We had one more day in Vic Falls to enjoy – there were 2 main highlights:
1. B got properly well again!
2. R went whitewater rafting
Since B was just starting to feel better we thought the 2 mile strenuous walk down and back up the gorge to the Zambezi river was not a great idea, so we agreed it would be cool for me to head off solo for some rafting and she enjoyed a day relaxing at the hotel, finishing her book (Twenty Chickens for a Saddle – a true story from the perspective of a white girl growing up in Botswana – B thought it was amazing and highly recommends reading), getting a pedicure, and organizing all our stuff. (As I mentioned before, B loves it when stuff has a proper home, and when I got back, she’d totally reworked all our stuff to be much easier to use for the rest of our trip. My worst nightmare, but the sort of stuff B loves to do!)
So although it would have been great to do it together, the rafting is something that’s been on my list for a long time, and I definitely wanted to get involved. When I was last in Vic Falls in 2000 I drank some dodgy water and was totally out of action for a planned day doing this. Today I was raring to go and 3 other people from our tour were up for it, too.
We left around 7 and were driven to have a briefing overlooking the canyon seeing the mighty Zambezi flowing beneath us. The way the guides introduced the activity struck a great balance between explanation of what to do in emergencies while keeping a jovial reference to the near-death experience (maybe) we’d be taking on. We had to then clamber down a very steep path to the river, carrying our lifejackets and paddles. In addition to my 3 nomad-tour-mates (Sonja, Thomas and Carolina) we added an Aussie (Andrew), a Pole (Anna) and a Dutchman (Bas). Our paddling guide was John Barnes (a nickname, but he really did look very similar to the footballer).
Once on the water we went through the motions and contemplated what the rapids might bring thereafter. Compared to the day before, the sun was beating down, and despite my best efforts I would come out a fair but redder than I started (note helped by my malaria tablets making me even more sun-sensitive). However, the scenery was spectacular. We were just downstream (good) of Vic Falls itself but still within this massive, craggy, basalt canyon. In between rapids we could chat and enjoy the surroundings.
I had an early exit from the boat during a rapid, but it showed it wasn’t all that bad, which made the rest of the journey all the more fun. The walk up the canyon at the end was a real workout, but having spent a couple of hours paddling too, we felt like we’d achieved something pretty cool at the end of it.
All in all, the 12 year wait, I’m very happy to have now conquered the Zambezi!
Being reunited with B in the afternoon, showed the other aforementioned highlight – repacked bags! – and then we could head out to enjoy another slice of luxury, having dinner with a few of our new friends at the Ilala Lodge. We knew we’d not have it so easy for a while, so we made the most of having a pretty classy dinner (although with the worst cheese plate I’ve ever tasted) and then got ready to start leg 2 of our trip…