I’ve been seriously lazy about updating this blog which has lead to a considerable backlog. Trips been made and it’s time for a media dump accompanied with some words for stories. I’ll start with a trip to White Nile, Uganda bit over a year ago.

Click here for video of the trip

SN Brussels gives you an extra 15km baggage allowance for kayak if you book thru KTN.

I had been thinking of going to the White Nile for roughly two years before finally making it. First I was asked by a friend and fellow paddler to join him in 2005, but at that time I couldn’t do it because of work. But since then I had a constant effort to sort things out in order to make the trip. The ongoing dam project at Silverback and the continuous thread of loosing the upper section of the river gave some urgency to get there ASAP. The latest status on the dam is that no further changes to the river itself are until April 2010. Other sources thought say that the Silverback section can be lost at anytime. In any case, if you already haven’t been there - make your best effort to get there as soon as possible.

Eden Rock is the place to be!

After a long haul we landed on the Entebbe airport, near Kampala the capital of Uganda. After getting a visa and some faffing about the boats with the airport personnel we’re greeted by Aaron, a taxi driver wearing Kayak The Nile t-shirt. Jamie Simpson runs the KTN and is a top bloke and super helpful at everything you might need when going to the White Nile. Soon enough we were immersed by the warmth and moist of the African night, strapping our boats to the roof of the car and packing our luggage in a Toyota Corolla. 90% of the cars you’ll see in Uganda are Toyotas: Sedan as a taxi, Hiace as a matatu or land rovers. It’s a funny feeling to land on a foreing continent over 5000km away from home in the middle of the night and start a 2,5h drive thru the darkness, fields and forests on a bumpy road. We arrived safe and sound to the Eden Rock. We pitched our tents in the dark and quickly fell asleep after a long travel.

Juho soaking in the White Nile.

We woke up as sun got above the trees surrounding the campsite making our tent unbearable hot and wandered to the main building of the camp for a breakfast. After the breakfast we wanted to get on the river so we went to the NRE campsite. We found out that a guy named Reuben was about to get on the river and agreed to meet him in a while on the other side of the river,  above the Back Channels. The mighty Nile river has drawn a bunch of people on it’s bank from all over the world who can be considered as locals and they are all friendly, helpful and a lot of fun.

Author running the Blade Runner.

We were a bit nervous as the first rapid for us to run on the Nile would be a back channel that are considered harder than the commercially rafted main channels. There are four back channels to Bujagali Falls: Blade Runner, Escape Hatch, Widowmaker and Brickyard. We ran the Blade Runner which is the easiest and most straightforward of the back channel - The Widowmaker being the hardest. The Blade Runner has several lines to take, but the steep drop is normally lined on the left of center, down the obvious seam skirting and/or melting couple of holes on the way. Awesome!

Down the river we surfed a rapid called 50-50 rapid a bit and continued our way down Surfcity. There’s also a small rapid in between the 50-50 and the Surfcity, all easy and straightforward with some play features and fun to throw downriver moves. Silverback got our heart rate up again. Reuben explained how the rapid was just a wave train, but by far the biggest on the river and is more than likely to flip you over. The ongoing dam project has dammed the Ugly Sister channel which used to draw big amount of water above the Surfcity. As the channel is now blocked more water goes down the Silverback channel making it a very sporty affair. What makes the Silverback so much fun is that you never know whats going to happen. No matter how good paddler you are or no matter how good day you are having you can end up with a head dry run or counting the fish all the way down… or anything in between.

The Silverback run ends up in an eddy on the river right just below the Silverback. From there you hike up shortly uphill from the river to meet boda drivers who you hired earlier when putting in at the NRE. The Silverback run is short and sweet and you can run it lap after lap. It’s the best and most accessible river running section on the river and will be lost completely on when the new dam is finished.

Local kids playing at the Silverback takeout.

From the NRE put-in you can run either Ribcage or Hump as a lead in to Bujagali Falls. Ribcage is the easiest and used for commercial rafting. The Hump became my favorite as it’s a classic river running move to tuck yourself into a huge lateral wave and hold on to your paddle. The Bujagali Falls have two commonly ran lines - one on the left and one on the right. The left line involves following a green tongue over a ledge into a zone of funny water that tends to flip people. Quick roll is essential as if you end up drifting towards the center you might find the only shallow spot in the Buj. Sami ended up there once upside down, broke his paddle and cut his hand. The right hand line starts from the right with a left ferry angle to either skirt or plug the surface hole at the bottom. Both of the lines are classics and heaps of fun.

The Ribcage on the left and the Hump on the right.

Juho (and the bottom of my boat :( ) in the Hump.

Dropping to the left line of the Bujagali Falls.

Juho lining up for the river right line at Buj.

After the Silverback run take-out there is some small rapids before a lengthy bit of flat water that ends up at Overtime / Dead Dutchman. The Overtime is the easier channel on river right and depending on the water level is run by commercial rafts. At high water the line is quite challenging in a kayak as well. You’ll eddy out on the river left to line up for a hard ferry to to the right to skirt some holes in the left side and drop over a final ledge. Parallel channel Dead Dutchman is one of the biggest and hardest channels on the river. A good challenge for those who are up to it and know where to go - we didn’t had a second look :)

Dropping over the final ledge of the Overtime.

Bugoga Falls / Superhole is again after a bit of flatwater floating. Some good play here on this rapid. The day 1 section of the White Nile comes complete with Itanda falls. Parallel channel to the Itanda are Kalagala falls and Hypoxia and together they form a spectacular setting of whitewater, but more of that later.

During our stay at the day 1 section we camped at the Eden Rock camp site next to the NRE camp. Eden Rock is not as a hectic place than the NRE where the going gets quite wild in the NRE bar most of nights. The food at Eden Rock is good and affordable, but they are not very effective at mass cooking so book in time if there’s more people around. You can also eat on the street outside the camp at Green Light or Africa’s Mamas. Book in advance for both of the places or they might not have food for you. The Green Light restaurant is run by Davies and hes a very cool guy. Many a great paddling day came complete eating and hanging out at his place with a bottle of Nile or Club at hand.

Uganda 2007 - The White Nile from Tuomas Vaarala on Vimeo.

Stay tuned for the second update from the White Nile: Nile River Freestyle festival, Hairy Lemon and more…