The New African Big Five…

All too soon we had to leave Ivory Lodge and Hwange National Park for (relative) civilisation back at the town of Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe border. 
We stayed at Victoria Falls Rest Camp in the centre of town. Camping is pretty expensive but chalets are reasonably priced (although basic). The camp has a good bar though, and craft shops, cafes and all activity booking offices are within a 5 minute walk. They also have a restaurant that gave Philip Caroline & Muriel the opportunity to try Warthog steaks, Kudu stew and Crocodile pasta. Despite the heat, Muriel decided to finish her meal with a hot chocolate. During dinner an African dance / singing troupe turned up and, once they’d finished, she declared that the hot chocolate was in fact ‘very hot‘. 

 After an evening of suffering, as we watched Scotland play Australia (knocked out of the Rugby World Cup by 1 point, in the last minute!) everyone was up early the next day. Philip was collected by the tour operator at 7am for his White Water Rafting trip and the rest of us headed up to The Lookout Cafe on the Zambezi Gorge where we were going to watch the rafters set off and I had planned to do the Gorge Drop / Pendulum Swing. 

I really wasn’t convinced that the 160m free-fall drop was a good idea but, after a couple of strong coffees to get the adrenaline pumping, I went to sign up. Imagine how upset I was when I was told that the weight limit was 100kg and I was too heavy. My lunch normally weighs more than that. 
I think I managed to hide my disappointment pretty well and had no option other than to return to the bar.
In the meantime, Philip was about an hour into his rafting trip. Excellent value, discounted from $160 to $120 for a 5-hour trip (a steep, strenuous walk into and out of the gorge, plus 3 hours on the water and a barbecue lunch). The rafting covered 18 separate Rapids over approximately 25km of raging water. At this time of year the water level is at its lowest (although the water can still be over 100m deep) and the rapids are at their wildest. 
Each of the individual Rapids has a suitably scary name: The Terminator; The Devil’s Toilet Bowl; The Washing Machine; etc. We assumed this was to impress the daredevil tourists. 
As the rafting began, this was probably a reasonable assumption to make. Everything started out fairly sedately.   

 What nobody told the rafters though was that this stretch is classed as so tame that they don’t even bother to give these rapids either names or numbers. 

All too soon though the real fun starts… 

 

…you realise that this is not all going to be plain sailing… 

 
…and you understand why they advise you to bring a change of clothing. In the picture below, there are 8 people – including Philip- in this boat… 

 
For the first Rapid or two it’s tempting to think ‘Oh well, at least that’s out of the way‘ but each time you think that way, collect your breath and unclench your knuckles from either your paddle or the safety rope on the side of the raft, it’s time to go again… 

 
…and again… 

 
…and again…  

 After the first half dozen Rapids, some people just can’t bear to look any more… 

 Other times, the only way you can recognise who’s on the boat (or, actually, in the process of leaving the boat via the Emergency Exit) is by the pattern on their shoes…


And that’s just 6 of the 18 Rapids, over the 3 hour ‘pleasure cruise’. 

By half distance, for some people the novelty of being in The Washing Machine at the same time as their laundry was beginning to wear off.  Others were learning what it’s like to drink from The Devil’s Toilet Bowl…

  
Top Tip: try not to drink from The Devil’s Toilet Bowl.

Since they’ve been in Africa, Philip, Caroline & Muriel have seen 4 of the Big Five: Rhino, Lion, Buffalo and Elephant. Unfortunately, no Leopard (also be one of the Big 5). 
So, a vacancy exists. 
Philip could fill it. 
Perhaps we could amend the Big Five to be Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo and Red-Crested Celtic Drowned Rat…