White Nile Water

White Nile Water

  

Words by Shane Quinnell, Photos by Shane Quinnell and Raft Uganda and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

My heart doesn’t pound too hard too often but it is POUNDING now. I can hear it in my ears. “Forward,” comes the command! We stroke. Forward we go. I can feel our speed increase as we move into the main current. The background drone of thousands of litres of White, both in name and colour, Nile River water pummelling into submerged rocks and itself grows until it becomes a deafening ROOOOAAR!.

“FORWARD!” The water changes. The boat rocks. Violently. Water sprays. “GET DOWN!!”

With that command we hit a maelstrom of white madness. Down a chute straight into a 3 meter wall of white water. Our boat from Raft Uganda, which previously looked and felt very substantial, is tossed with a ferocity which rocks us all. The boat spins like a feather in the breeze. Bang! We stop. On the edge of a waterfall. Oh bugger…

Slowly the current grabs hold again, the boat moves. Without warning the current attacks, pulling us into the waterfall… backwards. Oh shit!

Tarryn and I Ioving the white Nile waters!

We all grab on for dear life as we hit free fall. We hit the water. I hit Tarryn. The water hits us. in the face, up the nose, on our heads, everywhere. We are on the verge of being submerged, our entire raft full to the brim with the Nile River. We are stuck in the water regurgitating at the bottom of the falls, known in white water terms as a hole. The water keeps coming until eventually as if the Nile decides we have taken enough of a pounding, it lets us go. We realise we are at the mercy of this river.

Somehow, despite the craziness, we are all still there. In one piece, in the raft. We didn’t capsize.  WHOOOOPPP! The built up tension comes out. “That was fricken AWESOOOOME!” We scream in relief and excitement. That was the first rapid done, three more to go!

“This part of the Nile is one of the safest places to raft. Unlike the Zambezi there are no crocodiles, hippos or other dangerous things.”

Juma

Raft Guide, Raft Uganda

When people think of the Nile they generally think of Egypt, the pyramids and Tutan Khamun. They also often associate the river with giant man eating Nile crocodiles. Very few thoughts are spared to the source and what can be found there. In this case Uganda’s second biggest town; Jinja, which is home to the source of the Nile, some absolutely BAD-ASS rapids and Raft Uganda.

As usual, the generalisations are not true; as our guide Juma proudly told us, “this part of the Nile is one of the safest places to raft. Unlike the Zambezi there are no crocodiles, hippos or other dangerous things.” While technically this is correct, some folk may consider hitting the Grade 5 rapids found on the way down the river in a blow-up rubber boat slightly risky. Nevertheless, it was great to see our guide was confident. Having worked on that section of river for over 20 years and visibly possessing great skills, he had reason to be.

As an aside you may be interested and saddened to hear there were once crocs in that part of the river but no more. The story there is actually quite crazy and goes something like this. During his reign, Uganda’s infamous 20th century dictator; Idi Amin, used to take disabled people and those he disliked to the river at lunch time. As he ate his food he would order the people to be fed to his reptilian friends as personal lunchtime entertainment. Unfortunately, as the people could not get rid of their tyrant leader they instead exterminated his favourite vacuum cleaners; the crocodiles. In all honesty, while I am saddened by the story, at the time I was rafting the river I was secretly ecstatic to know they were not around.

Our half day experience spent rafting down the Nile River with Raft Uganda was simply awesome. The Raft Uganda crew, from our raft guide Juma to the safety kayakers, were super proficient and very experienced. We had an insanely cool day out meeting the white water of the White Nile head on. Definitely something for your bucket list!

Check out the awesome video of the epic White Nile action!

How to Paddle the White Nile Waters…

For those looking for something to get the blood pumping and experience an African adventure, rafting the Nile is a GREAT thing to do. Here are some details to save you time in trying to figure out how it all works.

Location: Trips leave from Jinja, Uganda. Only an hour or two from Kampala and worth a visit.

Contacts: We went with locally owned and operated Raft Uganda (http://raftuganda.com/, info@raftuganda.com). All prices on their website but in general there are three options; half day ($125), full day ($140) and a family float for the little ones. Both the half and full day trips do multiple Grade 5 rapids. We were really happy with the service and expertise and would happily recommend Raft Uganda.

Enjoy the ride!!

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On the Move – The Unwritten Rules of the African Road

On the Move – The Unwritten Rules of the African Road

  

Words and photos by Shane Quinnell and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

 As a broad generalisation people seem to have the impression that Africa is a lazy continent. The belief is that, like the Spanish, the midday siesta is a common part of the African agenda, the only difference is the African “Lala,” lasts all day. In our experience, like many generalisations, this one is not entirely correct. In this regard, our experience is that our continent is actually an oxymoron. Africa is a large, vast and generally densely populated place. While it is true that many people, men particularly, can be seen day and night simply sitting under mango trees waiting for the fruit to fall, the opposite is also true. It is also a place where people, again men in particular, frequently work far from their homes and families in order to earn a living to provide for those they love. It is often a tough place, where despite the generalisations, many people have to work and fight hard to survive.

For most Africans, like most people in the third world, owning cars is a pipe dream. The financial barriers to entry are simply too high. Alike most places where this is true, organic solutions to the transportation conundrum have manifested into a chaotic looking yet highly functional system.

The omnipresent piki pikis of Africa. Look closely and you can clearly see these ones are Rwandan; they have helmets.

Because of the higher cost of bigger vehicles, they are far rarer than in wealthier countries and continents. Particularly in the rural areas, bicycles and motorbikes, called Piki Pikis, Bora Boras, Motos and any number of other names depending where you are, outnumber cars like ants to antelope. People use them for absolutely everything from transporting their entire family to moving half their village banana plantation and charcoal supplies the 20km to the main road to sell.

I only realised how ridiculous this actually was when a local girl dropped the bike she was riding while trying to let us pass on the narrow rutted back road we were driving on. Seeing she was struggling to lift the bike, I stopped and jumped out of our little Suzuki, Badger, to help her lift it. It took every ounce of my strength to lift the bike and what turned out to be three GIANT bags of charcoal. The whole ensemble likely weighed about 60 kilograms! Having felt the weight of the bike I have no idea how riding it was possible… andhers was far from the heaviest bike we saw.

An example of the hundred kilo bicycle. The huge white bags are all filled to the brim with charcoal. This guy is probably riding 20km minimum.

After the smaller vehicles comes the three wheel motos, which you don’t see often but when you do are EVERYWHERE, horse carts, cars, minibuses and small trucks. Most of these vehicles except the small trucks are used for transporting people and they follow but one rule; fit as many people as possible before you go anywhere. Motos are also a very common local taxi and tourist vehicle. Other than in Rwanda where a hard maximum of two helmet wearing people is permitted per moto, as many people as possible with no helmet are usually jammed on board.

Life on three wheels, packed into a three wheel moto on the way back from seeing the Livingstone mango tree in Kigoma, Tanzania.

The last group is the one to be wary of. They work on the “dog eat dog,” principle that big trumps small, ALWAYS! They drive where they want, when they want, in spite of road conditions, speed signs or other commuters. If you want to survive the African Transportation system you better learn to move out their way. QUICKLY! They are the big fish in the African pond. They are the trucks and buses.

Like most systems, African Transportation works by a set of rules. Alike most things truly African, these rules have likely never been clearly defined and are unwritten, yet understood by all involved. Enjoy the ride… its likely to the be the most exciting and chaotic one of your life :).

Team Tane

Vehicles aside, there are many other things that characterise the unique nature of time on the African roads.  For a start, there are the roads themselves which vary from sections of surprisingly decent tar to tracks which animals like cattle would struggle to move on. There are corrugations so deep and persistent that only aftermarket suspensions like Tough Dog can handle them. There are no street signs and speed limits which change according to the local policeman’s whim on the day.

One of the many big fish in the African pond. A local truck packed TO THE BRIM with everything you can imagine.

Finally an unmissable fact in Africa is that the roads and tracks which Africa uses for transportation are not just for vehicles. Far from it. Being the paths of least resistance in places where thorns as thick as fingers await shoeless feet and hooves, the roads are used by every manner of creature imaginable to move. People are often walking everywhere, weaving between traffic. Tiny children traipse to school playing with balls and each other often abruptly running into the roads. Domestic animals like pigs, chickens, goats, cows with horns like lances, dogs and cats play chicken with moving vehicles at every turn. Think that sounds crazy? Well wait until you nearly plough into a herd of elephant, a hippo or a pack of wild dogs. Trust us all of these things are very possible.

 

The roads of Africa are a busy place. They are capable of frazzling the toughest inexperienced African explorer into being more nervous

Sick of riding uphill? Follow these guys, grab a lift.

than a teenager on a first date and making them drive slower than their Grandmothers.

 

Aside from the specifics which categorise the African Transportation system there are overarching truths. Firstly it can be said ‘If it moves it grooves,’ in other words ‘it does not matter what the condition of the vehicle is if it can go it will be taking someone somewhere.’ Secondly and most importantly ‘only the strong survive:’ if you want to get anywhere you better grow a thicker skin quickly. Niceties mean nothing here other than that you are prey ready for the taking.

Like most systems, African Transportation works by a set of rules. Alike most things truly African, these rules have likely never been clearly defined and are unwritten, yet understood by all involved. So long as you learn these cardinal rules; big beats small, assume no other vehicle on the road has working breaks and make sure you look and act like you know who’s boss, and watch for the million things that are likely to run into the ‘road,’ you’ll get through it just fine. Enjoy the ride… its likely to the be the most exciting and chaotic one of your life ;).

Check out the additional photos of what can be found on the African roads below. 

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The Mighty Rwenzoris

The Mighty Rwenzoris

 

 

Words and photos by Shane Quinnell and Videos by Tarryn Quinnell unless otherwise credited.

This is a brief summary of our epic trip to climb three of Africa’s five highest summits in the Rwenzori Mountains, Uganda. Full accounts will be published in the Getaway and Sawubona Magazines in the coming months and posted to our articles page. Don’t miss the summit gallery, trip info and video at the end! Hopefully, this wets your appetite for more ;).

Sitting here, bouncing our way in Badger on yet another potholed dirt road, it is difficult to believe our trip to the Rwenzoris was real. It is similarly difficult to believe that despite the odds; the variability of weather, possibility of sickness or fatigue stopping us, we made it up all three mountains. Mt Stanley (5,109m), Mt Speke (4,890m) and Mt Baker (4,844m), respectively the 3rd, 4th and 5th highest mountains in Africa, are under our belt. It feels like a dream. I suppose in many ways for Tarryn and I, it is the culmination of part of our dream.

The mighty Rwenzori Mountains; the mountains we climbed. From left to right Mt Stanley, Mt Speke and Mt Baker, the 3rd to 5th highest mountains in our continent.

We are under no illusion that we had support in getting to the top. From our friends, family, amazing sponsors, our guides and most importantly the great Rwenzori Mountain God; Kitasamba. Anyone who knows big mountains, knows there is never a guarantee and some level of luck is involved in summiting, thus we thank our lucky stars.

However, in addition to luck, summiting the Rwenzoris took many other things which I am very proud of our team, including Tarryn and adventure buddy Immo, for possessing. They required physical and mental toughness, intense determination and a desire for adventure.

Heading toward the top of Mt Stanley, shown in the background. Once at the summit, the weather closed bringing with it freezing winds.

They also all required high tolerance to ridiculously frigid conditions, something Tarryn seriously lacked but our great Mont Bell clothing helped with, early alpine starts and most importantly an unnaturally high level of tenacity.  This last requirement Tarryn showed in absolute abundance on all three mountains as she pushed through fatigue and constant mild hypothermia to get to the summits. These feats of determination earned her limitless respect from all of us there and the nickname “Suzuki,” for being small and tough as nails.

In spite of, maybe because of, the often harsh conditions; never ending bogs, frequent black ice and rough terrain, the hike was mind-blowingly awesome! The entire range is an other-worldly assortment of strange plants and animals, like the three-horned chameleon and scenes which appear to have stopped evolving somewhere in the Jurassic period.

The being from the other world; one of the strange three horned chameleons we met on our journey in the mystical mountains.

The mountains themselves were incredible and well worth the toil required to get to them. In general what can be said is that all the mountains were more technical than we expected and provided a proper adventure. From crampons and ice axes, to gloves, walking poles, gaiters and harnesses, our Black Diamond gear was put to the test. We are happy to say the gear performed with flying colours.

This said, while the mountains shared similarities, each also had its own character unique challenges. Our routes up Mt Baker (4,844m, Africa #5) and Mt Speke (4,890m, Africa #4) were both free of glaciers but included some technical but really fun sections of scrambling. As we were to find, black ice, and in Speke’s case normal ice and snow, made the climbs interesting, challenging and at times really slippery! Tarryn came back laden with bruises from all the slides she succumbed to.

“in the 9 years I have worked in the Rwenzories I have seen the glaciers melt further every year. Watching them I can even cry…” If you want to experience these mountains in all their glory, get there fast.

 

Enock

Head Guide, Rwenzori Trekking Services

 

The calm before the storm, literally. Sharpening, checking and fitting our crampons. As with anything, in mountaineering “proper preparation prevents piss poor performance.”

This said, while the mountains shared similarities, each also had its own character unique challenges. Our routes up Mt Baker (4,844m,

The start of mighty Margerhita glacier. Now receding further up the mountain each year the start of the glacier is very steep and technical. Notice the specks; they are people.

 

Africa #5) and Mt Speke (4,890m, Africa #4) were both free of glaciers but included some technical but really fun sections of scrambling. As we were to find, black ice, and in Speke’s case normal ice and snow, made the climbs interesting, challenging and at times really slippery! Tarryn came back laden with bruises from all the slides she succumbed to.

In our eyes though, Margherita Peak of Mt Stanley, who at 5,109m (Africa #3) is the undisputed King of the Rainmakers, stole the show and our adventurous desires. With two glaciers enroute to the top, Mt Stanley is a true adventure to climb. Unfortunately due to effects of climate change and environmental degradation, these beautiful ice rivers are predicted to be gone by 2025. Enock, Head Guide for Rwenzori Trekking Services who we walked with said “in the 9 years I have worked in the Rwenzories I have seen the glaciers melt further every year. Watching them I can even cry.”

Our hike to the Mountains of the Moon took ten days and covered about 108km. We went with the local company Rwenzori Trekking Services (RTS), based out of Kilembe, Uganda. Both the hike and the company we used were superb. RTS even went as far as offering hot water bottles at the end of each day’s hike! Considering their highest camp, ‘Margherita,’ is approximately 4500m high and bloody freezing, this was a pleasant and in Tarryn’s case, necessary, luxury. The mountains of food provided at each meal time were also awesome and their guides friendly, well trained and super knowledgeable. They even supplied us with high quality Black Diamond crampons and ice axes for the Margherita climb. While we generally like to carry our own packs in this case it was great in this case it was great to only have our lighter Osprey mountaineering packs for the strenuous hiking while porters carried our large packs.

Some mountains are made of food. The massive meal provided to us by RTS on the first night of our hike.

It must be understood that the hike will cost a bit of money. Once you get there is it very clear where it goes. In addition to the above, RTS provides really high quality huts at nearly every camp and well cut and maintained trails. Moreover, from what we understand a lot of money is funnelled into community development and conservation and provides a huge amount of local jobs.

The Rwenzoris is another world. A world of wonder, intrigue and adventure. We would recommend it to anyone, ideally without a fear of heights, who is looking to experience true mountains in the heart of Africa. If it sounds like your thing then get there fast before the magical ice rivers melt.

Don’t miss the EPIC summit gallery, information and video below!

Tips on Getting to the Rwenzoris?

Lets face it, who wouldn’t be interested!! Its the best hike we have done and one of the coolest places we have ever seen.

Important Notes: Unfortunately you can’t hike alone and must use an operator. Having been there we KNOW this is a good idea anyway. Unless you like swimming in mud do your best to go in the dry season (Jan – Feb and June – July), you’ll swim in less mud in season. Get fit, the hike is relatively strenuous.

Contacts: We went with Rwenzori Trekking Services (http://www.rwenzoritrekking.com/, rwenzoritrekking@gmail.com). All prices on their website, our hike was around $1520 per person for ten days. It is a bit more expensive if two people or less. Note that prices exclude Ugandan Wildlife park fees ($35US per person per night in the park) and optional tips (totaling about R1000 per person for a ten day trip if you follow suggestions).

Happy Exploring :)!

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