In 1862, the British explorer John Speke identified the geographical Holy Grail, the very place where the White Nile leaves Victoria Lake to start its three months and 6.650 kilometer long journey to the Mediterranean Sea. Back then, its exit from Lake Victoria was a bit more dramatic than today. It parted from the Lake via Ripon Falls, as Speke named them. However, these have disappeared in 1947 when the Own Dam went into business and swallowed them all up. So we basically marveled at the myth of this legendary place that now presents itself as a very normal river gliding along. Also Speke’s trip was quite different: he was stabbed, speared and became temporarily deaf and blind.
Instead of Ripon Falls now some concrete slabs stick out in the river. Did somebody try to build a bridge across, like at Murchison Falls, only to be washed away? We found the view from across, from the so-called Nile Garden, far more rewarding. A kind of compound which appears abandoned. So we refused to pay the 5.000 Ugandan Shillings we were asked by somebody on the streets, after we left.
Today, the city of Jinja sits on the shores of the river and prides itself for being the Adventure Capital of East Africa. In rafts or kayaks, throngs of tourists conquer the virgin river famous for its grade 5 rapids.
The city is also on the main road that connects Uganda with the ocean in Mombasa / Kenya. All the traffic crawls across Owen Dam, which serves also as a bridge. It seems only a matter of time that either the dam or the traffic collapses…