Monday, 2 February 2015

... Gorillas in the Mist: It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing

I'm a medical Doctor! Well, that's according to the mighty Google! This morning I awoke feeling slightly feverish with a low grade temperature, bunged up nose and a bit of a cough. By breakfast I had self diagnosed myself with everything from Ebola to Malaria with a dose of Bubonic plague, smallpox and Spanish flu thrown in for good measure. Thankfully there is a (real) Doctor in my group who was able to quickly check me over and I wasn't quarantined.

I had originally planned to do a village walk this morning but I decided to stay back. It was nice to spend a couple of hours just chilling in the shade . The location of the camp on the Nile is really beautiful, and the wildlife is prolific and diverse - ranging from fish eagles to kingfishers, monkeys, monitor lizards and otters.

By mid afternoon I was feeling a lot better, thanks in part to a dairy free smoothie perhaps. I decided that I wanted to get closer to the wildlife and so rented a kayak for a couple of hours in the early evening. I wasn't quite ready to brave the whitewater rapids that the Nile has to offer but a couple of hours of paddling seemed like a good idea. The aptly named "Kayak the Nile" has their office on the campsite grounds. We even got a deal on the kayak rental for the 3 of us that had decided to go out.

I've never used a sit-on-top kayak before but certainly liked the sound of just being able to hop on and off one. No need for a skirt - just throw on clothing you don't mind potentially getting wet and/or sweaty and off you go. Winner! They have similar hull shapes to the traditional counterparts, but instead of sitting inside you sit on a molded depression on top. Apparently this makes them more comfortable than the sit-inside, although I found my hip flexors weren't the biggest fan plus I personally could do with a "bit more padding".  Apparently it is also easier to do self-rescues..... Hang on a minute, I wasn't planning on needing to do one of those!

Whilst the water was not choppy, paddling upstream was certainly quite the workout. We stuck quite close the the river bank to begin with under the watchful eye of the birds that called the area home. Upon coming across a rope swing, Tim decided he wanted to attempt not only swinging on it but swing on it ONTO his kayak. Hmmm. Ok. This should be fun to watch. I'm pretty sure that someone somewhere was yelling a slo-mo "Nooooooooooooooo". It looked promising, well at least in theory. Problem was likely because Tim didn't let go when over his kayak ("I didn't want to get wet") and I think I was cringing before he even struck the steep embankment on his return journey. There was quite the crunch, even though he seemed to primarily strike it with his backside. You know when you have that nervous laughter because you think it will hide the fact that someone has just hurt themselves? That was Peter and I. It was hilarious on so many levels, all of them wrong. Let's face it, really the only way to deal with something unbearable is to laugh at it... Although it's probably preferential that the victim is doing the laughing and not the bystanders. He did manage to place himself back in his kayak, dry yet most likely with a bit of a bruised ego and backside.

Needless to say, no one else tried.

A curious otter briefly popped up to say hello as we paddled towards the middle of the river and one of many islands. There were many cormorants and kingfishers around looking for food which was highly entertaining to watch although I'm certainly they were just as entertained in watching us struggle against the current. As we made our way around the top of an island it got easier and soon we were caught in the downstream current. We cut through another waterway in between two smaller islands just as I started to smell smoke and hear the crackling of fire. Admittedly for a moment I was a bit worried that we had stumbled upon an uncontrollable fire but then we saw a boat and someone on the island. They use a controlled burn (prescribed fire) to clear away foliage so that they can then use the land for agriculture. Controlled burning can also prevent uncontrolled and more destructive fires as well as help maintain biodiversity. Still, I was a little uneasy at the thought of any animals that might be caught. The birds however seemed, for most part, unfazed and stood on the waters edge presumably for a quick getaway should they need to make one. Interestingly the fire went out as quickly as it was started and we soon saw a man leaving in his boat.

As we made our way back to shore there were two huge fish eagles standing on a rock, seemingly without a care in the world. We were able to get quite close to them before they decided they had had enough of us gawping and took flight. There were very majestic to watch and it was a great way to end an afternoon on the River Nile. 

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