At the huge, 60-mile-long rapids above Murchison Falls, the only way out of the valley was to use a FIB (flying inflatable boat), and turn the river into a runway. Unfortunately, one crashed. But that was the least of it.
As they were transporting the boats around the rapids in McLeay's friend's truck, they were ambushed by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a group of rebels trying to destabilize Uganda from bases in Sudan. Steve Willis, McLeay's friend, was shot and killed. MacIntyre suffered a bullet graze to the head; McLeay had lacerations on his feet. While trying to escape, McGrigor climbed on top of the truck, which was then set ablaze. He got away with a broken leg and burns.
It was enough to send the group home for a few months. But with the backing of their families, they started out again four months later to finish what they started.
Victory Belongs to the Most Persevering
It's not being brave that gets it done, it's dogged persistence. Here's a journal entry from McLeay in Rwanda: "Having taken the plugs out and drained the carbs of water until fresh fuel flowed out, I pulled the engine over and it caught fire like a Christmas pudding! A spark must have leapt from the high-tension lead, igniting the fuel vapor around the base of the engine. I immediately splashed water onto the electrics to keep them from melting. Suddenly, the locals started throwing handfuls of mud and gravel all over the engine in the belief that this would help. Thirty seconds of mayhem and confusion resulted in putting the fire out, but our engine looked like a termite hill…We then took the air filter off, exposing the carb and cylinders to the incoming mud. The best course of action was to turn the Zap over and wash the engine out underwater! Amazingly, 30 minutes later we had it running." Here's another, from McGrigor, describing a portage by helicopter: "The second attempt made good, but we were swept away by the current and were pulled sideways by the helicopter that couldn't lift off with the amount of water [in the boat]. The cable was dumped too late and we flipped. The revised plan was to have the helicopter run forward at around 13 mph so we were on plane and would have more control over our direction. This worked and in no time at all we were airborne, being whisked up at what I felt was far too high an altitude…The landing was interesting. We came in sideways. As soon as we touched down, I was catapulted straight over the side."
The boats and engines persisted. Constant grounding became a frustrating pastime, as the team continually shaved inches off its propellers and wore away at the inflatables. But they had the most praise for the engines. All vowed they'd never use anything other than a Yamaha.
"We've put them through hell and high water, turned them upside down, set fire to one, and still they kept on going. Incredible!" says McGrigor.