29.11.2008 - 02.12.2008 38 °C
So – We continue! – Heading to Gweta for our next night.
We were supposed to stay at “Planet Baobab” – a lodge that is surrounded by Baobab trees – but of course they messed it up again and it was fully booked. Fortunately I got a very quick picture of a Baobab tree!
(Not the best example but still pretty cool. Some of them are extremely fat – they look like “toy” trees)
We ended up in quite a nice place actually, and I got the web for once, so I played a game of poker :- )
The following morning we set off for Kasane Chobe National Park – a great drive – tarmac at last! On the way we got lucky with the wildlife. One of our group spotted an elephant in the bushes, we stopped, and found 2 of them – right by the truck. And I mean right by the truck. As one walked towards me I have to say it was just a tad frightening.
Lovely creatures – when they are not angry ; -)
That afternoon we took a boat safari in Chobe National park – a 3 hour affair where we at last got to see LOTS of hippos up close.
We saw elephants and crocs too but I won’t bore you with yet more pictures.
Next day… and it is the last day of the tour – and to be honest, both of us were really looking forward to being back in our own chosen company – i.e. not in a tour group.
We took a short drive and a painless border crossing into Zimbabwe.
The first thing we noticed is lots of people walking everywhere, shops with bare shelves, and lots of people selling their wares.
Zimbabwe is in a real pickle at the moment as they are suffering hyper inflation – locals can queue for a day to use an ATM, and then the money they get out it so devalued it doesn’t buy a loaf of bread. The people there need everything. It’s very sad. Even more so that we were not briefed by our (Zimbabwean) guide – we would have bought loads of stuff with us like cheap clothes, pens, food etc from Botswana, but no. Nothing mentioned.
Kirstin traded 2 old t-shirts and a biro for a stone sculpture of a hippo, and I traded some old shorts and 100 Rand for two beautiful teak carvings of a man and a woman. Someone suggested that we ought to just give them money and clothes. I disagree. They need money and clothes, and they don’t need carvings and other curios. Trading lets them retain their pride, and it discourages begging, which we saw none of.
Our tour cook came back bare footed. She’s traded her flip-flops for a carving :- )
Curios purchased, we entered Victoria Falls park itself. We hit a good time of year. The water is just starting to build up, and that means the spray is minimal and you can actually see the falls. I’d like to see it in full song too, but this was great, and the spray was already ever-present (It reaches 150ft in height in the wet season).
(The world's most dangerous jacuzzi)
(We met lots of these)
(And gave our left over lunch to the locals)
A true treat to see.
Suitable awed, we checked into our 5 star Elephant Hills hotel.
(Not a bad balcony view hey!?! – and there is a golf course among the trees too)
Internet cost $12 USD an hour and was hopelessly slow. I’m doing this update in SA.
Being that we were in the extreme sport centre of Africa, we got a briefing on all the activities available to us. We HAD planned to skydive – but as with most of the better activities, it was on the other side of the falls in Zambia and the visa for going over for a day is…..
Wait for it…
Wait for it…
$135 USD EACH!
Madness. It seems that as everyone has started going to Zambia instead of Zimbabwe (people are frightened to go to Zim), the Zambians got greedy and upped the visa price. If you want to go to the Zambian side of the falls it is currently cheaper to take a helicopter flight to get your pictures than to walk across the bridge.
Anyhow – being in Vic falls there was one thing we absolutely HAD to do. White water rafting the Zambeze! So we paid up and then had a quiet night in preparation. To say we were apprehensive is an understatement! The Zambeze is regarded as one of the best and most fierce white water rafting locations in the world. That, and one of our group did it the day before and told us it was a mix of fun and terror and that he’d spent 20 seconds underwater at one stage. He also had a large gash across the bridge of his nose……
When we arrived in the morning at the start location one of our group was very surprised that we’d chosen the Zambeze as our first place to try rafting. That helped the fear. Really.
The adventure started with a walk down ludicrously steep steps to the river – 860 meters down..
(All the pictures are screen grabs from the DVD we bought so the quality is a bit crap)
We then had a safety briefing, which terrified us even more. Then we practiced pulling each other back in the raft, and then… we set off…
(That's us on the left)
To be honest, I think we missed the first half of the day as we spend most of our time clinging on for dear life with our eyes closed!. To say it is exhilarating is an understatement. You have to paddle or you’ll flip. You have to work as a team. You have to watch you don’t lance anyone with your paddle. And you have to listen for your guide’s instructions. All the while you are being confronted with 10 foot drops, 20 foot waves, you name it.
After our lunch stop we gained courage and also realised we were actually a good team. We had not flipped once, and we only “lost” two people over the side so far, including a small girl at the very front who got thrown through the air right over the boat.
It’s an odd experience – frequently you see 7 people in front of you, and then seconds later they are all above you…..
The afternoon was much more fun as we had gained confidence. We started looking where we were going, and into what. One of the rapids is called Big Mother. That was the one that threw me over the side. A wave in front of us about 20ft+ high, after a 10ft drop. Before I could blink I was out, and just as quickly I saw the boat and grabbed the rope.
On several sections we all jumped out and floated down the river and through the milder rapids (grade 1) which was awesome fun – we rafted down a mix of grade 2 to grade 5. There was a grade 6 which was deemed too dangerous and we walked round it.
Not once did we totally flip. The one other boat in front of us seemed to flip at every rapid so we felt rather chuffed with our performance.
A totally amazing day. Followed by a killer twist.
How do you get out of a gorge? Walk.
870 metres up – all steep steps carved into the mud. Some steps were rough ladder affairs made from logs – all very Indiana Jones. It was EXHAUSTING! (and we had to carry our helmets, jackets and paddles)
If a guy had not been there with water half way up I’m not sure I would have made it. I could hear my heart pounding.
Fortunately at the top a guide was waiting with chilled beers. We drunk hard and fast! A truly memorable day. I have cuts all over my knuckles. Blisters on my hands, and both of us have thighs that don’t work any more.
Last night we flew into Johannesburg where Nik & Mike (K’s sis and bro in law) picked us up and took us to their house in Pretoria.
I’m liking SA – we went to our first butchers where I have never seen such an array of dead animals in my life! – Braai heaven! And I’m enjoying Biltong and beer :- )
We got trashed. I’ve got an uber hangover, and I’m getting up at 5am tomorrow. I’m going with Mike to a golf course 100k’s away where I’m going to be the golf caddy driver for the day and then we’ll have a session at the clubhouse and stay overnight….
Oh one more thing – say an amazing sight last night – The moon with Venus and Jupiter each side..