Part 2: The Gang joins the Zambezi Swim Team

Trip Start Jun 03, 2009
Trip End Ongoing

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grubbies grotto

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Saturday, August 29, 2009

After our mad rush to get to Grubby's Grotto to meet our safari, we learned that we would actually be staying in Livingstone for 2 more days. We were quite excited, because this meant we would be able to go rafting on the Zambezi River. We signed up for a half day rafting trip and a "sunset cruise" (aka booze cruise) for the following day, and spent the rest of the day running various errands around the city. That evening, at our first group dinner, we met the people we would be spending the next 24 days with...

Cast of Characters

Recent Nursing Grad from MSU
Wore the same shoes as Tom (must be a michigan thing)
Previously studies abroad in Ghana and had been traveling in Africa for 4 months

21 year old Medical Student from England
Had been working in a hospital in Ghana (and was the most qualified person there)
Her first comment to us was, "Doesn't Livingstone look like Europe? Maybe Florence?" (Livingstone has all dirt roads, piles of trash dirt and rocks on the side of the road, and the road is lined with shacks. This is how we knew she had been in Ghana too long)
Carried 4 money belts at all times, occasionally 5, and always had money hidden in her shoe "just in case"

Recent Law School Graduate from England
Loved to talk about food
More cheese, the better

Emma's boyfriend
Cub scout Leader
King of Campfire Songs
Drinking Game Master
Dish flapper extrodinare

International Woman of Mystery
Claimed to be an Ob/Gyn
Refused to give her contact info to anyone
Had previously preformed emergency surgery on a Chimpanzee (she did not tell us this, someone we ran into who knew her did...)

Japanese Student
Limited English Skills
Tendency to Sweat Profusely when eating
Tendency to turn bright red after 1/2 glass of wine

Biker woman in her 40s
Very Nice
Loved Birds

Karen's Husband
Loves to be right
Loves to make other people feel dumb
Worst First impression in the history of first impressions
Sarah's worst enemy

Team Leader/Truck Driver
40ish white zambian
Never wore shoes
Shady Mc Shaderton
Loved the bottle

We all immediately disliked Wayne because of his nasty comments about Americans that he threw at us in the first 5 minutes. We were not excited to spend 24 days with him. Sarah and Lisa ended up being tent mates. Although we went to bed early, we were woken up because one of the men at the bar (actually, a driver of another overland truck) had drunkenly fallen onto the gravel driveway and hit the back of his head. They were looking for someone with medical experiance, and Lisa tried to go help, but by the time she got to him there was nothing but a puddle of blood.

The next morning we woke up early and headed down to the Zambezi river just below Victoria Falls. We had heard from the others on our safari that it was scary and rough, but with all of our rafting experiance we thought they were all being whiners. We met our guide, Vinny, and our other raft mates- a German man (best rafter) and his Australian wife (wet blanket), and John a 30ish British guy. 

The safety talk was terrifying. Here, we learned that we were required to have 2 safety kayakers for every raft, and our kayakers were "Captain Carnage" and "Captain Babyface." Both were safety kayakers because they had been demoted from guide for flipping their rafts too many times, and the company had deemed them unsafe.

The half day of rafting involved the first 10 rapids on the Zambezi. At this time of year, these rapids are Class IV and V, and one Class VI which we walked around. THESE RAPIDS WERE HUGE. We were in a boat with oars for stability and we still flipped 2x.

The first time we flipped was on Rapid 5, our first Class V rapid: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN. This wasn't so bad. We hit a massive wave and the boat flipped over. We all managed to stay close to the boat, Vinnie flipped the boat rightside up quickly, and we got back on without a big struggle. In fact, it was fun.

Then we hit the second Class V Rapid, Rapid Number 7. GULLIVER'S TRAVELS (aka Guide's Nightmare). This rapid was intense, and much longer than Stairway to Heaven. It also had two sections (A and B) with a bit of flat water between them.

We flipped almost immediately when we hit a massive wave at a slightly off-kilter angle. The boat flipped and everyone was scattered. Vinnie got trapped in the metal bars of the oars, and when he finally freed himself and climbed up to flip the boat over, he saw that we had been flung all over the rapid. Brittany and John were sucked under the wave, and then popped up behind the boat bouncing off rocks before finally pulled to safety by Captain Babyface and Captain Carnage. They were then put on Zimbabwean rafts to carry them down the rest of the rapid. Sarah, Lindsey, and the German guy ended up in front where they were pulled under by the strong current and then had waves crashing over them when they popped back up. They were rescued by another group of rafters to finish section B. They arrived so far in advance of Brittany, they had a brief panic that she had drowned. The Australian woman never got rescued at all, and ended up swimming the entire rapid, and was coughing and vomiting water by the time she was pulled back into the boat.

We were all a bit traumatitized, and resolved not to let the boat flip again. The weakling completely gave up and huddled in the center of the boat afraid for her life. Luckily, she hadn't been contributing in the first place (we have never seen such a bad paddler in our lives) so our raft wasn't really affected. We managed to make it down the remaining rapids all inside the boat.

Then we had to climb out of the gorge, which was a grueling climb and balancing act on shady stick ladders. At the top we drank a celebratory beer and recounted our adventure to anyone who would listen. Even Vinnie, Babyface, and Captain Carnage thought the flip was "huge."

That evening we went on the sunset cruise, which also involved an open bar. We saw hippos for the first time, hung out with some South Africans on a business trip, met all of the Peace Corps volunteers in Southern Africa, and met Pat Garrity's (less attractive) twin. He was not as excited as we were about all of the pictures we made him take with us.

When the cruise was over, we all decided to carry the party on to the bar at Jollyboy's backpackers. We saw all of our rafting guide friends from the night before, and told them our story over and over again until they were about to kill us. Then we headed back to Grubby's Grotto, got extremely lost on the way, and eventually found the way back to our tents.
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