Country number: 62
Territory number: 68
When? July 2002, East Africa Tour, side trip from Kenya
Who? Group tour
‘The pearl of Africa’
Just a quick nip over the border from Kenya to see Lake Victoria. Jinja sits along the northern shores of the lake, near the source of the White Nile (Speke Camp no less). And I’m white water rafting. Yes you read that right. When I perused the itinerary I fondly imagined myself sunbathing or wandering around the local villages while the others got to grips with what I’m told are the most dangerous rapids in the world, Grade 5s all the way down. Grade 6 is too dangerous to run and has to be portered round. See, I have all the lingo now. On our arrival they show us a promotional video which depicts rafts turning over in the air and much screaming. I decide I’m definitely not doing it.
And here I am, in the inflatable, having paid 65 dollars to be frightened silly on my white-water baptism. Our instructor says he will go the easy way and promptly takes us in to the “G Spot” of the most dangerous falls on the river. Typical, discovering a man who can find it when you don’t want him to. Five of the nine occupants catapult out immediately and I hang on, despite getting a nasty crack from a paddle as they abandon ship. It’s the longest 90 seconds in my life and I’m convinced I’m going to die. The procession of iodine-daubed-wounded at the end of the day has to be seen to be believed. I also have cuts and bruises all over my arms and legs. The other instructors are actually jealous : ‘Nice bit of surf’. At least I’ve honed my skills in hauling people back in to inflatable rafts.
The next activity here in Uganda, is quad biking. I’m spectating. The toilets look out onto a little lake and Bujagali Falls. The toilet rolls are obviously in demand, as they’re padlocked. It’s not a strategy I’m going to be able to adopt, now I’ve lost both. In the evening fruit bats fill the skies and the drumming of the water lulls us to sleep. Strange to think how hard those Victorian explorers struggled to find this place. I feel like a proper explorer myself now, after my overly adventurous journey.
Camping in the rain forest next: monkeys in the canopy, showers with plastic buckets to up-end, little banda huts and squalid toilets. A quick chat to some children on a school outing and we’re leaving. Rickety markets and a manic border crossing mark our return to Kenya.