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Uganda-Report 2019 – Excursion to the White Nile

By Test Jens, 11/16/2019 - 15:06
Uganda-Bericht 2019 – Ausflug zum Weißen Nil

Namaganda, 16. 11. 2019 (Deutsch)

Ina had an encounter with wild animals last night. Well, a wild animal. Specifically, a frog hopped into her hut and was very difficult to convince to leave the scene. For breakfast today we have white bread in addition to potatoes and spaghetti. Raphaela immediately fetches another glass of honey and adds to the breakfast buffet. As a result, white bread with honey becomes a popular combination with the children and teachers who eat with us. We feel as if we have been here for a week, and it is only our third day in Uganda.

Today a trip to the Nil is planned. In Jinja at Lake Victoria, Uganda's second largest city, the White Nile rises and flows roughly 100 km north, then turns west in Lake Kyoto towards Lake Albert. Kamuli lies about 15 km as the crow flies east of the Nile. The section called Victoria Nile here is a hotspot for water sports. Whitewater rafting is popular there, and although we don't want to take part in it, the rapids required for it promise an impressive sight. So much for the plan.

On the way there we take a shortcut. From the main road towards Kamuli we turn left halfway. The way is actually shorter, but by no means faster. Eddy's father has to prove his driving skills at various places and manoeuvre through muddy hollows. I wonder how he does that, as I have already gotten stuck on better ways mercilessly. Later I learn that the car has four-wheel drive. Okay, that helps, but otherwise the car has no off-road equipment, no underride protection, small wheels with normal road tires and only little ground clearance.

Afterwards we drive on the well-developed road Kamuli Jinja to the outskirts of Jinja, to drive north again after a short break, parallel to the Nile. There is nothing to see of the river. Due to some dam projects for power generation the whitewater rafting activities had to move further and further north. Eddy and Daddy don't seem to know this area very well either. We keep on driving the mediocre dust road, supported by Google Maps, which are not very reliable in Uganda, and we have the impression that our two local companions don't really know where we want to go either.

But suddenly we reach a barrier, pay 162,000 UGX (three muzungus each 54,000 UGX, locals are free), and then from the parking lot we see the gorge that the Nile has dug into the landscape and the first whitecaps of the rapids. We are at the Itanda Falls, the highest and most violent rapids of the Victoria Nile. Neither rafting inflatable boats nor kayaks can get through here. They have to be moved by feet at this point. The foaming water masses are impressive. You can climb up to close to the water. For hours I could watch the bubbling current, but our obligatory guide wants to show us the rest of this great place. The path is not always easy, especially for Ina with her joint problems, but she masters it perfectly.  More and more new views and even wilder sections of the raging water masses open up before us. My camera is glowing.

After a short hollow path, passing a termite building, we reach a cosy meadow below the falls. Under a pleasantly shady roof our guide praises us a boat trip with all kinds of attractions. We all like the idea to rest a little after the crackling. We decide for the shorter tour for 125.000 UGX and shortly afterwards we sit in a small boat secured with life jackets and enjoy the different perspective on Itanda Falls and the beautiful and exciting landscape around it.

On the other bank we moor in a small rocky bay. Since we have to climb over rocks for the next highlights, we leave Ina with the boat driver. Our guide shows us in some way holy stones which have to be protected from the sunlight under tarpaulins (but we didn't quite understand the context) and a cave where the fishermen sacrifice small clay pots for a better catch. Then we pass through a cave, into which I crawl courageously despite some warnings concerning my body size. Fortunately, the story of Homer Simpson in the aquapark still comes to my mind, and I slide back even before the narrowest point. Also great is the view from this side of the river. Opposite on an island in the middle of the rapids is the spectacular Lema Wild Water Lodge (double room from 510 $...).

So that Ina doesn't have to wait too long for us, we save ourselves the trip to the top and return to the boat. Ina obviously had a good chat with the boatman and learned a lot about his living conditions. She was not bored. We climb back into the boat and make our way back. To increase the tension a little bit, our boatman steers his vehicle a few more times directly into the rapids. We are partly in the middle of the bubbling water, but have full confidence in the boat and the helmsman. We safely return to the starting point. To finish we go back to the place at the top of the falls and lounge as comfortably as possible on rocks under shady trees.

Finally it's time to think about the way home. To save the detour via Jinja, we try to find a way directly east to the road to Kamuli. We manage this so far, but after several kilometres the road offers another adventure. The modest sign at the roadside "Men at work" announces a construction site. Shortly afterwards we see a big yellow excavator standing in a lake from a distance. Only that this lake is actually our road, which is completely flooded for more than one kilometre. Partly the clay soil of the road surface is already washed away and only gravel and stones are recognizable as a path (at least something similar to a path is recognizable). So, I would have driven through there with an off-road vehicle only after a thorough inspection of the route on foot, including measuring the necessary wading depth and checking the ground clearance. Eddy's dad stays in his seat and drives off shortly afterwards. Our breath stops. Carefully and slowly daddy manoeuvres the car bumpy through the floods. A construction worker comes to our aid and guides us over the stony path. Innumerable times we offer to leave the car (after all, my person alone brings at least 3 cm more ground clearance!) But Daddy is relentless, even to the car. Crashing we bump over many a rock. We expect to get stuck any second.

But nothing like that happens. Calmly and skilfully, Eddy's dad steers his vehicle through all obstacles. As we cheer, he reaches solid ground again. Unfortunately there are no photos of this situation. Only later, when the puddles are comparatively small, we take a few pictures. We reach the school in Namaganda without further incidents. After the excitement we take a shower and find out that with the available means one can also wash hair well.

After dinner there will be another round of questions from the children to the visitors from Germany. Great what the little ones still think of asking us. Especially Joel can't stop asking us questions. Hopefully we have answered everything fairly correctly.

We let the day end in a comfortable round under sparkling stars. We were especially happy that both Eddy and his father had never seen the Itanda Falls that we visited today and that they enjoyed it as much as we did.