What a CROC

I often feel overwhelmed by the fortunate circumstances and importantly a mindset of a wife, children and common spirit which permits our movement at the drop of a hat. The logistics of our open source travel is a credit to Stacia and her ability to know mileage plans, routing, finding deals, and uncovering the unusual off piste is hard to overstate. But yesterday is the perfect example of the unglamorous, sometimes brutal side of what we do. Arising in Jinga Uganda and getting stuck in Brutal 3 hour Friday traffic back to Kampala only (60km!)needing a 2 hour meeting the at he hotel, at a nearly complete hotel but under construction, then back on road in the Land Rover to Entebbe airport (thank goodness for the new highway after hours of potholes). We then catch a 9:30 pm flight to Nairobi that connects to a different plane that then gets into Lusaka ZAMBIA at 2am. This with the boys and 8 yo Annika being well attuned from last year that whining is both pointless and unbecoming. So we stumble on is relative peace. The minor and sometimes major hurdles placed in our daily path, from crazy Ebola heat screening, to the gate attendant in Nairobi as we went to board (we were last on) who said after midnight “I’m sorry but you must show us the flight from which you will leave ZAMBIA”. Stacia, “I have only Johannesburg to London. Don’t know when we fly TO Johannesburg from Lusaka but trust me we will”. The ensuing ‘discussion’ remains modestly civil yet in the end forces another run to the plane In yaw rain across the Nairobi tarmac for the 5 of us, arriving in Lusaka at 2:30 am. But we did make is, and they did power thru. So that’s the unglamorous side of the above post.

Oh, one more snippet On the above raft trip I SPECIFICALLY asked our “Safety first” raft guides about croc dangers . “Nothing to worry.” Well as it turns out a few weeks ago a local WAS dragged away by a massive croc right where we left the Nile and had been floating the last few miles The nice part Is crocs dont munch you alive but rather drowns you with death rolls as they dont prefer fresh meat but rather rotted glesh so they store your body under the side mud until ready to snack

You want more glamour? How about our hotel creator buddy (grew up here in Malawi, a Brit, don’t they all) who was fishing the Nile (Nile perch can be 100kg!!!) who he and his father snagged a something and it turned out they reeled in a human head!!!

There’s a reason why that part of the Nile is also called “the blood river”, and on up thru Congo i suppose. (Just mention going to Congo and It gives rise to eye popping stares due to the biunty from competing war lords for foreingers of just killing for sport then you’re reminded you’re downstream from lake Victoria where a few million Rwandans were victims of genocide (long ago) and that those bodies were dumped in the Nile in a sea of blood. Still today upstream is north and south Sudan, where the last people who attempted to float the Nile to the Med were summarily executed by Sudanese pirates! Fascinating place this. Uganda Is a port In a sea of bad hombres. Amazing people but yeah, we often have to be a bit lucky to have this ‘glamorous’ endeavor work as smoothly as it generally does. I do keep as much as I can in notes behind the scenes or previously in the blog @sixoffliste. And I do smile typing this in response to your prompting, in 10 hour jet lagged haze, lying on a couch of a hotel project Stacia was visionary (Ie loony) enough in which to invest near 7 years ago in the belief that this frontier would develop exactly as it has. Knowing today is an off day to scour the markets of Lusaka for trinkets with nothing the kids on a lazy day for once. And look up from my recline and see THIS on the Latitude 15 hotel wall…and thank the stars above

On the Road Again: Uganda

No De Nile: Today was an extraordinary one we won’t soon forget. (rated GK, good lesson for kids)

With no expectation or any sense of what lay ahead, we left Kampala to head up to Jinga, (pronounced Gin-juh) Uganda, to raft the White Nile. The White Nile is arguably the “source of the Nile” since this portion of the river runs out of Lake Victoria and meanders northward. The whole River Nile is formed from the White Nile, which originates at Lake Victoria and the Blue Nile, which originates at Lake Tana in Ethiopia. These rivers meet in Sudan and then go on their long journey northward up through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea having by then flowed over 4000 miles. Flowing south to north, the Nile is the longest river in the world.

While Jinga is only 66km away from Kampala, it took a few hours of slow trucks, crazy potholes and goat dodging to get there. After napping through much of the hazy morning drive, one awakens to various shades of the most luscious green tree varieties: pines, pineapple plants, mango trees and beautiful bushes. In this breadbasket within Africa lies the Jinga region that includes fantastic outdoor adventure sporting led by white water rafting the famous and fabulous Nile. It is challenging class 3, 4, 5 water and I admit not a single boat in our group survived every rapid. All boats with experienced rafters turned over at some point during the day, at LEAST once. But that’s a story for another day.

This tale, the lesson of this weeks travels, begins as we observe a simple one man dug out wooden canoe, perhaps 8 feet long, low in the water heading past us paddling UPSTREAM with a load of what appears to be sand piled in the middle of the primitive craft. At first we don’t think much of it. Suddenly we noticed this paddler was using a SHOVEL for a paddle. Yes, a shovel – the type normally found at Home Depot and used for digging trenches, much heavier and unbalanced than a fiberglass paddle – was now used as a canoe paddle. Stacia asks our raft guide, a tall handsome and ripped Ugandan man of about 25, whose quite dark complexion characteristic of Ugandans generally, has been darkened further still by the constant sun in his employ as a raft guide, if perhaps we should offer him one of our paddles. Our guide tells us why he didn’t use a paddle…

As it turns out, the canoe paddler is a Nile River sand digger. He takes his boat out daily and ties to a set of empty plastic water bottles where he has obviously marked his “spot.” Once there and tethered, he dives down 6 meters, fighting the current, with a bucket and shovel where he fills his bucket with sand off the Nile River bottom. Down 20 feet, he holds his breath and shovels sand until he needs to either surface for more air, or leaves his shovel on the bottom when he comes up and dumps his bucket of sand in his carved canoe. He repeats this routine until the canoe is near sinking with sand, at which point he brings his shovel to the surface and uses it to paddle his load of sand to shore, of course still against the Nile’s notable current. He will perform this ritual dive 15- 20 times today until he has filled his bosses pickup truck with sand, truck resting on shore.

What does this man earn for this toil, you might ask?

Oh…about 40 dollars per day, $280 dollars for the week. Of course, less expenses for renting the bucket and shovel.

Seeing and hearing how many people in the world live is powerful “appreciation tonic”, and a living life lesson about how fortunate everyone at home is to have won the genetic lottery. It is for that reason I chronicle the story here. Thanks for listening, and enjoy your weekend.