The whole reason we traveled to Uganda was to raft the Nile. I was terrified.
The beginning of the rafting adventure didn’t bode well for me. I was terrified of river water, terrified of crocodiles, terrified of flipping and hitting my head and drowning. Right when we boarded the raft our guide went through some instructions and chose me to model them. “Jump into the river, you’re going to demonstrate,” he said to me. “No,” I said. “Yes. Go on.” “Oh my god.”
I jumped in and thought, this is it. A crocodile is going to snatch my leg and pull me under. But I paddled around the murky waters and demonstrated how to let the guides in kayaks help us back to the raft if we were separated. I was still terrified.
We started down the river and not five minutes later our raft flipped over a rapid for the first (and definitely not last) time that day. I flew into the air, crashed into the water, and when I tried to surface for air my head banged into the bottom of the raft — I was stuck in the water below the enormous, heavy raft. I panicked for the three seconds it took to get out from under the raft and again thought, this is it. Death is upon me.
We flipped a few more times, each less scary and more exhilarating than the last. We screamed and laughed and I felt so acutely alive.
Mid-day we stopped for lunch on a little forested island in the middle of the river. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having and how far away the fear had fled. We continued our journey down the river, the rapids exciting and raucous and electrifying. As we were going through some minor rapids, the right side of the raft – my side of the raft – bumped and the three of us on that side flew into the air and landed in the water. The raft sailed past, carried by the rapids, and the other girls in the water floated in the direction of the raft. I found myself just out of the path of the rapids and my body drifted away into the shallow reeds, the raft growing smaller and smaller in the distance. I couldn’t believe it. I was all alone in the Nile, now in the shallow, still water where the crocodiles lived. There was very little sound. I could hear my heavy breathing and I could feel my skin tingling out of sheer terror.
Needless to say, I survived. We also skinny dipped at one point, saw an enormous Monitor lizard swimming towards us, and one member of our group lost her bikini bottoms in a rapid. At the end of the trip I felt like a new person. When I think about this day, it is still one of the best days of my life. I remember the color of the trees and the earth and the water so vividly. I remember the way the air smelled. I remember the emotion in my stomach, a mixture of fear and excitement that evolved throughout the day, the excitement slowly overcoming the fear. It was, in a word, remarkable.