Friday, November 5, 2010

Rhinos, rhinos everywhere. (23.10.10)

So this past weekend I was able to compete in a rafting competition on the Nile River. It was a fundraiser to support the Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary of Uganda ( and was duly titled “Rhino River Race”. All the boats were purchased or sponsored with the funds going to support the rhinos at the sanctuary. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary was established as an NGO in 1997 with the goals to promoted the reintroduction of rhinoceros to protected areas within Uganda as well to promote breeding programs to ensure the long term viability of reintroduced rhinoceros population in Uganda. They also are establishing programs in conjunction with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, district governments and local communities to ensure the protection of the rhinoceros populations from poaching, conducting education programs about the endangered rhinoceros and building national support for the protection of rhinoceros populations in Uganda.

The race was put on by Nile River Explorers (, which if you ever go rafting on the Nile I highly recommend them. The rules of the competition were to have six paddlers in the boat and one river guide. There were five other PCV’s on our boat who have all had experience with rafting or paddling of some sort back home. The catch with this race was that it was power paddling – not running rapids. We had to paddle hard on flat water (trying not to run into an eddy or two) for about half and hour from the dam at the start of the Nile to Bujagali Falls. There were two parts to the race: the first part was a qualifying heat with three other rafts to go up against. We came in first in our heat with a time around 25 minutes. We paddled hard and got a rhythm going towards the end. There were eight heats and the top eight teams were in the finals.

After having the afternoon off to rest, eat delicious veggie and beef burgers, re-hydrate and purchase raffle tickets it was time to jump back in the boat and paddle again for the first place prize of round-trip airfare to Kenya! We got down to the area where we put in our boats and find that people were just jumping in whatever boat they wanted to! There were only supposed to be six people plus a guide in each boat, but people were piling nine to ten people in each boat. Not only that, but there was a boat of people who were subbing in for another team and had fresh arms because they had not raced in the morning. After getting over this frustration, my team and I all got ready to start. On the whistle we started paddling has hard as we could. A boat on our left kept ramming into us – three times to be exact. We finally pushed them off us, but it ended up making us do a 180-degree turn! This meant that our boat was flipped around facing the damn instead of facing up river! We were so angry because not only were the boats all cheating by having more than six paddlers, but also we had just been flipped around and were now in last place!

This anger is what gave us our paddling power when our arms were dead from the morning: we paddled so hard that we passed three boats with more paddlers then us and ended up coming in fourth place for the day! We were very proud of ourselves because if you disqualified the first two place teams because they had fresh arms and more then six paddlers we actually came in second – plus we were the only boat to pass any other boats! It was a successful day for us and our prizes were totally worth the time we put in. For coming in fourth place we won a free sunset booze cruise for the six of us on Lake Victoria, half off rafting for the next day and half off rhino tracking at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary near Murchison Falls. We are all going to use our prizes in December, as a group and I will make sure to update you all with pictures of the cruise and rafting! The rest of the night was for celebrating and having my first draft beer since being in Africa. I good end to an amazing experience!

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