Tuesday, September 15, 2009


For as many hard days as there are in Zambia there are an equal number of good days. Every place has its positives and negatives. This past week I was on holiday in Livingstone and hopefully received a much needed re energizer. It was the best holiday that I have had since being here. Justin is a good friend of mine from Northern Province, we came into country a year ago and we are the only two fisheries volunteers from our intake up there. A friend of his from the states came to visit for a couple of weeks. This friend, Bret, used to be a rafting guide in Colorado. I met the boys down in Livingstone Last Monday, and that is where our adventures began.
We stayed at a backpackers place called Jolly Boys where there were a bunch of Peace Corps Tanzania volunteers. No matter where you go if you find other Peace Corps Volunteers you become instant friends. Kind of nice to have that network. On Tuesday morning we got up bright and early to raft the Zambezi River. We were picked up at 7:30am and taken to a lodged close to Victoria Falls. We were fed breakfast and given the run down of gear and safety guidelines. Donning all our gear and me being a nervous wreck we climbed into the truck to take us to the put-in point. With our life jackets, helmets and paddles we hiked through a stream, down some rocks maybe 1kilometer to the point where we were going to start. The starting point was just under the big bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe at the 2nd rapid of the Zambezi. The Rafts were lying across big jagged rocks over looking the rapid. It was confusing how we were going to get into the river. It was quickly explained to us that we were going to jump into the river off the rocks swim across the bottom part of the rapid to still water and be pulled into the raft by the guide who was going to slide off the rocks with the raft into the swiftest part of the rapid. Needless to say that was the perfect start to an intense day of rafting. Some of us were a little or a lot nervous. I was a little nervous, one of the other girls in our boat was a lot nervous. But we did it and it was exhilarating. We swam across just fine, got pulled into the rafts and proceeded to get command lessons. We practiced our forward paddle, back paddle and turning the boat around paddles. Then we practiced "get down," which meant hold on to your ore and the line around the boat for dear life. It made me a little bit nervous when Justin and Bret looked at each other when Babyface, our rafting guide, looked at each other confused and with a "holy shit" expression on their faces. They had never heard of nor used such a command in all their rafting experience. When all 5 boats were ready we took off down the river. The first few rapids were a great ride. Then came rapid number 5, a class 5 rapid. The first boat made it down with everyone still in the boat. Then 3 boats in a row went down the rapid, right in the middle hitting the big hole, and all 3 flipped. Needless to say we swam a class 5 rapid. It was a bit scary and exhilarating after getting back in the boat. Rapid number 7 was the next one that sent some of us swimming. We of course got the get down command, we hit the rapid and the boat went up on one side and water washed everyone out of the boat except for Justin and Bret who were at the front of the boat. On the video it almost looked as if Justin pushed the raft back down. I drank a lot of water on this rapid and kept getting pulled under the waves. When I got a glimpse of the boat Justin and Bret were hanging on for dear life looking around for everyone, even the guide got pushed out. I made it to the boat first, Justin pulled me in and I just sat there a little confused while they started pulling everyone else back in the raft while we were getting to the end of the rapid (it was a long one). There was a rapid after this one that you could run two different ways, easy or hard. Most of the people in the boat wanted to take the hard way and some wanted to take the easy way. We switched out some people and ended up with a lot of big guys in the boat. Babyface then announced that we were sure to flip with this much weight in the raft going the hard way. Having swallowed too much water on the previous rapid I needed a break so we met back up with the easy raft and I jumped out and another girl jumped in. We went down no prob. Then Babyface's raft went down. They didn't flip We though they missed the hard route all together. On the video however the boat was completely buried in water, totally submerged but they didn't flip. Crazy. We then got to rapid number 9, a class 6 rapid that commercial rafting companies are not legally allowed to take clients down. We got out and walked along the rocks to the calm water at the end of the rapid. The guides pushed the rafts down the right side of the rapid and grabbed them at the other end. All the guides except Babyface who ran the rapid by himself in our raft. It was amazing, impressive and scary to watch him do the rapid by himself. We had lunch after rapid 10 and then continued the rest of the 15 rapids, which were much more tame than the first 10. We were exhausted by the end of the day from the sun and the water.

The next day was an easy day, we watched Bret and PC Tanzania bungee jump from the bridge between Zim and Zambia. They jumped off the bridge over the water, where the 2nd rapid was that we put in. I declined this adventure because of having a fear of falling. That evening we went on a sunset cruise on the top part of the falls. We ate dinner and drank wine while watching the sunset and the animals. It was very pleasant.

The following day was a rough start because of all the wine consumed the night before and the late night of dancing. We caught a mini-bus to Victoria Falls or Mosi-o-Tunya (which means the smoke that thunders) and walked out to an island that exists in the dry season at the very top of the falls. The water level is really low and we walked across the rocks and pools that are covered by water in the rainy season. The island is privately owned somehow within the national park area and you have to pay to get onto the island. Put part of that fee allows you to swim in the Devil's Pool. The Devil's pool is a swimming hole at the very top of Victoria Falls, the water in the pool flows over the edge of the water fall. There is about a 10ft rock face that creates an eddy and allows you to swim at the very edge of the falls. You jump in from a rock and then hang out for a bit and have your photo taken. There is of course what they call a life guard there who knows the spot very well and shows you were you can safely be. He walks on top of the rock along the edge of the falls, with water flowing over the edge, to show you were the rock face is. That was probably the craziest part of the experience was to watch him do that. It was terrifying and exhilarating. Victoria Falls has been set up to cater to the Adrenaline junkie.

On Friday we got up early to go on safari in Botswana. Chobe National Park in Botswana is maybe 80km from Livingstone. We went on an over night safari and camped within the park. We had two boat rides and two drives (at dusk and at sunrise). The boat rides were fantastic we saw hippos and crocs and elephants swimming. On the night drive we saw giraffes, zebras, gazelles, kudus, elephants, cape buffalo, and most exciting a leopard. The safari company provided meals and camping gear and all other necessities. I woke up in the middle of the night to lights being flashed around and the guides talking very loud, so I got up to get some water. When I walked over and asked for a bottle of water the response I got was "do you hear the lions?" The guides were flashing their lights around to look for the eyes of the 3 male lions they heard calling for a female mate. We got up early the next morning and jumped in the cruisers to go look for the lions we heard in the night. The 3 cruisers set off in different directions in search of the lone lions or a pride. One of the cruisers found a female down by the river. We were upland a bit when we got the call on the radio and hauled ass down to the river. We saw the lioness roaming around and calling for a mate as well. There were lots of gazelles around and even a jackal roaming around the general area, coming to take the left overs after she ate. She must not of been hunting though because she was loud and the gazelles were oblivious to what was going on.

I had woken up not feeling well so when we got back to camp I made myself throw up and then tried to eat the heavy breakfast of sausage, eggs, bacon and bread. I didn't get very far and actually spent the rest of the day puking my guts up. I had to have the guide pull over as we were driving back to the river for our second river cruise. On board the little boat I made it quite a ways before running to the back of the boat to loose it again. While I was hanging my head over board there was a loud splash and grunt. A hippo had jumped out of the water at the boat and the guide put it in full throttle to get away from him, I guess he didn't like being puked on. We got to see lots of hippos out of the water though and crocs. We pulled up to an island and almost landed on shore in front of a hippo family. There was a huge male the size of a decent house, the mom and a baby. The two adults didn't pay any attention to us but the baby did a warning charge to us and then stood his ground and stared at us, even showing his teeth to express his distaste in us being so close. There was also an elephant watching us closely that had to be at least 2 stories tall. He was so incredibly tall and huge.

We made it back to Zambia just fine even though I was puking my guts up every hour or so. Realizing that this was a bad situation because I couldn't even sip water with out giving it back to mother nature I went to the private clinic down the road from the backpackers place we stayed and got 5 different prescriptions and a shot in the ass for the intestinal infection I was diagnosed with. The doctor was very gentle in informing me that I have abused my body and now my body is abusing me. So needless to say no more booze and no more caterpillars.

I am not at training for a week with the new volunteers and am excited to be sharing my experiences with them as they get ready to embark on their own service. They are swearing in on the 26th of Sept.

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