Sean Clarke reports on his last trip to Uganda.
It’s now become an annual pilgrimage for Daryl and I to head to Uganda during the grey, cold and typically miserable months of a UK Winter. It’s not that we don’t like creeking or running rivers, we just prefer to be able to paddle in board shorts, a rashie, and bare foot – and still feel overdressed!
Sadly this trip didn’t get off to the great start we had imagined. Typical UK weather (drizzle) delayed our initial flight, meaning we missed our connection in Dubai and ended up staying overnight in a run-of-the-mill hotel courtesy of Emirates with only our hand luggage – we stank! We did manage to get in a desert safari, camel rides, faux Arabian Nights BBQ and overpriced beer. Luckily, Dickie was in town on his own holiday so we caught up with him and imbibed several too many beers before the 5am wake up alarm for the connecting flight.
Finally after over 38 hours of travelling and delays, we arrived at Entebbe and changed into shorts and t-shirts from our checked luggage. Quick “Shower In A Can” (aka deodorant) later and we were ready. Boats, paddles, and everything else in tow, we were headed to Bujagali. It was nearly a Wacky Races attempt as Lowri & Lawrence landed half an hour after us (despite leaving about 16 hours after us!) but we managed to beat them.
We started our Nile River experience with a session on the Big Air Ramp (see video from last year’s trip here) and flat-water session. All accompanied by Gin & Tonics served to us from a fellow paddler on a Sit-On-Top. Not a bad way to start the two weeks.
We’d met our coach / river guide / tour rep with an alcohol habit Jamie, on our trip out last year. Lucky for Jamie his liver was renewed and he was stuck with just the two of us for the two weeks! The first week we spent most of our time at Super Hole. The name makes it sound ominous but it’s a friendly wave/hole that you can really hone your control and start to learn tricks on. It is also about the best Party Wave there is. Impromptu party waves occur almost as often as flushes from the feature.
During the week, we also took the time to do a part of the Day One section and try out a couple of different lines. We took the left line on Jaws this time. Jamie, Daryl then myself. Jamie’s word to us as we started down was “if the person in front makes it through upright and fine, that means Jaws will most definitely close down on you”. So watching Jamie make it through fine, I started to laugh as I watched Daryl get whumped by the massive curler that is Jaws. If only I wasn’t laughing so hard at this point I may have actually bothered to paddle and not also fall victim to Jaws. The cool thing was I ended up floating downstream in a stern stall as a result – but with my head still well and truly underwater in a boil. Sadly, I had to say goodbye to one of my earplugs as Jaws violated my ear on the way through.
The rest of the week was spent paddling, drinking, paddling, partying, heading to Jinja Market for our Nile River Festival Big Air Ramp Competition outfits, eating out at new local establishments in Jinja with questionable amenities (that’s why we have our tour rep Jamie to hand!), paddling some more and then a lot of relaxing. The one thing to be said is that 25+ degrees every day, beer every evening and a lot of paddling wears you out. The downtime is most welcome and so easy to just accept as a way of life.
Nile River Festival
We timed our trip so that the Festival would fall in the middle. Time to relax and recoup – ha! Yeah right! We got roped into helping at most events. Daryl, Lowri & Lawrence entered the Big Air Ramp competition – despite me being official score keeper, I didn’t manage to wangle the scores so they won – maybe if they’d provided me with beers I would have done a better job – hint hint for next year!
The festival has an amazing atmosphere in/on/near/around the water and all the venues. Needless to say our livers took a beating over the four days. We also managed to squeeze in a cheeky Day Two run with Lowri, Lawrence, Stu, Andy, Chris & Lloyd. Great fun.
The final week
We headed down to the Hairy Lemon for the second week. This is a place for anyone who wants to be away from the hustle and bustle of the world – and right next door to the best freestyle play spots on offer.
We did a couple of Day Two runs and spent some time at Nile Special and Club Wave. We both gave the rope a go but only Daryl made it on successfully once – every other time we both got trashed on the eddy line. Exhausting work learning how to use the rope to get onto Nile Special. Unfortunately, Daryl came down with some bug, which took him out for a day. The Lemon is a great place to get rest and recuperation.
I left Daryl for the day and spent a good session on Club with Jamie, Lowri and Lawrence. Thankfully the eddies were quite quiet so no long waits. After lunch it was time for Special. Rather than continue with my gruelling attempts on the rope, I decided to walk up to the top and drop in from the eddy above. Nailed it all but one time – heading out to Uganda every year appears to actually be working on improving my paddling. I had a couple of the best rides ever managing a roundhouse and a clean spin which may not sound like much to most people but to me they were the pinnacle of my trip so I was very chuffed with myself.
We made a pact with Lowri, Lawrence, Lloyd, Stu, Andy & Chris to hold a “Super Hole-ympics” on the final Friday. It turned out to be one of the best days of the trip. Everyone was really going for it on the daft tricks such as paddling out with feet out of your boat, paddling on and popping your own deck then doing a flat spin and attempting to put the deck back on, old skool moves, more party waves than you can poke a stick at and just general great fun. Some of the antics can be seen in our (not so) short video if the trip.
We will definitely be going back. Fingers crossed the new dam will not be built to full specification and the amazing white water will be there for years to come for more people to experience.
Images by Sean