Rafting in Jinja

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Our rafting group poses beside the Class 6 rapid that we had to portage our boats around.

This past weekend, while Kristen stayed in Kasana to get ahead on some projects, I headed to Red Chilli Hideaway in Kampala, a hostel that is linked in with Nile River Explorers, the company that I was going rafting with. I stayed at Red Chilli Friday night and took advantage of their free internet, and then boarded a shuttle to Jinja Saturday morning. We arrived at the Backpackers hostel there mid-morning, ate a free breakfast and listened to a brief talk from the rafting trip leader before boarding trucks that took us through town and to the shores of the Nile. Once everyone was equipped with lifejackets, helmets, and paddles, we got into our rafts and started heading towards the rapids. The first three kilometres were more or less just flatwater, so we did our safety discussion and demonstrations right on the water. My boat consisted of our guide, Alex, four German volunteers a couple months in to a year-long stay in Uganda, a man who just finished teaching at a school near Masaka, and his girlfriend, who was in the country visiting him from Nairobi, where she works with an organization working to protect and promote the human rights of women. In between the massive waves we encountered, it was nice learning a little more about each of them.

I won’t do too much play-by-play of the various rapids we went down – the pictures do a much better job of that than I could. I got lucky and was able to go in with the girls from Germany and purchase one CD of photos between all of us. I had my laptop on the bus with me on our way back to Kampala, so just burned them on the road, and ended up only having to pay $5 instead of $25. Even paying the full amount would have been nothing compared to what it cost to buy the photos of the other rafting trip I went on, in Squamish, British Columbia. Luckily, my friend was working with the company and was able to get me a CD for free, but had that not been the case, the company was charging $100 (!!!) for each burned CD of pictures from the day. I guess if there are people willing to pay…. That was only one of many differences between the two trips – in Canada, a boat flipping was something that was avoided as much as possible, whereas here, it was a total given that we’d all be going in the water at some point, and more than likely multiple times. The water here isn’t cold at all, so it wasn’t such a shock to the system when we’d end up in the river. In fact, since it was somewhat overcast and cool on the day we were out, a lot of people would just jump into the water to warm up when we were travelling through the flat sections between rapids.

For anyone who happens to find themselves in Uganda, I highly recommend the rafting – particularly since the current construction of hydroelectric dams on the Nile means that in a few years the rapids will be flooded.

I’ve posted the best of the photos on my Flickr site, which you can see here.

Usually, there’s an option to purchase a DVD of the rafting as well, but on the day I went, there weren’t enough people interested in buying it for the videographer to come out with us. Instead, I pilfered this YouTube video of an older rafting DVD made by the same company I went with. The water levels were different from when we went, but it gives you a general idea of what we were doing:

UPDATE: I’ve fixed the link for the Flickr photos, so if anyone wasn’t able to open them before, they should work now.

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  • Wow! Those are some pretty great photos. Was the photographer in one of the kayaks? Seems kind of convenient that you were always flipping over right in front of the camera. And I love the shot of the guide flipping you – just to get you used to the idea. What a ride! Great post. What a story.

    • Jaime Traynor

      The photographer was in a kayak, but he would get out somewhere on land where he had a good vantage point for shooting the boats coming down the rapids. He’d clearly spent some time scouting out the best locations, lucky for us!

  • Karen

    Wow Jaime! How exciting (/terrifying, depending on your perspective). You are getting to do some amazing things!!! Thanks for posting. I doubt I will ever get rafting in Uganda so its fun to live vicariously through you. Were you at all disturbed about being tossed over??

    • Jaime

      The tossing itself wasn’t too jarring. Really it was more my stubbornness about not letting go of the raft or my paddle that made things tricky. They’d told us that when the boat went over, we should should just try to hold on, since if you got separated from it at all you’d have to wait for one of the safety kayakers to come rescue you. But holding on usually meant getting a bunch of waves to the face, so I definitely consumed my fair share of Nile water over the course of the day. Still, it was fun to say I made it through all the rapids without assistance.

  • Heather

    Okay, pretty freakin wild! Amazing photos and video. All I can say as a mother is Be Careful! And have fun!