The following five days post safari was spent in Nairobi with Johan and Martin before I flew to Uganda. We spent most days lounging around, reading and exploring the night life of Nairobi which as pretty tame. We managed a quick trip to Karen Blixen’s (author of Out of Africa) which the taxi driver comically called it Karen Brixton’s house as he was driving round in circles unable to find Nairobi’s famed tourist attraction. Johan was off to climb Kilimanjaro but we would met again in Zanzibar, whist I was off to Uganda to meet up with Daley and Jess to see some big black hairy gorillas in the next week or so.
I flew into Entebbe and headed straight for capital Kampala 20miles away and a cosy little hostel called Red Chili Hideaway. Churchill called Kampala the “Pearl of Africa” but driving through the town (which is much like most African cities) it was red dusty city, noisy, ram shackled, dreary and chaotic, a lot has changed since he said this in 1907! Red Chili though was a haven from the madness outside, nice little bar, great home cooked food, good dorms, a small pool and a good place to meet fellow travellers. I was going to meet up with Daley and Jess in around a week so in the mean time I had a few things to do, obtain my Gorilla permit and renew my passport. I had run out of pages after only a year travelling! Although the office stated that the passport could take up to 10 days, the reality as I looked round the empty waiting room at the British Consulate it would only take 4 working days.
Whilst staying at Red Chili I met up with two guys from Cornwall, Ruan and Matt were waiting for a cattle ship to take them to Australia so we killed some time together, exploring the sights and sounds of Kamapla and also visiting Idi Amins’ palace. Idi Amin staged a coup in 1971 and brought Uganda to its knees for 8 years, mass killings ensued and an estimated 300,000 Ugandans lost their lives. Anyone suspected of opposition were shot on sight whilst some 700,000 Asians were forced to leave within 90 days. He also targeted anyone educated and the Acholi and Lango tribes people whilst the economy collapsed, wildlife slaughtered and infrastructure crumbled. The result was massive inflation, huge unrest and floods of refugees. To divert the situation in Uganda he invaded Tanzania which he lost and then fled to Saudi Arabia in 1979 and lived there until his death in 2003.
His palace on the outskirts of the city, and on one of the seven hills that surrounds Kampala now only houses a few buildings left from his reign. You cannot enter the palace but also on show are the torture chambers that he used to house political prisoners during his reign. Few survived the chambers and they are a bleak reminder of the genocide left by his short reign.
On a lighter note, a couple days later I headed up to Jinja in the east of Uganda to the source of the Nile to experience some aqua adrenaline – white water rafting. Jinja is home to some of the world’s best grade 5 rapids and by 9am I was kitted out with life jacket, helmet and paddle ready for my first ever experience of white water rafting and a whole day of exhilaration and fun. There were six of us in one very large and rugged looking dingy and following us was a Taiwanese film crew recording a documentary on adventure sports around the world with the presenter in our boat. After a safety briefing and do’s and don’ts we were full steam ahead for the grade 5 rapids to navigate with a 99% possibility of flipping the boat! The first rapid we managed to do just that and it seemed all a bit too much for our presenter friend who nearly passed out!! He then retired to the support boat saying it was too much for him?! We later found out that he also had a heart condition! Typical Asian humour to send a presenter with a dicky heart on an adrenaline sport program, hope he survived the next challenge which was a bungy jump.
With all of remaining crew now paddling with great gusto we were soon approaching Bujagali Falls and with the coaching of one of the instructors we managed to make it through one of the most powerful rapids alive and still keep us in the boat! Three more rapids later, Point Break, Big Brother and Little Gunga, thoroughly soaked and exhilarated we stopped for lunch said goodbye to our Taiwanese friends and prepared ourselves for the afternoons rapids.
We had an hour and a halfs row to the next rapid but had to brace ourselves for them as they were the biggest and badest of the lot! Overtime, Super Hole and Bugubo were negotiated with flaying arms, bumps and bruises, panicked shrieks that only amateurs can master. The next rapid as the last of the day and the biggest which was called Intanda – The Bad Place or The bBad Place for a special reason. It had claimed a few lives in the past and looked a menacing rapid, thick with menacing whirlpools, foaming water and deadly undercurrents. Our instructor said that when (not if) we get pulled out of the boat and dragged underwater, curl up in a ball and hope that you surface within 5 seconds. If not keep calm and eventually you’ll come up somewhere downstream! When we approached the tip of the fall, the thought racing through my head was of total fear and panic. Within a second we had all been thrown from the boat and deep underwater. It was all very dark, I hit my head twice, smashed my knee and shin across a rock and couldn’t see any light. I was curled up in a ball at this point and counting, though I could feel the force of the water pushing me deep into the river. 10 seconds pasted like a lifetime and although I can hold my breath for longer I was almost panicking as the downwards currents eased off and pulled me to the surface. As I surfaced I was about 60m from where we had turned over and was being “rescued” by the support boat! Cut up, bruised, in pain, wet but totally in love with white water rafting the day finished on an extreme adrenaline high!
The next few days we spent hanging in and around Red Chili and a few nights out in Kampala but soon I was heading out west towards Kabale, Lake Buynonyi and the Gorillas….