Paddling the Nile
The first ever paddle down the Blue Nile from source to sea. 5,000km through wild rapids, war zones, crocodile and hippo infested waters, disease, terrorists, guns, arrests; the works...
Newly married amongst the neon glow and dumpling vendors as we bumble our way trying to figure out the world's most populous nation at this exciting time in it's history...
The Great Canadian Bike Trek
23 years old and naive, I set off in the middle of Canada's barbaric winter perched on a woolskin seat-cover peddling solo from one side of Canada to the other...
The annual Nile floods have historically been the most important natural event in Egypt by far. Every year the great flood gifts Northeast Africa the water and silt that brings life to the Sahara desert. Ancient Egypt would not have existed to build their ancient pyramids, temples and tombs were it not for the Nile River floods.
Eight countries feed into the Nile River upstream of Egypt. However, Ethiopia's Blue Nile accounts for more than 80% of the Nile's water that flows through Egypt. Since long before there were civilisations along the Nile, the Ethiopian Highlands would experience rain storms every year from June to mid-September. That rain washed the rich volcanic topsoil into the Blue Nile River, which was then carried thousands of kilometres along the Nile through Sudan and Egypt and deposited along its banks and in the über-fertile Nile Delta. For thousands of years the Nile River Valley civilisations relied on this silt to fertilise their crops and animal feed, and the Blue Nile floods to irrigate them.
In ancient Egypt, Nileometers dotted the Nile River to measure variances in water levels of the river. Their importance was significant given the entire Egyptian civilization relied on the annual floods - they could mean the difference between feast and famine. Too much rain washed away infrastructure built on the flood plain; too little rain meant the crops weren't irrigated.
The Nileometers came in different shapes and forms, from vertical columns submerged in the Nile, to steps down to the river. The priests who monitored them obtained power and mystique by predicting crop yields and determined tax to be paid in kind by peasants to their rulers. Historical records showed on average that one in five years the flooding was too little or too much.
In 1970 when the Aswan High Dam was completed, the annual Nile floods and sediment stopped for most of Egypt's civilisation which lived downstream. In addition to creating electricity, the dam allowed Egyptians to control the flow of water and build upon the Nile's banks with certainty that it wouldn't be flooded. Unfortunately the massive Lake Nasser that formed behind the dam swallowed up much of the Nubian civilisation and stopped the silt that had naturally fertilised Nile Valley farmers' crops for many millennia. The silt is now building up behind the dam causing all sorts of headaches for the Egyptian Government.
Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Southern Sudan all feed the White Nile, but none of those countries experience a deluge like Ethiopia that floods the Blue Nile in wet season. In addition, the White Nile's route in Southern Sudan is through the Sudd, the biggest swamp in the world. The Sudd is almost flat and the White Nile flows very slowly through it, evaporating in the excessive heat around 1,000 kilometres/600 miles north of the equator. Less than half of the White Nile's flow is lost in the Sudd. Hence, more than 80% of the Nile's flow in Egypt originating from the Blue Nile.
The timing of the Nile River floods was crucial to our attempt to become the first to paddle from the Blue Nile source to sea. To stake claim of a true first descent we had to paddle every section of the river, including the massive rapids of Ethiopia's Blue Nile. The whitewater has taken the lives of many rafters, kayakers and adventurers who have attempted to run it, and in the rainy season that whitewater swells 50 times in volume. Ironically we had to leave during this season. The Blue Nile was at its wildest but many of the narrow sections, dangerous rocks and hazards that made the river impassable at any other time were submerged.
In 2005 we achieved our dream becoming the first people to paddle the full length of either Nile River to the sea, including the first complete raft of the Blue Nile in flood. For more information about our Nile adventure click here. I'd recommend you take a look!
Other interesting Nile River pages: