The Blue Nile's Unrunnable Whitewater

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The Expedition in Pictures



Scott leaping for the rafts

Scott leaping to catch the empty raft as it rushes through the whitewater at The Gauntlet in the Blue Nile's Northern Gorge.


Sudanese kids on the banks of the Nile

Sudanese children play on the banks of the Nile north of Khartoum.






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Excerpt from Chapter 8:

Our first encounter with the unrunnable rapids of the Ethiopia's Northern Gorge


After a long wait, the first take started smoothly. From the rock I was standing on I could see Sarahlee waving fervently from her lookout before the yellow raft hammered along through the rapids. Scott crouched and then sprung, plunging through the air with paddle in hand, landing square in the bow with a thud. Within a second he was composed, squatting and ready to catch the rope. He was moving swiftly and I was worried my throw would miss him. I judged his speed, held my breath and tightened my muscles, hurling my line the fifteen metres to him, landing a direct hit. He grabbed the rope and paddled frantically as I grasped and heaved him in with the help of Ali bouncing the raft with his kayak. The short spurt of pulling was unexpectedly exhausting and my heart was pumping, but I was a lot more confident having passed my first test. Panting, we anchored the raft to land, resumed our positions and signalled to Sarahlee it was time to send down number two.

We waited eagerly for some time before Sarahlee waved again. The blue raft came rushing down, although just the underside was visible, having flipped somewhere upstream. Uncertainty flooded through me. Could Ali catch the raft if Scott couldn't get it? Would we all have to squeeze into the yellow raft? Scott crouched calmly on his perch, waving his arm and calling for us to get ready. He launched himself into the air, landing square in the middle of the upturned craft. Slipping at first, he regained his footing and signalled for the rope. I spread my legs to shoulder width, bent my knees and flung the line. The rope flew past his raft and unravelled over a metre away. Oh shit, I'd blown it. But Scott just reached over the end of the raft, changed his stance and paddled feverishly to the rope, grabbed hold, and in a frenzied paddle made it to our enclave. We had done it! We shook hands and exhaled, as if none of us had been breathing since Scott's jump - it sure felt like it.


© Copyright 2012 Mark Tanner




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