|Traveller Home Zimbabwe|
We went white water rafting today, which was one of the most exhilarating things I've done so far. We had our pre-rafting meeting where we signed the "if you die we're not liable" form and heard our safety talk before heading down the cliff below the Vic Falls hotel to get our lifejackets and get in the boats. We had to climb down this sheer, cliff-like path through the rocks and mud before we actually for to the river and into our boats. After another safety talk we were finally on our way. The Zambezi river is a class five white water river on the one to six rapids scale, with most of the rapids we were going to be going through ranging from a three to a five. They won't let normal people go down class six rapids because they're just a little too dangerous. We managed our first few rapids with no problem - we were throwing our bodies to either side of the boat (as the oarsman called out which side) in am attempt to keep the boat from flipping. When we got to rapid number six (they're all numbered) that's where the fun began.
When we were going into the rapid our boat hit a rock and spun around backwards before going in. With none of us prepared for that turn when we hit the first rapid the girls at the back of the boat (now the front) didn't know which way to throw their weight. Once we hit the rapid Rich went flying out of the boat, along with Judy, sot the two of them did the rapid in freestyle, freeform manner. Rich went whizzing by the boat and I missed grabbing him, but I did get a hold of Judy's arm and tried to pull her into the boat. The only problem was that the current had a hold of her and pulled her under the boat. So there I was, holding onto Judy's arm while her head was pinned under the water under the boat. After a couple of seconds in that position my lifeguarding sense told me that holding on to Judy while she was forcibly submerged probably wasn't the smartest thing to be doing. I let go of her, she got pulled under the boat and popped out on the surface a few yards down where someone else grabbed her and pulled her into the boat. After everyone was accounted for we continued rafting through the white water (save rapid number nine which was too dangerous for us to go down so we had to carry the boat around it.)
Had a lunch break up in this oasis on the side of the gorge. We had small pools of water to relax in, shaded by the lush canopy of the surrounding woods - it was such a change from the excitement of the Zambezi. After lunch we had only rapids eleven through twenty one to conquer, and conquer then we did, save rapid eighteen. We were well practiced in keeping most everyone in the boat. (Rich decided the ropes had been greased before we started, for he was the one who kept flying out of the boat.) I fell out on rapid eleven but managed to maintain my hold on the rope so Rich just hoisted me back in without much hassle. We had a few people fall out here and there - that was until we hit rapid number eighteen.
Rapid eighteen is called "Oblivion" and is the wildest rapid you go on during the trip. It consists of three waves, the first two manageable, but the third . . . don't even think about it. We eased our way towards the top of the rapid and slowly started gaining speed as the water rushed over the rocks to form the top of the rapid. Hit the first wave and dove to the front of the boat to keep the nose down. No problem with the second wave either. Hit the third wave and the boat swung vertically straight up in the air. White water came pouring over the top of the boat making it impossible to see or do anything. Brenda and Raewyn were sucked out of the bot on my left, then all of a sudden the boat just wasn't there any longer. I realized I was in the river so I took a deep breath, ready to go under. The current had a hold of me and pulled me under the water, but as I was going down I felt this hand grab my lifejacket and pull me back up to the surface. It was Rich, and once I'd surfaced he asked me where the boat was. He knew he didn't have a hold of the boat, but he thought I did so he pulled me up to find out about it.
We floated down the river until we caught up with the boat which had only three people in it - the oarsman, Luck & Jessica. It was so strange flying out of the boat - we really didn't know what had happened so we had to go to the Ilala Lodge that evening to see the videotaped account of that thirty second part of our lives. After everyone was accounted for we paddled down the river for our last three rapids. The rapids we so weak (especially after number eighteen) that our oarsman even let me, then Brenda and Judy row the boat for a while. We hit the shore after the twenty first rapid only to be faced with a climb that even the most fit person would have problems with. It was another sheer cliff face, and after rafting all day, climbing the equivalent of forty stories didn't appeal to me.
Everyone was dying when they finally made it up, but at least everyone did make it! We got the shuttle back to Vic Falls and after dinner and viewing the video of the day's events it was off to bed.
3rd December 1992, Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe -
Because we still had a few days to kill before the truck arrived, Boz arranged for us to go on a full day safari at Hwange National Park, known for its high concentration of elephant and lion. Our safari company was Kalambezi and our two trucks arrived at 6:00 a.m. to pick us up. Tom and Mike were too tired to go, but the rest of us literally crawled out of our tents and got into the trucks. We drove about two hours to Hwange, passing the Botswanan border road on the way. Our truck was sort of like a large metal box with benches. We drove through the dirt roads of Hwange, with our driver going four wheeling around the barricades that said "No Entry".
In keeping with the theme of the safari we managed to get a flat tire on the way into the park, which took us a bit of time to change. Score: Tires - 3, Engines - 1. Our driver was this white Zimbabwean man in his mid 40's who also happened to own the Kalambezi company. He was so knowledgeable about all the animals and surrounding area. During our morning drive we saw some giraffe up close, accompanied by a few zebra who were hanging out with them. Ian, our guide, explained that zebra are very social animals and that they usually hang out with other animals for protection.
We drove around the park for a few more hours, but we didn't see any elephants - only hoofed animals like water buck and impala - lion fodder. It was so hot in this park - it was at least 106 degrees fahrenheit and we were sitting in the back of an uncovered safari truck. When noon rolled around we headed to this campground situated inside the park to take a break for lunch. It wasn't just hot, it was oppressively hot as we were told we were going to stay in our bungalow at the campsite for a few hours. This safari was another of those luxurious ones where we were served barbecued steak and sausages for lunch with a full spread of salads, bead, etc. We al gorged ourselves then lounged around playing cards and drinking soda during the heat of the day. I turned to Rich at one point and said "This is something our parents might do," meaning the cushiness of the whole thing, but then it sank in that this was something I had planned for myself. Fabulous. It was really relaxing doing this totally high class safari for the day.
When 3:00 p.m. rolled around we headed back into the park in search of elephants. We didn't see that many animals for the first hour or so (it was just too hot for them as well), but then I spotted an elephant off in the distance making its way through the trees. We kept going, as Ian was taking us to a watering hole where the elephants usually hang out. On our way over we spotted the elephants, about fifteen to eighteen of them, all walking in a line across the road towards the watering hole. We came driving up towards them in our vehicle and one of the younger males saw us approaching at quite a fast pace, so in an effort to protect his herd he began charging our safari vehicle.
Ian threw the truck into reverse as Rich and I jumped down off the seats we'd been standing on. I did manage to snap a photo of the charging beast, but before the elephant got close enough to the car to be truly dangerous it stopped and snorted at us. Ian explained it's just a scare tactic - when they're really coming for you they'll put their ears back and roll their trunk up. We sat and watched these elephants for quite a while - it was so amazing being this close to these wild animals. At one point one of the elephants wasn't fifteen feet (if not closer) to our truck, just checking us out.
The elephants headed off into the trees and Ian started the vehicle up and we went towards the watering holes where the pachyderms were headed. There's an actual viewing bungalow situated right next to the water, but by the time wed arrived there the elephants were right behind us, and a few more in the area in front of the viewing bungalow so we had to sit in our open air truck while the herd passed around us. The second the last elephant passed we all ran to the viewing bungalow to watch them water themselves. We watched them drink and spray water everywhere - this experience was so different from anything else I'd seek. This was so natural - so real to watch.
We were watching a herd of females when on the opposite side of the water a huge bull elephant with huge curled tusks came lumbering over for a drink. He went down and saw the females, but he was very suspicious of the bungalow we were situated in; he couldn't decide if there were humans in it or not. Eventually he decided not and came to the water directly across from where we were standing. I got some amazing photos of the bull drinking with his reflection in the water below.
It was getting late and beginning to get dark so Ian said it was time for us to leave. We'd lost the other truck throughout the course of the day and Ian was concerned they might be lost in the park, so we went for a thirty minute drive through at dusk looking for them. We couldn't find them, and now it was completely dark so it was time for us to make the two and a half hour drive back to Vic Falls. We'd been driving through the park for a while and were nearing the Botswanan border road when we saw this thing in the bushed that sided up to the road. This thing had gone down on its haunches and was just watching our truck approach. When we got in sight or it (about 15 feet away from the headlights) we realized it was a large male lion just staring down the vehicle. He was a big male with a full mane and absolutely no fear of our truck. After deciding that staring into the headlights wasn't too fun he began to walk off into the bush, Ian turned the truck so we could see the beast walking away into the night. We'd already has the most spectacular game viewing day, but this just topped it all off.
4th December 1992, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe -
Our truck finally arrived, new truck, as the old one was truly dead, and a new driver so we'd lost Steve. The new driver is a thirty year old British guy names Mick. He's one of the most negative people I've met so we won't be writing much about him. Because the truck was now there it was almost time for us to leave so I went over to Zambia to go shopping one last time before we left Vic Falls. I went over and picked up a carved shield that had been painted with different colors. Posted those home straight away as the post office was one minute from the campground.
That evening Boz had a meeting with us and explained that because the truck had broken down and we had to spend money on the chalets we were short on cash but Kumuka London was wiring us more money. The problem was that no one knew when it was going to land, so we were hoping for Friday. If not Friday then we were spending the weekend and leaving on Monday.
Rich and I went out with Jessica and Lucy again that evening and even tried to be colonial and go to the casino, but we were told that virtually every article of clothing we were wearing was inappropriate. Nixed the casino for the evening and went drinking instead.