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Thursday, August 14, 2008

"Don't pee over there....there are fewer elephants that way...."

These are the words I heard one of the days of our canoe trip down the Zambezi as I was looking for a place to answer the call of nature.....I laughed and found another bush. However, I learned later that it wasn't just our guide speaking from experience....there actually was a heard of elephants standing about 15 feet behind where I was going to go...:-) Who knew?

Our canoe safari was probably the craziest experience I have ever had, and if you know me you know that is saying a lot! Let's see.....

We made it to Zambia on August 8th, but it was definitely an experience. Our flight out of Jo'berg was delayed..the plane was broken, but then an hour later we got on the same plane as it was miraculously fixed...right........Our hired driver was there, and was very friendly. However, we had to stop to get diesel....and you know the saying "3rd time's the charm..." well it should have been 6th time is the charm as we had to stop at 6 stations before we found one with diesel. By now it was dark and the roads are bad in Zambia, so the trip that was supposed to take 2 hours took 4.....Ah Africa!

We spent the night at a very nice lodge right at the canoe drop off point. However, the next morning I got up and left my tented platform to have breakfast. The sprinklers were on and in my effort to avoid getting wet by running to breakfast, I sprained my right ankle! I was very scared as I didn't know if it was sprained or broken or whether I would do the trip, but I sat with ice on it for two hours (and had my breakfast) and then decided that I had come all of the way out there and was going to go!

After hobbling down the dusty road (everything is soooo dusty in Zambia) to the canoe drop off point we received some instruction and then were on our way. Marie went with one of the two guides and Joe and I were in a canoe towards the back of the group with the other guide. The current was fairly strong and as a result we narrowly escaped death (no really...we would have died) in the first five minutes as we drifted way to close to a pod of 20 hippos! Our guide confessed to us on the last night that he was very concerned at that point as we were in "grave danger" Great.....

The canoe trip as a whole was about 70 Kilometers in length and it was pretty hard. The 2nd day was very windy which made it hard to paddle, though we were going with the current the whole time. There are SOOO many hippos on the Zambezi, and they are really funny to listen to. When they make noise it sounds like a cross between deep laughter and an exhaling whoopie cushion. We teased Marie a lot because she snored at night (was very congested) and we joked that she was trying to communicate with them!

We saw over 100 elephants and had one run across the water right in front of our boat (I got pics and Joe got video) and lots of crocodiles. We even went wading/swimming in water that was about 15 feet away from some crocs....they keep to deep water though and we were in shallow....or so we were told....All limbs are still intact though!

I learned a few things about myself and Africa on this trip.....
1. It sucks to go on safari with a sprained ankle...very hard to get in and out of a canoe (Joe was great though!)
2. I'm not a camper......I have done it before and would again for the right experience, but I don't dig sleeping on the floor and being perpetually dirty...UGH!
3. Peeing in the woods is not for me.....especially near a herd of elephants!
4. Zambia is REALLY chilly at night (I lived though)
5. Baby wipes are key for camping!
6. Joe is the best....(but I already knew that....)

Marie was a trooper on this trip. She loved going down the river, but then she was with the lead guide who kept telling her not to paddle. Instead she put her feet up while her Sherpa like guide paddled the canoe...and she chain smoked down the Zambezi...(until Joe and I yelled at her and told her to stop as the wind was carrying the smoke smell to us) In all honesty though she was really good. She doesn't like peeing in the woods either (but it was very funny when she asked our group how to do it) nor does she enjoy being dirty but she loved Zambia and wants to come back. Joe and I liked Zambia, but feel like we can now check it off of our list. Our group ( 4 S. Africans, and 2 guides) made fun of her thick NY accent and her need for coffee at all time (they teased her by pronouncing it Cwoffee!) but she took it in stride and had a lot of laughs.

The drive back from the canoe end point was possibly more dangerous than the trip itself! We were in a 9 passenger souped-up jeep with a trailer full of canoes. The roads in Zambia are BAD! Imagine the worst road in the cover it in dusty dirt and potholes and render it impassible without a 4X4 and then multiply that by 10. Voila! You have our trip. I swear, I thought the truck was going to tip over at some points due to the crazy angles we were on. I think my brains got bounced out and my nose and lungs filled with dust. The truck also broke down twice, once internally and once because of a punctured tire....go figure! However, we still made good time and got back to the lodge in one piece.

When we go to our final hotel destination last night there was a power outage....and then when it came back on there were no hot water! I was SOO sad..and cold....but right before we went to sleep, Marie was outside smoking and came in and told Joe and I that a herd of zebras came to visit. They were right outside out door!

We have been travelling since 4am this morning but made it to Cape Town around 1pm. Joe is relearning how to drive on the left and our Guest House is really pretty. Now we are wondering around the waterfront of Cape Town, shopping and looking for a place for dinner. I can't wait for a good meal! Until then......

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