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surfing the Tana river

Up until the very end, we were on the fence about going on the CLO rafting trip. On the one hand, spending the day on the Tana river, communing with nature seemed like an enticing proposition. On the other hand, waking up with the sun on Saturday morning, especially after a night out Friday sounded less than appealing. We have mostly steered clear of CLO-organized trips, preferring to plan our own adventures rather than joining a large Embassy crowd on group outings. However, rafting is a group activity by definition, and ultimately the opportunity to spend the day away from the routine hustle and bustle of Nairobi proved to be the deciding factor.

We knew going in that the Tana would be a rather tame river compared to the ones we have rafted in South America. In fact, with the water level low, the biggest challenge of the initial portion of the river was to keep the raft moving, as it tended to get wedged on the rocks that protruded everywhere from the shallow water. At one point our guide refered to the white water we were traversing as “rapids” – surely an ambitiously generous use of that word. We shared the raft with two people on temporary duty in Nairobi and the conversation was so enjoyable that we frequently disregarded the guide’s instructions to row as we navigated the placid waters. Eventually, we did hit faster water and even rafted a series of small waterfalls.

The adrenaline may have been lacking for us, but not so for some of the younger trip participants. One small boy flew out of his raft in between two consecutive six-foot waterfalls and spent what must have seemed to him a terrifying eternity moored on a rock overlooking the second waterfall until he was finally rescued. The highlight of the trip was “surfing” that same waterfall. After all the boats had navigated the rapid, with varying degrees of success, the guides ran one of the rafts into the hole formed by the gushing water at the bottom of the waterfall. The eddy that formed under the waterfall kept the raft in place, bucking like a bronco, and we took turns jumping from our rafts into the bucking one for the wild rodeo-like ride.

Overall, this was a pleasant outing and definitely whetted our appetites for a rafting trip on the Nile, which we hope to do when we return to Uganda this summer.

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