Terror on the Nile

Having just left the cosy sanctuary of a five week long volunteer project on the ruggedly idyllic Kenyan island of Wasini, my introduction into the world of ‘solo’ travel was to begin with the question ‘where now?’ The answer, however, was probably not one most hoped for by the majority of parents whose teenage daughter had just been let loose in a continent some 4000 miles away.

Based on a comment by a friend a few weeks ago about the best white water rafting in the world being on the Nile, and based, to no lesser extent, on the whimsical realisation that this remained one of the only such activities that my adrenal glands had, as yet, been spared, I decided that this was sufficient reason enough to head west, towards Uganda.

It thus followed that I should fulfil my self-designated role of solo African wanderer by travelling as authentically as possible. This meant, of course, to the mild horror and considerable bemusement of the ticket salesman, that I would travel, not on the Royal Akamba bus, as strongly advised, but on the cheaper, regular Akamba bus service. Climbing aboard the somehow less Royal service, bound for the lake-side town of Jinja, I did begin to wonder, with some appreciative amusement, whether the only difference between these two identical-looking buses lay in this vehicle having a greater number of free seats, from which one could marvel at the incredible array of wildlife that grazed and gallivanted by the roadside.

Such a conclusion did not ring so definitively true for long though, as with slightly soggy child now situated on my lap and with my head becoming increasingly subjected to contact with the ceiling, I learnt through a series of ‘ahh that’s why’ type realisations, that the difference in service may have something more to do with the unlimited number of passengers it welcomed aboard and the intense love affair that the driver seemed to have with potholes. Fifteen hours later, however, and one could perhaps frame this journey to have been the preparatory stage for the excitement, fear and pure surrealism that was to characterize this Ugandan experience.

And so it was that somewhere amidst the watery mayhem of a series of washing machine-esque grade five rapids our aptly named ‘crazy raft’, which one may say referred as much to the choice to board this raft as it did to the way in which our guide chose to approach the rapids, collided with the ‘safety raft’ and with it, an occupant that probably doesn’t feature too prominently in the Nile River Explorers’ advertising literature. This person, it transpired, was an infamous Irish loyalist who had been convicted of ‘terrorism’, and was now on the run! Our new acquaintance, however, need not have worried about causing terror on this particular day, as our choice of activity was quite aptly suited to take care of that. Yes, this was indeed the most prolonged adrenaline rush I have ever experienced, or perhaps ever will experience...unless I do it again.

R Sackin

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