Keith Vertanen's Blog

Home > Blog

<<First <Back | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | Next> Last>>

The Gnashing Jaws of Death 

We left the delta and Botswana behind, travelling to the big tourist destination of Victoria Falls. The natural wonder of the falls seems to take a second seat to the ridiculous number of adrenaline sports being offered: white-water rafting, river-boarding, micro lighting, parachuting, bungee jumping. If you could shove people into a 50-gallon drum and drop them over the falls, somebody would pay for the "privilege".

I restricted myself to just doing the rafting. I could hardly pass up the opportunity to raft the Zambezi. This river has got some big whitewater, class II-VI, but the run-outs are good making it relatively safe for whitewater this big. Our raft was all people from the truck: Neil, Sara, Rick, Sophia, Hugo and myself. We were initially a little concerned with our guide "doc". While all the other groups were busy practicing different rafting type drills, we were floating around in circles, doc was just chillin. But we discovered later why doc was so calm, he was just that damn good.

I was in the front of the raft, at times the oncoming waves towered over us like skyscrapers. I discovered quickly there were times to paddle and there were times to hold on, you get really pounded up there. We made the first sixth rapids without major problems (Neil somehow fell out in a class II, don't ask me how). As we approached number seven "the gnashing jaws of death", doc explained that this one was a bit difficult and we could opt to walk around it. No way jose!

Our run started out as normal, but a few confusing moments later, I found myself slammed from my seat onto the floor of the raft. I returned to my position to start paddling again, Rick and Sophia were gone. Doc started yelling "pull him in", so I jumped over to help Neil haul Rick back in. Sophia didn't show up until we had beached at the end of the rapids. She was a bit stunned, but otherwise unharmed. We found out one of doc's oars had gotten stuck in the frame, somehow he had managed to remain in control, otherwise we would have flipped for sure.

We ran all the rapids that day without flipping, a bit of a feat, most boats went over at least once. We walked around the class VI (extreme risk to life) "commercial suicide", only the guides run that one. Holy big whitewater! The thing just tosses the boats around like little toys, amazing sight. I managed to stay in the boat all day. I've swam rapids before, it just ain't much fun. You come back coughing up water, contacts shoved up in your eyelids, bruised and banged, no thanks.

The next day, many from the truck were taking the plunge of the Vic Falls bridge, the second highest bungee jump in the world. Katy and I decided a bike ride to Livingston in neighboring Zambia was a better idea We couldn't have been more wrong, jumping off a bridge would have been a much smarter thing to do

We took our rented bicycles across the Vic Falls bridges, stopping at the border post to buy our $10 day-visa. We started the 10km ride down the paved road to Livingston. We only had gone a few kilometers when we saw a nice place to pull over on the shore of the Zambezi river. We were stopped about 5 minutes, I was looking at some white birds in my binoculars when Katy said in a worried tone "there's somebody coming out of the woods."

Before you can say all-ka-zam, both our daypacks were gone. Argh. I had all my camera gear in there. Argh. I had my passport in there. Stupid, always have my passport on my person, never in a pack, never except today. Damn.

We cycled back to the border post police station. Before we'd even written anything down, two police officers ushered us out and back to the road. We hailed down a passing truck (police car, yeah right, this is Africa baby) and caught a ride back to the scene of the crime. We wandered around the maze of paths in the forests looking for clues, but only found a shopping bag of assorted food stuffs.

We started down walking down the road, not really sure where we were headed. We arrived at a taxi stand at the side of the road. There happened to be a taxi there, he already had one customer, but somehow Katy, myself, two police officers, the passenger and driver, we all managed to fit in the little 4-door sedan. We drove our 2-wheel drive taxi down a 4x4 road into a nearby village looking for more clues. On the plus side, this was a real village off the beaten track, no tourists here. Normally might be a bit scary, but we had a police escort, and I had about $10 and the clothes on my back, bring it on!

In the village a group of adults saw us driving through and rushed to the car in an excited manner. They had a spirited exchange with the police officers in their native tongue. The officers sounded positive, they had found out information of some sort. We drove to Livingston, dropped off our passenger and then headed back to the border post. We thought having just been robbed would be enough to get out of a taxi fare, but no such luck. He wanted some exorbitant amount for the ride, maybe we had that much, but we weren't letting on. We gave him a fraction of his demanded fare, getting robbed once in a day is bad enough.

It took several hours to get the paper work done at the police post. Both Katy and I had insurance to cover the loss of possessions, but it took awhile to itemize everything and get the officers to write out a police report by hand. I still have the folded and tattered piece of paper, with a liberal amount of official stamps, it was my ticket back across the border. We returned our bikes, were they promptly demanded the full-day rate since we were 30 minutes late. They didn't seem to believe our robbery story, at least not until I pulled out my magic paper. In Africa, a paper with official looking stamps is the key to almost anything.

We returned to our campsite on the Zimbabwe side of the river. People were milling around the truck, "how was your bike trip?" Katy and I didn't answer, making a b-line for the truck frig, popping open a couple cold ones. Yep, definitely should have jumped off that bridge...


[ add comment ] ( 19 views ) permalink print article ( 3.2 / 845 )

<<First <Back | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | Next> Last>>