Posts Tagged With: The Nile River

CAIRO ON ARRIVAL

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“Take a microbus to Ramses then take another microbus towards Helwan,” Mohammed explained over the phone. “Tell the driver you need to get off at the First Engineers  building.”

My host, graciously volunteered through Sherif, a good friend of the Gypsy Queen’s,  who I had yet to met, lived somewhere in Cairo. I had no idea where and also no idea how  big Cairo was.

The night bus ride from Hurghada to Egypt’s capital was an uneventful seven hours through what I assume to be desert landscape. I managed sleep until the sun rise which I caught through the crack of a good eye. The other eye submitted and it too opened up and I was fully awake to watch the desert take on the day. A couple of hours later, Cairo appeared on the horizon.

 

And how could it not? It took up the entire horizon. In fact, Cairo should be its own planet. It’s the biggest city I’ve ever been to. It diminishes Bangkok to suburb status. A concrete jungle of overpasses and high-rises, Cairo is a collective of cities like Giza, the 6th of October City and Nasr City to name but three.

The bus-ticket, earned by playing two nights at the awesome and friendly Jolly Café in Hurghada, passed the revolutionary Trahir Square where 2011’s revolt helped spark revolutions across the Arab world (just like the one in 1952 lead by Nasser) was quiet in the early morning hours.

We pulled into the GoBus station somewhere nearby and from here I followed Mohammed’s – and anyone who could speak English that I came across – instructions. I took a microbus –a mini-van (known as matatu in East Africa) – to Ramses. From there I hopped on another microbus under a huge overpass.

The driver charged me for a 3-row seat because of my bags.

“I can put them on the roof,” I said, pointing at the roof rack.

He refused, seeing the opportunity to cash up a bit.

I then piled my packs on top of me. “No problem, see?” I pointed thorough the packs at the easily accessible and empty seats beside me.

He still refused.

Sonofabitch.

Grumbling, I hopped on and we drove – right past the GoBus station where I had entered Cairo.

Sigh.

For at least an hour we rode through the empty, concrete streets. As it was Friday, the Muslim holy day, everything was shut down and empty before I was told by the only guy on the bus who spoke English that I needed to get off  and ask around for the address.

Finding myself on the banks of the Nile, the longest river in the world that I had been following from Sudan, I crossed the highway like Frogger and asked to use phones and get directions. Finally, I made it to the building where a groggy-eyed Ahmed, Mohammed’s housemate, opened the door for me and returned to his room.

I set my packs down and piled up some cushions on the living room floor and promptly fell asleep. I awoke in surprise when the house-cat jumped on my chest and began to use it as a claw-sharpening post.

“Jesus!” I delicately removed the feline and wagged my finger at her.

I’m not a cat person. Sure, I’m into my lions, tigers, leopards and other apex predators. But house-cats? Just not my thing.

I resumed sleep and awoke in time to greet Ahmed. “I see you in the night,” he said and he headed out the door.

It was stifling hot outside and noisy. Traffic had picked up and with traffic comes that melodic tunes of horns blaring. I took a walk outside to try and call Hadeel, another local volunteer that Sherif had found to show me around this planet-sized city.

My aim was to stay for two days, see the pyramids, play for a ticket to Dahab in Sinai and head off to absorb the Red Sea and its bounties before reaching Taba. But Hadeel’s phone was off for the majority of the day so I ended up chatting with the building’s security guard who invited me to a lunch of falafel.

I returned home to escape the heat and lounged about, getting clawed on occasion by the cat. Which, turns out, was a mama cat with five kittens stashed in the darkest corners of the apartment. I fell asleep and awoke the next morning as mama cat pounced on her new hairy claw-sharpening post – me.

As the apartment was empty (Mohammed was away on a business trip) I headed out to try and get Hadeel on a phone but it was still turned off. So I got some falafel which I took home to eat while fending off mama cat.

After a catnap I finally managed to get Hadeel and we arranged to meet the next day somewhere in the city.

“I’ll send you the details on Facebook,” she offered.

Ahmed returned, said, “Hello,” and disappeared into his room.  And then something moved inside of me and I knew it wasn’t the good movement say, of a bubble of gas that needs to be released. This was something else. Something that had me going for the next 24 hours. The bathroom and I became well acquainted. I blame the falafel. And mama cat. Why the cat? Cause I can.

I was feeling a touch better the next day when Mohammed arrived.

“Where have you been sleeping?” he asked.

“Right here,” I wallowed on the cushions. My body ached like I was getting the flu.

“It’s a three-bedroom apartment,” he looked confused. “You have your own room. The cat’s room.”

The cat’s room. Oh this will be fun. Use me as a clawing post? How’d ya like to be roomless? “Oh,” I scratched my head. “Well, I wasn’t aware.”

Ahmed the ghost wasn’t exactly communicative. I was shown my new dwellings. Some kittens were relocated from the bed and I moved my packs into the room.

“There’s an air-conditioner too,” he pointed to the heat-destroying machine on the wall.

Mohammed was heading to the same area I was to meet Hadeel with another friend – and Ahmed – so I got a ride into town even though my body-ached and I felt that I was running a fever.

I sure hope it wasn’t malaria. For the two years I’ve spent in Africa, everybody around me had been taken down by one of Africa’s biggest killers (not died. As in, gettin’ hit by malaria and then taking two weeks to recover). And I was quite chuffed not to have succumbed to the mosquito-injecting parasite.

Until now.

I think.

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Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Egypt | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

HITCH HIKING IN EGYPT – PART I

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© Unbound Ether Photography, 2015

“Not possible,” the soldier said.

I set my bags down at the gate and faced the Egyptian soldier. “Nothing is impossible.”

“Where is your bus?”

I looked around for the cameras. Nope. This was real. “I don’t do buses.”

 

The two truck drivers that were at the gate were also scratching their heads. Again, I went through the long process of trying to explain how I travel and why. As soon as I said, “Car,” the soldier asked for papers.

“No, I don’t have a car.”

“Motorbike?”

“No I–”

“Bicycle?”

“In this heat? No, I get lifts on trucks –”

“Ah, you truck driver.”

I blinked. Do I look like a fuckin’ truck driver?

“No driving.”

“You kadari?” he pointed to his legs and walked on the spot.

Sigh. “Aiwa, kadari.”

“Impossible.”

“Nothing is impossible. Can you please let me in?”

“No key.”

This had to be a joke. The gate to the great land of Egypt was locked and the guy with the key was off on his tea break or sleeping in.

I had managed to go through the comedy that is the Sudanese border for the last two hours, walked past trucks with their drivers sitting and chatting in groups in the shade of their cabs. I greeted them in Arabic. They seemed confounded that I was walking. I’m guessing this doesn’t happen often. That everyone is either in a car, bus, truck, bike or bicycle.

After an hour’s wait, two cars showed up behind me packed with families and luggage. A short fella on the Egyptian side looking every bit the Egyptian in an Egyptian movie opened the gate.

“50 pound,” he said.

“No, I already got the visa,” I showed him on my passport.

The guy checked my visa and grinned up at me. “50 pound entry.”

What is this, a club? An amusement park?

“I don’t have 50 pounds,” I said.

“Yes, 50 pound,” he continued to grin.

I searched my pocket. I had 60 Sudanese pounds. “Can you change currency somewhere?”

“Yes,” he continued to grin, enjoying the torture. “In Sudan.”

Sigh. “You take dollars?”

“No. Egyptian pound only.”

The driver of the first vehicle had stepped out and I approached him, asking if he could change some money with me.

“What do you need?” he asked with a helpful smile.

“50 pounds.” I didn’t even know the exchange rate. “I’ve got 60 Sudanese to change.”

“Here,” he handed me an Egyptian 50 pound note. “Don’t worry about it.”

What?

This guy just offered to pay for my entry into Egypt? “Shukran! Shukran shadida!” I thanked him and gave the short fella the money. He gave me a ticket, tore the end of it and directed me to a window.

“30 pound.”

Huh? “Shu, 30 pound? I just gave you 50.”

“50 entry. 30 customs.”

I blinked. Egypt was my 20th country in three years and I had never come across such a system. I paid $20 USD for the visa in Addis and now I was also paying at the gate. But everyone was lining up to pay. My time was short as I had to beat the bus crowds otherwise I’d be stuck in a line from here to Cairo.

I approached the window.

“Do you take Sudanese pounds?”

“No. You can change dollars in the cafeteria.” He took my passport as collateral and I headed over.

“One dollar is eight pounds,” said the kid.

I handed him a $5 note. He seemed to struggle with the calculation. “Arbaim,” I said. 40. He handed me two 20s and I high-tailed it to the customs guy who gave me 10 pounds change.

I was then directed to the security check, my bags going through an X-ray machine, the first time since Singapore that my bags went through such scrutiny. I was body-searched and collected my packs.

“Where do I go?” I asked the bag man.

He pointed to an area across the tarmac. I headed over to a closed window. A bus had pulled up from the Sudanese side and people were pouring out, clambering around me and the window. A silver-headed Egyptian man lightly conversed with me.

“I am Mustafar,” he introduced himself. I saw him fill out a card and grabbed one “Don’t worry, you are first. Number one. Welcome in Egypt.”

I grinned. He was from Giza and told me how he had climbed the pyramids, sat on the top and read a book while observing all the tourists below. Another bus had pulled in and more people were clambering around the still-closed window.

I bumped into the gentleman with the striped purple shirt – Abubaker. “We meet again,” I grinned as he smiled back.

A line of about a hundred people had formed and I was number one, at least according to Mustafar. We waited by the window for about an hour. When it finally opened, the customs officer took his time to wipe down his desk, brush off his uniform, receive a glass of tea from a colleague, check that his stamp had the right date, stare at me and then take Mustafar’s passport.

Mustafar told the officer to take mine next to which the officer grinned. He did as requested and looked at my photo then at me. I was wearing my gamcha, a colourful Indian fabric I was using as a head wrap (it’s amazing how fabric can really block out the sun’s heat), sunglasses and a beard.

In my passport photo I have short hair and I’m clean-shaven.

He indicated for me to remove my wrap and sunnies. I did as commanded and smiled. He looked at the photo and then at me and then back at the photo before he grinned and stamped my visa. I breathed.

“Wait five minutes,” he said, taking the next passport, putting mine on top of Mustafar’s.

Five minutes? For what? I sat by the wall. Mustafar had disappeared but found me.

“Don’t worry, they give it back,” he assured me.

Sure enough, ten minutes later I was handed my passport.

“Welcome in Egypt!” Mustafar slapped my hand firmly.

I grinned, grabbed my packs, got his number and arranged to maybe visit him in Giza and headed off for the gate where four uniformed cops sat with Ray Ban knock-offs looking like they had stepped out of an Indiana Jones movie.

I handed over my passport.

“Where is your bus?”

Not a-fuckin’-gain. “I don’t do buses.” I went, for the seventh time that morning, through the long process of trying to explain how I travel and why. As soon as I said, “Car,” they asked for papers.

“No, I don’t have a car.”

“Motorbike?”

“No I–”

“Bicycle?”

“In this heat? No, I get lifts on trucks –”

“Ah, you truck driver.”

I blinked. Do I look like a fuckin’ truck driver?

“No driving.”

“You kadari?” The cop pointed to his legs and walked on the spot.

“Aiwa, kadari.”

“Impossible.”

“Nothing is impossible. Can I please go?”

“La wen?”

“Aswan.”

I was handed back my passport and stepped through the gate. I took five steps before I was called back.

The cop spoke fast Arabic but I picked out, “Majnun,” Crazy and, “Hamsin kilo,” which I took to meaning 50 degrees. He gestured that he would arrange a ride for me and that I sit in the shade. It was better than walking through the desert in this heat.

After an hour an officer showed up and asked the cops why I was sitting there.

“He’s crazy, wanted to walk out in this heat. It’s 50 degrees. I said I’d get him a ride,” the movie star explained.

After an hour and a half a van pulled up and I was put on it. I’m not exactly sure what the cop was telling me but I’d figure it out once I hit the highway.

And boy, did we hit it.

The speedometer on Raus’s van showed 140 K’s an hour. Luckily, the roads were smooth. But the road abruptly ended on the banks of the Nile River. Unlike in Sudan, the Nile here had absolutely no greenery around it. It was simply desert and then water.

Strange, I thought.

A barge came to dock. We drove on and I was greeted by Zakaria.

“My cousin in Aswan has hotel. He can help you,” he said after I explained how I barter. I took his cousin’s number.

“What’s his name?”

“Mohammed.”

Of course it is.

img_1780The barge began to leave the sand bank and we were already a hundred metres out when we reversed back. A bus and truck had arrived.

Ah, I looked at the truck, there’s my hitch. The bus rolled on and its passengers emptied. Mustafar and Abubaker among them. We conversed and I explained my travels and philosophy. He was quite taken by it and then Raus came up to me and said something in Arabic.

My new friend translated for me. “He said he will get you on the bus. No payment.”

I tapped my chest to show my gratitude and shook his hand. “Shukran!”

Then Zakaria demanded I bring the guitar out. He took me up to the captain’s bridge to play for him and Ahmed and Captain Zibodi while they took photos and shot video. I came back down and waited for the men to finish their prayers and played some tunes. Cameras were whipped out and I was videoed from all angles.

I even got a man on crutches to dance. The vibe on the boat was amazing. So much positive energy it was incredible. Everybody seemed to be chattering about me in Arabic. A kid even gave me an ivory carved necklace piece.

Not that I do ivory. I wasn’t sure how to take it but I couldn’t refuse. I’ll have to give it to someone on my travels.

Who just hands over ivory like that?

Finally the driver and conductor were approached by the crowd and I was given a seat on the bus.

I couldn’t believe it. The way the day had started and how everything turned out once I switched my focus to positivity. We reached the port town of Abu Simbel where the temple of Ramses II is located and rolled off the barge. As we pulled out some soldiers came on board and a shouting match happened between them and a couple seated just before the back door. I looked out the window so as not to draw attention to myself.

They grabbed the woman which got the man up and the driver and conductor had to intervene. The soldiers seemed extremely pissed off. A bit of tension was left in the air when they debarked from the bus and we drove into the town and stopped for lunch.

“Twice a year the sun comes in at just the right angle,” Yasser, a local restaurant manager was telling me about the Ramses temple. “We have a big festival here twice a year. People from all over the world come for it.”

It was a UNESCO heritage site on the banks of Lake Nasser, the world’s largest artificial lake. Created when the Egyptians built a dam back in 1954, the world had united in coming together, thousands of archaeologists, architects, engineers and labourers had worked day and night, from 1959 to 1980, to move and relocate 22 monuments between Aswan and Khartoum to save them from the rising waters created by the high dam.

“Twice a year, on October 22 and February 22 the sun comes in and lights the temple at a very precise angle,” Yasser continued to explain.

It used to be on the 21st of each month but after they moved the monuments it had changed.

As we conversed Abubaker joined us. “We’d like you to join us for lunch,” he pointed at a table covered with fried tilapia (fish from the Nile), rice and salad.

“I’d be honoured,” I said gratefully. “What happened back there on the bus?”

“They said the woman took photos of the military post,” he explained.

One way to piss off soldiers in a country that is ruled by the military is to do just that.

After lunch, I chatted a bit more with Yasser before we got back on the road. “You must come and see the temple,” he said.

“I gotta leave something for next time,” I waved.

The ride to Aswan took about three hours. I was seated in the middle of the back bench and could see the entire bus. It was like a school camp trip. Everybody was singing, clapping, laughing. A Sudanese comedy program was on and I enjoyed the slapstick of it.

Towards our approach to Aswan, Abubaker came and sat with me. We talked about how Western values had become materialistic, how capitalism was disconnecting us.

“I used to live in the UK but life there is so stressful,” he said. “I came back to Sudan to be more free.”

Now that’s saying something.

“In the West people are lead to believe that they need to consume more stuff,” I pointed out my observations of the last three years. “That they need a big house, a fancy car and high walls to protect themselves. No one knows who their neighbours are. In Sudan I noticed that the doors are always open.”

We talked for almost an hour about the obvious truth. “Only a handful of people control the world,” I said. “We are 7.4 billion. We need to start a revolution, take back the power so we can live freely.”

We arrived at the bus terminal in Aswan where I called Mohammed, Zakaria’s cousin.

“I’ll come get you in my car,” he said.

I waited with Abubaker and the man with the crutches who I had gotten to dance and air-guitar on his support and his family. He suffered from a kidney issue and had come to Egypt for medical treatment.

“I will take a holiday in Alexandria for a month,” he grinned.

He was such a joyful bubble of life and contagious about it. He had his whole family with him, three kids, the wife, the wife’s sister. We were taking photos while talking about the Sufi as he was from Omdurman, where I had been staying.

“You know, it’s amazing,” I said. “I never thought of Islam as a happy religion. The West always portrays it as such a closed off, evil thing but everybody is so open, so welcoming. Although, I’ve been to Indonesia and Malaysia and they were a bit more closed off.”

“We have a saying here,” the crutched man said, “Bin hibele haya – I love life.” He was grinning. “We are African Muslims. Africans love to laugh, to sing, to be happy. We love life.”

He wasn’t wrong. I’d been in Africa over two years now and I’d never come across a happier people. Peaceful, respectful, open, warm and welcoming. Africa is amazing and I’ll be sad to leave it in 19 days.

I had started the day ready to throw my bags down. And now, reflecting on the last 14 hours, I couldn’t stop grinning.

“Welcome in Egypt,” echoed Mustafar’s voice.

Indeed, welcome in Egypt.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Egypt, Hitch Hiking | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DE-NILE

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Although this adventure happened a few months back, it’s now readable on Africa Geographic.

Special thanks to the amazing folk at the Nile River Porch Lodge and the Nile River Camp, Jinja, Uganda.

Well worth a visit.

Enjoy.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Uganda | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

HITCH HIKING IN UGANDA – PART VIII

“I’m almost tempted to drive you to Jinja myself,” Nabifo said as she pulled into the petrol station as far out of town as she could go.

“So let’s go!” I said.

“Yeah, come with us!” GQ threw in.

“I’m expecting a large group,” she said sadly.

 

 

We hugged as we parted ways, setting up shop just outside of the petrol station (a pump and a shack). After a weekend of an upset stomach and an inner ear infection that had me face my demons and a wet climb up Wanale Falls, GQ and I were finally on our way to Jinja – our last stop on our Ugandan adventure.

A truck pulled up but the driver wanted money. Ten minutes later a bakkie pulled over.

“I’m going to Kampala,” said Frank.

“Are you passing by Jinja?” I asked knowing that he had too.

“Yes.”

“Can we go with you?”

“No problem,” he grinned. “Let’s go.”

Frank was a telecommunications engineer. “I work on the mobile towers,” he said.

“Do you climb them?” I asked.

“Sometimes but most of my work is on the generators,” he shrugged.

“You probably drive around all over Uganda with this job,” GQ added.

“Yes,” he said.

“Gotta favourite place?” I asked.

“Western Uganda.”

“Yeah, that place is phenomenal,” I reflected on our time in Rubuguri.

“I just have to get my co-worker to sign this paper,” Frank said as he turned off the road and headed through a small village to the nearest mobile tower, a menacing metal structure standing at about 60 feet. He called out to his mate who guided him to another tower that then lead us to the third tower where we finally found him.

“Hello boss,” he grinned at me.

I grinned back playing the part. Company vehicles aren’t allowed to have non-company passengers in them. Once the paperwork was signed we hit the road and continued on our way. Frank wasn’t married but had a girlfriend in Kampala, where he lives.

“I plan to marry next year,” he said. “But I have a son.”

Mbale to Jinja is a two-hour drive through green rice fields that line the road and vast papyrus plants and wetlands.

“You have a beautiful country,” GQ said to Frank. She had told this to every driver we had, reminding the locals of what they have. “And Ugandans are so friendly and generous.” Also good to remind them that not everyone is an asshole (unless they’re from Birhalwe).

Before reaching Nalubaale Hydroelectric Power Station in Jinja (previously named Owen’s Dam which submerged Rippon Falls in 1954, named by John Hanning Specke, the first European to reach Lake Nalubaale which he christened Lake Victoria. He discovered the source of the White Nile back in 1859) we passed the big roundabout where the Ling-Ling Chinese restaurant on the highway towards the town of Jinja is located.

It was here that we were to meet Teresa who, along with Saleem, co-manages the Nile Porch River Lodge and The Black Lantern à la carte fine-dining restaurant, a Jinja institute. This barter was all GQ. I just tagged along looking pretty. But I was also throwing in the usual: play a few gigs, write an article and GQ was to create an art installation on which I would be the pretty assistant.

The Nile Porch River Lodge (NPR) is wedged between the Nile River Camp (NRC) and the Nile River Explorers (NRE. Who knew Jinja would be a town of acronyms?) where I had played for food and bed when I first entered this great country.

We were on the lookout for the Chinese restaurant. Luckily, it was built in the Chinese architectural style so it stood out like a kangaroo might in the Serengeti. Frank pulled over and we hopped out just as three boda-bodas made their way over.

“We go?” one asked.

“Sure,” I grinned. “We go – over there to meet our friend. I dunno what you’re doing though.”

They shrugged and biked off. What is it with these bodas? Its as though they’ve never attempted to use their feet other than to change gears on their bike. They seem perpetually glued to the seat of their two-wheels, just hanging around, pouncing on unsuspecting foreigners, scavenging like hyenas.

Perhaps I should carry a sign that would read: ‘Have legs, will walk’.

Teresa was already in the car park when we trekked over. She drove us into town to pick up her carpenter, Ronald, before we headed off to the lodge where I met Saleem and their two incredible kids, four-year-old Kanaya and six-year-old Khaleel.

“You guys can stay in tent 8,” Teresa said, as we were shown around the vast, green property. “Bingo really likes trees,” she referred to the owner as we walked among the tall jack-fruit trees.

“Looks like tree testicles,” GQ remarked.

“There’s a visual,” I grinned.

Teresa laughed. “Bingo planted all the trees here,” she continued. “He was the first one to put a raft on the water when the Bujigali Falls were still falls.”

According to local legend, the falls are the sacred site of the Spirit of Bujabald, embodied in a man, Jaja Bujabald, the 39th incarnation – the spirit doctor – who lives by the falls. The 95-year-old fella (four years ago. May have aged since) protects the community by performing rituals at the falls using local plants and herbs for medicine. There have even been reports that he can walk over the water (hmm, what would Jesus do?).

During the ’94 Rwandan genocide dead bodies dumped in Lake Victoria would float all the way to the Bujigali Falls and were wedged on the rocks. It was Jaja Bujabald that removed and buried them. His prophecy is that many people will have to die and others will fall mad if nature is destroyed and the dam built (enter ISIS).

About four years ago the Ugandan government constructed the dam even though they promised that the last dam would be the last dam. It turned Bujigali Falls – which were the first rapids when you went white water rafting – into a lake.

Next year, the Ugandan government is yet again constructing another dam that will turn the rest of the rapids into a lake and end white water rafting in the region forever and cause irreversible environmental repercussions that would affect the already decimated Lake Nalubaale.

Our tent was a combination of concrete and canvas. We had our own shower, toilet, a choice of double or single bed and even a lounging area.

And then there was the view. Here’s a picture since I can’t really put it into words:img_7938

“Not a bad barter,” I hugged GQ as a yellow-billed kite swooped around looking for prey or that perfect twig to add to its nest it had built in the tree off the porch of the restaurant.

“Quite chuffed,” she grinned. “Our word for pleasure.”

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Hitch Hiking, Uganda | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UPSTREAM WITH A PADDLE – OR ALEX

IMG_6219“Do you want to go for a paddle?” Alex asked me.

A young lad of 22 from the Musoga tribe, I had met him when I casually walked down to the banks of the Nile seeking adventure.

“Won’t say ‘no’,” I grinned as I stepped into his leaky canoe and  paddled upstream towards the Owen Falls dam. “What do you do?” I asked him as we glided on the still waters of the Nile, close to the bank.

 

IMG_6172A bright blue malachite kingfisher with a long red beak, darted along the banks with us as it fished, resting on the low hanging branches.

“I’m studying in Kampala,” Alex said. “I want to be a doctor.”

We stroked upstream towards a cave where, “There used to be three caves,” explained Alex. “But now there is only this entrance. Because of the dam it made the other entrances fill up with water. See?”

He pointed to the top half of what would appear to be the entry point of one the previous exposed caves.

Dams were a problem on the Nile. They’ve caused tensions between Egypt and Ethiopia regarding the Blue Nile, almost leading to all-out war and also with Uganda along the White Nile. But the biggest concern was not for the existing dams but for the one about to come further downstream, towards the rapids.

It was a controversial idea that the government had approved. Thing is, if they do go ahead with it, it will kill Jinja, a huge tourist town that probably brings in most of the tourism dollars for Uganda. White water rafting is growing in its popularity but without rapids to create the white water rush, it’s just rafting. Which I’m sure might be appealing to some but for the adventure seekers, it won’t cut the gravy. And this approved dam will kill the rapids, destroy half of the nature in the area and the income for the town of Jinja and its people.

The malachite kingfisher continued to follow us as we spooked darters, cormorants, open-bill storks, egrets, herons and sandpipers. We paddled all the way to the dam that also acted as a bridge across the river at the mouth of Lake Victoria.

Back in 1862, John Hanning Specke, along with Richard Francis Burton, set out on a mission to find the source of the Nile. These two were the Bradgalina of their time, in the days where being an explorer of foreign lands was the highest celebrity status one could achieve.

Burton loved languages and immersing himself with the locals. Upon reaching Lake Victoria, the two separated. I could imagine the conversation going something like,

Burton: “Right, I’m going to set up camp here for the next few weeks.”

Specke: “Marvellous thought, old chap. I shall continue on the quest for the source of this damned river (see what I did there?).”

Six weeks later, Specke returned with the announcement that, “I’ve found the source. Named it Rippon Falls. I’ll see you in the Queen’s country.”

Burton had his doubts. Although the two were equipped with scientific equipment to survey the land, Specke hadn’t utilised any of it. Upon their separate return to England, Specke’s celebrity status rose to that of Beckham’s in his hey-day. Burton argued in the press and to the Royal Geographic Society that had funded the trip that Specke was full of it and demanded a public debate. Specke accepted. Legend has it that on the day of the debate, Specke was out hunting pheasant when he ‘accidentally’ shot himself dead.

More than a year would pass until it was confirmed that, indeed, Specke had found the source of the Nile. A plaque was made in his honour and placed at Rippon Falls – until they built the Owen Falls dam and relocated the plaque.

“The name of my village is Bujugali,” Alex said. “It was named for the waterfalls next to it, but the dam you saw? It has killed the falls. Now it is just the river flowing.”

Seems to be a concerning pattern.

IMG_6209The canoe had a major leak in it and between shooting photos of the wildlife, paddling and waving at the few fishermen in their canoes, I found myself to be the water bailer. We U-turned just after the 80-meter bungee jump from an outstretched crane and allowed the current to carry us downstream back towards Alex’s village river bank.

Red-tailed monkeys jumped between the tree branches. Water monitors evaded my camera lens and kids splashed in de-Nile (see what I did there? Thanks Stacey), striking poses.

“Alex, thanks for the adventure,” I hugged him as we parted ways. “I’m playing tonight at the Nile River Explorers camp. Come down and see me, if you can,” I invited him.

Smiling, he accepted my offer.

As I hiked back to the camp I couldn’t stop grinning. I asked for an adventure and there I was provided.

Don’t ask, don’t get.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Uganda | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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