When I was younger and hatching plans to run away from school to pursue kayaking full time there was one place at the top of my list, The White Nile in Uganda. Home to perfect waves, huge rapids and warm weather this river will forever hold a special place in my heart. I have now been to this White Water dream word six times and have collectively spent almost a year of my life here.
I have written about my experiences in Uganda numerous times before and I am wary of trying to spin out another story on the same old topic; “I went to Uganda and had a really, really great time”. Instead, here are my top 5 moments from the trip.
5) Running Hypoxia
It had been 4 years since I had last run this behemoth. A lot has changed since then but not the size of this rapid, it remains one of the biggest and gnarliest pieces of white water in the world. The first time I ran it I was 18 years old and almost threw up at the sight of it, I was really hoping that all these years of running hard white water later that I wouldn’t feel the same way. Sadly the levels where less than opportune the day myself and my crew got there, which left me with a lot of questions and unease about the rapid. Mainly whether I could actually hit the main move which is to duck dive through one of the biggest holes in the world. The logic behind deciding if Hypoxia is unable not stems from a golden rule of big water kayaking; “Usually, If there’s a lot going into it, there’s a lot coming out of it”.
However there are certainly levels at which this rule no longer applies to Hypoxia and you can be relatively sure that if you were to run it you would have one of the most unpleasant experiences of your life and ingest a lot of water… The levels that day were right on the cusp of being good and I decided I would rather give it a try and risk the beatdown rather than go home empty handed and wondering whether it actually was possible or not. I had a great line on the entry, fought the boil on the lip of the ramp and then got to stare down into oblivion.
The impact is unreal, there is so much power in this piece of white water and I had to grip really tightly to stop my paddle being ripped out of my hands. I promised my self that I would hang on for at least 30 tumbles in the hole, I counted three and then could feel my self moving downstream. As I was rolling up there was only one thought running through my head - “ I can’t believe that bloody worked”! My ears broke the surface to the sound of my friends cheering, we reconvened below the rapid and went on a chilled sunset river run. Such a magical moment on a ridiculous piece of white water.
4) Living in the village
Not everyone understands why I love the village so much but the main reasons are; the proximity to one of my favourite waves in the world, the people; who are super friendly and helpful and the cost of living. My rent for the entire week was a little over £4. You also get to experience a little bit more of Africa than you would when staying in other places, I mean, how often do you see a smiling twelve year old wielding a machete?
3) Crock watch
Late one night I got a phone call to tell me that there had been a big crocodile spotted in the pool where I get into my kayak everyday. I thought at first it was a hoax as there is very little wild life on this stretch of the Nile and almost none of it is dangerous. However it came from two reputable sources and I had no choice but to come to terms with the fact that I may be consumed on my way down the river to surf. You can see the full video of crock watch here :
*Spoiler alert, it is mostly ten minutes of me being a huge sissy about kayaking on flat water*
2) Surfing Cuban
What can I say? It is the biggest, baddest wave on the Nile. Whilst a stout lead out stops me from throwing some of my more inconsistent, experimental tricks I still have a great time simply trying to go as big as I can on all of the tricks that I have dialled in.
1) Surfing Nile special
One of my favourite waves in the world. Any time on this wave is pure magic but with the imminent drowning of this wave coming due to a corrupt dam project down stream, I feel like every second on this wave is just that little bit more needed, that little bit more precious and that little bit more special.
One of the things that make this wave one of my favourites is because of a young, local guy called Martin. Martin is the kid who will set up the rope system and help you to tow onto the Nile Special wave. He works a fairly dangerous job for long hours and is often in the sun for most of the day. If I had to do this job I would be miserable but he does it with a smile on his face and will even occasionally give me some advice such as "go bigger, do better". He is a genuinely awesome young guy and thoroughly deserves any help he can get. I was stoked to be able to hook him up with his own set of Orton sunglasses and dewerstone clothes to protect him during those long days in the sun!
To read more about the dam project please head to http://www.savethewhitenile.org/
You can see the full edit of my trip here :
Photos by Hayley Mckee, Martyn Kirby & Amos Nassilarwa
Thanks for reading,
See you on the water,