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Tuesday,December 01,2020 15:10 PM

Scary, scary rapids at Itanda!

By Vision Reporter

Added 10th June 2005 03:00 AM

I got to know of Itanda falls through a workmate. considering that most of my workmates have the illusion that I have travelled everywhere in this country, I felt embarrassed.

I got to know of Itanda falls through a workmate. considering that most of my workmates have the illusion that I have travelled everywhere in this country, I felt embarrassed.

By Raphael Okello

I got to know of Itanda falls through a workmate. considering that most of my workmates have the illusion that I have travelled everywhere in this country, I felt embarrassed.

Itanda falls, 28 km from Bujagali falls in Jinja, are the world’s largest commercially rafted rapids. They are also the last point for most rafters on the Nile. Why I had never heard of them was puzzling. Like most travellers, my must-see rapids on river Nile in Jinja have always been Bujagali falls.

Bujagali is awesome, no doubt about that, but nothing prepares you for the sight that is Itanda, not even my motorcycle ride, through the stirring green villages, on a bumpy murram road. However, I must admit that for a moment I would have preferred to raft through the Nile’s nine rapids to Itanda than hire a motorcycle.

It was 3:00pm. Omnibus taxis to Itanda, 31 miles from the junction to Bujagali, were scarce. I was in a hurry so I hired a motorcycle. A mistake that was. The motorcycle guy was a lunatic accelerating at the speed of a space ship! He worried the hell out of me as we whizzed past trading centres.

“Man, slow down,” I kept nudging at his back.

“You think this is fast? I can ride faster,” he bragged.

“Yeah, I know you can, but just cool it, ok!” I instructed.

“The falls are far. We must ride fast to get there before dusk. And if you want to find the rafters, we should rush.” he advised.

He pretended to slow down for two kilometres. But as soon as dark clouds appeared and a strong wind started sweeping through the villages, he started competing with it! I hardly looked ahead. Pebbles, off the murram road, struck my eyes.

Three days later, I fell sick, diagnosed with a bacterial infection, which I assumed in my warped mind, to have been a result of the speeding motorcycle and not the succulent gonja (roasted plantain) I ate on the way to Jinja!

We got to Itanda 45 minutes earlier than planned. Itanda falls possesses a bewitching water panorama occupying a stretch of about 200 metres.

From the campsite, I could see it all, a calm river Nile breaking into raging rapids, boiling without steam. The lethal waters beget a puff of drizzles and a growl that drowns every sound.

We were on time to catch the rafters. Drenched in water and worn out after a six-hour’s journey from Bujagali, rafters ate snacks under trees at the campsite. Itanda is their most challenging spot and the ultimate climax.

“I could do this over and over again!” exclaimed an American tourist to another as they excitedly run down along the shores to raft the rapids once again.

The calmer section of the Nile is like a conveyer belt depositing tourists, in rafts, into the rapids.

All the rafters avoided the first rapid at the top section. On approaching Itanda, they docked off the river, moved round the first rapid and then got back into other rapids.

“The water at the top section of Itanda is too turbulent. We can only raft through Itanda from the bottom of its first rapid,” said Dennis Ntege, general Manger of Adrift.

Even without avoiding the most dangerous rapid, Itanda is no comfort zone. The rapids thrashed, whipped and often sucked out the tourists from their rafts; leaving them strewn in the water. Each turbulence produced screams of horror and eventually triumph after anchoring safely in calmer waters. At the shores, village boys marvelled at their heroics.

When I asked Dale Jardine, a Canadian rafter, which falls are stronger, Bujagali or Itanda? He said, “These rapids (Itanda) are the biggest and more challenging. They are about 200 metres long with more holes (deep points) to raft through.”

Rafters consider Itanda to fall under the infamous 666 section on the Nile. Some of its holes measure about 50 yards wide.

my only disappointment was Itanda’s poorly managed state.

There is no administrative structure or gate to regulate entrance. It is such a shame that the grass at the site, which provides an unparalleled view of the falls, is eroded.

After I had seen it all, a lady walked towards me with a dog-eared ledger book and asked me to pay a sh1,000 entrance fee! It was annoying, but I figured sh1,000 was not worth causing a village scene.

Scary, scary rapids at Itanda!

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