Thursday, July 22, 2010
The Nile River and July 4th dinner.
Groast 2 took place on the 4th of July weekend at Tom and Malea's house. It was a great time; we drank, ate a bunch of food (not just goat), and Brandon brought his guitar and we sang some songs we have been practicing.
The next weekend (July 9th), a bunch of us went into Uganda - the country directly North of Rwanda. We traveled from Kigali straight through to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. The trip was like 9 hours - not all that bad, really. We hung out in Kampala that first night after we arrived. We had Mexican food and it was freakin' spectacular. I had not had Mexican food in almost two years, so I ate ferociously.
The next day (Saturday) 'Adrift,' the company we hired to give us a tour down the Nile River, picked us up from our hotel in Kampala and took us to the rafting outpost. The drive from Kampala to the outpost was a couple hours; the trip was okay. Uganda's weather is very similar to Rwanda's, but the landscape is different; specifically, there are no hills in Uganda like there are in Rwanda. So, the scenary was kind of bland.
We arrived at the outpost and got our stuff stored in our rooms at the lodge. We changed our cloths and immediately prepared to hit the rapids; this was going to be an all day event.
Just a couple of quick notes. The source of the Nile is actually in Rwanda (or so say the Rwandans I know), BUT the white water part of the Nile (where the river gets really serious) starts in Uganda.
Also 'Adrift' does have a place where people can bungee jump into the Nile; seriously, like into the Nile. They can adjust the cord so that you can touch the water if you want. Anyway, Tom and I were signed up and ready to do it, we even paid our money, BUT the guys at the outpost said that we couldn't do it as soon as we got there, which is what we were told initially. They said we would have to wait until tomorrow afternoon to do our jump. Tom and I had scheduled some activities with the rest of our traveling party the next day (Sunday). We didn't want to wait around all of Sunday to jump; we wanted to see some more of Kampala AND we still needed to figure out how we were going to leave Uganda on Monday. We begged and pleaded to jump as soon as we got to the camp, but they said it would be too much of a time crunch.
Tom and I think we'll hit up the bungee jump another time. Rafting was a blast and we both agreed we want to do it again with the same company - 'Adrift'. Anyway, we decided that we'd try to organize another outing to Uganda, but next time we will make sure we have plenty of time to do more stuff. We totally want to raft the Nile again, and we want to bungee jump over it, but we also want to see Lake Victoria (the largest lake in Africa) and I want to go on a safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park. I heard that in this park you can see lions and elephants; Akagera National Park in Rwanda has these animals, but I haven't seen them yet. I heard that in Queen's Park in Uganda, you see them all the time.
Sorry, I got kinda side tracked there for a minute. Anyway, we got ourselves all geared up and we hit the river with our raft guide, Big J. There was eleven of us in the boat - Big J, me, my 7 other traveling companions, and a couple from Estonia. The Estonians were pretty cool. Apparently, they were both actors in a horror movie being filmed in Uganda; they had some spare time and the director let them have some R and R.
For the first hour or so, Big J kept us in still waters and reviewed with us what to do if/when certain things happen - what to do if/when you fall out of the raft, what to do if/when the raft flips, and so on. He introduced us to a couple of the kayakers that would be ahead of us in the rapids; he said that these guys would be plucking us out of the water if/when we fell out of the boat. Once the safety demonstrations were finished, we hit the river.
White Water Rafting the Nile River was amazing. We rafted a bunch of baby rapids (class 2s and 3s) but we hit five different class 4s and as many class 5s. There were some class 6s on our run, but we dodged them because they would have killed us. Seriously, Big J, our guide, said that he had done them in a kayak, but never in a raft full of inexperienced rafters. He said that even in a kayak, a class 6 rapid is not something an experienced rafter does every day.
It was a lot of fun, though. In the morning, I was sitting on the middle of the raft, across from Tom. We flipped over once in the beginning during a class 4 or 5 rapid, I can't remember. The last thing I remember before we flipped was that it looked like we were falling into a huge washing machine - like it was the belly button of the world, or something. Anyway, we were tossed over and I was trapped under the raft for a bit, but I was able to free myself and grab a kayaker.
Once we made it through the rapid, we just got back on the raft and kept going. Later that day Big J told us that he flipped us intentionally, 'just for fun.'
In the afternoon, we stopped at an island and had lunch - probably the best lunch I have ever had in my life. After lunch, Tom and I were asked to take the front two seats on the raft; we accepted the positions. We got in the boat and hit some more rapids.
The front seat was awesome! And sitting across from Tom the whole trip down river was really an experience in itself. After the flip we had in the morning, I started trying to time my breathes so that if/when we flipped the next time, I would have a lung full of air; thus, preventing another near-death experience. So the whole time we were hitting the rest of the rapids, I was holding my breathe in intervals, but Tom was screaming at the top of his lungs, 'It's wet! It's wild! I love it!'
The afternoon was fun. There was this one rapid that was a waterfall; it was a class 4 or class 5 and it began with a 12 foot drop - that was a fun one. At the end of the day there was this loooooooooong class 6. Big J pointed it out and said, 'Okay, guys, let's paddle to shore as fast and as hard as we can!' We had to get to shore, pull in the raft, and walk it further down river, past the class 6. At the end of the class 6 there was a class 5 (they said it was a class 5+, I don't know if those exist or not, but whatever). Once we got past that last rapid, we were finished. And right where we finished (on the shore) there was a BBQ with cold beer and roasted meat waiting for us. It was a delicious ending.
'Adrift' was a great company - very well organized. I felt safe and I had a great time while I was on the river. I totally want to go back and bungee jump, though; I hear that its pretty cool. They used to let people do the bungee jump naked. If you did it naked, then you didn't have to pay. My eyes light up at the possibility of doing something cool AND doing it for free. Big J noticed the look on my face and said that they don't do that 'offer' any more; he said too many people were doing it naked and they weren't making any money. Damn.
Anyways, the facilities were pretty nice too, though they were swarming with Vervet monkeys. The guides themselves were characters. Seriously, they were fun, knowledgeable guys.
After rafting, everyone showered and hit the bar. We got seats, ordered food, and watched the World Cup match between Uruguay and Germany. After the first half of the match, one of the guides turned down the television and announced that the video was ready at the other end of the bar.
Oh Yeah! I forgot to tell you, 'Adrift' had people taking pictures and video of us from the shore the whole day. They made discs for everyone to buy. My picture disc and my video disc have not come in yet, but when they do, I will post what I can on here and on facebook.
The video was great; it was very well done. After that, we finished watching the game and went to bed. We got up early the next day (Sunday) and headed back to Kampala. Once in Kampala, we went to the big market they have (I wasn't impressed), we hit up a mall (a real mall, like in the states), and ate some really good Indian food. That night we saw the World Cup finals match at a bar.
The next day (Monday) we woke up super early, got on our bus, and went back to Kigali. We were a few hours into our trip home when we heard that bombs had gone off in Kampala Sunday night during the World Cup finals match. An Ethiopian restaurant and a Rugby bar had been suicide bombed by Somali terrorists and about 60-70 people were either dead or wounded. Later that week we received a message from PC stating that travel to Uganda was prohibited until further notice.
We made it back safe and sound. And that was our trip to Uganda.
As far as future trips and events are concerned, this weekend I am going to a Kickball Tourney in West Province Rwanda and the guys and I are still trying to finalize everything to go to Malawi in August.
As far as work is concerned...well...its work - same routine, different day. Its great and I love it, don't get me wrong, but there is really nothing to write about that I haven't already written about.
I am still helping out at the health center, though we aren't seeing as many patients now as we were a few months ago. This is because its dry season now (seriously, it has not rained in months) and malaria outbreaks die down a bit during this time. The staff at the health center are doing just fine. No news there.
Oh yeah! There is news. Jenny, a volunteer in Rwamagana city, and I are working on a grant to get running water to the health center in my village. Jenny did a lot of the leg work because I don't have a computer or Internet access. She just told me that we got the money too; we need to get the money to the health center so they can hire local contractors to get the work started.
The adult English class I teach in the evenings is still in session. Everyone is doing well. Participation has dropped, though. This is mostly because everyone is so involved in the presidential election that is happening in August. There are a lot of community meetings happening in the evenings to prepare for the event.
Rutambi and his family are doing okay. Rutambi's English is getting better every time we meet. He is on vacation from school now, along with his brothers and sisters, so we get to hang out a bit more now-a-days. And, most importantly, his family is still giving me free bananas...
...and I'm still eating them.