Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
So, remember that cliff that we stood on watching the sunset views of the falls yesterday.. today I am directly below that at river level! A long hike down but not a bad one has me, Colm, Caitln, Philip and Josephine ready to take on the Mighty Zambezi river. Out of the group I am the only one who has ever rafted a river before… unfortunately for me, Brian is not here to chum the waters after too many Jello shots but I’m sure we’ll have fun anyway. There are a lot of nervous faces around me in our group but I know them a little by now and I KNOW they are going to have a blast.
So Victor (from Victoria) our river guide, runs us through the pre-raft safety briefing and its ratcheting up some nerves.. I’m just really glad I got everyone to do the full day raft rather than the half day as I just KNOW that 1/2 a day would never be enough time on this great Class-5 rapids river. Well we are finally in the boat and we get to practice our “all forward”, “all back”, “back right” and “back left” and “DOWN” maneuvers.. but the most fun is .. “OUT OF THE BOAT!” where we all get to jump in and float for a bit.. which is a nice cooling off since the day is hot and the hike down in the helmets had me a bit sweaty.. surprise I know!
Finally we are off down the river and somehow, Victor just seems to know we want to have a great time and has us chanting rowing tunes in Swahili as we paddle down the first rapid, a little class 4 fun one. The second rapid was a class 5 and I think people are realizing how much fun this is going to be.. then we hit rapid 4 and I hear.. Where’s Colm.. I don’t know.. do you see him.. no.. where is hi.. Oh THERE he is, coming up from under the boat. Now as I’m in the front paddling my butt off, I didn’t see it but I am told that he might have.. pure conjecture of course.. he might have got scared like a little girl and jumped out of the boat when we hit the first truly big wall of a wave 😉
Just sayin…. river 1 – Colm 0
We go a few more rapids and then … oops.. we’re a bit sideways.. WHOOSH.. in the blink of an eye were 100% upside down the whole boat empty! Thanks to the direction, that included a flying body block of a tackle from Luke (who has me by about 25 pounds) across the boat.. What great carnage.. I am running the remaining rapids, feet first, the paddle across my lap, really enjoying the trip in the water.. and then I notice the rest of my boat.. people floating everywhere, safety crew picking us up.. These guys are good at what they do and everyone is laughing and grinning like they just won the lottery! Soon we are back in the boat, full of life having just cheated the reaper (ok.. exaggerating here!) high fiving with our paddles and ready to take on the world!
River 2 – Colm 0
A few rapids later.. well, I don’t know how that one happened but Colm’s out of the boat again…
River 3 – Colm 0
Finally we break for lunch and it is a gourmet extravaganza.. well at least for a riverside meal while rafting.. marinated pork chops, potatoes, bread and butter, salad, simply delightful in the shade of the forest along the river. I don’t know the work it took getting it down there but it had to be a LOT and I am thankful these guys did it!
Back in the boats after lunch we hit a few rapids and then hit my favorites.. The Three Sisters followed by their Angry mother.. just a great combination of waves and walls and paddling that had you soaked and pumping with adrenaline the whole way.. by far my favorite rapid on the river. We got to float through a couple rapids out of the boat in just our life jackets and it is then that you really get a sense for the speed and power of the river. It is unbelievable how much current and tow there is to the river in all directions!
Sadly all good things must end and so does our time on the river. For our hard paddling day we are rewarded with a 25 minute hike STRAIGHT up the side of the canyon.. for our reward for that there is free beer at the end 🙂 Needless to say I was sweaty, dirty and hot by the time I hit the top in 22:18 and those beers tasted like nothing I’ve ever tasted 🙂 We are picked up at the top and bounce along for about an hour before getting back to town. Tonight, I am sleeping in Luke’s room that he got via some of his myriad of connections back in London.
Tonight we stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel, one of the “Great Hotels’ of the World” and it is living up to its reputation. It is truly magnificent in the British colonial sense of the word. We decide that our last night all together we will go upscale and have dinner in the gardens of the hotel. A magnificent evening of wine, cocktails, tea, spectacular food, amazing back-lit treeline, good friends and a cool breeze out of the canyon roaring with the falls. The colonials really may have been on to something here 🙂
But, please remember, TIA!! Yes, its true, something must go left before I can go right. I had intended on purchasing my flight from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth to start my next tour with Colm and Caitln down the Garden Route of South Africa. So off to the computer room I go, first I find the flight has gone up in cost $25. well I waited until the last possible minute, my bad, I’ll suck it up. Then lovely British Airways website wont accept my credit card for payment for some reason. Well, we have a stroke of genius here, Colm and Caitln are into me for almost the exact amount of the flight and so we decide that they will buy my flight on their credit card which has all the fancy European security measures on it… well its a grand idea until we get through the whole process an find that we don’t have the security code card for their credit card. Well Colm, runs off gets the card returns, we go through the process.. just as we’re going to buy.. THE INTERNET CRASHES! LOL! So whats the solution.. BEER 🙂 Off we go to the bar to drink with our locals again and upon retrun from the bar LATE, I try a different site, the cost is more again and this time I get my card to work. Problem solved, tomorrow its off to South Africa for the last leg of my journey!