October 21st – Day Twenty Three
A group of us were today signed up for the Zambezi half day canoeing trip so we all met at the restaurant for breakfast at 8am. Once eaten it was into a van and down the road to the Waterfront’s sister lodge for the start of our river journey. Sharon, Kathy, Maria, Will, Anne, Dave, Keryn and I were all shown the canoes for the trip, given basic safety advice, shown our lifejackets and then we were all paired up and carrying our two person inflatable canoes down to the river. We were also joined by two independent UK travellers, both called Mark. Actually the above process from eating until being on the water took almost 2 hours, Africa time very much to the fore.
The first half of our ride took us down the river and through a series of small channels and rapids before we would be stopping for a break. This part of the journey was the most fun, there was a current to carry us along or at least assist and everyone was happy. Each canoe held two people with the person at the back in charge of steering (when required) and both people paddling with proper canoe (i.e. two blades) paddles. We saw quite a bit of wildlife and enjoyed shooting the grade one (faster water, a few small bumps along the way) and grade two (water faster again, some larger standing waves as the water funnelled past large rocks) rapids. All was going very well until the last of the rapids, the bigger of the two grade two. First Anne and Dave went through and Dave was thrown off. He went under and then quickly surfaced with a grin and clutching his glasses but missing his hat. Then Maria and Will came through and Will came off, again disappearing to appear on the other side of the rapid in front of Keryn by our canoe. As the two were fished out of the water Keryn and I spotted Dave’s hat so we raced down and Keryn managed to catch the hat with her paddle. By this time both overboard men were back onboard canoes, Will now with Anne and Dave with Maria. That was the end of the big excitement for the day.
Canoing the Zambezi
There were two guides with us and the one at the rear, Chris, was quite chatty whenever nearby. After the last rapid he warned us to keep to the left of the river as we would be passing a herd of hippo and so we did. The hippo were together in a group of about 10 half out of the water, I guess it was quite shallow where they were. They are not normally aggressive unless people get close so we keep our distance and all they did was watch us as we drifted past. It wasn’t long before we stopped for a rest and drinks, surprising two large African fish eagles as we all came ashore. Everyone drank and was happy for the paddling respite. A few of us were developing blisters on our soft office hands so plasters were distributed. All rested up we were soon back in the canoes and heading down the river once more.
The sun was quite high now and the temperatures rising, it’s been in the high 30’s the last few days. Unfortunately the second half of our trip was a bit of a hard slog through a wider river – the Zambezi can get quite deep and this means there isn’t much of a current as it gets wider and deeper. We also had a slight headwind to contend with, not making life any easier. The best part of this period was watching a herd of around 16 elephants come down to the far shore and have a drink, they were far away but the large number made them quite a spectacle. The wildlife was otherwise quite absent, a few impala, the odd darter (or snake bird) but not a lot else. So we continued and after another hour and a half finally made it back to the Waterfront campsite where we were treated to a free drink which was much appreciated.
Lunch was back at the truck and after this I spent most of the afternoon writing. Tina and Rodger were back from the doctors surgery, Tina being diagnosed with grade one Malaria which is the least harmful of the four grades. She had a cocktail of drugs to take over the coming days and it was hopeful she would make a quick recovery. After the party of the night before this night was a lot quieter with the booze cruise attendees being far more sedate. A few drinks and everyone started off to bed for a peaceful nights sleep.