Finally, I had found the G-Spot. And immediately wished I hadn’t. Upon hitting it I was bucked, angrily lashed about like a limp doll and, after truly believing I was about to die, ended up absolutely exhausted and dripping wet. My first thought was ‘never again’, and the five women with me agreed, but soon I was inside rubber again and ready for another soaking.
Jinja may seem a sleepy, picturesque town on the shores of the vast Lake Victoria in the south-east corner of Uganda, but it’s better known as the base for something far more exhilarating – white water rafting at the source of the mighty Nile.
The world’s longest river winds north from Uganda through Sudan and Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea, and its source just outside Jinja is recognised as the largest raftable volume of water in the world. From the outset it certainly seems like it.
Following an early morning exit from our comfortable camp in town we were bussed to our departure point and ready to raft after only minutes of basic training – which could be summarised as ‘put the paddle in the water and pull’. Soon we were staring down the first of the three grade-five rapids of the day. At the centre of the greater, grade-four rapid known as Total Gunga, we were heading for the one affectionately labelled the G-Spot.
Grade five are the most treacherous rapids you are legally allowed to ride in a rubber raft and, while our crew of myself, five girls and a very encouraging captain could have taken the easier route along either side, we all agreed to try and find the G-Spot and hit it as hard as we could. The knowing nod and sly smile from our Kiwi skipper should have alerted us to the danger in our decision, if not the churning white water and almost deafening roar rising from the rocks below. Stupidly, we paddled on.
Like on a rapid-riding rocking horse, our raft buckled and almost went over the face of the stationary wave on the first attempt, slid back down to the trench and up the face again before finally capsizing and casting the gagging crew into the rushing Nile. It was then that the terror set in.
While Dave, our captain, pre-warned that we would go under the water I wasn’t prepared for the underwater assault I was about to be served. It was also the first time I felt the cold – and in this case wet – hand of death reaching for me.
After tumbling from my forward position in the boat and into the warm water, it felt like I was in a washing machine. First was the spin cycle, as the current took me from what Dave said was almost zero to 40km/h in around four seconds. Then the tumble cycle, as I was barrel-rolled forwards for another seemingly endless stretch. All this despite incredible safety precautions such as a lifejacket that could hold a hippo’s head afloat.
Eventually I surfaced to see a smiling Ugandan local cruising alongside in a kayak – there to carry me to the shoreline and safety, and also to point out that maybe I was being a tad dramatic. While I thought I had just defied death, it turned out I was actually under the whitewash for only about six to eight seconds. It really felt like longer. It was only then they chose to tell me that despite taking thousands of travellers down through the source of the Nile they had never lost any. It seems it’s completely safe.
With only 10 rapids from grade two to five to complete along a 35-kilometre stretch, there was also plenty of time to relax, recuperate and enjoy the greenery and rolling hills on either river bank in the country known as the Jewel of Africa. There was also time to savour a sumptuous lunch prepared for the entire three-boat fleet.
But it was excitement our crew craved and, after the initial experience of the G-Spot, all of us, already closely acquainted with our mortality, knew what to expect and were looking forward to, rather than paddling powerfully away from, the remaining rapids – particularly the grade fives, and even the final one.
Known as the Bad Place, for reasons that should be obvious, the final rapid of the afternoon is one which all rafters have the option of completing, as it is considered the worst. After agreeing to do it together we didn’t know whether it was knowing what we were in for or not, but it was simply adrenaline charging and fun rather than nerve wracking and fearsome.
Once again we were dunked in the drink, but after an entire day of what was actually strenuous exercise we were left enlivened, exhilarated and indestructible. Enough, in fact, for several of us, including myself, to then tackle the 44m bungee jump that also dangled over the source back at base camp.