This trip is disappearing before my eyes. Already we are missing 7 of the original people who started this trip with us and 6 new people have joined. I lost two of my best friends on the truck yesterday, Jodie and Webby from New Zealand, as they move on to the next stage of their trip in Thailand. The reassuring part is that it is not goodbye but only “see you later” — they are going to house me in NZ for my birthday and they will show me all their favourite parts of the North Isle. There might be some skydiving involved… but that’s all next March! I can hardly believe there is less than three weeks before we arrive in Cape Town and lose almost half the truck before continuing on to Jo’burg. Time is ticking away faster than I can grab ahold of all the amazing things that I am experiencing…
Take adrenaline day. We were driven over to the Zambian side of the falls to a massive part of the gorge where they have room for abseiling, rap-jumping, flying fox and a gorge swing. I thought that abseiling and rap-jumping wouldn’t be very exhilarating but I was so wrong! The cliff face is about 70 metres high, more than enough to make your stomach flip a few times as you’re dangling over the edge. This is especially true for rap-jumping, which is essentially a forward facing abseil. We all tried to run down the cliff face Mission: Impossible style. I succeeded the most, but if you watch the video you will see that that is hardly an accomplishment – my legs are running but aren’t touching any cliff! It was quite hilarious.
The flying fox requires that you take the cliff jump at a run. It is one of the most unnatural feelings in the world, to run at a steep drop. But even though I screamed the whole way across the gorge, once the harness kicks in you feel so safe. At least they reel you back in on the zipline. That is not so for the abseil, rap jump and gorge swing. Once you descend 70-odd metres you have to climb up again!
I did the gorge swing three times in total, and I am told by my friends who did the bungi as well in Vic Falls that the gorge swing is just as scary. When my toes began to creep over the edge of the gorge, I felt as if nothing was going to stop the free fall all the way to the bottom. I think I left most of my internal organs on the platform when I took the first step. But I quickly recovered my senses and again – once the rope kicks in – you feel free as a bird! I did the gorge swing in tandem with my friend Ben twice. Tandem is supposed to be three times as fast and you have to go off backwards. I think it was scarier once I knew what was going to happen! Sarah did it in tandem with our tour leader Stu, and ended up with some mild whiplash…. in fact, we all did, but it didn’t decrease our enjoyment at all! So that’s what adrenaline does… it makes you crazy!
Hippos and Elephants
What with all these jam-packed adrenaline activities, it was lovely to get into Botswana to relax and get back to nature. Not only did we find supermarket shelves PACKED with food (no need to be arrested for photographs here!) but Botswana is home to some of the wildest and most untamed national parks in Africa. Yesterday we had the chance to visit Chobe National Park on a river cruise. Unfortunately the river was quite packed with tourists, but even that couldn’t discourage from what was a beautiful journey. The sheer number of hippos on the river is incredible. They sit in groups of seven or eight all near the water. There were lots of babies. As a result, many of the females were very protective of their space, and we saw many of them open their mouths wide in a mock-yawn: the hippo’s first signal that it is getting agitated. It made for some incredible photographs.
Chobe is most famous for its hordes of elephants, and we weren’t disappointed. As the sun was going down over the water, the elephants began to make their way from a lush green island to the main banks of the national park. Elephants are naturally playful, as we discovered in antelope park, as well as superb swimmers. They strolled through the water, drinking and splashing each other as if they weren’t elephants at all but children reluctant to get out of the swimming pool. I could have sat there and watch them for hours. In fact, my camera battery died and in a way, it was a blessing – I wasn’t waiting for the perfect shot, I was just waiting. Watching. Watching a crocodile laze on the river bank. A baby hippo practicing his yawn. A snakebird on top of an elephant. A fish eagle spread its wings and take to the sky.
Early tomorrow I will be waking up to take a local canoe out onto the Okavango Delta, supposedly one of the top 25 things to see in Africa. What isn’t a top thing to do in Africa, I wonder? For all the set backs – and there are many, like discovering a cobra in the girl’s shower moments after I had gotten out – there is no other place like this.