Saturday, August 22, 2009

Living in Uganda

At the moment I'm staying in the NRE campsite by Bujagali falls. It's pretty cool here. It's right at the start of the Silverback run so is a perfect spot to stay. there's a bar on site which sometimes has a great atmosphere. There's about 10 kayakers between here and the Eden Rock campsite across the road. I should move over as it's cheaper and quieter but it seems like a lot of effort.


The crowd at NRE changes all the time. Truck loads of tourists traveling Africa arrive for a for a few days at a time and the weekends are also busy with volunteers who have some time off. They are all here to raft so the night usually kicks of after the video of that days rafting which is shown at 9.

The rainy season has well and truly arrived too. It rains torrentialy almost every afternoon (today being a nice exception). Yesterday brought the heaviest rain I have ever seen. Bucket loads of water came down. There was a river of water flowing through the bar where it was only raining heavily as compared to the sheets of water falling outside. The river, which is only about 200m from the bar was completely out of sight. After it passed it transpired that the rain had brought down most of the tents in the campsite. Luckily mine was one of the few that escaped.

The rain also has an effect on paddling. The Boda-Bodas wont operate in the rain so we have to try time our Silverback runs to avoid the daily deluge. A Boda-Boda is a 50cc scooter which are fairly common out here as taxis. We get them to meat us at the get out bellow Silverback and we load ourselves plus our boats and gear on to get the 20 minute ride back to the campsite.

As for paddling I've spent the last few days paddling with some English lads plus a guy from NUIG on the Silverback section. Today I did my first back chanel, blade runner and also managed a dry head line down the Silverback rapid. (Still haven't manged to clean the second hole on the Bujagali left line though). We'll spend another day or two here and next week I'll probably head to the Hairy Lemon with the English guys. The Hairy Lemon is another campsite at the bottom of the day 2 section and is right beside Nile Special and the Club wave which are big playwaves. Myself and 2 paddlers from Southampton Uni may also take a few days out for a Safari next week too.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Silverback

Finally got to paddle on the day 1 section today. We did two runs from our campsite down to Silverback. It's a great run. Theres a few rapids after silverback but also a lot more flatwater so they were left to another day.

My runs were far from Stylish and unlike the day 2 section, were I only had to roll once, I rolled on most the rapids here.

The first rapid on the run is a choice between either Ribcage or The Hump neither is particularly hard but both are good fun. After that is Bujagali falls. There are several lines but I oped to run the left one both times. The left line is basically two drops with a flattish section in between. On the first run I realised that the the flat section was actually quite pushy and ended up ferrying hard just to make the line having been pushed into the centre which is nasty and rocky looking. I landed just at the edge or the normal line and got flipped by the hole. The second time was much better but the second hole still got the better of me despite being on line.

50-50 is the next major rapid. The curx of it is a diagonal wave which is fairly big. It flipped me on both occasions. The second one I was sure it had popped my deck due to difficulty of rolling, but it appears that I timed my rolls perfectly with the waves on the wave train which were pushing me straight back in. The final (and biggest) rapid on the run is silverback, there's a massive ramp where the river narrows and feeds into a wave train. The waves are huge and surging and a clean line requires an element of luck for anyone. my first run I got eaten by the 3rd wave while in my second run it was the 4th wave that ate me after I dared to roll up when wave number 2 had already flipped me.

It's a great section of river, I still have to do Overtime and Chopasuai which are further downstream as well as any of the back channels. Hopefully over the next few days I'll get to try them as well as make some cleaner lines on the main rapids.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rest Days

Unfortunately my old shoulder injury made a reappearance on Bujagali Falls (the first real rapid on the run) on my first run down the day 1 section, so I have had a few days rest hoping that it will go away. Its still a bit stiff but hopefully I can go again tomorrow. I've spent plenty of time in the eddy practicing rolling on my left as rolling on my right (which I normally do) seems to be whats most likely to aggravate it.

That has meant that I've had plenty of free time. I've spent plenty of that chilling out on the campsite, but I've also taken some time to explore the local area. One day I rented a bike and one of the local raft guides on his day of brought me around the locality. It's definitely worth giving up a day for. It's the start of the rainy season here so everyone is out working getting the fields ready for planting. We passed through little villages, fields and schools. Everywhere the people are so friendly, particularly the children. When ever they saw me they'd come running shouting "Mzunda" which means "white man", they all what to shake your hand so if I was to stop for all of them I'd never get anywhere! most of them were delighted with a wave back though.

Today I went into Jinja on a Boda, a 50cc scooter taxi with two lads from Southampton Uni canoe club. We wandered around the town for the few hours, enjoying the market and some local foods.

Hopefully though I can shortly go back paddling, as nice as the area is I did come here to kayak. I've been down to Sliverback and I cant wait to run it. That said I'm not planing on taking too many risks as I still have over 3 weeks left here and If I seriously injure it I may not get too much paddling at all.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

First days paddling in Uganda

Paddling in Uganda is every bit as good as I’ve ever been told, and I haven’t even done the best bit yet!

I signed up to Kayak the Nile’s 3 day introduction to the river as I didn’t know anyone here, as it turns out it was probably unnecessary as it didn’t take long to find other paddlers anyway. That said I don’t mind having gone on the intro trip as the volume here is unlike anything else I’ve paddled and the waves are huge.

It turned out the night I arrived was a once of and every night has been buzzing since than. A large group of rafters arrived early in the morning.

On my first day here we did a fairly flattish section from the Owen Falls dam down to the campsite. In the afternoon I went to Super Hole. Super Hole is an amazing playspot, it’s incredibly friendly and all moves are possible there, as was demonstrated by Ibrim, our guide who will be representing Uganda at the World Freestyle Championships in Switzerland in a few weeks time.

Yesterday we paddled the day two section which is great fun and has some huge waves and holes, that said the lines are easy to spot and paddle. Day two finishes up at the Hairy Lemmon which is beside the Nile Special wave. Its insanely big, I gave it a miss yesterday as I could only really see one outcome to me attempting to surf it but I’ll definitely be heading back to try and surf it over the next few weeks once I’ve a bit more practice in big volume rapids.

Next up will be the Day 1 section which includes most of the rivers biggest rapids.
Paddling in Uganda is every bit as good as I’ve ever been told, and I haven’t even done the best bit yet!

Geting to Uganda

Getting to Uganda was a bit of an experience. I had to fly from Dublin to Gatwick, Gatwick to Brussels and Brussels to Uganda. My Uncle gave me and my gear a lift to the airport which certainly saved me a lot of hassle, so many thanks to Frank!

In Dublin I finally managed to get a camera, so now I am the proud owner of a waterproof Pentex W60. I’ve got some decent shots already, but the internet here is pretty crapy so I won’t be able to upload any till I get home.

I had to stay overnight in Gatwick as my flight from Gatwick left very early in the morning. Trying to sleep in Gatwick is not something I’d recommend to anyone I could only find one spare bench which was right beside the main entrance. I was disturbed several times, once by a guy wanting to sell me a net for my kayak, and 3 times by a drunken guy looking for money. Eventually I got to check in and I brought my boat over to the oversized baggage. However the guy operating it spoke only two words of English, “too big” and wouldn’t let me put it on. Even when I found his (thankfully English speaking) manager he didn’t want to put it in. Eventually when he was talked around it and rather unsurprisingly it did actually fit.

When we got to Brussels we were taken of the plane and put on a bus directly over to the long-haul plane for the flight to Africa. It went via Kigali (in Rwanda) which meant that the flight took over 10 hours. I also got to see a passenger board the plane in Kigali with a large, very authentic looking spear!

When I finally got to Entebbe I was meet by Robert the driver who would bring me to the NRE campsite. Driving in Uganda is an experience. Road markings are generally ignored. The roads were crowded with pedestrians, most of whom walked right down the middle with no lighting at all. Going through Kampala while on a dual carriageway we were met by even more pedestrians and Kids playing in the middle. My driver never turned of his headlights, so we spent the entire trip been flashed at. Indicators seem like a luxury item here, so if you have them you show them of by putting them on all the time.

After 30 hours of traveling I got to the NRE campsite at 1AM, despite what I’d been told about the bar been open to all hours the place was dead so I went to one of the bunk houses as it was far to late to put up a tent.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All ready to go

I'm now packed for Uganda. Unfortunately without either a credit card or the new waterproof camera I had ordered. AIB managed to extend the 10-15 day process of getting a credit card to over 40 by being generally incompetent. Fortunately I was only getting it for back up so I'll still have money over there.

As for the camera, I had it ordered of Pixmania and due for delivery before August 1st (plenty of time one would think) but when it didn't arrive I checked their website only to find that they had prosponed delivery till September 1st and hadn't seen fit to notify me. So I went on to contact my aunt in the Chanel Islands (no VAT) and she got me one and registered posted it to Ireland. But Royal Mail/An Post conspired against me to loose it somehow.

Fortunately I have managed to acquire a playboat, an Blue ZG54. It's in great condition and I've brought it out to Sluice in Lucan for the last two days. It surfs far better than any other boat I've tried and feels much more balanced than other playboats. I cant wait to use it on big water.

All packed up

Monday, August 10, 2009

Newcastle Euros 2009



Last week David and myself took part in the EUDC 2009 hosted by Newcastle University. We also had Declan in tow as officially the first Hungarian Judging representative at euros.

We had an very early flight leaving Dublin which meant that we were in the student accommodation provided by Newcastle by 9.30 in the morning leaving us with a day in Newcastle. We went for a walk around Newcastle. It's a city with very much a sense of former grandeur. We also managed to get a visit to St. James Park, the day after Sir Bobby Robson died. Literally thousands of fans had gathered in and around the stadium, and the shear amount of memorials left and the cost of getting the latest jersey with "Sir Bobby" on it, only to leave it in the stadium is an indicator to how much this city loves their football.

Bobby Robson Memorial at St. James Park
Day 2 was the starting of the rounds. There was a major delay at the start due to registration problems which lead to one of the four scheduled rounds been cut. It was a good day for the Irish with several teams on 7 or more points after 3 rounds (so from a maximum of 9). It wasn't so good for myself and David though. We started with a solid second but in the second round we messed up big time and took a deserved last. The 3rd round we felt we did well in but we were given the worst adjudication that I have ever seen and ended up taking only a 3rd which left us on a rather poor 3 points after 3 rounds.

The Newcastle Authorities were unsure as to who was to use this gate

Day 3 was much better. We bounced back from the previous days disappointments with 3 straight wins which put us right up where we wanted to be and in with a solid chance of making it into the quarter finals. Our last preliminary round debate brought us up against some good teams including Cambridge and Tel Aviv. Unfortunately we were unable to take the win in what was a tight debate and it was the Cambridge and Tel Aviv teams who mad it through to the knock out stages. A number of Irish teams did make it through, 3 from UCD and one from UCC.

The last Irish team was knocked out in the Semis (Susan and Jeramey from UCD) and all Irish support went to the team from Tel Aviv who were the only non-Oxford team in the final. In the end it was Oxford's A team who won (for the forth international tournament in a row).

It wasn't to hard to figure out which team the Irish were supporting in the final
An early flight the next morning didn't curtail the party that night and it was a particularly tiered looking Irish contingent on the 7.50 flight the next morning.