Victoria Falls and Rafting the Mighty Zambezi

Trip Start Sep 01, 2004
Trip End Apr 25, 2005

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Friday, November 19, 2004

Hi All,

All we can say is TOO COOL!

Africa went out with a bang. As usual we tried to fit a lot into a few days. We flew into So. Africa on the 17th, out to Livingstone, Zambia on the 18th, rafted the Zambezi on the 19th, flew back to Johanessburg on the 20th, then onto Hong Kong on the 21st. Needless to say we are suffering a little jet lag but are learning to recover quickly.

Livingstone was a pleasant surprise. There were super markets! We had expected a seedy town, but found a place with a relatively good economy, nice people, clean, and decent meals could be found. Our basic criteria for a relaxed travel experience.

We stayed in what we are learning is a typical campground in Africa. It is really a great concept. The Maramba River Lodge had a pool, restaurant, clean bathrooms, tent cabins with bathrooms, without bathrooms, and fully self contained tent camping for the locals. You get the camping experience, but you get a bed and a bathroom and a really reasonable price. We had a little friendly mouse who I finally fed so that he would stay out of my pack.

There are a lot of adrenaline activities for the half crazy and the fully insane ranging from bungie jumping off of the bridge, bungie swinging over the river, paragliding, and river rafting. We landed in the half crazy category, choosing to raft the river.

When planning a trip to see Victoria Falls you should take into consideration the time of year. We chose the wrong time of year to view the falls and the wildest time of year to raft the river. We are at the tail end of the dry season, which means that there is less water going over the falls, but the fact that the river is very low means that the water was extremely rough. We were told that the "Mighty" Zambezi is one of the biggest waters there are to raft, with 23 sets of rapids in their one day trip and at least five class 5 rapids.

Pysched up, Don and I walked aggressively out to be picked up, like we knew just what to expect. As we rode along in the truck and start listening to the guides teasing the suckers who signed up for this gig, we got a little apprehensive. Don starts immediately letting the river guides know that their tip is dependant on how many times he enters the water, and flipping the boat isn't as funny as they think it is, because apparently they think that white legs flying in the air is very funny! Not knowing anything about the company that we are going with probably doesn't help much and we haven't experienced much in the area of regulatory agencies in Africa. Somehow when it comes to this sort of thing you start to appreciate the American way of regulating everything and the threat of a law suit. Our mind relaxed a little when we start to hear our orientation and they go over the life saving part and we are assigned real life jackets and helmets. Ok, maybe we will live through today. We think?

After a long hike down into the gorge, we see that the boats look like they will hold air for the duration. Whew! Some of our group is going to boogie board down the river. They fell into the fully insane category as far as I am concerned.

Our guide ended up to be really great and very knowledgeable, having been trained by Sobek 9 years ago, who was the first company to raft the Zambezi. He even took our Governor Arnold down the river (he was scared shitless). His funniest story was about the group of Japanese guys who wore full business suits and business shoes, taking pictures with their expensive cameras smiling the whole time. He said that he never laughed so hard in his life.

We only went in the water twice because Don and I held on for dear life. We had the time of our lives and have a DVD to prove it. Because we're old and have old knees, we thought that it was a great excuse to pay for a helicopter ride out of the gorge. It was the end of a fantastic day.

Even though the flow over the falls was low, we still were not disappointed with the pictures we took, and could imagine what it must be like when it is really running at full force. The volume of water is incredible, being twice the volume of Niagra Falls, and the geological formation is awe inspiring. Now we have an excuse to come back sometime after the rainy season and the falls are full.

On to Asia now. We are sad to leave Africa and plan to come back to see the gorillas of Uganda, the Okavanga Delta in Botswana, and more of South Africa. Africa is as diverse as North America and we have only just gotten a small taste of the variety of sites and experiences that it has to offer.

Hope all is well back home. We miss everyone!

Don and Jo Ann
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