Zimbabwe
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Day 1. Heathrow - Johannesburg - Zimbabwe
(Victoria falls). Temp 32'C

We're in a hostel near the edge of town with an ape guarding the gate. Our room is £5 each a night. Scoop. It's kinda basic but I love it. The best bit was having a cold shower with a lizard. Excellent. And compared to the next few weeks of camping, it will be luxury. We wandered out, planning to see the Victoria falls, but took a wrong turn – up the road of certain death. The guidebook warns of one road where you’re likely to get mugged and we managed to be on it within an hour of being there.

Ape guarding our hostel

We stumbled upon a little known look out point off the beaten track. It was a spectacular view of the Zambezi river at the bottom of its canyon. Went to Wimpy for tea as there's no McDonalds. It was awful. If I'm not dead from salmonella by the end of next week I'll be amazed. Vic falls is the Extreme capital of Zimbabwe. Tomorrow we're going to book a triple pack of bungy jump, whitewater rafting and helicopter ride over the falls. Life is going to be quite exciting (and expensive) for the next 3 days before the 3-week overland tour starts. The rafting sounds quite tasty. The guide reassured us it was all quite safe... "Radios are carried on the rafts and in the event that a customer needs to be evacuated we have our helicopter on standby and the client can be airlifted to hospital."

Day 2 - Vic falls Bungy, Vic falls themselves & Sunset Cruise. Temp 32'C.
A very busy day. The bungy was quite hair raising. At 111metres it's a fairly big one. They range from 50m to the worlds highest at 200m (hopefully that one is next month in South Africa!) I'm not sure why I go towards things that scare me cos it's not much fun being scared! Having said that, it was quite sterile and efficient. There was nothing really for me to do other than follow instructions and jump when they say "jump". It would have been far more fun to have had to tie myself on and check myself! Nothing could go wrong which made it a bit tame (but perhaps as well, as I suppose I didn’t really fancy it any scarier!) It's not like the fear you get lining up a big ski jump where you risk bending your bones if it goes wrong - too fast, too slow, weight too far forward or back and you're doomed.

bungy from Vic falls bridge

Click for video


Vic falls

In the afternoon we then went to the falls. They were most spectacular. The pictures don’t capture the enormity. They are over 100metres high, which if you’re no good at picturing how high that is, trust me, you wouldn’t want to trip and fall in.

Vic falls


Sunset

In the evening we went on a sunset cruise that was nice and relaxing. Saw hippos and the sinister eyes of a crocodile lurking.

 

Hippos


A big spider that was too fast to catch has now gone from the bedroom, but we've now found an ants nest in the corner and fleas in the beds. How exciting! I didn't expect there to be so much wildlife actually in the bedroom. At least no mozzies have got us yet due to our double bed sized mossie net.

Day 3. Whitewater rafting on the Zambezi.

Not for the faint hearted! First you have a 20min near-vertical climb down into the canyon, then you get repeatedly drowned and sunburnt to death over 28 km of the Zambezi, and then you have a 30min climb out of the canyon up the equivalent height of a 70 storey building! It's supposed to be the most extreme rafting in the world and includes six grade 5 rapids (grade 4 is usually as dangerous as it gets, grade 5 is 'probable death' and grade 6 is 'certain death' - we walked around the grade 6. The guide warned us of a really dangerous bit... "if you get dragged under by the whirlpool, just count to ten, it will have spat you out by then. If you're still under after you've counted to ten, count again..." . The video man got some action shots, we bought the DVD and have taken some stills and made them tiny using the laptop. Isn't technology brilliant! You'll have to see the DVD to believe how wild it is.

The first big rapid - most people get flung out, I wonder whose the legs are...


The raft only fully capsized once at a wave called 'The Muncher'. It was a phenomenal wave. Daunting. I can remember shouting "holy sh*t" when I realised what we were going into. To imagine it, sit on the floor in front of a wall and imagine that vertical wall is made of water. We went straight into it and it tipped the raft up and over backwards and all eight of us ended up underneath it. After spending the next minute drowning, we had to cling onto the rocks at the side in some very fast water and wait for the saftey guys to pick us up. I was clinging on with my finger tips waiting for rescue when the rock chose that moment to break away... There's only one thing worse than being swept down the Zambezi, and that's been swept down the Zambezi with a rock in your hand...

The muncher wave capsize


It looks dangerous, but the worst that happened was water up the nose and some nasty bits of sunburn, despite being really cautious. It's not easy to keep suncream on while you're busy drowning...

 

Day 4. Helicopter flight over falls, go to Zambia to view the falls. Temp 33'C


The falls were spectacular from the air. However, there was no sense of impending doom though so it was rather tame after the last few days. Normal service will be resumed tomorrow as we will hopefully be scaring ourselves silly again doing a gorge swing. I quite fancy river-boarding (going down the rapids on a boogie board) but it will have to wait til next time. Extreme boys, get your diaries out - this would make a great holiday...

It's a good job we're jumping on the truck soon. We've managed to spend nearly £500 in 4 days!

In the afternoon we crossed over to Zambia where you can see the falls from the other end.

View from the helicopter


Vic falls from the Zambian side

The falls from the Zambian side of the Zambezi. The size of the person at the top shows how big they are, and the bottom of the falls isn't even in view!

The falls are massive. That's a guy stood at the top!


Day 5. Still in Vic falls. Gorge swing

I thought the bungy was scary - this may be even worse. It's actually quite difficult to rate 'scaryness'.

You stand on a platform which overhangs a 100 metre high cliff. Then you jump off. You scream your little head off for about five seconds as you tumble towards the rocks below. At this moment you are as freaked out as I suspect it's possible to be, while still knowing you will actually live. Just before you hit the rocks the rope that is tied to you (and also to a point in the middle of the canyon) becomes tight and you swing out under the pivot.

I tried to video myself with the camera in my hand, but it didnt work. Perhaps as well because it would have ruined my image as a fearless extreme man. The fear in my face as I fell would have been a classic. The picture below is about 1 minute after and you can still see how scared I am. If any of you get the chance to do this, remember to say "no thanks"...

That rope is 75 metres long, and there's an awful lot of slack in it! The gorge swing

Very scared silly boy

Click for video:
me (apologies for the language) 100kb
A screaming girl (credit to her for doing it!) 200kb

That's far too much excitement for one holiday already. Day 6 we set off in a truck for South Africa, via Botswana and Namibia for some wildlife viewing.