Afloat

“Just trying to hold on to something new.”

– Just Another Day, Jon Secada

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Conversations on the Nile

The most incredible thing about mass bodies of liquid we call the lake, the river, the sea, or the ocean is that it can do two things: keep us afloat, or take us to the Other Side.

After ten months of living out of a suitcase, I have finally moved into my latest accommodation, in a country known for existing below the sea level — the Netherlands. I enjoy being here and indeed hope to remain for some time, though the orderliness and systematic nature of this country shocks me a little. Perhaps, having been raised in third world countries and in light of my recent travels through East Africa, I find comfort in the presence of some degree of chaos. But alhamdulillah — praise be to God — for this peace and calm and orderliness of this society we live in. And may oppressed groups all over the world — the Palestinians, the Rohingya — be protected from harm and violence in the hands of their oppressors.

Two boat trips during my recent travels have changed my life forever. The first, represented by the photo captured above, was on a cruise along the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. This trip through Upper Egypt was a birthday present to myself in a manner of speaking. We’d visited Egypt regularly as a family, but this time I could actually do the things that I’d always wanted. I finally managed to fulfill my childhood dream of visiting the magnificent temples of Ancient Egypt I had only ever read about as a child in my fourth grade Social Sciences textbook.

But besides the temples, the journey along the Nile itself was spectacular. We would sail for hours on end, and I would sit down in a chair by the window and watch the palm trees and stretches of desertland on the West Bank pass by. Small villages punctuated by mosque minarets rising towards the sky too would appear every now and then. I captured a time-lapse video of this scene which was so quintessentially rural Egyptian, that it remains to this day one of my most-loved videos.

The Nile is indeed magical — and haunting. There is a saying that those who have drunk from the Nile are destined to return to it. Having made repeated visits to Egypt since I was a child, I am compelled to believe this.

The next adventure I shall recount takes place in Africa too, but somewhere a little closer to the source of the Nile: Uganda. After successfully completing a volcano hike in northern Rwanda earlier on this trip, I thought to myself that I deserved nothing more than a relaxing vacation somewhere secluded, where I can be with myself and unwind and immerse myself in nature. So for this purpose, I booked a safari tent on Bushara Island in the middle of Lake Bunyonyi in southeastern Uganda.

Little did I know what a logistical challenge this was going to be. To get to this island, I had to take a moto-taxi from my Airbnb in Ruhengeri, followed by a matatu. Then I hitchhiked (with some hiking mates from the day before) from Cyanika to Kabale; took another moto-taxi to get to the Rutinda Jetty. From there, I had the option of getting a motorboat or go manual with a dug-out canoe to get to Bushara Island.

I chose the latter. And my guide, pictured below, merit some credit for getting me halfway to the island at least, before I was “rescued” by a passing boat carrying a group of Slovenian volunteer doctors to a nearby island, who were kind enough to drop me off en route home.

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Smiling boatman

Before I embarked on this trip, I never considered myself to be the adventurous type. After having completed this leg of the trip, I had to reconsider this. And I am grateful indeed for the opportunities to stray into new testing grounds where I can put myself, my limits, and my potentials to the test.

I have always been a nomad — and this, from my upbringing, is something I cannot escape. But I feel that these past ten months of being a vagabond really took my nomadism to another level, and I am already — after just one night in my rented semi-long-term room — strategizing where my next move shall be. Sometimes when you’re on the water, it is good to be able to remain afloat, but I think I will always be driven by the desire to discover what lies on the other side of the shore.

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3 thoughts on “Afloat

  1. Pingback: Liquid – Sunset | What's (in) the Picture?

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