Sunday, July 10, 2011

East Africa Day 58 (Sun July 10): Rafting on the Nile on my Last Day in Uganda

Woke up this AM and checked out of Kampala Backpackers, got on the NRE white water rafting shuttle, and headed off to the Nile for rafting ... again! Meghan didn't make it - was just me this time. We stopped off back at NRE Backpackers in Jinja to meet up with the rest of today's rafters and the crew. Sat on the benches outside of the building and got our intro from a woman that I hadn't met before, but that I'd seen around the office. I met a group of five friends who are interning together in Jinja for the next two months or so. They just arrived 2-3 days ago. One student is from London, another from the Netherlands. After our briefing we were fitted with life vests and helmets, picked up our take-away breakfasts, and jumped onto the shuttle buses. Drove off about 30 minutes to the Nile, where the rafting starts! I joined the group that I'd met back at NRE, and so we had six people in our boat. Our guide was Henry. Unfortunately Juma wasn't there, so I couldn't be in his boat again (which was my plan:)

We did the same course as the last time I rafted, but it was a much different experience this time. Much gentler, and we only flipped over twice. I only wound up underneath the boat on the last rapid, which is good because I was apprehensive about it. We had a great time swimming in the Nile near the boat, when the water was calm. Hard to say what the highlight of the day was, but I really enjoyed swimming down the center of the Nile by myself, holding two paddles, after we'd capsized on the last rapid. It was so peaceful and beautiful - I was reminded of how much I love to be in the water. The water wasn't cold, but the air was - there were some dark clouds in the sky, and it started to rain about 10 minutes later (fortunately once we'd gotten out of the water and were under a canopy.)

We passed about forty cranes - the national bird of Uganda. Wow, they are beautiful. If I had ever seen a pterodactyl in flight, then I'd say that that's what they look like when they spread their wings and lift up into the air. I so enjoyed watching them lifting off, flying, and landing on the rocks in the water. I didn't take this photo ... not sure who did ... found it online ...

We also passed some weaver bird nests, which Henry tried to tell us were pineapples. He got a kick out of the fact that I actually believed him - but why wouldn't I? :) We also talked about the Ugandan government system - I learned a lot.

When we got to the end of the course and into the pavilion for our BBQ, we were approached by a dog that must belong to a neighboring village. I saw the same dog last time we were there, rafting. I think this dog must have it figured out! We had six boats on the water today. I heard that there were twelve boats out yesterday. I hope that the dog is getting some good food - he looked better than many of the other dogs I've seen in East Africa. I gave him some bread and I saw someone else give him a bone with presumably some meat on it. He was chomping on it, so it was hard to tell:) He was a friendly dog, though when I talked with him he didn't wag his tail - just looked at me, asking for food:) I was really happy to see Juma at the BBQ. He said that he had just finished up a two-day rafting trip. He sat next to me on the ride back to NRE. I got to catch up with him and ask him more questions about effective ways to make a difference in Uganda. I have learned so much from him.

photo: Meg, Juma and I outside of NRE Backpackers.

I realized today that even though I have only spent 1/3 of my three weeks in Uganda in Jinja, staying at NRE Backpackers, when I think of Uganda this is the place and these are the people that I will be thinking of, when I say how wonderful Uganda is.

When we got back to Backpackers, Meg was there waiting for me! We went back to her house, I said goodbye to her housemates/fellow volunteers, and then we came back to Backpackers to hang out and take some final photos.

photo: with Gerald, behind the bar at NRE Backpackers.

photo: Last night hanging out together in the NRE lounge

photo: Meg and Nash, NRE staff

I'm staying in a room with Charlie, Nikki, and Annette. We are all parting ways tomorrow. So sad, but the perfect way to spend my last night in Uganda. I'm sure I'lll be back - just don't know when.

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