Jamie’s parents came in September along with our friend, Chris. We hung out in Joburg for a couple days, showed them the ropes, then took them to Zambia to see Victoria Falls and then across the river to Botswana to go to Chobe National Park on safari. After you finish reading this blog, click this link to go to my travel tips in regards to going to Victoria Falls…you’ll thank me.
So back to the family trip…Victoria Falls could be pretty cool, if we went in the right time of year (see my travel tips). In order to make the most of the trip, we opted for white water rafting down the Zambezi…I know it sounds bananas. Jamie, Chris, Bobby (Jamie’s step-dad) and I decided that we were all going to do it. Debbie (Jamie’s mom) went to the spa…not a bad choice, I must say.
We stayed at the David Livingstone Hotel in Livingstone, Zambia and the white water company, SAFPAR was right on the premises. So we didn’t have to go far to do the training and stuff. There is a big difference in the training you would get in the U.S. for white water and what you get in Africa. Not saying the team in Africa wasn’t any good, we had a blast, but they kind of just give you a helmet, an oar and say “OK ready to plunge into one of the most violent rivers in the world?! Great, let’s go!” There was an American girl on our raft who said she was a white water instructor in Northern California. After the first rapid which was a “mild” one, according to our instructor, she quickly let us know the equivalent to that rapid in the U.S. was next to the top on the scale of pressure….sooooo yeah, here we were. I wouldn’t say we were regretting it at this point (maybe Bobby was), but our hearts sure were racing! Jamie and Chris were in the front, I was behind Jamie and Bobby was behind me in a constant “duck and cover” position. 🙂
It really was fun! The instructor would let us know the level of rapid coming up and the name, which usually sounded worse than the level. We ducked when he said “duck”, we paddled when he said “paddle” except we didn’t swim when he said “this is a great place to get out and swim!” No sir. The depth of the river is unknown and there are crocodiles in it. While we are sitting in the calm of the water and the instructor is swimming, he comes up behind Bobby and pulls him in! It was the funniest thing of the day and Chris got some of it on his GoPro.
Shortly after this we came up to a rapid that had 3 levels: easier, harder, and “you’re-definitely-going-to-flip”. We went through the latter, not by choice and yes, we did in fact flip.
We didn’t make it one inch through that rapid before we went over and I was seeing the green of the water, not to mention swallowing gallons! I went flying down the river (with my oar still in my hand, somehow) and luckily the guide on the other safety boat pulled me up. I was terrified and the camera man in the kayak told me to “relax”! There was no relaxing for those 30 seconds that felt like 30 minutes, I will tell you! But everyone was safe and was laughing about it a few minutes later.
The WORST thing about the rafting was the forever long climb out of the gorge on a ladder that was just sticks somehow positioned on to the side of the cliff. **Tip: if you white water raft the Zambezi, do the full day! You don’t have to climb in or out of this terror, you get to ride a gondola back to the top at the end. We did the morning half day and had to climb out which was, to put it positively, the best cardio workout ever. If you do the afternoon half day, you have to climb down it, and I would think that’s much scarier. It is STEEP! The guides had a safari truck waiting on us at the top with some ice cold, glass bottle Coca Colas and Sprites! They tasted so delicious after that mess.
Another unknown experience that came from this white water trip was the drive back to the lodge. We drove through a tribal town that we were told had about 1000 residents. We didn’t have our cameras with us, so I can’t show you, but it was interesting. You experience so many feelings when seeing people living so simply. At first I was sad for them because they were poor, but the more people I saw and the more kids I saw running and playing, without a care in the world, you realize this is their life and they are happy. Every little kid we passed waved at us with these sweet smiles on their faces. It was a blessing and humbling to get to see that.