Monday, September 25, 2006

Mullets and Anti-Mohawkes

Just a quick one to say that we're still alive, the team is down to
five now as Ruth has finished her paddling time in Uganda and is just
finishing off her trip with some volunteer work in Entebbe before she
heads home.
We've been down at the Hairy Lemon for the last little while along
with the Kiwis (Brendan and Josh) and the Americans who are called
(believe it or not!!!) Thatcher, Tyler and Walker !!! plus some random
pommy paddlers including Matt who's honorary girl on the team under
the alias Betty.

Anyway I didn't paddle because of the shoulder so it was lots of
hanging out, building dams in the little streams round the island,
swimming and reading. Oh yeah and Saturday night was a big one and now
nine of the boys have mullets or other interesting haircuts including
Walker with an "anti-Mohawk" with lighting strikes cut in…. hmmmm I
almost got a mullet ... kind of glad I didn't now as we’re back at NRE
and the reality of mirrors is hard for some hehehe.

At hairy Lemon we were treated to the most amazing lightning storm
which surrounded us on three sides and we sat on top of the hill in
the middle of the Hairy Lemon island watching the sky light up and
forks of lightning crash down.

I also had the pleasure of standing on the top of the picnic table on
the top of the hill (the only place with a hint of mobile reception on
the island) speaking to commonwealth bank in Australia trying to report my
visa card lost - the girl on the other end asked me about three times
where I was calling from ... I decided to just say Uganda rather than
"the top of a table, on a hill, on an island in the Nile... "

Oh and I realised that I've been paddling with a UK paddler who has
been tutored in maths by my aunt at Oxford! Small world.

Anyway love to all, I'm hoping to get back in my boat in the next few
days for some flat water paddling to see how things shape up. Although
drunkenly rolling down a hill on Saturday night may not have been the
best rehab… the shoulder is not so bad though, general range of
movement is pretty good and it's not particularly sore.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Hippos, Rhinos, Crocs and Shoulders

Well we headed up to Murchison Falls national park on the weekend - hired a car and driver and set off (an hour and half later than arranged in true African style). Murchison Falls is in the north of Uganda where the Nile river is forced through a gap about 7m wide where is goes over two falls of about 50m each - very impressive. It's also a national park full of animals - there were baboons all over the road on the drive in and we had to stop for a tortoise to cross the road. Then at the campground we were warned that hippos had been grazing there the night before so toilet trips in the middle of the night suddenly became a little exciting (although we heard something munching we didn't see hippos in the campground).
The next morning was our game drive where we saw all sorts of gazelle type things, giraffes, elephants, warthogs, buffalo, squirrels and two lions in the distance. Then the afternoon was a boat cruise up towards the falls, with numerous hippos and crocs in the water it was a lot of fun then the view of the falls themselves were amazing - the monkeys in the trees seemed to be checking out the tourists as much as the tourists were checking out the monkeys.
On the way back on Sunday it rained loads and the other cars we saw were all bogged - luckily our driver was awesome and we stayed safe even though the windscreen wipers didn't work and the rain was torrential. We stopped on the way home at the rhino sanctuary where they are introducing a rhino breeding program to attempt to restore a rhino population in Uganda - they've been extinct since the 70s due to poaching. We walked to within 5m of the rhinos which was pretty amazing.
Now we're back at NRE - unfortunately I managed to dislocate my shoulder yesterday and it wasn't even while I was paddling I just tried over on the edge of the river and managed to throw my shoulder out somehow with no external force on it. It was out for about 5-10 secs (of screaming) before I remembered that last time it went back in when I moved my arm round to my chest - it went back in as soon as I did that but yeah... will have to wait and see what that does to the paddling plans. Not happy at all about it considering I've spent all year strengthening my shoulder hmmm looks like a physio visit or three when I get home.
We're off down to hairy lemon today so I'll just chill out down there and watch the monkeys tease the dog and read some books while the others paddle. Hopefully I'm not off the water for too long.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Chicks Team is Complete

Just another quick update to say we’re all still alive. We just spent three nights down at Hairy Lemon, an island resort further down the river owned by an Aussie couple and their young son and wiry terrier. It’s very chilled out, no internet or phones and the supplies all come from Jinja township an hour away. Lots more paddling, the Brissy girls turned up last night – we were all in the bar drinking shots as it was Kat’s and one of the Irish girl’s birthdays… I got to bed about 5am with some mad frenchie paddlers pretending to be English trying to collapse my tent while whispering “I would like a cup of tea and I love the queen” in extremely strong French accents (one of these guys is European champ in freestyle).
Two of my friends from Christchurch randomly appeared in the bar last night which is awesome. It’s two of the polytech guys that I hung out with in ChCh last year and I had no idea they were going to be here so it’s pretty exciting. Can’t wait to paddle with them.
Half the Irish crew leaves today and tomorrow so the bar should be a bit quieter – the Irish boys Killian and Dave are on an all day bender at the moment because they are leaving, they’ve got Kat in the bar drinking shots too – it’s lunchtime.
On a sad note, one of the paddlers from the rafting company died last week in a traffic accident over here - I had met him briefly but didn’t really know him but obviously the crew over here are pretty close so it’s hit a few people pretty hard.
Hmmm what else – well this place is awesome, we’ve been boating a lot, seeing monkeys and amazing kingfisher type birds not to mention a few snakes and monitor lizards. We did the hokey pokey with the children at the take out after yesterday’s paddle – they though we were hilarious…

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Africa - here we are

Well, the internet is painfully slow here and is also a half hour ride on the back of a motorbike (the poor driver had to use “heavy gear” to get up the hill with Ruth and me on the back!) from camp so the updates might not be too frequent.
We made it safely to Uganda, had an awesome experience at check in where they only weighed one kayak so we weighed Kat’s which was empty rather than mine or Ruth’s which both had gear in them.
The flight was long but otherwise good, 13.5 hours to Dubai then a plane change and another flight via Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to Entebbe. I had my first marriage proposal from a Ugandan guy on the plane, although when he asked me how old I was his reaction to the answer was “bloody hell!” – he thought I was about 20. Everything went smoothly, Kylie’s plane had landed 10 mins before us so we cruised through customs and got picked up by a Kayak the Nile organized mini bus with roof racks.
We arrived at the Nile to be met by rather drunk raft guide who promptly got us to skull Zappa (think sambucca) out of the bottle before we set up our tents and had our first night in Africa. Waking up early I was treated to seeing monkeys in the trees just down hill of the tents and a beautiful early morning light over the river. That day we managed to hook up with another 11 paddlers making it 14 on a trip to “super hole” and the day 2 section of the river. Loads of fun and just a really cool feel to the whole boating thing where you just hook up with other groups. Everyone loves the T-shirts although the most popular is Dave's one that says "paddle like a girl" and then "official team pimp" on the front - all the boys we've been paddling with want one.
I managed to amuse the locals by getting stuck in a little sticky pourover in a non-descript rapid within the first five meters. Ruth thought I was about to swim as I was in there for a while but pride got the upper hand and I managed to get out. Then it was on down to Kalagala – one of the well known harder rapids. Just before it a little furry head popped out of the water in front of my boat. I had no idea what it was and yelled at the others “what’s an animal that swims?” they were like “crocodile, fish…” anyway turns out they have otters in Africa – never knew that.
Anyway after a few early nights and early mornings I decided it was time to break the jet lag cycle and stayed up drinking with an Irish paddler the night before last….. hmmm that’s the last time I drink shots with the Irish – man they can hold their alcohol. They also have some smooth pick up lines ;- ) hehe that don’t work on aussies it turns out!
Anyway so we’re all well, the river is amazing as are the monkeys, motorbikes, kids, etc etc. This afternoon we’re heading down to super hole – a cool play hole about 20km down the river. Dave Kneen turned up yesterday and is currently recovering from a duty free head ache – we took him paddling the moment he arrived but he did the drinking without any encouragement what so ever.
To all the boaters back home – we’re boating in rashies and shorts, it’s big fluffy waves and warm water – woohoo it’s so awesome. We were at Nile special yesterday but it's a bit huge and bouncy right now so we haven't got on it yet.
Mum – don’t worry we’re all being careful ;-) the boda bodas (motorbikes) don’t go too fast with three people on them.