Monday, July 16, 2007

Victorian Winter - Skiing continues

Well, after being reminded that paddling is cold I decided to stick to the frozen water for another trip to the snow, this time to my old favourite Mt Stirling. It had absolutely dumped snow a few days earlier and we had to use chains (my brand spanking new $31 chains from ebay) to get up to the car park which is justabout unheard of. Then it was off into the Narnia-like winter wonderland full of fresh snow.
Despite a the weather forecast being gloomy the trip was great with awesome skiing conditions we set up camp at the cricket pitch and it began to snow on us as we cooked dinner. My bivy bag soon began to resemble an igloo and as always in the snow people headed off to bed straight after dinner to snuggle up in warm sleeping bags. Getting into the bivy while it's snowing is hard without bringing a whole heap of snow in there with you but once inside it's cosy and warm. During the night the snow stopped and the sky cleared so it was bright and clear when heads started poking out of tents in the morning. After packing up we headed up to the summit where the wind and cloud meant we alternated between beautiful views of the surrounding high country and complete white-out, then it was back to down past GGS hut to camp to pick up the packs and head back to the cars.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Victorian Winter - the paddling part

It's been well over six months since I've been in a kayak but with water in the rivers it was time to get back into the flow of things. The trip was planned for the Jamieson, a beautiful remote river that flows out of the high country near Licola through pristine wilderness until it flows into Lake Eildon near the town of Jamieson.
Since the last time I'd paddled the Jamieson the bushfires had been through the area so things have changed a little, the water is no longer crystal clear as the rain runoff now contains ash and mud from fire damaged forest but the rapids are unchanged and the area is still pretty.
We drove up Saturday morning and I was brought back to the joys of Victorian paddling as sleet fell while we were driving to the put in. With a crew of nine on the river we quickly floated down the first couple of kms which are essentially flat before getting out to scout the first rapid - recent bushfires increase the risk of trees falling and logs across rapids tend to form nasty strainers. The first rapid was uneventful and as usual the gorge on this river crept up without warning and before we knew it we were between narrow rock walls negotiating closely spaced ledge drops and holes. The bottom rapid of the gorge is the hardest with the flow pushing into the right rock wall, I eddied out above it and Dan jumped out to scout - however at this point one of the upstream holes had got the better of Lincoln and his boat came floating down. I pulled out into the current behind his boat and followed it down the rapid, Grant followed me and a few hundred meters downstream we finally managed to pull Lincoln's boat to the side.
Everyone else paddled the gorge without incident and we continued down the 10kms or so of mainly flat river until the first 4wd access. Cold and tired, we took out and began the long uphill walk with our kayaks our to the car - part way up a few of us gave up on carrying out heavy kayaks - reasoning that either Grant could bring in his 4wd or we coulr walk back in paddle the kayaks out the next day to the road access closer to town.
Unfortunately Grantos decided on the 4wd option but the steep muddy road got the better of even Grantos' beast of a car and the whole trip started to take on slightly epic characteristics. And so we ended up camping on a muddy 4wd drive track overnight with the plan to get some wd enthusiasts to help us out in the morning. However even the random Hungarian 4wdrivers barely got themselves out with their winch when they attempted to help us and so we piled everyone and everything into the remaining cars and left the stricken vehicle there for a future recovery mission. (Grants car was retrieved with the help of a rather expensive winch two weeks later).

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Victoria Winter - the skiiing part

Well, after a whole semester of studying and doing nothing remotely fun June brought some decent snow to the Vic high country and I thought it was time to practice my faceplants in the snow after not being on skis for many years.
A weekend trip to Mt St Gwinear with the MUMC crew turned out to be a weekend of awesome weather and awesome snow .... perhaps not awesome skiing but that'll have to blamed on my ability rather than the conditions ;-)
I got to test out my new bivy bag in rather cold conditions as it was -10 degrees by 8pm and a perfectly clear night - the bivy stood up to the test although I've decided my sleeping bag probably needs a wash and down boost for future snow adventures.
The Sunday dawned cold and sunny and we set off exploring towards Mt Baw Baw although the trail soon got so icy that we decided to stop and play on a sunny slope instead, after a few hours of snow ploughing round trees and landing face first in the snow it was time to head back to camp and pick up the packs before heading back down to the cars.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

January News

Since being back from Africa nothing too exciting has happened in the paddling side of things… probably because we’re in one of the worst droughts in the history of the state. Oh yeah and there’s major bushfires in most of the river catchments which also caused a huge power blackout on a 41 degree day in Melbourne yesterday.... mmmm bring on winter!
However Kylie and Jas are still in Sth America and Jen is over in New Zealand so hopefully they’ll share some of their adventures with us soon.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Leaving Africa

The last few days have been all about getting ready to leave and saying goodbye, the last few Silerback runs - letting the kids paddle round in my boat for the last time. Then finally it really was time to go.
So leaving Africa happened in true Africa style. As Ben was on my flight I hitched a ride to the airport in the back of Steve Fisher’s ute, after the car almost didn’t make it we turned up at Entebbe to find crowds of African Muslims blocking the departures drop off area. A police man parted the crowd for the car and we managed to unload while Steve went off to find that only passengers were allowed in the terminal building and “I don’t think they’ll let me in now I’ve told them to get f*#ked” he added.
A kayak makes a wonderful battering ram through a crowd and Ben and I made it into the terminal and into the check-in line where we stood for another hour. Africa time – nothing happens fast! At check-in we avoided paying excess baggage with some difficulty and managed to get seated together for the 7 hour leg to Dubai, then it was through the one-man immigration operation and across the tarmac onto the plane which was full of Muslims going to mecca in their ankle length white robes and appropriate head gear … and blankets galore against the plane air-conditioning and … in the case the guys behind us, sunglasses that make you look like the Ugandan mafia.
So taking off an hour late we headed for Addis Ababa with just enough time to sneak in a gin and tonic before landing. This made what happened next even funnier, taxiing to the runway in Addis and the safety video was playing when all of a sudden from the other side of the plane comes the hiss of compressed air…. One of the guys in ankle length white robes now has a fully inflated life jacket to add to the ensemble!
The rest of the trip home was uneventful and long, and I arrived home to a drought-stricken Victoria at 3am. The yellow and browns here are a stark contrast to the lush tropical green of Uganda… doesn’t look like there’ll be any paddling here for a little while.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Last few days in Africa

Since the festival things have been plodding along here in the same fashion as they have been for last three and half months. Andrea and I managed to go horse riding, which was one of her prizes from the competition, which was a lot of fun and also very entertaining and neither of us are particularly skilled at riding horses. It did mean we got to tour the little pathways and villages on the opposite bank of the river and see the back channels from the other side.
We’ve spent some time down at Hairy Lemon and some up at NRE but although it’s been raining a bit less the mud is still a problem on the road up near Bujagali. There have been trips into Jinja for souvenir shopping and to get clothes made by one of the local tailors.
I fly out on the 17th of December, the day after Andrea leaves to head to the Zambezi. It turn out Ben Brown is on my flight home as far as Dubai so I’ve got company for that first leg. So this is it - the last few days in Africa…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Combat Boating

Location: Pucon, Chile
State of mind: Laja
Body: sprained ankle, sore neck, nose full of green goobas, hangover - too much beer (english boys are a bad influence.)
Favourite run so far: Combat boating down the Laja PUMPED!

Tick list:
Liacura - Cold water in the face after an overnight bus ride
Trancura Bajo - Probing the Pescador hole
Trancura Alto - 1 american lost in nasty eddy with volcano in the background
Coilico - Ditchin!
Sollipolli - Bumpin scrapin, flat tyre again.
San Pedro - Vortexes of doom!
Maichin - Pulling the moves! Stunning canyons and the woga tiga woga bird.
TrufulTruful - Into the corner with Luge speed
Cautin - Don´t miss the eddies Jasmine, messy horizon line madness.
Laja - Haulin ass!

Volcanoes and vortexes

Jas and I at the portage on the Rio Truful Truful
Jas on the Maichin (above); Me heading for a horizon on the Maichin (below)

Location: Pucon, Chile
State of mind: Somewhere between woohoo and scared
Body: Showing the effects of too much good food, bruised knuckles, sore elbow, bruised ego
Favourite run so far: Rio Maichin

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Day 3 - Boda Boda Boater Cross

So the most dangerous event yet… the Boda Boater Cross or the Boater Boda Cross – not sure which but anyway the idea is a kayak race down Silverback and then back to NRE on the back of a boda boda.
So 46 entrants, 46 boda bodas and with all the recent rain the road was a little muddy and slippery.
So four girls in this race and we knew that there were really two races. Becky and Prossie were racing for first while Andrea and I were in there for third and fourth. We got to start 10 minutes before the boys and the moment we started paddling out of the eddy I felt that my muscles were tired from the day before. So at the top of the first rapid I made the decision to run Ribcage rather than the Hump, as Ribcage is easier although a little slower. I was at the back of the group coming down ribcage and somehow managed to roll on nothing at all, rolling up I could hear Andrea calling my name but I could see her, coming round the island I saw her – stuck on the rock of the left of the little island after ribcage. Eddying out just near her I could see the problem, if she leant upstream she would become pinned on the upstream side of the rocks, she could not got off the rocks downstream as they were high on the downstream side of her boat and she was sitting there stuck in the middle of turbulent white water.
Pretty quickly I realized the only way she could get out was to get out of her boat onto the rock – if she got out on the upstream side she was risking trapping herself against the rocks. I was aware of hundreds of spectators on the bank as we were at the most accessible part of the river to watch the race. It was a weird feeling being there with so many people but being the only person in any position to do anything as the other two girls were ahead and hadn’t seen and no one else was in a kayak.
Andrea hesitated but then pulled her deck and managed to get out of her boat pushing it over the rocks into the water below, then she and her gear were in the water – she was swimming above Bujagali. I yelled at her to swim to the right bank and when I saw she would make it with no problem I started pushing her kayak towards the bank as well. I got the kayak into an eddy just above Bujagali falls and then ran the rapid looking for her paddling, not seeing it anyway I started to paddle off downstream but then people on the bank started yelling and pointing at the local fishing boat. They had picked up the paddle and I collected it from them and got it back to Andrea who was now at the bottom of the rapid with her boat having walked around.
Realising there wasn’t much point racing now we started paddling off only to see 42 male competitors come charging down Bujagali behind us so we let the leaders of that pack over stake before cruising on down to Silverback. Then it was up the muddy path to the boda bodas and my trusty boda boda driver put on the back of a “faster” boda boda back to NRE – not far up the trail we hit a patch of mud and the boda boda slid out from underneath us I landed on my back in the mud with my kayak on the top of me and the boda boda (luckily not the exhaust pipe) on my legs. Unhurt and rather amused I got up and insisted on walking past the rest of the mud patch before getting back on.
The rest of the trip was great – there were kayaks on boda bodas left right and center – in front of me and behind me the road was lined with local waving at us and everyone was having fun. Arriving back at NRE – after watching the boda in front of me veer off into the house to avoid loosing control – we were confronted with an obstacle course that we had to complete with our boda driver before our time stopped. It was a jumping castle covered in dish detergent. My first attempted to get up the initial ramp failed and my second ended in the mud in front of the castle as I wiped out before I even reached it. Then my boda driver took a running leap up and made the top so I ran and jumped and he grabbed my hand. After a few seconds of hilarious and undignified hauling and wallowing in soap suds he pulled me to the top where I promptly fell over the other side on top of him before regaining some kind of co-ordination and slithering through the rest to the end where we each had to down a Nile Special beer (in an NRE style funnel) before the clock stopped…. Phew!
Unfortunately one boda boda driver was injured in the event, he has a broken leg but all his medical costs are covered and last night we passed a hat round and he will have 300 000 ugsh to see him through until he can work again (equivalent to about three months wage).
The festival was wrapped up with a prize giving and footage and photos on the big screen and again a weary paddler dropping off to sleep before midnight when I should have been partying.

Oppps probably should give some results here, the womens boater-boda was won by Becky, the I was second and Andrea third (Prossi was disqaulified) and the men's was won by Joffrey, Henry was second and I can't remember who was third.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Day 2 - 45km Endurance Race

So day 2 of competition dawned at Hairy Lemon and it meant packing up everything in time to head back up to NRE at 10am ready for the toughest event of the competition – the endurance race from NRE all the way down to the Hairy Lemon which is a stretch of 45km involving serious white water and long flat stretches as well. We all had to race in pairs for safety the girls were being set off at 2.15pm and the boys half an hour later. A total of 10 teams entered the race, 3 girl’s teams, 1 mixed team and 6 boy’s teams. My partner was Rae and we had the plan that we’d just take things easy and see how we went. Becky and Chloe were favourites to win the women’s event – Becky is a sponsored paddler that I met in Norway a few years ago and Chloe is the video boater for the Adrift rafting company here. Andrea and Irene partnered up to be the third women’s pair and we all set off together past the huge crowd that had gathered to watch the start at Bujagali falls. The first half an hour or so incorporates the bulk of the rapids of the day one sections and is pretty fast, I lead the rapids as Rae hasn’t run that section of river since last year and we were pretty much paddling with Irene and Andrea while Chloe and Becky we not too far ahead. After Silverback rapid you hit a long section of flat water at the end of which is Overtime - a rocky rapid that a lot of people chose to portage. By the time we got there we were well and truly ready to stretch our legs so portaging was actually a welcome relief. After overtime the flat continues, and it begins to seem like the water is flowing back upstream, towards the end of this flat section I could see some of the men’s teams behind us in the distance. Bobugo Falls ends that flat section but straight away you’re back in a lake and it’s flat until Itanda. As we were nearing Itanda the boys were closer behind us and Rae and I forgot our own race and turned around to see which boys were leading. To our surprise they weren’t local Ugandan but Will and Sam powering along behind us. Just as we pulled into the eddy above Itanda they caught and we cheered them on as they ran their boats past the first part of Itanda before putting in and running bad place. We also portaged past the first part of Itanda before putting back in and skirting the bad place on the right, by now we could see Irene and Andrea in front of us again and a few local Ugandan guys were passing us but they didn’t seem to be in the their pairs- you had to be within 45 seconds of your partner at all times or you would be disqualified.
We began the day 2 section happy with the knowledge that most of the flat water was behind us and that Andrea and Irene weren’t too far ahead. After the first three rapids in day 2 we hit the flat water but unlike the sections before the flat water here was actually still flowing downstream, Rae and I settled into a steady pace gradually gaining on the girls in front. At the last rapids we were quite close and Irene was looking tired, we caught up to them just as they were getting out of their boats at the beach at Hairy Lemon and they started off sprinting the finish line which was the bar, unlikely to catch them on the sprint, Rae and I skipped up the Hairy Lemon to the bar to come in third in 3 hours and 35 minutes, 15 minutes behind the winning girls and one minute behind Andrea and Irene. In the end only two men’s teams finished due to disqualification and people pulling out so Sam and Will won in just under three hours and Anton and Adrian came second. (Becky singing at the Finish)
Then it was back to NRE again for a party… but somehow the day took it’s toll and collapsed into bed before midnight.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Nile Freestyle Festival - day 1

The first day of the Nile Freestyle Festival kicked off with a truck load of kayaks and paddlers heading down to Itanda, one of the well known grade six rapids on the river. The morning was to start with an Itanda “expression session” where the paddlers familiar with the rapid would paddle down and “express themselves” through either the lines they chose or by the freestyle moves the decide to pull off in features that most of us would avoid going into at all costs.
Anyway the truck ride itself was great, we had about 25 kayaks and people in the truck I followed the lead of Becky and perched myself on top of some kayaks up the front of the truck. Because Itanda is far way downstream (I’ve included a map of the river for clarity here) of the dam and the water from the hydro only releases from 8am, when we arrived at 11am the water was still very low, lower than I had ever seen it and everyone jumped off the trucks and sprinted to the rapid to check out the rocks that are usually under water and the new lines that had opened up in the lead in to the rapid.
The rapid was still impressive and intimidating, over half a kilometer of serious grade five white water, only a few people entered the session the rest were on the banks with video cameras, cameras and just to watch. As I was going back up to the truck to get my camera I somehow got roped into being a safety kayaker for the event so I got into my gear and sat in the eddy half way down the rapid. Sitting there, I contemplated the logic of me being safety – after all the kayakers I would be rescuing were by far better paddlers than myself and rapid was not exactly one I would be happy to try and rescue someone in.... about all I could do is paddle down after them and pick them up at the bottom. But luckily no one got into any trouble so I just got to sit there and pretend I was about rescue anyone that needed it. After some impressive paddling at Itanda (including Becky who was the only girl to run it) we all headed on down the day 2 section of river to the Nile Special wave for the Big Trick competition, on the way down I managed to fall out of my kayak in a flat section while trying to stretch my legs and got rescued by Joffrey – who still calls me Sala – which was unnecessary but funny at the same time.
Down at Nile Special the 21 competitors were divided into three heats of 7, each heat having a 45 minute open session on the wave where competitors could have as many rides as they wanted to try for the biggest move they could pull off. The bank next to the wave was crowed with spectators, including many locals dressed up in their Sunday best and the Chapati Man from Bujagali who, complete with chapatti stove and table had been transported down to the wave for the event.
The six girls in the comp were spread evenly across the heats although we were judged separately from the men, the top 3 women and top 5 men were to go through to a final 30 minute heat to decide the winners. With this style of comp it’s all about how big you can go, getting your boat airborne while executing a freestyle move. With a few big names like Steve Fisher and Ben Brown in the comp there was plenty to make the crowd cheer.
The girls got out there and gave it a go but most of us don’t like using the rope to get on the wave, instead we walk around and drop in on the wave from the eddy above which meant we all missed the wave a lot and did a lot of running up the bank. Rae and Jessie used the rope and it was clear that they would both be in the finals. The rest of us were all pretty hopeless and in the end it was Andrea that pulled off some unknown move and made the final.
The men’s final was exciting with world renowned Steve Fisher almost being beaten by Sam, a UK boater in his first competition. Both of then pulled of combination moves however Steve’s ability to get airborne saw him take first while Sam well and truly earned second. Rae’s many days of practice on the wave paid off as she beat Jessie to take first in the women’s and Andrea showed guts by dropping in to the wave from a pitch black eddy above to secure third in the women’s. Then most of us paddled off the Hairy Lemon for spit roast pig while those heading back to Bujagali had the joy of getting the trucks stuck in the mud and getting back at 2am while we were all asleep on our island in the Nile.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Rain Rain Go Away

Well the rain has been continuing, it truly is the rainy season – I wish I could send some of it home but it seems to be rather attached to equatorial Africa. We’ve been down at the Hairy Lemon, a few more kayakers have shown up with the festival now only a week away. Scott Lindgren and his brother Dustin are out shooting a film with Steve Fisher and Benji Hjort the Norwegian creek boater is here too.
We’ve been surfing mainly on the waves near the Hairy Lemon – I finally got up the guts to surf Nile Special but I’m still not brave enough to try getting onto it with the rope – I chicken out at the eddy line and let go. So I walk up each time and drop in from above - works fine until you run into a forest cobra on the rocks… rather large black and rather deadly snake… hmmm anyway one of the local kayakers threw a large rock at it hitting it in the back and it slithered off into the water. Great!! A large deadly and now very pissed off snake swimming around… however we didn’t see it again.
We headed back up to day 2 yesterday and I ran KalaGala again after that it was just a relaxed run down the river. I had another trip into the International Clinic in town, that makes it five now, as Adrian was pretty ill – they did the standard IV antibiotics and he seems to be on the mend. Apparently Thatcher has malaria as well, we haven’t seen him yet but Aliya is looking after him. Anyway looking forward to the fun of the festival…

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Storms, Birthdays and Waterfalls

Well since I last wrote we've been spending a lot of time down at the Hairy Lemon which is at the bottom of the "day 2" section of the river. We came back up to Bujagali for a few nights at the end of last week but camped at Eden Rock campsite which is about 500m away from NRE and hence a lot quieter - since NRE have got their speakers fixed it's rather noisy even with earplugs in. Wednesday night was a night of broken sleep due to the South African crew leaving at 3.30am and they decided to get Andrea (Switzerland) drunk so they carried her home at about 2.30am. Thursday night both Adrian and Kat suffered from Ugandan food hygiene or lack thereof - and Friday night was the biggest storm I have ever experienced from a tent.
Thunderstorms here are pretty common but this was something else - I don't think I've ever been scared of a storm before. It started with just the normal lightning flashes illuminating the tent and distant thunder, the rain started and as usual was a tropical downpour of large drops but instead of lasting a few minutes the deluge didn't seem to end. The lightning got closer until I was literally holding my hands over my ears and there was no time delay between the lightning flashes and the thunder cracks which threatened to deafen us. The rain intensified and started to force its way into my tent - but luckily only in small droplets - and the noise of the rain on the tent became deafening the noise of the thunder was the only thing louder. I pulled on some clothes, sure that my tent was going to leak enough for me to leave but then the noise on the tent grew even louder I pulled open the tent flap and in the bright light of the frequent lightning I was treated to the uncommon sight of equatorial Africa under a layer of ice - the ground was blanketed in at least two inches of large hailstones. At this point Scott (the one remaining South African) opened his tent which was only three or four meters from mine and I yelled over to ask if he was ok - even yelling at the tops of our voices we couldn't hear each other over the storm. After being hit by a large hail stone in the eye I withdrew into my tent but the noise of the hail was indescribable and I felt sure that at any second my tent would be ripped open by the hail so I did the only logical thing ... stuck my hands over my ears and pulled my sleeping bag over my head.
By this stage the storm had been going for around 40 minutes, the rain hadn't stopped and Scott had opened his tent to see his shorts floating past just in time to grab them. My tent was floating - there was basically several inches of water on the ground flowing under my tent and down towards the river. After a while the hail stopped and I pulled on my paddling cag (ooopps who didn't bring a rain coat to Africa???) and got out to check on the others. The termite holes in Kat's tent had let water in and she moved to the bar, it was only after she was settled and I was walking back to my tent that we discovered the trees - two trees, one only meters from our tents, had come down and we hadn't heard a thing. There was a tent under one but luckily no-one was in it. Needless to say it was a while before the adrenaline stopped flowing and we could get back to sleep.
So after that it was off back to Hairy Lemon (which had been totally bypassed by the storm). Hairy lemon is near one wave on the river (the turd wave - ie. "third" but named by Irish) that works in the low water levels of the morning and then Nile Special that works in higher levels when the power generation water reaches it from the dam. We broke up the wave surfing by a few trips on the day 2 sections, this involves getting a truck (and we mean truck!) from Hairy Lemon to a point in the river where there are three channels of intimidating rapids, Itanda, Hypoxia and KalaGala. Kala Gala is intimidating but simple - ie. keep right. The consequences of not staying right could well be permanent as it's a 4m waterfall and the left side looks like a giant boiling pot of recirculating water. I've been tempted by this drop for a while, but have been put off by the fact that the boys seem to paddle quite hard at the top to get over to the right. On Tuesday the 14th I made the decision that I was ready to run it so we back on Wednesday (my birthday) and Kat and I both made the call that we were going to do it. Tim, Adrian and Anton were also running it and Scott was standing next o it trying to decide, on seeing all of us int he eddy above he quickly jumped in his boat as well. Andrea was designated camera girl... Adrian went off first before i was even in the eddy above, then Kat followed Tim out of the eddy. Anton looked at me and said (in a Swedish accent) "do you want to follow my back?", I considered this but Anton being one of the strongest guys I've met I could see that only stressing me out as our paddling styles couldn't be more different, so Scott jumped in behind Anton leaving me in the eddy alone. Suddenly I wasn't nervous - the decision was made and I knew what I had to do. I pulled out the eddy and let the current ferry me over to the right side of the channel. I few paddle strokes kept me on line and as I came over the lip I tucked forward into roll set-up position to protect my face and shoulders from impact. The landing was surprisingly soft as I disappeared deep into the aerated water, popping up again after a second or two to see Kat in the eddy
below with a boat full of water because her deck had popped. Kat had made it into the eddy in her submerged boat before hopping out onto a rock. A bit further downstream we popped into the Adrift Rafting take out and local safety boater and freestyle team member Joffrey seemed as excited as us about the run "Sala" he yelled ( Ugandans have trouble with "r") "Sala have you been running Kala Gala?" he ran over gave me a Nile Special beer and huge hug  -  Yup it was a pretty spectacular birthday.
So now back in Jinja and staying at Eden Rock again for a few nights, Scott Lingren (legendary white water cinematographer) is showing his new film here tomorrow night so that should be great. Then it'll be back to the Hairy Lemon to hang out at the waves (and watch Steve Fisher rip it up on Nile Special).
Kat leaves tomorrow which is sad, it's also amazing that I've already been here so long as originally I was to leave as well but extending your stay seems to be the thing to do round's contagious. I'll be sad to leave when my time comes but I'm starting to feel like I'll also be ready to catch up on things I'm missing at home.
Anyway till next time...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Well things are plodding along here, Adrian has now arrived, tassie paddler from home and someone I hung out with a fair bit last summer. Also a couple more American boaters and a Swede have turned up too so there are a few more people around.
We’ve been heading down to the Ugly Sisters rapid a fair bit which has a great surf wave on it, unfortunately behind the surf wave is a large hydraulic and you only have limited time to roll up and paddle back into the eddy unless you want to test the power of the pourover.

The first day Kat paddled it she missed a few rolls on the lead in and ended up in a eddy on the opposite side of the river to the rest of us, unfamiliar with the rapid she got out of her boat to have a look but from what I could see the jungle like trees were too thick to get through. She looked upset, washing her face with water and sitting partly in the water in the eddy. When the boys had finished surfing they all ran the rapid to the left of the pourover and I decided to walk my boat back up a way and ferry over to Kat on the right hand side – after all I wasn’t leaving her to paddle and unknown drop on her own. I misjudged the force of the water when I was trying to get into the eddy huge boils and whirlies threw me off line and I looked over my shoulder to see a nice green line down through the sticky pourover. I called to Kat that there was a line and dropped in, to the boys in the eddy below it looked like I’d just dropped into one of the largest holes on the river… unbeknownst to them the green tongue of water I paddled down surged into a wave right when I hit and I got stuck surfing. Kat could see me but I was out of sight from the boys who had just seen me drop into what they thought was a hole and simply disappear. Kat witnessed my huge bounces and I pulled my boat round into a front surf and attempted to carve off the wave – suddenly I bounced high in the air and the nose of my boat dug into the green water as I landed – the result was I was air-launched out of the back of the wave. Anyway Kat paddled the right without a problem … hehehe not really sure I did the best job of rescuing her but hey, at least I provided her with some entertainment. Turns out she wasn’t upset at all but that the trees were full of ants that left her with numerous red stingy itchy bites all over her arms, neck and back – that’s why she was washing her face.
Yesterday I had what Timmy would call sub-optimal river bed interaction – ie. I hit a rock with my shoulder and have a lovely scrape and bruise. It’s a bit sore today so I’m taking the day off, trying to upload some photos which is painfully slow of course.
I’ve now extended my flights, so I’m home for Christmas – arrived at 1am on Christmas day in fact ;-)
It’s Halloween and of course – like everything at NRE this calls for a fancy dress party. Luckily Jinja market is a goldmine of amazing clothes and various knick knacks that create the most amazing costumes. I’ve picked a wedding dress (somewhat 80s in style) for a mere 20000 shillings (about $15) … can’t wait to see everyone else’s costumes tonight, we had a bit of a practice run on Saturday – Thatcher looks great in a string bikini and Robin Hood and Pippi Longstocking were in the bar too.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Team Estrogen Goes to Sipi

Well after getting a little bit of NRE overload Kat and escaped with Aliya, Megan and Philippa to Sipi Falls in Eastern Uganda near the Kenyan border. We just went for two days and stayed in a lovely cliff top camp right next to one of the waterfalls that gives the area its name.
It was a real girls road trip, complete with girly music. We did a walk to the base of one of the waterfalls – it’s a fall of about 90m down a lovely yellowy red cliff face in the midst of the lush green landscape – absolutely amazing.The road to and from there was quite amazing, clouds of dusts, trucks appearing out of no where and of course this the main road between Uganda and Kenya incorporating potholes that could hide a cow and random police check points as well as the usual bicycle and livestock traffic that you find on any African road.
Anyway we’re now back at NRE for some more paddling.