2018 – A Year of Surprises!!

2018 has been full of surprises. Most have been good and some have been life changing. Though I have known and been waiting for the Nile to be dammed for a long time, it did finally happen in November this year. Despite many people’s effort to stop this effort and to let the rest of the world know about it, “progress” marched on ahead. I feel like I grew up so to speak on the Nile as I have spent the last 16 years there kayaking for multiple months per year and for the last 15 years, I have been running Soft Power Health there as well. Paddling the Nile has made my other work in Uganda possible. It’s given me a place to recharge my batteries and completely immerse myself in another world, totally special and unique. It’s been possible to observe first-hand how much life the Nile supports and how it’s a complete ecosystem unto itself.


The lower section of the river is under water and that includes the Hairy Lemon island and a number of fantastic rapids and surfing waves such as Malalu, Nile Special, Club Wave, Kulu Shaker, Hair of the Dog and everything in between. As long as I can keep the memory alive in my mind, it seems like these places are still there. While it is hard to believe that they are gone forever, I have to console myself with the thought that I was lucky to enjoy them as long as I did. My last day surfing Nile Special I paddled alone – my only company being an otter that lived in the eddy next to Nile Special. He or she was busy fishing while I was busy kayaking! It was gorgeous paddle on Nile Special – no rope, just me and the wave! I paddled until I was exhausted. How lucky and what a perfect lasting memory.


Even after the flooding, I was pleasantly surprised to still have nearly perfect Itanda hole every day. What a great spot – so much fun and really possible to learn any hole move there. Warm water, easy eddy service, and no consequence, a completely forgiving spot. I had quite a bit of time to get used to and enjoy my new Rockstar 4.0 which is making me fall in love with kayaking all over again. Once I had to outfit the boat properly for me – that makes a huge difference of course – everything got easier and more fun in the boat. After hearing EJ say that the whole seat had been placed forward, I had to move my seat back and once I did that – wow, it made a world of difference. Everything is easier and more fun. You feel like a Rockstar in the new Rockstar. With the air the boat gets and super speedy hull, many tricks are easier. It’s exciting because I feel like I am working a lot less hard for certain tricks (McNasty’s and Phonix Monkeys) now, and to do them – what a joy!


Just after the flooding of the Nile, the Inspection Panel of the World Bank came to investigate harms done by the flooding of the Kalagala Offset Area. This was a very positive surprise in and of itself as the Inspection Panel receives many complaints and only investigates a few each year. Luckily, they got to see for themselves the harms done to people and the environment from the flooding. They interviewed impacted communities and watched deforestation happening right in front of their eyes. They heard first-hand accounts from people who were being threatened to leave their land. All of this was good as it brought home very directly how Isimba dam and its reservoir have been devastating for the Nile and this part of Uganda. With many people remaining uncompensated or partially compensated for their subsistence farming land which has been flooded by Isimba’s reservoir, there is almost no way they will be able to survive if they cannot purchase new land to live and farm on. The World Bank Inspection panel seemed very sympathetic to these people’s situations as well as the loss of environment.


In March, they will present their findings and recommendations to the board of the World Bank. One can only hope that this includes compensation for those that need it as well as protection for the environment. We will have to see but pressure can still be put on the bank.


What’s left of the Nile is as beautiful as ever and is as worth paddling and experiencing as ever, but what’s left could use all our help to remain the wild, beautiful, and unique place it is now. Please go to www.savethewhitenile.org and click on the petition that goes to the World Bank – between now and March, we have a chance to really help the river, its environs and everyone who depends on the Nile for life! Thank you and Happy New Year!!

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