adsman nice place to end the chapter, i'm looking forward to seeing the rest
You should write yours, Bruiser. Here's some more to keep you all going.
The Adrift guides house in Kampala was at the back end of Gabba Road on the Western side of the city. Our house was an old two story colonial mansion right on Lake Victoria. The top story had a large covered balcony that ran the length of the building overlooking the lake. You could see hippos and crocs from there. Upstairs was the office and four or five bedrooms with ensuites. Downstairs was a large living room which we never used and the kitchen dining room. There was a large garden and grounds. There were four Ugandan staff – the housekeeper, the cook, the garden boy and the guard who stood by the large blue metal gate. He had let me in last night and told the hooker to take a hike. There were two large dogs and a pet marabou stork, which has to be the ugliest bird in existence. The birds name was Barbara, so named due to its large beak resembling Barbara Strisends nose.
I didn’t do any housework, cooking or washing of clothes for the next 18 months. Bliss. Apart from Colin and Mick there was Piley, an Australian rafting guide. Brums, another aussie guide and Dave who was the Kiwi video dude. Apart from Piley I knew them all from Cairns. We headed straight out to the river for my first trip. We left the house at 7.30 and made two stops – the Kampala backpackers and the Kampala Sheraton for the punters. Then it was about an hours drive to the river. We reached the big dam wall and drove across it. There were two huge jets of water shooting out. “Two gates,” Mick told the bus. “That means it’s going to be a big day.” Apparently the maximum water level was 3 gates. Two gates was about 3500 cubic meters of water a second. The river was about 200 meters wide at its starting point. The Nile, the longest and most historical river in the world. Awesome stuff.
We drove a couple of kilometers downstream until we got to Bujagali Falls. This was a large rapid which was out departure point. It is also the place where they threw half of Gandhi’s ashes. When we arrived the truck with the gear was already there. Some locals were busy pumping up the boats. They then carried the boats down to the water. Bliss. I was introduced to Juma, Charles and Tutu who local boys that the company had trained up to be safety kayakers. Juma was also a guide. There were big smiles all round when they met me. I was going down with Mick. He had a reputation for big hits, big flips, big surfs and big downtime. Downtime is the length of time that the river holds you underwater if you fall out. Sometimes you pop straight up. Sometimes you come up after ten seconds. Mick’s record was 55 seconds. It was a sobering thought.
He briefed his crew while I sat beside him. I was nervous. Just writing about it now I have the same feeling I did then. The punters seemed fine. Ignorance is bliss. We were floating in a small pool as the river roared by. The rivers in Canada had nothing on this. There were three boats on the trip, Mick, Colin and Brums. We peeled out of the pool and were immediately in the class IV lead-up to Bujagali. There is a bar there by the falls. A lot of people were watching. We hugged the river-right and then dropped down into an enormous hole. A big hit and just like that we had lost half of the boat. We scrambled to get them in as the kayakers peeled off to get the paddles. The Nile is a drop-pool river so after every rapid you have time to get the punters back in. In fact, on the 20 kilometer trip there are only 12 rapids. But they are big. We ran through Easy Rider, a nice wave train and then we stopped behind a large rock for our first class V rapid, Total Gunga. Class V is the highest commercial grade you can run. I looked downstream and honestly all I saw was a mess of heaving whitewater about 400 meters wide and 500 meters long. Mick stood up and explained the line to me.
“River-right is class III, only pussies go there. River-left is class VI, if you go there you’ve got a good chance of dying. We want to run just to the right of the class VI bit. There’s a big monster hole there. If we can get the boat into that point we’ve got a good chance of flipping or surfing. It’s hard to hit it though. You’ve got 200 meters of conflicting currents at the top. After the hole is another 300 meters of big waves and holes, then the long pool at the bottom.”
Dave had kayaked to a tiny little rock in the middle of the rapid. He got out and got his video ready. We got the signal to go and Mick peeled out into the current. We were swept downstream at an incredible rate. The crew paddled forwards as we headed river-left towards that big hole. We came up over the lip and dropped into it. All I remember was seeing a huge wall of white and then, bam. One second I was there, the next I was in a world of black. I was so deep that I had to equalize. I tried to stay calm. It didn’t even feel like I was moving. At one point I hit a rock on the bottom. The water started to go green, then lighter. I could see the surface way above me. I must have been under for a good 20 seconds when I burst up. I grabbed a breath of air and then went under again. This time only for about four or five seconds. I came up the second time and I was just about in the pool. I saw some punters floating near me in shock. I swam over to them and made sure they were OK. The raft came past upside-down with Mick sitting on top, a big grin on his face.
“Welcome to The Nile, bro.”
“Man, I went so deep I hit a rock.”
“Bull. Nobodies ever hit a rock there. It’s too deep.”
“Well I ******g hit one.”
The next rapid was a huge class V called Big Brother. We flipped there as well. I was starting to feel a bit queasy. We floated downstream and stopped for lunch on a tiny island where the boys had already prepared a wonderful cold lunch. After lunch we drifted down a long pool, maybe 3 kilometers long. There were monkeys playing in the trees. The day was very hot. I slid into the luke-warm water and tried not to throw up from my dreadful hangover. At the end of the pool we pulled over to the right bank. The rapid here had a large waterfall that could be run at lower water levels but not today. It was called Overtime. It looked horrible. We walked around that, dragging the boats with us and hit another two rapids before we reached another long pool. It was now almost 2pm. At the end of this pool was the last rapid, Itunda. The main part of this huge rapid was unrunnable in rafts, though it had been kayaked a few times. We pulled over to the right bank and walked up a track followed by some more local boys carrying our rafts. Bliss. This was an evil-looking SOB. We put in two thirds of the way down and got ready to run the Bad Place. A five meter high wall of water.
We pulled into the huge current and paddled like crazy before we smashed into this hole. This time I managed to stay in the raft. The raft didn’t manage to escape the hole. We were surfing. The raft started doing violent 360’s. The inner tubes got ripped out. And then we flipped upstream into the powerful surge of water and once again I had a horrible swim. We gathered up the pieces, floated half a K downstream and pulled over on the left bank. The trip was over. The bank was very steep and the rafts had to be carried up. Some more local boys were there waiting for us. Thank God for that. We deflated the rafts in the little village and got on the bus. The cooler was packed full of beer. We drank all the way back to Kampala. The punters were a cool group. There were some nice girls as well. We took the bus straight to Al’s bar. The sun was just going down. Betty greeted me with a big smile. “Mazungu, tonight you kiss me maybe?”
I was in the mood to kiss anyone.