Thursday, January 24, 2013

Adrenaline Fix in Jinja

Most of the decisions I’m making on this trip are made after being unable to answer the question: “Well you’re here, so why not?!” That’s how I ended up taking two days to jump off a ledge almost 150 feet above the Nile River and go rafting, for the first time ever, in class V white water rapids.

Our "team", before we started
Adrift Adventures picked my friends and me up in Kampala early in the morning and drove us out (about an hour and a half) to the starting point for our adventure up the river. As we boarded the raft and went over the instructions, my friends and I tried making jokes to hide our fear, but the guide kept on with his straight faced tips, which made us second guess this decision even more. 

Soon enough, we were approaching our first rapid and I was yelling at myself "WHYDOYOUALWAYSDOSTUPIDSTUFFLIKETHISYOUARESOSTUPIDTHISWASASTUPIDIDEAANDNOWITSTOOLATETOTURNAROUND!!" for allowing it to come this far.  But, we made it through and it was awesome! Moving over the rapids while in the raft you are literally walking on rapid waters (well, sitting and gliding on it really). It’s like a roller coaster, but way, way cooler.

Our raft floated along thirty or so kilometers (almost twenty miles) of the Nile, with rapids interrupted by occasional patches of calm water. Then, our guide told us we were coming up on the most intense rapid of the course. We had three routes to choose from. The first was called “chicken walk”, the second was something else mellow sounding, and the third was “the bad place”. This third option is only available when the waters are really high, "like today", otherwise it's too dangerous because there are so many rocks and the water can suck you down too far. Really, we didn’t have a choice.

As we made our way towards the rapid, the clouds became grey and we heard thunder in the distance. “If I were going to write a horror story about rafting, this is how it would start,” joked Sera, nervously. We got out of the raft to walk around the class VI rapid, and before I knew it we were bracing ourselves for "the bad place".

Tipping over in "the bad place"
It took about four seconds for our raft to tip over, and as our guide had instructed, I curled myself up into fetal position and tried to mentally put myself in a “happy place” as the water pushed me left, right, up, and down. I know I made it to five counting slowly, thinking about my "happy place"; I tried to remain calm for what felt like at least another ten seconds –but was probably three-, and then I started to panic. Luckily, as I flared my hands upwards like a lunatic, I felt air, and soon enough I got a breath of air, before water pushed me back under.

One of the wonderful safety guides quickly came on kayak to get me, and in no time we were all back on the raft laughing, wanting another. Adrenaline is crazy like that—not even five minutes earlier I had thought I was going to die, and now I couldn’t wait to be in the same position again.

Coming up for air
We floated down the water for a while longer before hitting our final rapid, which was relatively calm compared to the previous, but still an enormous amount of fun. Here our guide actually instructed us to allow ourselves to go over the rapid twice, which was awesome.

After rafting we were treated to a delicious lunch buffet and driven to the Adrift lodge, right outside Jinja. If you find yourself in Uganda, white water rafting is an absolute must, and I highly recommend going through Adrift and staying at their lodge. While you sit at the bar, you look over the world’s greatest river, and watch people bungee jump in front of you, all while drinking a cold Nile Special beer. The atmosphere is great too—you’re surrounded by a ton of adrenaline junkies!

To wrap up the trip, the next morning my friends and I climbed the stairs up to the bungee jumping platform… and jumped! I don’t have much to say about bungee jumping, because there really isn’t much to it. I climbed the stairs to the top, I watched my friend before me jump, I sat in the chair while they strapped me up, I walked to the ledge while following instructions and making sure I did not look down, I counted down from five, and then I jumped, screaming bloody murder. I’m really glad I did it, but I have no desire to do it again (Dad, you can breathe easy now). After rafting, I felt a great sense of accomplishment. I had helped paddle the raft, and swam myself to safety-- albeit with a lot of assistance. After bungee jumping, I just felt sore. Still, it was an unforgettable experience and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to do it all, and come out alive to tell you about it. 

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