When Sarah Davis embarked on her perilous mission of paddling the River Nile from its source in Nyungwe forest in Rwanda all the way to Egypt, she had a sense of the dangers ahead. However, she hadn’t anticipated a hippo attack during the early stages of the trip.
Just when the team had safely paddled past crocodiles not far from Kigali, Sarah says she saw a baby hippo, and just as she uttered the words, “Where is mummy?” she saw the enormous mother charging towards them.
The mother hippo however only nudged the raft and they desperately tried to row away from her and the danger at hand.
She came at them again, sinking her teeth into the back of the raft, putting a big hole in it.
Luckily, by that time, they were close to the shore, and had created some distance from where she was. The hippo backed off and they made it to shore.
“We are very lucky to have come out unscathed,” Davis said.
For the initial stage of the expedition, Davis set off with three other people — Paulo, Peter and Koa.
After deflating the raft, the three men spent the next hour patching the hole, before they reloaded and put the raft back on the water.
They made their way along the Rukarara River, then to the Mwogo before joining the Nyabarongo River, Rwanda’s longest river.
The Akagera dips into Tanzania, and over at this section they hit some rapids.
“We hit one big set of rapids that we had to go around. We paid for some help carrying all the gear round the rapids,” Davis said.
“Further ahead, the channel on the left looked ok but we couldn’t see what was beyond that,” Koa said.
“Around that corner was a massive drop. We desperately tried to get into the small eddy to avoid being sucked in, but it was impossible.
“We hit the water, went under, and I felt the raft on my head as it folded. We popped up and started careening down the rapids,” Peter had been thrown out of the raft, but thankfully they soon reached calmer waters. They pulled Peter into the raft and made it to the side.
On November 14, they reached Lake Victoria.
“This was a big milestone — there was a fair bit of cheering all round and genuine surprise, given everything that had happened, that we survived”
They hopped onto the ferry from Ssese Islands to Entebbe and then arranged for a boat to take them close to Jinja, from there they had a final day of paddling.
The trip is far from over...