Overlanding and big water rafting

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
Trip End Aug 01, 2007

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Monday, November 6, 2006

He said:

A long, hot, train ride brought us back to Victoria Falls from Bulawayo. From here we started our overland tour of Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Overlanding is a type of group tour that is quite popular in this part of the world, but prior to planning for this trip, neither Katie nor I had ever heard of it. Here is an explanation of how one works.

Imagine a large Mercedes, diesel-powered 4 x 4, flatbed truck, with large off-road tires and a passenger cabin on the back and you will have a pretty close approximation of "Claudia" our overland truck. The truck is outfitted with camping gear, a full kitchen, refrigerator, gear lockers, a power winch, water tanks, two spare tires, and any emergency equipment that could possibly be needed. Load on twenty-three guests, a guide, cook, driver and loads of provisions and you have our overland tour group. Because much of Africa is inaccessible without your own vehicle, and driving here offers some unique difficulties, these type of tours have become a very common way to see the region. As their popularity has increased, much of southern Africa has developed a travel infrastructure to accommodate overland trucks. Privately owned campgrounds have sprung up in key locations catering specifically to overlanders, most usually have great facilities, hot showers, and a bar.

Our trip is actually two distinct seventeen-day segments. For the first leg we are going to be crossing into Botswana then Nambia. The second leg takes us from Namibia to Cape Town, South Africa. Take a look at the map in the photo section of this post to see our exact routing. After traveling on our own for the last four months we are a bit wary about spending over a month in close quarters with over twenty other people. It should be interesting to see how it all develops. Actually, it sounds a bit like the premise of a reality show, "Tune in to see what happens when twenty-three people are crammed into a dusty truck for a month-long journey through the deserts of Africa." Yesterday we met up with everyone here in Victoria Falls. I think that we will have a lot of fun with our fellow overlanders. They are a pretty diverse, sociable, and well-traveled group, ranging in age from twenty-one to sixty, and hailing from England, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland. I think we will have a lot of new friends around the world by the end of this adventure!

We spent the day today with a few of our group rafting the Zambezi River. It was wild!!! Far bigger than the Rogue River I grew up rafting in Southern Oregon. Katie was pretty wary about going but seemed to have a great time despite falling out of the raft twice! Anyway, tomorrow morning we are departing Zimbabwe and heading off to Botswana.

She Said:

After traveling for four months with just the two of us, we have sort of developed a system for dealing with each other in such close quarters and for such an extended amount of time. I'm kind of sad to be adding other people to our journey at this point. When we initially booked this overland trip, we had the misperception that traveling though Sub-Saharan African was going to be really dangerous and difficult. Turns out... we were very wrong. As long as you have a bit of patience and plenty of time, it's really not that hard. And, I know we could have done the trip from here to Cape Town by ourselves, as we have met many other travelers who have done just that. Anyway, hopefully we will make a few good friends and let go of the burden of constantly having to figure out the next night of accommodation or transportation for a while.

Todd talked me into white water rafting down the Zambezi River today, and it was quite the adventure. While I have rafted before on what I thought were pretty big rapids, it was NOTHING compared to what the Zambezi was like. You start the morning by hiking about 750ft straight down into the gorge to the river (which is a bit frightening if you have any type of height phobia), and launch your raft right near the bottom of Victoria Falls. In all there are 20 rapids spread over 28 kilometers, and it took about 5 hours to cover the distance. The rapids have really scary names like the "Terminator," "Boiling Pot," the and "Devil's Toilet Bowl." I was really nervous (an understatement) at the beginning of the day, particularly because I had heard stories from other travelers about getting stuck under the water in a current for long periods of time. Thankfully, our guide had me sit next to him at the back of the raft, and most times he successfully grabbed my lifejacket and threw me down in the bottom of the raft when it looked like I was about to bounce out. As we rounded the bend to have a look at the biggest rapid of the day (called The Oblivion), I was seriously panicked. There was just an enormous wave/wall of water, and when our raft hit it dead on, it flipped over and everyone fell out. And as we were all in the water looking for paddles and trying to swim back to the raft, you could see baby crocodiles on the banks of the river. Scary stuff!!! Anyhoo, we had a really fun time and I am glad it managed to muster up the guts to actually do it!
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