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Alicia’s Travel Diary

Thursday, 02 Sep 2010

Location: Livingstone, Zambia

MapWe had to get up around 6:30 to get ready to go rafting. A truck picked us up at the lodge right after breakfast to take us to the rafting place. As we started to go though town we approached a group of police standing in the road stopping each car that drove by and waved some on while they stopped some to ask them questions. The police officer stopped us and started asking the guide questions like "where are you taking these people?" and "why did you pick them up in this type of vehicle?". Finally he made the guide pull over and get out and they went out of earshot so we weren't sure what was going on. The officer eventually came over and asked us a few questions like where we were going and how much we were being charged for the ride and for the activities we were going to do. We sat there a bit longer and at one point almost had to get out and walk the rest of the way, but the officer let the guy take us to the office, but said he had to come back after he dropped us off. When we got to the main office we finally figured out what had happened. The government regulates taxis and other vehicles that can drive tourists and they have to be registered if they drive for hire. Since the vehicle we were in was owned by the rafting company and we weren't paying for the ride itself they weren't registered that way and I guess the police officer was being stupid about it not realizing that this guy wasn't a taxi and was in fact a part of the rafting company. Luckily we weren't delayed too long and it would be something that the rafting guys would have to figure out with the police later.

We picked up the other folks who would be going rafting with us and heading to the Falls. Our rafting trip would be starting from rapid #1 which is called 'the boiling pot'. Today is the first day of the year they are starting from rapid #1 because the water just dropped low enough to make it safe to go on the first 10 rapids. Before today they were starting at rapid #10. We had to climb down into the gorge right at the base of Victoria Falls and enter the raft as it bounced around in the turbulent water. The first half of the rapids were so intense! There were several grade 5 rapids and one grade 6 which we portaged around. The grade 6 rapid was called 'commercial suicide' and it didn't look like something I would want to try to go down anyway. The rapids are graded 1-6, with 6 usually being something that is unsafe to run. As we climbed across the rocks to avoid the grade 6 rapid we figured they would carry the rafts around it, however, then we saw a guide get into each raft alone with a paddle and shove off down the rapid paddling furiously. We stood there in shock and awe as they bounced down and made their way down the rapid and picked all of us up at the end of it. They had to be crazy. When we got to rapid #7, which is called 'Gulliver's travels' we lost two people out of our raft when our raft was completely sideways on a wall of water. I have no idea how Mike and I managed to hang on, but we made it through and pulled out the people who fell in when we got to the end of the rapid.

Halfway through, on rapid #14, we dropped off some people from the other raft and picked up more people who only were doing a half day rapid trip. Of the around 17-18 people who rafted that day only 6 of us did the whole day trip, it was exhausting because we had to do a lot of paddling. Some of the tamer rapids and calmer spots on the river we were allowed to jump out of the raft and float down the river on our own. It was awesome to float down the current and over some of the smaller rapids in the water, though I am glad I didn't have to float down any of the major rapids on my own.

At the end of the day we had gone down 25 rapids and could barely move we were so sore. Luckily we didn't have climb out the gorge at the end of the day, there was a cable car that lifted us out to where we got a some food and then got on the truck to go back to our lodge. On the drive back we drove through several small rural villages. The kids of the village would run along side the truck shouting "maku, maku, maku!" which we learned later meant 'whites'. We had extra bottles of water and chunks of ice from the cooler that we tossed out to the kids as they ran along the road. As we made it back to our lodge we could see our sunburn starting to appear. We had put sunscreen on in the morning before we left, but the African sun and the Zambezi river still gave our legs quite the sunburn. We showered, in cold water since the hot wasn't working, and then laid motionless on the bed trying to decide which hurt more, our arms, our backs, or our sunburned legs. For dinner we met a couple who had just arrived from Chicago and were on their honeymoon. We ended up calling it an early night since we were so completely exhausted.