We’re in Zimbabwe now. A new day, a new adventure.
My travel confidence had been shaky since the sudden onset of previously undetected cataractaphobia (I just made that up) a couple of days ago. What better way to recover my inner Livingstone than a morning mini-safari followed by canoeing on the Zambezi River?
As we drove through the park I kept thinking about the river. How far away were we going to be from the waterfall, anyway? But I allowed myself to be distracted by critters.
We ended our park tour with a picnic breakfast on the riverbank, then got everything set up for canoeing.
Before going out on the water, our guide sat us down for a safety lesson. He went over some stuff about paddling and parts of the canoe and whatnot. Then he told us about the crocodiles and hippopotamuses. Although crocodiles at this time of the year are mostly sleeping on the bottom of the river, he told us that we’d better not dangle a hand or foot in the water, and that if we capsized, to get out of the water asap with a minimum of splashing.
But the animals you really have to watch out for are the hippos. Hippos kill more people than any other mammal in Africa. There are loads of hippos in the Zambezi river, and they are aggressive and very territorial.
Our guide told us what to do if we see a hippo (stay away). Then he told us what to do if a hippo grunts or bellows (paddle away fast) or if it charges (paddle away REALLY fast). Also what to do if a hippo bites the canoe (stay put). Or if a hippo comes up under the canoe and flips it (swim away fast to shore while hoping someone in another canoe saves you with their paddle).
The other three in our party were pretty freaked out about the crocs and hippos. Not me. Instead, I’m the one asking, “how far away did you say the falls were?” (seven kilometers).
It was an exhilarating trip down the river. Hippos were lurking everywhere, their little eyes and ears just visible above the waterline, or gathered in pods with humped backs looking remarkably like rocks.
I am pleased to report that we went over a few tiny rapids, but no waterfalls.
We did do a fair amount of fast paddling away from hippos, and once we got roared at as we ran the gauntlet single file between two pods. At that point I think at least one member of the party was expecting the guide to pull out a pistol like on the Adventureland jungle cruise ride, but fortunately that only happens in Disneyland.
And at one point Andreas saw a crocodile glide into the water from a rock right next to us. His shout made Kim think the hippos were upon us (or under us), and there was quite a bit of excitement there for a couple of minutes. I didn’t get any action shots – here are a few pictures from calmer moments.
As we enjoyed our celebratory beers and lunch by the river, something dawned on me that the astute reader probably already figured out. The falls go over the cliff on the Zambian side. We were downriver in Zimbabwe, and the falls were behind us in the other direction. Duh.
Nothing to be worried about here. I’m happy to report, I’ve got my intrepid explorer groove back.