice rink as Martyn found out when his Boda ended up spinning out on a corner and he ended up in the mud. Everyone made it back to camp safely in the end though. Tuesday night turned out to be quite a big one in the bar after someone suggested that we get out a pack of cards and play Ring-of-fire. Lots of drinking ensued and the dancing went well on into the (not so) early hours. This meant that we all enjoyed a late start on Wednesday – well, until it seemed that the workers on the campsite found all the machinary they could and started using it outside our dorm window. At about lunchtime we managed another run down to Silverback. This time the Boda ride back was much more sensible as the roads were now dry. The original intention was to do another run later on in the afternoon but this quickly went out of the window once we had all fallen asleep in the bar, vowing to stay off the beer for the evening!
This morning we have managed another run, starting with the Hump, down to Silverback – a rapid I am still to run without going over at least once. So far Martyn is the only person in the group to have managed that! There is something slightly sadistic about going over the lip of the rapid, looking down at the maelstrom of whitewater knowing that you are about to go straight into it and get a beating! They are blasting rock for the dam this afternoon so we are unable to paddle all the way down to Silverback. Instead we are going to run another of the backchannels – Brickyard.
Tomorrow most of us are heading up to Murchison Falls, returning here on Sunday evening, to do a safari. On Monday we are getting all of our kit transported down to the Hairy Lemon campsite and we are going to paddle down from Kalagala Falls to Nile Special, which is where the Hairy Lemon campsite is located. We are going to try and master the tow-on to the Nile Special wave – something I only managed to succeed at two times out of more attempts than I would care to remember last time.
I don’t really want to talk too soon, but the rolling course that Martyn went on after returning from the Alps seems to have paid off. He is successfully rolling in some of the biggest rapids that we will ever run! Since Paul’s swim on the first day when he popped his shoulder, we have not yet had any more swims!
Well, the river is beckoning so off I must head. Take care.
At approximately 0740 local time (0540 UK time) we finally touched down at Entebbe airport – over 24 hours since we arrived at Gatwick. After collecting our luggare, we discovered that somewhere in the past 24 hours we had managed to lose one bag (Paul’s main luggage), but all the boats and remaining kit had made it out successfully. I am pretty certain we are the first group to successfullly take kayaks through Terminal 5 at Heathrow with BA!! We were met by our shuttle driver from Kayak the Nile, loaded up the shuttle bus (I am still amazed that we managed to tie five boats onto the roof of the shuttle bus using only one set of straps!) and set off for the three hour drive to the NRE campsite. The drive across was truly breathtaking, and you need balls of steel to contemplate driving out here!
We arrived at the campsite, checked in, met our guide for the next few days and got some food. Despite all of us being extremely knackered from the journey, we decided we had to experience the mighty Nile, so we set off for a 30 minute drive to Superhole rapid for some playing. The water is amazingly warm – it is like paddling in a bath – and the hole provided much entertainment for all. Once we were all spent, we headed back to camp to experience the local Nile Special beer. We ended up working our way through a selection of local beers before concluding that none of them were a match for Nile Special and headed to bed some time around 2300.
Today we are off to do the day two section of the Nile, from Superhole to the Nile Special wave.
Wow – what a day it has been so far. The plan was to catch the 0740 flight from Gatwick to Brussels, then the 1040 flight from Brussels to Entebbe to land there about 2100.
Everything was going to plan until our first flight missed it’s departure plot. This meant we were unable to take off until 0845. That is where everything started to unravel. In the original plan, we only had 55 mins to get our connection. As we were running an hour late we had obviously missed this.
Upon arrival at Brussels Airport, we were sorted out by Brussels Airlines onto the next available flight to Entebbe. The only issue with this is that flight departs from London Heathrow at about 2100. To catch this flight, we had to get a flight to Heathrow – which is where we are as I am writing this – with approximately 5 hours to kill until our next flight.
To add to all this fun, we are currently unsure where all our kit is! We saw it all loaded onto the plane at Gatwick this morning, but have not seen it since and we know that British Airways are strongly anti-kayak. We think we might be the first paddlers to take kayaks through terminal 5. If all goes to plan we should not lose any paddling days.
In summation, we are now about 15 miles from where we started from at 0330 this morning, having popped over to Brussels for a pizza! Hopefully this will be enough drama for the entire trip.