This is the diary of my holiday to Southern Africa in 1994. I went on a trip organized by Kumuka Expeditions. There were 15 people on the trip, as well 3 members of staff, Boz the tour guide, Don the driver and Pat the cook, to ensure that we were always happy. I went with one friend (Andy) from England, but hadn't met any others before the trip. The other people on the trip were from England, Spain and Australia.
There is also a version including photos
10th September 1994 - 10th October 1994
by Richard Hall
Saturday/Sunday 10/11 September
Went to pick Andy up from his house and then went on to Reading for lunch. Dad then very kindly drove us to Heathrow where we arrived over 2 hours before the flight (for future reference the required check-in time for Swiss-Air flights at Heathrow is 45 minutes). I bought a book from the book shop and we both got fairly bored moving from one waiting room to another until it was time for the flight. First leg of the journey was to Zurich. Arrived there and waited a bit longer before boarding the flight to Harare. Found out at this point that the flight was to take so long because it was going via Jo'burg, even though Jo'burg is 500 miles further south than Harare.
The flight was on an MD-11 with plenty of 'entertainment'. It was just a shame that none of it was any good. However when there was no film on the screens they showed a map of the plane's current location and performance statistics instead, which was much more interesting. I managed to sleep a little bit during the night but the seats and not exactly built for comfortable sleep. Landed in Jo'burg in the early morning where about 2 people got off just to emphasize the uselessness of this leg of the flight. Then it was off to Harare.
Got off the plane at about 9.30 and were pleasantly surprised to find that out luggage (last seen at Heathrow) had arrived in the right country. Cleared immigration without any problems by claiming to be staying at the Quality International Hotel in Harare for the whole time. An answer of 'camping' from Dutch people in front of us, meant that they had to produce their entire tour itinerary before being let in. Changed some money and got the bus in to town (Z$15 each, £1 Z$12), just in time for the end of the pre-departure meeting which were supposed to have attended at 10.00. Paid our kitty money to Boz (tour leader) and then went to check into the hotel. We were given a nice tour of the T.V. stations by the porter but it didn't take long to figure out that they were all crap. Went back downstairs to have a few beers with the other people on the tour.
Went out for a walk around Harare (not one of the world's top tourist destinations on a Sunday) and found ourselves hassled to buy souvenirs the whole time. Toured the National Art Gallery and weren't very impressed, although there was a photography exhibition which described each photo in the lot of arty nonsense terms which I think that I will use for my photo album.
Walked up the Kopje for a view over the city and were by this time getting a bit hot. Returned to the hotel meeting a couple of the Spaniards from the tour on the way. They had arranged to go out to dinner with some of the others that night so we agreed to join them.
Met up in the bar at about 6.00 had a drink and then a group of 9 of us went to the Carvery restaurant for dinner. The main menu there was a carvery (surprise, surprise) and was actually quite nice. Returned to the hotel where they refused to serve us a drink in the bar and then went to sleep after watching a little bit of CNN.
Monday 12 September
Harare-Masvingo-Great Zimbabwe Ruins
Got up and had a full English breakfast in the hotel restaurant just in case it was the last decent food I got in a month. The tour was supposed to depart at 10.00 but it didn't because we had to wait for a Spanish couple, who had decided to come at the last minute, to buy airline tickets to get back from Vie. Falls to Harare. Eventually got the truck packed up and left about 11.00. Drove to the outskirts of Harare where we stopped to buy some bread and meat and also seemed a visit a large number of garages without buying anything. I could not work out what this was for. Then got on the road to Masvingo and started to drive. Stopped for some lunch of ham, tomato and beetroot sandwiches, a diet we would become used to over the next 4 weeks. After lunch continued the drive south. We stopped in Masvingo for a short time where we were again hassled to buy souvenirs (a Zimbabwe bird this time) and then went onto the campsite at the foot of the Great Zimbabwe ruins. The group of Dutch people who had been on the flight over with us were already there. In fact they followed us around for most of the first week.
I agreed to share a tent with Andy (because I'm nice like that) so we put the tent up before having a talk from Boz about the ruins and also the tour in general. He claimed that there are 1,000,000 stones in the ruins (I have since read elsewhere that there are only 900,000 !). Drank some beer, ate some food ably prepared by Pat, the Scottish cook, drank some more beer and then went to bed
Tuesday 13 September
Great Zimbabwe Ruins - Chipengali - Bulawayo
An early rise, 6.00am (or at least at that stage I thought it was early, but it became very much the normal sort of getting up time), had some breakfast before paying a short visit to the ruins themselves. They consist of a number of parts on two hills and in the valley in between but are basically a collection of stones which represent the height of Shona civilization in the 14/15th centuries. First to be visited was the Great Enclosure with its famous large conical tower whose exact purpose has never been discovered. Then down to the valley enclosures where we declined an opportunity to visit a 'traditional' Shona village. This was followed by the walk up to the Hill complex, which was probably where the royalty lived, or perhaps it wasn't, no one is very sure. Saw some locals working up here but could not work out what they were actually doing.
The reason that the 'city' were abandoned is not really known, but I think that they just got pissed off with the large numbers of Vervet Monkeys which are around the area and are constantly trying to nick your food.
Then it was back to the truck because 2 hours culture at a time is plenty for me. The truck was packed and we headed off to Bulawayo. Stopped for lunch (somewhere) during which it was very hot and some unlucky people had to cut a tree up for firewood. I was one of them even though it was not strictly my job.
Continued on to Chipengali Animal Orphanage/Refuge, where animals which could not survive in the wild (or in the case of the Leopards we won't allow to survive) are kept in what is basically a zoo. Saw both black and white rhino and took photos in case we don't see any in the wild. Also watched the lions being fed. It was still hot.
Drove on into Bulawayo to the municipal campsite which is supposed to be one of the best in Africa and was actually quite good even having hot showers and a laundry (with woman to do the washing). Had dinner quickly since we had a 8.00 appointment with a bar. We were a little late so had to feed our leftover food to the taxi drivers while we finished getting ready. Then it was onto the Alabama Jazz club under the Bulawayo sun hotel where I drank some beer. At some later point in time I was persuaded that I wanted to go to a night club, the Silver Fox, which was a shame because it was a bit of dive and cost Z$15 to get in. Andy enjoyed however because he got felt up by a prostitute on the way to the toilet. I got a taxi back to the campsite at about 12.30 and Andy woke me coming back a little later.
Wednesday 14 September
Bulawayo - Rhodes Matapos National Park - Bulawayo
I was on cooking duty today and made a fine effort of avoiding all cooking for the rest of the holiday by succeeding in burning half the toast and chucking the other half on the floor.
Today was a tour of the Rhodes Matapos National Park with Black Rhinos safari. It did not get off to a great start however because they could only supply one driver and Boz had to drive the minibus even though he was still trying to recover from the excesses of the previous night.
First of all we drove out to the recreational park. Saw out first truly wild animals, Tsessbee (a type of Antelope) on the way in. Walked up a small kopje for a view of the park and to play spot the animal. The view was quite good but the animals a bit sparse with only the Tsessebee spotted earlier and a Sable antelope in sight.
Went back down to the minibuses and drove onto Cecil Rhodes' grave (that guy who decided he wanted to own most of Southern Africa and then proceeded to do so). This is at a place called World's View. We climbed a short way up to the top of the kopje to the grave. There are also two other graves up here one belonging to Leander Starr Jameson (leader of the infamous Jameson raid) and the other to the first prime minister of Southern Rhodesia (whose name is unimportant right now). There was a man at the grave feeding lizards by hand. He has been doing this for 30 years and the lizards seem to enjoy it, as do the humans. There is also a memorial to Allan Wilson and his men at the top of the hill. This was a raiding party who tried to fight the local Matabele people and lost.
Drove off to have a very nice lunch, both because we didn't have to prepare it ourselves and the fact it was a bit more adventurous than normal including coleslaw and potato salad. During lunch Boz enlivened proceedings by informing us of all the lethal accidents that had occurred on similar tours in the past. Did you know that if you fall off the truck and get run over by it, you die? Or that getting malaria miles from anywhere isn't a good idea either. Then it was off to view some cave paintings where our Dutch friends succeeded remarkably well in getting in the way.
We proceeded to the game park, the primary purpose of our visit to which is to view White Rhino in the wild. After only 500m we saw rhino lying in the bushes and it seemed more like a safari park. I took a photo but I doubt that it will look much more than a rock since it was some distance away. Then onto a small lake with hippo and impala. There was also a kingfisher here who we watched fishing (as they do) for a while, and round to a viewing platform from where giraffe, wildebeest and warthog could be seen. After leaving here we nearly ran over a giraffe with a death wish which was crossing the road in front of us.
We had afternoon tea (very civilized tour this) by a lake with more hippo and lots of crocodiles. Also saw a kite here and went to great lengths trying to photograph it flying which were only partially successful. On the way back I spotted 2 white rhino scrubbing around in the undergrowth, but it was not possible to photograph them and they had disappeared by the time the other mini-bus had arrived. Then saw some more giraffes in the middle of the road and finally just as we were about to leave the park, 2 white rhino at a reasonable distance. This time I'm sure that they we at least look like animals in my photo.
Drove back to Bulawayo, ate tea, drank some beer and went to bed
Thursday 15 September
Bulawayo - Plumtree - Zim/Bots border - Francistown - Nata - Bush Camp
Had breakfast and were ready to leave about 8.00am for the drive to Botswana having done this part of Zimbabwe. Stopped in Plumtree to hand in our empty bottles and then again outside to stash out Zim dollars since their import/export is restricted and we wanted to smuggle them out of the country. Passed through customs/immigration without any problems and noted that Botswana had a much better building.
Continued on to Francistown, Botswana's second biggest town, where we exchanged money at Barclays. They were very hi-tee here with a nice computer system but it still seemed to take a long time to process each transaction. I visited a book shop and bought guides to Southern Africa's mammals and birds of prey to help me. Lunch was at Kentucky Fried Chicken so all in all it was just like being at home (except that it was hot of course).
The afternoon drive was straight with the occasional bend to relieve the boredom. Saw an ostrich by the side of the road. After a number of hours reached Nata and looked at the airstrip but decided that they probably didn't need a new ATC system just yet. Stopped for the night at about 5.30 at a bush camp 40km after Nata. We were supposed to be meeting 2 other trucks here but neither had arrived yet. We made up some drink called Don Pedro which contains whisky, melted ice cream and chocolate and was actually quite nice. A second truck turned up after dark and had an English bloke on board who we couldn't decide whether he was a man or a woman to start with but did work out that he was a bit of a nerd. At least there is no one like that on our truck.
I helped to make up some beefburgers (since I was on cooking duty tonight) which completely fell to pieces when we tried to cook them and had to be remade. We had a damn good fire going tonight even if it did use up most of the wood that we had collected. Boz tried to introduce us to a great drinking game called Next whose only rule is that you must drink some revolting drink from Tanzania and then pass it to the next person. I was stupid enough to take part for one round. About midnight the third truck turned up but I soon decided that it was time for bed.
Friday 16 September
Bush Camp - Maun - Island Safari Lodge
Got up early (6.00) to watch Andy light the fire which the other two groups tried to monopolize. Some of the crew were a bit worse for wear especially Boz who certainly didn't appreciate being dragged out of his tent and around the campsite by one of the other drivers and so we were a little slow getting away. Tried to collect some more firewood but this was pretty unsuccessful because the saw was blunt and could not cut through the wood (either that or the wood was just too strong). Set off for Maun and had the immediate excitement of a bend, I believe that the next one was 50km later. Saw a hoard of vultures devouring an ostrich carcass. Some locals stopped to look at this as well and went up to inspect the carcass, possibly to check whether it was one of theirs. Later on we saw a live ostrich family.
Reached Maun around lunchtime and stopped in town to visit the mall and buy some food. I found the local branch of Price Waterhouse accountants but not a great deal else except an ice- cream shop where I bought an ice cream. Went out to Island Safari Lodge (our base for the next few days) where we had a barbecue lunch by the pool (at about 3.30). Spent the afternoon generally lazing around and swimming occasionally. I took some washing up to the reception because I'm just too lazy to contemplate doing it myself.
Went to the bar for sundowners at about 6.00 and I rapidly found out that it is hard to see at night with sunglasses on so I had to go back to change them. Had dinner at some point in the evening before returning to the bar for some more drinks (you get a choice of beer in Botswana, Castle, Ohlsons and Lion being the main brands) and then to bed at 11.30.
Saturday 17 September
Island Safari Lodge - Okavango Delta
Up just after sunrise because today was the day of my chopper flight over the Okavango delta. The helicopter turned up at 7.15 (15 minutes late) and Tim, Brian, Marine and I got on board. Somehow I managed to end up in the middle seat at the back which is not the best one. The doors of the helicopter have been removed so that you can hang out of it and hopefully take fantastic photographs, but we shall see. We saw plenty of animals including elephant, giraffe, hippo, many types of antelope and a water buffalo herd. We were flying about 10 metres above the buffalo herd as they were trying to run away which was a pretty good sight. The flight was very good although expensive (£90 each).
We returned to Island Safari for the 9.00 start to out boat trip into the delta. We went in a 4-WD vehicle to the vet fence and then in powerboats up the Bore river to a small village where we transferred to mekoro (small dugout canoes) for the remainder of the journey. There are two people in each mokoro and a poler to move you along. Andy and I had a poler called Champion, a young lad of about 12/13 and who was occasionally a bit wobbly. After 1 112 hours we reached out camp for the next two nights. This was none too soon because the mokoro are not exactly comfortable, especially since ours was quite a short one. The camp was on an island called Tunoom (or something like that, the locals including a click sound in the name somewhere). I had failed to put any of my factor 20 suncream on my feet and they had gone a little pink, but at least they did so in a nice pattern because I was wearing my sandals. We put the tents up in a clearing about 10 metres back from the water, ate lunch and then settled down to the hard task of doing nothing for the afternoon. We sat by the river, occasionally going swimming which the local guides assured us was safe. The water is exceptionally clear in this part of the delta and can be drunk straight from the river since it is cleaned every 400 metres. Thus if you wanted a drink while you were swimming you just opened your mouth.
At 4.30 it was time for a game walk with two of the guides. We saw elephant, tsessbe, Kudo and two black dots in the distance which were supposed to be baboons but I have no idea whether they were or not. Returned just before sunset so watched the sun set and the ate dinner. After dinner did a bit of astronomy and succeeded in seeing Venus (which looked crescent shaped), Saturn (with its rings) and Jupiter (including two moons) through a telescope which Carlos had brought along. We had decided that we wished to look at the planets but had no idea which 'stars' were Jupiter or Saturn (Venus is obvious) but I chose both of them out of the sky with no misses. We also looked at the moon seeing all the mountains and craters. Showed the moon to the guides through the telescope and I think that they were pretty impressed. Went to bed early (9.30) since there is not a lot to do out here. Did not have any alcohol the whole day since we did not bring any out into the delta with us.
Sunday 18 September
Up at 6.30 for a pre-breakfast game walk. We split into 2 groups one for a 3 hour walk, the other for a 4 hour one. I of course chose the longer walk since I'm hard. Saw plenty of elephant (including one with only one tusk), impala, tsessbe, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, warthog and bush squirrel. I also photographed some Reebok. We saw the devastation that elephant can wreak on the environment in an area where every single tree had been pushed over by them. We found a Kudu skull with horns which had been killed by lion in the last week or so. Arrived back shortly before 11.00 to find that the other group had much more excitement since they had been subject to an elephant charge. They however insisted that they were just scared. They had avoided the elephants by hiding behind an ant hill. The main problem with the game walks is that your legs get scratched to pieces and I had a particular bad scratch after this morning's walk so got out my antiseptic wipes to clean it.
Did not do much for the rest of the morning or the afternoon, just sat around down by the river and swam a bit. Played a game of catch with a half full water bottle which would probably have hurt had it hit you so I made sure that this did not happen. At 4.30 (on the dot, because the guides seem to refuse to move before that) we went for a mokoro ride up the river. This was quite pleasant and more comfortable without the luggage in the canoes. I did my David Bailey act at the turnaround point and took photos on nearly everyone's camera bar my own. On return watched the sun set which was better than the previous night. We cooked dinner after I had struggled to use a penknife tin opener on a can of ham. At least I didn't cut my thumb open on it as Pat had managed to earlier on in the day. The locals diet seemed to consist of fish caught in the river, a maize based porridge type stuff and large amounts of sugar. Each guide brought one bag of flour and one of sugar for the two nights. Talked until about 10.00 and then went to bed. Another day with no beers.
Monday 19 September
Okavango Delta - Island Safari Lodge
Got up for yet another early morning game walk, but only a two hour one this time. Saw the usual animals plus buffalo which frightened the guides a little since they are pretty dangerous beasties. During the walk one of the guides informed me that sometimes people show their thanks to him for showing them the animals by giving him some money or a T-shirt or something. I'm glad he pointed that one out.
On return ate a fried egg and took the tents down ready for our return to civilization. Loaded the mekoro up and prepared for the uncomfortable journey back. After 1 1/4 hours we reached the village where the trip had started. We gave Champion a massive 7 Pula tip. I bought some egg sweets in the 'village shop' which were not as bad as I had expected. Got into the speed boats for the exhilarating trip down the Bore. Then onto the 4WD vehicles for the journey back to Island Safari Lodge. Ate lunch and then sat around the pool writing postcards, reading and swimming occasionally. I managed to jump in the pool with some paper money in my pocket. Luckily it was Andy's. I also collected my washing, it was very nicely pressed, shame that it's going to be stuffed in my rucsac. Had dinner and then went down the bar. Played silly games such as Spoof, Fizz Buzz (neither of which were very successful) and bunnies (which was) for a while. Then started on Killer (a dart game) which I kept losing. Continued playing this until about 12.30 before going to bed. One thing about killer is that the worst darts player always seems to win, so that must have been my problem.
Tuesday 20 September
Island Safari Lodge - Maun - Kalahari Desert - Ghanzi - Bush Camp
Got up to watch Andy depart for his helicopter flight. Had some breakfast, for which I helped cook some eggs, and washed up. Left about 8.30 (after Andy and the others had returned from the helicopter) and went into Maun. I spent the remainder of my Pula and Thebe (meaning water and raindrop respectively) in the supermarket on crisps and jelly beans. We finally left Maun about 9.45 for the drive across the Kalahari desert. The road was straight and not particularly good. The desert was flat and not particularly inspiring, although at one point I'm sure that I saw a hill, or was that a mirage. Stopped for lunch and to collect firewood somewhere after the vet fence where all wood would have been confiscated and then drove through more similar scenery. Passed through Ghanzi (right turn , left turn and bear right) and continued heading for the Namibian border. Stopped for the night in the middle of nowhere. Saw a steenbok (or some other similar antelope) and a bush squirrel as we were pulling into the bush camp. Drank some beer and ate out meal (T-bone steaks) and then drank some more beer. The moon did not rise until much later than it had previously (presumably because we have travelled south) and we were a little worried that it might have blown up. On returning from a visit to the toilet I failed to avoid the bush directly behind my seat and got a nasty scratch on my thigh (all say ahh)
Wednesday 21 September
Bush Camp - Bots/Namibian border - Gobabias - Windhoek
Up early, consumed breakfast, broke camp and headed for Namibia. Again no hassles crossing the border although there isn't a separate queue for EU nationals. Namibia had the better border post this time but they managed to stamp my passport upside down. Headed off for Gobabias giving one of the immigration/customs officers a lift, initially on an unmade road but then on a new tarmac road which is being built to the border. It's just a shame the Botswanans aren't building one to meet it on the other side.
Had lunch in Gobabias where Boz had promised us a hot-dog stall but this was noticeably absent. Most of the others changed some money but I didn't since I had brought some with me. Both Namibian dollars and South African Rand are valid in Namibia at the moment. Continued towards Windhoek passed the international airport which is 42km out of town in case any one is thinking of visiting it. The scenery was more interesting by now with some hills. Reached Windhoek (the capital of Namibia for any ignoramuses reading this) at about 4.30 and went to Tucker's Tavern, a motel type place, which is our home for the next 2 nights. We even have beds here, the first since leaving Harare. Had a beer(draught) in the bar and then went for a meal at a nearby Italian restaurant (paid for out of the food kitty) before coming back and drinking some more beer. At some point in the evening Don tried to reduce the number of passengers by ramming Justine into a wall, but it didn't work and all she had to show for it was some nicely positioned bruises.
Thursday 22 September
Got up about 8.30 and went for breakfast. Discovered that Reading had beaten Sheffield Utd 1-0 last Saturday but had lost to Swindon over a week ago. Went off for a walk around Windhoek, which is a very European city, with Tim and Andy. Went to the top of the Kalahari Sands Hotel for a view of the city before coming back down and looking in the shops for a while. Then started on the Lonely Planet guide's walking tour to see the turn of the century German colonial architecture which Windhoek is 'famous' for. Went to the Alte Feste (old fort) where there was a display about Namibian independence which was quite interesting. I now know that I was not entitled to vote in the Independence elections because I did not live in Namibia, and neither I nor my parents were born there. Went past the Tinten Palace and then to the Post Strasse area for a drink. The Post Strasse Mall is a modern 'Art deco' shopping complex. We wandered around the malls for a while before stopping for lunch. I had an ostrich steak which was good. Ostrich is a red meat a bit like beef but with the texture of chicken. After lunch we decided to walk to the lookout for yet another view of the city. On the way we popped into the National Gallery of Namibia and was very suprised to find that it actually had some good modern art in it. For 200 pounds I could have bought quite a nice painting in bright vivid colours, but getting it home would have been a bit of a problem. Continued up to the Look out and looked out. Then came back down via the Turnhalle, the scene of the initial talks which led to independence, and then onto the station. The next train to South Africa is next Wednesday so it's lucky that we didn't want to catch it. Tried to find a Dance festival which was supposed to be going on at the university but failed, so returned to Post Strasse for a bit more window shopping. I picked up a nice map of Namibia in the tourist office and bought some postcards. Andy and I sat in a local park for a while where some local tried to persuade me to change 10 Namibian dollars for 10 USD (the exchange rate is 1 USD = 3ND) but was rebuffed.
Returned to the hotel, read International Express and Newsweek and looked at the photos that Derek and Tim had had developed. Derek's were classic 'There's any animal out there somewhere' shots. Had a shower and then to the bar for a pre-dinner drink. Dinner tonight was at the Grand Junction Spur and the menu could have come straight from T.G.I. Fridays. I had Nachas and Steak Fajitas, but the quality was a bit below what you'd expect in England. After dinner we had drink in the Kalahari Sands having actually passed the 'smart casual' dress code which seems to apply all over Southern Africa. Then it was back to Tuckers Tavern for a quick game of pool (which Tim and I won) before bed.
Friday 23 September
Windhoek - Rehoboth - Tropic of Capricorn - Bush Camp
Got up, had breakfast and prepared to leave Windhoek. Finally left at 10.00, stopped for diesel on the outskirts of the city and then headed south on the B1. Crossed the Tropic of Capricorn (the 26th parallel, but what does that mean) soon after passing through Rehoboth. Stopped here to take photographs to prove that we had indeed crossed. Stopped for lunch by an agricultural college in the middle of nowhere. As we were pulling in we saw a snake slithering out of the car park. It was probably a horned adder. After lunch we drove some more to our halt for the night, a bush camp 90km north of Keetmanshoop next to the railway line (in fact everywhere between Windhoek and Keetmanshoop is next to the railway line).
Had dinner and some drinks and looked at the stars. This was easier this time because Brian had bought a magazine which had a map of the night sky in it. The Australians tried to explain how to find south using the Southern Cross and in the end succeeded. Some goats were expressing an unhealthy interest in our camp so I tried to chase them off, but failed since they were still there the next morning. Don, Tim, and I fixed the stereo which had not worked for the last couple of days because some 'club footed bastard' had bent the fast forward/eject button. Went to bed at 9.30
Four trains passed through during the night, which must amount to nearly all the rail traffic in Namibia. One was at 1.15 which was particularly loud and woke me up.
Saturday 24 September
Bush Camp - Keetsmanhoop - Ai-Ais
Got up and had breakfast which included me cooking some toast. I did not burn any this time but did drop some into the fire. Left the campsite at about 7.30 and headed for Keetsmanhoop. It was extremely cold in the back of the truck this morning and everyone was huddled up in their warm clothes or sleeping bags, not what I had expected in Africa. We passed the turning to the Quiver Tree Forest but following Don's/Boz's advice decided not to visit it.
Stopped for a massive shopping trip in Keetsmanhoop since it is the last proper shop for some days. Kate and Geraldine bought a 1kg bag of puffed wheat things (big orange dongers) like Wotsits but with no taste. This was about 1 metre high I had some very nice Apfel Strudel which was a much better investment.
Continued drive south towards Fish River Canyon. Stopped for lunch soon after turning off the main road and for a change it was rice salad as well as ham salad sandwiches. Drove parallel with the canyon, which is the second biggest in the world according to the books to Ai-Ais. The last bit of the drive looked like a quarry but is actually natural.
Ai-Ais is a hot spring 'holiday' resort at the southern (bottom) end of the canyon. The campsite seemed more like a car park to me. There was however a large swimming pool filled with water from the spring and which was thus very hot - at least as hot as I normally have my bath water. We swam in the pool and played a water polo type game with no obvious rules for most of the afternoon. I failed to put much into cooking dinner even though I was on duty since I didn't realize that they were cooking it (feeble excuse).
I went to the shop and bought some cold beers. Dinner tonight included pumpkin soup, which I had been expecting since the delta when the pumpkin had first made its appearance, and spaghetti bolagnese. After dinner we had a boys vs girls football match on the Ai-Ais floodlit soccer pitch (the area next to the toilet block). Despite much vicious play by the opponents, the blokes naturally won. The game ended when Justine caused Nuria to twist her ankle and the remainder of us retired to drink some beer. We then went for a late night swim and frolicked around in the pool until 11.00 when I went to bed. The tent was badly put up with 3 pegs not attached to the ground but luckily it did not fall down.
Sunday 25 September
Ai-Ais - Fish River Canyon - Hobas
I didn't cook the breakfast this morning since I was feeling lazy. Melissa however did a fine job of scrambled eggs on toast instead. Instead I went for a walk around the resort the highlight of which was seeing the mighty Fish River, a small puddle in the river bed. Left the campsite and headed towards Hobas. Stopped to photograph Quiver Trees (Kokerbaum) which are a speciality of this part of Namibia. The name comes from the San's use of the branches as quivers to hold their arrows.
Reached the campsite at 11.00 and found that not only did it have grass, but we were also allowed to pitch our tents on the grass, for the first time on the trip. The swimming pool here was not so good, being small, cold and full of insects. The cook turned the water sprinkler on and got me, and some others wet. Therefore we had to swear at him a lot because he is a 'devious little prick'. Sat around all afternoon not doing very much. The kiosk selling cold drinks was closed all afternoon, unless of course you asked the guy in charge to open it, in which case he did.
Later on a sand storm occurred and for the first time on the trip it rained. This forced most people to retire into the truck for a while, but it did not last long. I had a cold shower (not voluntarily) before dinner, something to eat and then to bed fairly early.
Monday 26 September
Hobas - Fish River Canyon - Bethanie - Bush Camp
Got up even earlier than usual this morning (5.45) and piled into the truck for a trip to see the sunrise at the canyon. Drove to the viewpoint at the top of the canyon and had a champagne breakfast (well white sparkling wine actually) in honour of Jose's birthday. Gave her an extremely tasteful present (luminous plastic jewellery) and a birthday cake, which had been superbly iced the previous evening by Kate, Geraldine and Marine. We also sang happy birthday to her in Spanish, the words of which we had been given the night before to memorize. We did indeed watch the sunrise but it was not very good because there were clouds in the sky.
After breakfast (at 7.45) it was time for a walk into the canyon. There only 7 takers for this, including me. We descended the steep path until we could see the water in the bottom of the canyon but couldn't go all the way because of the time constraint. There is an 85km walk all the way down canyon to Ai-Ais but you have to book this about 18 months in advance so we had to give it a miss. Finding the way back was a bit more difficult and even I made a little mistake. This was pointed out to me by the screaming crowd up at the viewpoint and was quickly corrected. Unfortunately Kate and Geraldine made a massive mistake and missed the path by miles. They tried to follow a suggestion that I had made on the way down of walking around the base of the cliff. This was however much steeper than it looked from above or below and they took ages to get back, even with the helpful calls of 'Go Left' from the top. They took 75 minutes to return while I had taken 25 minutes. When they finally arrived they were given a massive round of applause.
We then went back to the campsite, packed the tents away and headed off. We drove, had lunch and drove onto to Bethanie (aka Gumpsville) a town which appeared to have some sort of in- breeding problem. We waited here for the shop to open at 3.00 and found that it didn't sell a great deal except ice-lollies. Continued on to a bush camp somewhere south-west of Maltahohe. As usual drank beer, had dinner and went to bed.
Tuesday 27 September
Bush Camp - Solitaire - Sesriem - Sossusvlei - Sesriem
Another early start (6.00) and were actually away by the designated time (7.30) although it is likely that we left the tarpaulin behind since we didn't have it this evening. Drove for a while before descending from the plateau for the first time since we had arrived in Namibia. Stopped to take photographs of the Naukluft mountains and the first sight of the Namib desert. Continued on to Sesriem, the entrance to the Namib-Naukluft National Park. Registered here to obtain a permit to enter the park and then took the road towards Sossusvlei. We stopped at Dune 45 to take photographs and to have a quick climb. We did not however reach the top because it was taller than could be seen from the car park. The difference in the temperature of the sand on the two sides of the ridge was remarkable and I nearly burnt my feet trying to take a photograph (on someone else's camera). Went on to the 2WD car park at the end of the road where we had lunch and contemplated the target dune for the afternoon, possibly one of the largest sand dunes in the world.
The intrepid group of Andy, Pat, Tim, Kate, Toni, Geraldine and myself started the ascent at about 2.30. Tim however gave up just as we reached the base of the dune. The chosen route was straight up instead of the ridge route used by previous groups. This proved to be very hard work especially when in the front but after about an hour we reached the summit and the view was great. We think that this dune was about 350m high. I tried to take a panorama of photographs but doubt that it worked very well. Pat's hat was blown down the far side of the dune and he was stupid enough to go after it. His climb back up was even harder then the previous one. The descent was fast, furious and fun. Andy and I decided to follow the ridge around for a while but decided that this was too slow so headed straight for the bottom instead. It took us lhr15 to return to the bottom of the dune , smashing the previous record.
Back at the truck we played a game of football, but I soon retired after Carlos stood on my foot breaking my toe nail and generating a lot of blood. At 5.30 we started to head back up the road to view the sunset. After stopping a couple of times we arrived back at Dune 45 to see the sun actual go down. Left here at 7.00 since we had to out of the park by 7.40 , 45km away. On the way back we came across a car accident where a vehicle had rolled over trapping a woman inside. Two other people had already got out of the car but were very dazed. Our nurses, both midwives actually, offered advice. Meanwhile Don produced a hacksaw and iron bar which were used to open the door after which the woman was extracted. We decided that there was nothing more that we could to do (there were lots of other people and the park rangers around and the ambulance had been called) so we left the scene. Surprisingly we weren't told off for being late out of the park, the German attitude to rules obviously has got all the way through to the Namibians. We arrived at the campsite at Sesriem at 8.35 and so had to put the tents up in the dark. We had dinner which did not contain any meat since we had not been to a shop in 4 days and went to bed.
Wednesday 28 September
Sesriem - Solitaire - Namib Desert Park - Swakopmund
Up at 6.00, had breakfast and set off at 7.30. We drove north seeing Oryx, (gemsbok) and Springbok. Got to Solitaire a 'town' which had been signposted from 100km away but was actually a petrol station with a shop attached. Continued on seeing more Oryx and Springbok and also some giraffe. The giraffe must either have been on holiday or come from a game ranch since they are not supposed to occur in this area. Went over a couple of passes (Kuiseb and Gaub passes) and passed back into the tropics. We saw the lunar landscape which is supposed to be a tourist attraction but was actually shit. Stopped for lunch on the gravel planes of the Namib Desert Park and then went to see a Welwitscha, a famous Namibian plant which was also shit. Arrived in Swakopmund at 3.15 and went to the bank to change some money. Hung around at the truck waiting for everyone else to return. Also went to buy some beers and Cokes, but decided that 24 cans of peach flavoured Fanta was a bad idea. Finally we went down to the chalets where we were staying (in beds again). Found out that both the trip to the uranium mine and brewery tour which were to take place tomorrow could not be arranged.
Went to the laundrette to do my washing. The laundrette also contains a games room and upstairs a casino. Played pool while the washing was doing, naturally I won. Went back to the chalets and had some dinner. I put the mosquito net up over Andy's bed to save him from malaria, but he didn't appreciate the trouble that I had gone to.
By this time Derek had started being sick, but we assumed that it was something that he eaten and all went down Fagin's for a drink or two.
Thursday 29 September
Woke up and Kate very kindly bought me a cup of tea. Not so kindly she had put some salt in it, which I did not find exceptionally amusing. Got up to find that Derek had been being sick all night and he was thus taken to hospital to find out the problem. Some of the group were supposed to go out fishing but this was also cancelled, so O trips out of 3 occurred. Wandered around Swakopmund in the morning seeing the pier, beach, tropical gardens, lighthouse etc. but were prevented from playing crazy golf because it was closed. Looked in a few shops and then went to the tannery. I thought about buying Mum a handbag but ended up buying a Kudu leather fly swatter instead. Then we went to a Konditorei for lunch (I had Lemon Cream torte). Ended up back at the chalets because all the shops were shut until 2/3 pm but the chalet was also shut and the key was with a Spaniard who could not be found. Therefore went to play pool/ games machines at the laundrette for a little while before returning to town to visit the museum. This was not overly interesting.
It was quite cool the whole of the day, I wore long trousers and a jumper most of the day. In fact it was a bit like an English resort town out of season. On the way back from the museum we saw some pelicans and also some flamingos in the Swakop river.
Returned to the chalet again to find that Derek was suffering from a build up of fluid in the pancreas which leaked into the stomach and that it was caused by long term alcohol abuse. No one was being very sympathetic any more. We went out to dinner at Kuickis, a fish restaurant tonight. We were supposed to eat the fish that the fishermen had caught on their trip but this was not to be. I had some pleasant grapefruit schnaps as an aperetif, I had mussels grilled with cheese on top and Kabeljau (something like cod). Later on a bought a round of mixed schnapps drinks. I ended up with the cherry one and it was revolting. I went back to bed fairly early (~1.30) after this experience but some of the others decided to stay up until 4am at the local disco.
Fridav 30 September
Swakopmund - Cape Cross - Bush Camp
A bit of a slow start this morning due to the lack of sleep and excess of alcohol on some people's part the previous night. Eventually we got loaded up and headed all of2 minutes drive into the town centre to do some shopping while Don went to fetch Derek from the hospital. I wandered around for a while waiting for the truck to return. We finally left Swakopmund at 11.00 and set off up the coast road for Cape Cross. It was cold again and therefore we had the sides of the truck down, not that there was very much to see anyway. Arrived at Cape Cross at about 2.00. The smell from the seals. Someone should teach these fur seals a lesson about personal hygiene. There were not so many seals as I had expected (a few hundred instead of 50,000). We did however see a mummy seal give birth to a baby seal. This was unexpected since they are not supposed to give birth until the end of November. I took some photos of the new seal with its placenta attached. We then went to the gift shop which being next to the seal processing factory smelt even worse. I bought a seal-skin wallet. It is lucky that we weren't there a few hours later because the seals are culled at 4.00 on Friday afternoons.
Back into the truck for a short trip out of odour distance before lunch. In the afternoon (or what remained of it) we drove across the coastal plane until we stopped 30km SW of Uis for the night. This was on a gravel plane in the middle of nowhere. Had dinner and then toasted marshmallows (supplied by me) over the fire - a habit the Spaniards had never heard of before. Saw a couple of White Lady Of the Dunes spiders. These are massive ( about 6 inches across), white and have hairy legs. They are attracted to light and were obviously drawn to the fire. We chased the first one around the campsite while Carlos tried to take a photograph. Eventually someone killed it, which I think was a very cowardly act. However we left the second alone because the girlies had gone to bed by then.
The tent was pitched on top of a lot of stones but was not as uncomfortable as I had expected.
Saturday 1 October
Bush Camp - Khorixas - Outjo - Okaukuejo (Etosha)
Yet another 6.30 start to be off by 7.30. Initially it was quite cold again but soon warmed up. Drove via Khorixas and Outjo but did not stop because as the book says 'there is absolutely nothing to do or see' in either place.
Reached Okaukuejo, one of the 3 rest camps in Etosha National Park, at about 1.30 and then had lunch. These camps are pretty well designed with a waterhole immediately outside the fence, so the animals have no choice but to come and be seen. When we arrived the waterhole was full with zebra, springbok, oryx, and kudu. We spent the afternoon by the pool, in which the water was refreshing to say the least. Also had a game of beer bottle skittles but I didn't win. Returned to the waterhole at about 5.00 and the other animals were replaced by elephant and jackals. Had dinner at 6.30 and then went back to the waterhole which was by now floodlit. Saw more elephant and some black rhinos. I took a photo at one point with a 10 second exposure so I hope that the elephant did not move. I got bored with watching the animals drink so retired to the bar. This however closed at 9.30 so I was forced to do some more game spotting. I went to bed at 10.30 since I was very tired. Others stayed up much later and rewarded by seeing giraffe and a hyena.
Sunday 2 October
I got up at 6.15 to go for an early morning visit to the waterhole but this was a waste of time since there were no animals there. About 1/2 hour later they started to arrive, mainly springbok, zebra and oryx again but also guinea fowl and jackal. A blue wildebeest arrived later. Stayed here until about 8.30 when I returned to the truck for breakfast. Went back to the waterhole after breakfast and found that a group of 6 male kudu with nice curly antlers had turned up. There was also a mongoose type thing running around.
At 11.30 I moved to the swimming pool area and hung around there until lunch. After lunch returned there and lazed around. Visited the visitor centre (as one does) and saw their display of animal shit. Climbed the look out tower and could see absolutely nothing of interest. Played Pass-The-Pigs for a while and I won so that was good, before having a shower. It was then back to the waterhole where I giraffe had come to drink. Therefore I added a 'giraffe reflected in water' photo to my growing reflections collection. Also saw a family of 5 giraffes wander by but they are very timid creatures and decided not to come to the waterhole.
Had dinner and then once more onto the viewing gallery. There were giraffe and elephant there. Some Black Rhino came down later but they were a bit boring since they didn't have a fight even though they looked that might at one stage. There were also some jackals. I am not a very good game watcher and soon got bored and so went down the bar to get some beers in. Returned to the waterhole for a while before going to bed at 11.24 after nothing interesting had happened for 10 minutes
Monday 3 October
Okaukuejo- Halali- Namutoni (Etosha)
Up at 6.30 to see what animals were about. There were some elephants but they weren't doing very much. The guinea fowl came along en-masse having congregated just outside the waterhole. The zebra/oryx/kudu seemed too frightened to come into the waterhole while the elephant was still there and so hung around the edges waiting. I went off for breakfast and came back to find the elephant still there and the other animals still waiting. Got a chance to take a close up photo of an elephant's penis which was very large and mottled black and pink. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me so I missed the opportunity.
Set off at 9.30 for a day's game drive between the rest camps in Etosha. Went to most of the waterholes in this part of the park (Gemsbokvlei, Oliphantsbad, Aus etc) and saw a lot of zebra, springbok, oryx and ostrich. Also had first sightings of black faced impala (an Etosha speciality) and Red Hartebeest (a bit of a rarity). Also went to look at the main Etosha pan, a vast dried up lake where we saw what might have been baby oryx although their colour was completely different to the adults.
Stopped for lunch at Halali, another camp, where we had oryx steak and chips. I visited the waterhole here but despite a very nice setting at the bottom of a hill it was devoid of animals. Spent some time at the camp by/in the swimming pool which was slightly warmer than yesterday's and contained nowhere near as many chemicals. I found a splendid poster of 'Namibian National Symbols' but was unable to buy it. At 3.00 we left for some more game driving. The highlight of the afternoon was watching an elephant push over a tree. They really are destructive creatures. Also saw a Kori bustard and a hyena.
Arrived at Namutoni, an old whitewashed fort, at 6.00. Put the tent up and then went to the waterhole where I took a superb photo of zebra with the sunsetting behind. I then preceded up the tower to watch the sun set. Back to the truck for dinner and thence to the bar. This closed fairly early (9.30) but by the time we had finished our drinks it was 10.30. We decided to go back via the waterhole even though we expected nothing to be there. We arrived to find 3 elephants munching their way through the reeds which are in the waterhole. To get a better view I moved round the fence slightly but forgot about the stream/ditch flowing into the waterhole and got my feet wet. After a while 2 of the elephants got bored with eating and decided to have a playful fight instead. They were pushing each other around and wrestling with their trunks. However when the third one finished eating they all marched off together into the darkness and I went to bed.
Tuesday 4 October
Namutoni - Tsumeb - Grootfontein - Rundu - Bush Camp
Up at 6.00 and left at 7.15 for the long drive towards Caprivi. Nearly ran over a giraffe which was playing around on the road. Drove past Tsumeb and arrived in Grootfontein at about 10.00. Went into the supermarket to stock with food. I found some very nice loud shirts there but decided that they weren't worth £20. Also found a 'strawberry flavour puffed rice' cereal but the cook refused to buy it. Went to the bakery and bought a cream doughnut which I then ate.
We left at 11.15 and got on the road for Rundu. This is long and very straight. Stopped for lunch about 1.00. Stopped again at a stall selling wood carvings and some suckers even bought some (I was not one of them). Reached Rundu and stopped to get some drinks and ice, The whole time that we were there a hoard (well 4 or 5) of kids were circling the truck saying 'Mister, hungry' which after a while got extremely irritating. After leaving Rundu we drove on for another 60km and then stopped for the night on an old service road used when the new road was being built. I was on cooking duty so had to peel the potatoes, carrots and onions.
Andy and I were told that we wouldn't be able to go microlighting at Vic Falls because it could only be arranged for Sunday, the day we are leaving. We decided to try and get a later flight out of Vie. Falls but don't know whether there is one. Pat tried to make some popcorn but failed, so Boz had to do it instead. Drank beer before going to bed.
Wednesday 5 October
Bush Camp - Popa Falls
Up slightly later because it is only 150km to Popa Falls. Arrived there shortly before lunch. Don and Boz tried to tell us that the small stream by the campsite was Popa Falls. Since the book said that they were not up to much we nearly believed them, but Carlos then told us that there was a big river 200m away with some slightly better falls on them. We had lunch, and afterwards I led a 7 person expedition to find the Okavango River. This did not take long and indeed there were at least some rapids. Some of us walked up the river some way but Derek claimed to have seen a crocodile (we think that it was probably a log) and went back. The rest of us failed to find either crocodiles or hippos but did see a local on the other river bank. Back at the camp it was time to investigate the mini-rapids. This involved sitting around in the water which was pretty warm.
I paid a visit to the campsite shop to spend the last of my rand/Namibian dollars but failed to persuade the man to sell me his 'Namibian National Symbols' poster. He told me to write to the embassy or the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Sat around on the grass (a rarity in itself) reading a book until I found that the middle 141 pages were missing. Luckily I found them in the front compartment of the truck or I would have been very annoyed. Pat prepared our last evening meal (cooked by ourselves) of chicken salad, and all that I had to do as cook's help was to fetch it from the fridge. Unsurprisingly we drank beer before going to bed.
Thursday 6 October
Popa Falls - Caprivi Strip - Katima Mulilo - Namibia/Bots border - Bots/Zim border - Vic. Falls
The day of the long drive. Up at 5.30 (the earliest yet) when it was still dark and left by 7.00. Drove along the Caprivi strip, through a game reserve with no noticeable game to Katima Mulilo. Then headed South-East for the Botswanan border. Stopped shortly before the border for a quick lunch. Out last chance to have ham, tomato and beetroot sandwiches. We passed into Botswana without any difficulties. The drive through Botswana was on the transit route across Chobe National Park. This park contains 73000 elephants (according to the book) and we even saw some of them. Fairly soon we reached the Zimbabwe border and they also let us in. They didn't even search for the Zim dollars that we were smuggling in.
On the way to Vic. Falls I saw a large black bird with a red beak (a ground hornbill according to the men who know) and some sable antelope. Arrived at Vie. Falls about 5.15 the end of the journey, 6,500 km after the start. We were staying at the town campsite, therefore put up the tent for the last time before going to Explorers Bar. In between found that the toilet/shower block was one of the worst we had seen. I had a cold shower because the top of the hot tap was missing and the one on the cold tap did not come off.
Had a few beers in Explorers before going to Victoria Falls Hotel for a buffet dinner. This was quite nice although a few people got the shits the next day and blamed the chicken. Toni tried to translate some Spanish jokes into English and some of them were still funny. I told them some of my jokes and they laughed. After dinner it was back to Explorers, viewing some frogs in the hotel pond on the way. Had some beers and also a Caloha and Vodka which Kate bought me. This was quite nice until the last bit which tasted too much like coffee for my liking. It was then onto bed.
Friday 7 October
Vic. Falls- Zambia- Vic. Falls
For some reason I got up early today. Habit I suppose. Andy was also awake so we went to find some breakfast down the local Wimpey. Looked in some shops and I bought Sharon a nice T- shirt. Went back to the truck to remove out valuables from the safe before the key disappeared for the day. Visited the Air Zimbabwe office to check if there were any later flights on Sunday - there weren't. Walked down to the falls themselves and wandered around there for a while (it costs 2$20 to get in by the way). Only the western end of the falls had any water flowing over it, so it was not quite so spectacular as in the wet season. But then in the wet season there is so much spray that you can't see anything. I took lots of photographs.
Decided to try to go Zambia but didn't know how many dollars you were allowed to take out of Zimbabwe. This turned out to be Z$500 so we left Zimbabwe and walked across Vic. Falls road/rail bridge to Zambia, our 4th country in 24 hours. Went to the curie market to check prices before changing any money but found that they were more interested in dollars (US or Zim) than the Zambian Kwacha (or whatever it is). The market itself was a very intense experience. The whole time that you are in there you are bombarded by the sellers. There is no such thing as browsing here. Expressing any interest at all in something seemed to mean to them that you definitely wanted to but it. Even while negotiating with one man his neighbours would try to persuade you to buy their wares instead. The prices were not particularly low (or at least the ones I paid weren't) but the quality is supposed to be the best in Africa. I succeeded in buying a medium sized hippo and rhino (20USD) a small hippo, rhino and pair of elephants (100ZD) and a pair of rhino bookends (1SUSD including a free elephant). Between each purchase I had to go out of the shed for a bit of a rest. Andy bought even more similar stuff, but also acquired a mask which is shit.
We then went for a walk down the 'knife edge' over a bridge to see the falls from the Zambian side. The view here is in some ways better but the lack of water meant that it looked more like a gorge than a waterfall. Walked back to Zimbabwe with most of the purchases in my rucsac and it seemed a very long way(it is about 2km). We had done Zambia in 2 hours. Changed some money which for some reason seems to involve visiting 2 counters and waiting a long time and dropped the stuff off at the tent. Went to Explorers for lunch where we met some of the others. I had a 'Bungee Roll' which contained bacon, lettuce and tomato.
After lunch we tackled the Zimbabwe souvenir sellers. This time I succeeded in buying a stone elephant for Z$85 (the original price was Z$175 but that doesn't mean a great deal). Andy bought 2 larger stone pieces but they are pretty disgusting. Went back to the tents and showed off our purchases to everyone else. We were congratulated on being the top shoppers of the day. Went to buy myself a T-Shirt and also picked up a NyaminNyami, a necklace which is supposed to bring good luck when rafting.
At 3.45 it was time for the booze cruise. Got in a truck which took us to the Zambezi campsite where we bearded a pontoon boat with 2 levels. On the way Melissa told me that she had seen a cuddly giraffe in a shop in Vie. Falls. Since I had no shopping time left I commissioned her to buy me one tomorrow. I took up a position conveniently close to the bar. The drinks are included in the cost of the cruise so you must drink as much as possible. Drank some beer and saw some wildlife - notably elephants swimming/walking across the river between two islands. I let Kate loose with my camera out of my sight at one point so god knows what photos were taken. Returned to the launch site and then drove back into town. I went straight to Explorers unlike some of the others who wiped out and wanted to eat first. I had a ploughmans platter in the bar instead. Drank some beer and then went to bed.
Saturday 8 October
Up at 7.00 for the big day's rafting down the mighty Zambezi. Collected together the brave souls who wanted to do it (Tim, Kate, Brian, Toni, Geraldine, Derek, Andy and myself) and walked down to the Makissa Sun. Had 'breakfast' which consisted of a drink and a piece of shortbread, paid our money (£64 each) and had the introductory talk from the Shearwater guys. In total there were about 60 people with this company, and also 3 other companies so a lot of people must go rafting. The highlight of the talk was the reading out of a disclaimer which basically said if you get hurt, hard luck, if you die, hard luck. Walked to the top of the gorge where we had a safety talk (if you fall in, don't panic) and split into rafts. Us 6 blokes went for a paddling raft which is harder work and also requires a bit more skill but is supposed to be more fun. We were joined by a South African couple. The girlies wimped out onto a raft with an oarsman where you hang on the whole time and fling yourself around the raft (known as highsiding) to steer it. Our guide was called Steve. We collected our life jackets, helmets and paddles and walked to the bottom of the gorge. This isn't an easy thing in itself being steep and slippery. Then got into the raft for a bit of practice. T was at the front right which I now believe is one of the wetter positions.
When we had passed the test we headed down to the first rapid (Morning Glory). As we hit the first wave, Steve called 'Get Down' (which really means hang on) but I missed the rope and was swept backwards by the wave. What happened next is open to debate. I certainly went back into Tim (who was directly behind) but then either fell out of the right hand side of the boat or (this is the more exciting version) went over to the left hand side of the raft, knocked Toni out and then fell in over the left hand side. Certainly at the end of it we were both in the water but there was no video of this rapid to discover the truth. At first I didn't realize that I was underwater but the light green colour and water, instead of air, flowing into my mouth gave it away. I did as we had been told and just stayed relaxed as I was swept down the river and after a few seconds I popped up and grabbed hold of one of the safety kayaks who paddled me back to the raft (I got down the rapid quicker than the raft did). We reclaimed Toni who had been rescued by another raft and continued down the river. Rapid number 5 (actually our 2nd one) is known as Stairway to Heaven and is one of the toughest of the day. I was determined to hang on this time and did. Andy, on the other hand, wanted to join in the fun and did a backwards somersault over the side and was for a time underneath the boat. When he resurfaced we brought him back onboard ourselves. Thus onto number 6, where Toni again managed to fall in even though it is a fairly easy rapid. We also rescued him ourselves.
After that exciting start we managed very well and reached the lunch point without any more duckings. Had lunch and then had to start again. In the afternoon there were longer stretches of paddling between the rapids and I sometimes felt that I should have been in one of the other rafts. Eventually we reached number 18 (Oblivion) where the majority of rafts get flipped (tipped upside down, dumping all people on board in the river). We were first to go down and paddled hard through the first two waves and then hit the third and made it through. We only lost one person from the raft (a South African and so of little importance). According to the guide we had spun on top of the wave which is a good thing and obviously what we had planned. We rescued the SA girl and then waited to watch and rescue. On the next raft a few fell out, but there was no flip. We had to paddle over to rescue one of the swimmers. Of the remaining rafts some flipped spectacularly including the one containing Geraldine and Kate. As true gentlemen we went to rescue them as well. By this time our raft was rather full and seemed to be half-full of water at the front. We redistributed our excess passengers and then proceeded to No 19 (our last rapid) which was easy after what had gone before.
The only bad bit now, was the climb back up out of the gorge. This is 250m high at this point. During the climb I stubbed my little toe and it hurt. At the top, some beer, our clothes and a bus awaited us. The bus took us back to Vie. Falls and we then returned to the campsite. We were supposed to move into chalets for the last 2 nights (last night for Andy and me) but had some difficulty in locating a key. This was eventually found and we moved in. I went up to Shearwater office to buy my 'I've rafted the Zambezi' T-Shirt. Returned to the chalet and started doing my packing after getting the giraffe off Melissa. There was a lot more stuff going back than came.
At 7.00 we headed down to the Ilaha Lodge where the video of the day's rafting was being shown. My swim was not filmed but Andy's was. Also looked at the photos of the day, but our raft's were fairly dull compared with the others so I didn't but any. Eventually we moved on to dinner (also at Ilaha Lodge). However by this time I wasn't feeling very well. The effect, I believe, of the water I had swallowed earlier on the day. Therefore I didn't eat a great deal. I had promised Kate that I would go down the night club on my last night so did so but unfortunately still didn't feel good so left quite quickly having said goodbye to those I wouldn't see in the morning.
Sundav/Mondav 9/10 October
Vic. Falls- Harare- Jo'burg- Zurich- Heathrow- Reading- Ash
I was woken up about 6.15 by Tim going out to do his microlight flight over the falls (something we missed). We then got up and finished the packing, during which I broke my Nyaminnyami and were ready to go by about 7.00. I went to wake Kate and Geraldine up since they had said that they wanted say goodbye. Therefore we said bye to every one who was around and went to catch the bus to the airport along with Carlos and Jose who were also leaving today. When we got to the bus stop a taxi driver offered to take us the 20km for the same price as the bus so we accepted.
Arrived at the airport shortly before 8.00 and met the husband of a woman who had broken her leg rafting on Friday. We had heard rumours of an accident but not how it had happened. It sounded like a bit of a freak accident since her leg got trapped between the raft and superstructure which the oarsman sits on, the raft had flexed and her leg had snapped. The helicopter rescue was supposed to have been quite good however.
Boarded the 8.45 flight to Harare and found that the in-flight magazine could nearly be described as interesting. You don't get to fly over the falls though. Arrived at Harare at about 10.00, left our bags in the Left Luggage Office and caught the bus into town. We had discovered at the start of the trip that Harare is not a happening place on a Sunday but it appeared better than 6 hours at the airport.
Walked up towards the open-air theatre because there was supposed to be a traditional music and dance festival going on there today, but it had not yet started. Therefore popped into the National Gallery to reconfirm how bad it was. It had actually improved slightly with a new exhibition but was still pretty dire. We had worked out by this point that we did not have much money left so wandered around looking for somewhere cheap to eat. We found a Wimpey restaurant which certainly fitted the bill. After lunch we returned to the park with the theatre and the festival by this time was about to start. We watched a number of groups some of which were better than others. Andy enjoyed it because he had the opportunity to take some photos of black woman with their tits out. We tired of the dancing after a while and started the walk back to the Air Zim office from where the bus left.
We got the 3.30 bus back to the airport, paid out US$20 departure tax, checked our baggage in and went airside. I bought Dad a bottle of Zimbabwean Gin in the duty free shop. We spent our last Zim. dollars on some drinks and hoped that the Spaniards would turn up to buy us another on. They didn't so we used some American money instead. Eventually Jose and Carlos arrived, they had spent the whole day at the airport. They also told us that they avoided paying the departure tax because they had been to Zambia the previous day and told the official that they hadn't returned until 6.00 (you don't pay if you've been in the country less than 24 hours). They showed us some more crap which they had bought during the day and it was then time to board our plane.
The return flight again went via Jo'burg but at least this time someone got on. The entertainment was very similar to on the way out, except that I had at least heard of the film, Maverick. I had some difficulty getting to sleep, partly because of the seats and partly because of the bright light from the T.V. screen above my head. I did eventually get some sleep, but was woken up at 5.15 (or 4:15 European time) to be served breakfast. It wasn't even very nice
Arrived at Zurich sometime around 6.00 and had to quickly pop into the toilets to put some long trousers on. Tried to check in for our onward flight to Heathrow but seemed to be classed as a standby passenger. Looked around the duty free shops, Andy bought some chocolate. Then went to the departure gate and were finally given a seat on the aeroplane which was in the business class section. Bearded the plane, were presented with yesterday's paper and served a much nicer breakfast this time - or was it just at a better time. We were a little late taking off but landed in Heathrow on time. Cleared immigration, collected our baggage and also got passed customs.
Dad however was nowhere to be seen when we emerged from customs. Therefore I made a quick phone call to Mum who confirmed that he was coming. By this time he had turned up, claiming that we couldn't possibly be out yet because the plane had only just landed. Anyway he kindly drove us back to Reading, where I picked my car and drove to Andy's house at the end of the month long trip. When emptying my rucsac out I found some more Zim dollars so we could have had another drink at the airport