Paddling Uganda with Chaco Ambassador Haley Mills
Posted On: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - Chaconians
After fighting sleep for hours I decide to stumble my way to make coffee and open my computer that is fully charged for the first time in months. Its four in the morning and my body is living somewhere between Africa and the US time zone. My first sip of coffee doesn’t taste like the gray gritty coffee that I am used to from the island. If I was still living island life it would be 12pm, I would be finishing up my first paddling session and probably playing water volleyball while lunch was being prepared. Now I am in a house in the states trying to type up a blog that will some how recap all the awesome adventures I have experienced in the past month while in Africa.
When I left for Uganda I had few expectations for my trip. I knew that I wanted to kayak a ton and escape before my busy competition season starts up. I made a few goals before I left, to be fully present while away. Not to hurry my experience by thinking about what I need to do when I get home. I wanted to relax and enjoy paddling with out having frustration toward my paddling performance so I could rejuvenate my spark for kayaking and life. I improve when I am relaxed, focused, and having fun. Another goal was to hang out with friends that I traveled with from the states and make new ones. Lastly, I wanted to experience Uganda not just from looking out the car window on my way to and from the safe comfortable island life.
Its an easy life on the Harry Lemon Island were meals are included and you have no responsibilities. I was able to spend all my energy paddling twice a day. I was on the island for 22 day of my trip because of the proximity to awesome waves. From the island its about a 10 minute paddle up stream to one rapid. That had Club Wave that's in when the water is low usually in the morning, and Nile Special that was good when the water was high in the evening. When I wasn’t paddling I spent the day stretching, slack-lining, water volleyball, napping in the sun, playing banana grams, and reading. Everyday I would be woken up with a rooster crowing or Monkeys swinging from the trees above my tent. At night I would fall asleep to the sound of the river.
Once a week the group would go the Nile River Explorers near Jinja to get some African Internet, stay in the bunk houses, and visit Jessie Stones Clinic. Our first day going to work at the clinic Emily and I decided it was a great idea to walk to the clinic in the middle of a huge rain storm. Half way to the clinic the rain storm turned into a violent hail storm. The locals invited us into their homes but we declined until the hail got bigger so we sprinted for the closes building a bright yellow mosque were we waited the storm out. After the storm we helped Jessie with a net sale where we traveled to a village inside of a sugar cane plantation. Jessie does an amazing job of educating the locals about Malaria and the importance of prevention. After the net sell Nick and I spent time with the kids chasing them around the soccer field playing tag. While visiting the villages I was surprised how the locals live in simple small houses with out many possessions, clothing, abundance of food, or health care. It put things into perspective on how its extremely possible to survive with out excess and be happy. I lead a simple life in the states but nothing compared to how minimal they live.
We returned to the island for a few more weeks keeping up with the usually routine and trying to enjoy every day since they were numbered before we had to leave. The last week we spent at NRE going to Super hole on the upper section of the Nile River getting some training on a hole rather than waves. It was a good switch to get ready for the US Freestyle Team Trails at the end of April since its in a hole not a wave. We would surf in the morning when the water was low and then go back and spend time swimming, and resting up. At night I ventured out on bota botas little motorcycles and travel to town to eat dinner, and visit friends. I am not sure I have ever laughed so hard before flying down a bumpy dusty dirt road in the dark but for some reason felt completely safe. I was told that was one of the most dangerous thing I could do in Uganda was riding a bota at night, the other would be forgetting to taking your malaria medicine.
“Madam do you want me to be fast and furious?” said by the best bota driver in jinja I am guessing self proclaimed.
I am extremely proud that I managed to complete all of my goals for my trip and accomplish some new ones I hadn’t thought of before leaving. The trip ended abruptly like I had just been ripped out of a deep sleepy dream. I am sure I have forgotten to add a ton of great African memories to this blog. I have no idea why I waited so long to go to Uganda to paddle. Now I just have to make it back before they dam the river. This trip has gotten me fired up for my next international adventure. Until then I am gearing up for whats bound to be my best freestyle and SUP tour season yet. Webale to all my friends that made my trip incredible!
Until Next Time,
Fit For Adventure.