Arriving in Africa was awesome, Entebbe Uganda greeted us with sun and smiles, and a fair amount of stares, although 8 or so play boats probably wouldn’t go unnoticed anywhere! We loaded all our boats and kit onto the Mutatu (the Ugandan minibus for which nothing is ever too big or too heavy), and set off for the Hairy Lemon – one of the islands on the Nile, run by a South African guy named Paul (an absolute legend). The noise of all the insects and frogs was amazingly loud as we arrived in the dark and set up camp. Waking up there was probably the coolest wake up ever, I had no idea how beautiful the island was or how cool the views from the various little beaches were, as we had arrived in the dark.
The first 2 weeks of my Ugandan adventure were spent on a Love It Live It course, getting used to the waters random boils and thick eddylines and being taught how to surf. I had been fairly unsure as to how great an idea it was for me to head off to the White Nile when I had only started kayaking the October before and I was still swimming more than I was rolling. However, Emily and Will (our coaches) were awesome and really patient, and helped me get my roll, it took a good week or so but we got there in the end. Emily and Will were super coaches, and after many an afternoon spent at the Special and Superhole we were all pretty happly surfing and pulling out our various tricks. . .flat spins for me. Also I loved how good Emily was, as I hadn’t come across many girls who could give the boys a run for their money.
So the course finished and most of the guys went home, then it was me and the boys, Nick, Dom, Andrew and the guys from Aber Uni, Joe and James. They were all so nice to me and really helped me learn, by making me lead down the rapids even Grade 5’s, and definitely taking me out of my comfort zone. But I loved it!
The river is so deep and warm that it’s not that unpleasant being upside down –bar maybe on silverback, generally though you have plenty of time to get yourself sorted. On my first day I nearly swam, I went to grab my deck after probably the twelfth attempt at a roll then made myself try one more time and came straight up, determined to roll. I only swam once in the whole trip. Stupid Pour over on Rib Cage Left!
The White Nile is all about the big volume stuff, prime example being Silverback, at first I didn’t get how people actually enjoyed running it, I just found it uncomfortable with water being forced up my nose and my arms being wrenched about, the struggle to roll up between waves and the general lack of oxygen. However the more times I ran it and the better I became, I started to have a little more of a say on what happened to me rather than just getting a beating, I’d definitely say it was my favourite rapid.
There is another rapid that runs parallel to Silverback called Jungle Book, which is more slidey alpine stuff, well that’s all the boys had to say before we took it on one day, “just read and run Debs” I was super nervous, but nailed it, and did the fastest roll of my life as everyone had said how you do not want to be upside down on this one. Though it didn’t go as smoothly for everyone, Joe hurt his shoulder and snapped his paddles, and James broke his too.
I ran a few of the back channels, though I never took on Itanda, Kala Gala was enough of a thrill for me and the bottom section of Itanda, clipping the Cuban and seeing how nasty the Ashtray looks up close, I don’t think I would have been able to hold it all together doing the whole thing, but loved being chief photographer as the boys all ran it for the first time.
We stayed at two places while in Uganda, Nile River Explorers in Bujugali and the Hairy Lemon. NRE was very much the party place, and the starting point for Day 1 and the Silverback Sections. We would head off to the Lemon for recovery after the fairly brutal Funnel Fridays and spend our days on the two waves just upstream from the island or at Superhole. Mornings were spent on Club wave and as the levels rose we would head up to surf the Nile Special. As I had never surfed before surfing the Special really was something else! The feeling you got when you broke through the crashing barrier wave and soared down the smooth tongue of it. The water was moving so fast! And if you lost your edge for a split second then it would have you upside down and battling to roll up in the ferocious eddy line. The best feeling ever though! A good surf on the special, was worth all the effort it took to get on.