I am in Jinja, on Victoria Nile River, by the source of the great River Nile. We’re staying at an adventurer/explorer centre just on the banks of the river. We’ll be staying here for 2 days so lots of time for the young ‘uns to go white water rafting, and other adventurous things while we old’ uns sit around in the lounge area sipping coffee, ginger beers or something stronger for those who imbibe. To do or to be; the old travellers question.
Overlanding can be very strenuous so they are designed to have periods where you can chill out a bit and recharge your batteries, if required. I availed if this. I didn’t use my tent but upgraded to an ensuite room so I could reorganise my packing and simplify things. It worked.
I went to Jinja earlier on to get a sim card for Ugandan mobile network so I would have a more reliable Internet connection. Its working well, so far. Maybe I’m weird but I enjoy venturing into the unknown world of buying things or doing things when I really haven’t a clue what I’m supposed to do.
Buying a SIM card for your phone can be pretty daunting outside the Western world. Africa is very bureaucratic and it took me hours to get my sim, having to move from counter to counter and queue like there’s no tomorrow. A lot of the guys on my trip, and other trips, hate this but I really enjoy the window into the everyday lives of the people in the country I’m visiting. Even though I rate myself as an independent traveller, the truth is, in Africa, I’m really a tourist straying off the beaten path. Going alone to markets and shops in a sample of what the actual life there is. Of course, it’s just a glimpse but sweet all the same.
The city of Jinja was planned under colonial rule in 1948 by Ernst May, German architect and urban planner. May also designed the urban planning scheme for Kampala, creating what he called “neighborhood units.” Estates were built for the ruling elite in many parts outside the center city. This led to the area’s ‘slum clearance’ which displaced more than 1,000 residents in the 1950s.
In 1954, the construction of the Owen Falls Dam submerged the Ripon Falls. Most of the “Flat Rocks” that gave the area its name disappeared under water as well.
A description of what the area looked like can be found in the notes of John Hanning Speke, the first European to lay eyes on the source of the Nile:
Though beautiful, the scene was not exactly what I expected, for the broad surface of the lake was shut out from view by a spur of hill, and the falls, about twelve feet deep and four to five hundred feet broad, were broken by rocks; still it was a sight that attracted one to it for hours. The roar of the waters, the thousands of passenger fish leaping at the falls with all their might, the fishermen coming out in boats, and taking post on all the rocks with rod and hook, hippopotami and crocodiles lying sleepily on the water, the ferry at work above the falls, and cattle driven down to drink at the margin of the lake, made in all, with the pretty nature of the country—small grassy-topped hills, with trees in the intervening valleys and on the lower slopes—as interesting a picture as one could wish to see.
It’s a bit different now. I went on a boat trip yesterday along the banks of what once was the river and is now part of Lake Victoria. The surface of the lake was very still, the sun was shining and it was lovely and warm with a refreshing warm breeze.