My first date with Uganda

So Thursday marked the end of my volunteering and the beginning of my somewhat impromptu travelling. All I had planned was a bus ride to Kampala, Uganda, my first nights accommodation and the possibility of joining a rafting group on Sunday. I traveled with a company called Panther Coaches, which does daily trips from Arusha to Kampala via Nairobi for 65 000 Tanzanian Shillings (R360); another company you can use in Kampala Coaches. We left Arusha at 12pm on Friday and arrived in Nairobi at 6:30pm. Here, we picked up other passengers and prepared for our 8pm departure to Kampala via Jinja. We eventually arrived in Kampala at 9:30am on Saturday. The crossing of both boarders was really easy, it would just be important to confirm visa requirements for the passport you carry. For South Africans you get 30 visa free tourist days in Kenya but need to get a visa at the Ugandan border; this costs $50 (R620)and is a quick process.

When I arrived in Kampala a driver, arranged by my accommodation, was patiently waiting for me (the bus was supposed to arrive at 8am). His name was Michael and I had been given his contact details before my departure from Arusha. Michael was very helpful, he assisted me with my luggage, took me to get my money exchanged and showed me a few good places in town before we arrived at my accommodation, Red Chilli Hideaway, where I had booked a dorm room for $10 a night (R125). I took a short tour of the great facilities offered, took a shower and got onto the 12pm shuttle into town as I needed to try get some things ahead of my rafting the next day… Oh yes, in between everything I received confirmation of my rafting spot. The one thing I loved about Kampala, from the moment I arrived, was how easy things are hear. With one phone call I was able to get myself a pair of contact lenses, that were my usual brand and exact prescription, as well as a pair of sunglasses for the trip. I even walked around to orientate myself with that section of town before getting on the 5:30pm shuttle back to Red Chilli. Upon arrival I packed my backpack, got a meal and headed to bed really excited for my 6:30am pick-up.

Some of the rooms
Some of the rooms
The pool area at Red Chilli
The pool area at Red Chilli
My first meal at Red Chilli, beef stew and rice with a beer.
My first meal at Red Chilli, beef stew and rice with a beer.

On Sunday morning I began the trip to Jinja with Nile River Explorers, we arrived at 9:45am. I did not realize the journey would be that long but I guess it was because of the various pick-up points the company has. Either way we eventually arrived, given our indemnity forms and orientation and packed on to trucks to go to the start point. At the start point, which was a 45 minute drive from the offices, we were put into groups and given a comprehensive safety talk and rafting orientation. Though I have rafted a few times before it was helpful to hear everything again and also understand how my raft guide, Josh, works with his team. We then began our journey down the Victoria Nile. Nile River Experience offers bottled water the whole way and after the first four rapids we were given a snack of pineapples and biscuits, which was surprisingly filling. We completed the raft at around 5:30/6pm and were welcomed back to land with a BBQ and drinks. Once everyone had cleaned up, eaten and had their fair share of beers and sodas we got back onto the trucks and headed back to the offices. Considering the fact that our raft was made up of individual travelers I think we made a really great team. Communication was great and everyone had a good sense of humour.

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Joking around with Josh (raft leader) and Yo (group leader) after a long day on the water
Joking around with Josh (raft leader) and Yo (group leader) after a long day on the water

Nile River Experience offers free accommodation with most of their activities so those of us who had taken this option were transported to the camping site about 30 minutes away from the office. On Monday, today, I stayed in bed most of the morning and then decided to go have brunch out by the lake restaurant at the campsite; budget around 22 000 Ugandan shillings (R90) for a decent meal and a drink. By the time I was done eating I had to make my way back to the offices for the shuttle back to Kampala. There are two ways to get between the two: either by private car, which is 20 000 Ugandan shillings (R80), or bodaboda (motobike), which costs 5 000 Ugandan shillings (R20). The shuttle left at 3pm and again we had to pick up and drop off a number of people on the way so we only arrived back at Red Chilli at 7:45pm. I put my bags down in a dorm and went up to the restaurant to get me a hot meal. Today I settled for a chicken curry and a Castle Lite (reminder of home), which cost me 17 000 Ugandan shillings (R65).

The view from the Nile River camp site
The view from the Nile River camp site
Nile River accommodation
Nile River accommodation
Nile River campsite accommodation
Nile River campsite accommodation
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View from the route back to Kampala

I would recommend rafting down the Nile to anybody. If you have the opportunity joining Nile River Experience, the team is great and the administration process is easy. I am not sure what awaits me in the next few days or if I will even still be in Uganda in the next 48 hours but I will keep you all posted on where the wind blows me.

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