Accommodation : Gorges lodge
Transport organised by lodge : Blacksie
We woke up at 5:45 today as we needed to be at the foyer for a 6:30 am pick up into town. Blacksie again was our driver and I’m really not sure how he manages to keep his clothes so clean and neat when living in a mud hut!
We were taken to the tour company offices and told to wait until the next vehicle came to pick us up. When it did, it was an open air jeep…no quite what we expected. After picking up a couple at a further lodge we headed off to meet the other jeep at the entrance to the national park. The couple were ‘interesting’ – a very scrawny looking version of Billy Connelly with a New York accent (yep I know not quite the same) and his partner, an annoying school teacher from Florida. Now if you know America, these two places aren’t anywhere near one another but hey…go figure relationships can be interesting these days.
Upon paying our $10 US gate entrance fees, we were then taken on a one hour drive / safari through the National park. We didn’t see much – a few zebra, mongoose and of course some birds! When we got to the water’s edge we were given a pretty stern but humorous safety briefing
• Don’t put any part of your body in then water – there are hippopotamus and crocodile everywhere
• If you see a hippopotamus paddle the other way
• If you happen to be hit by a hippopotamus and stay upright…you’re lucky
• If you happen to be hit by a hippopotamus and capsize, swim fast…anywhere just don’t stay with the boat
Ok I think we have it although the older lady who brought her bike gloves to wear to stop getting blisters from the rowing wasn’t quite so sure.
Now the rule of thumb with canoeing is that the front person is the engine and the back person is the driver. This works perfectly fine if you have two people who fill their role. Whilst Philip and I can do many things together, canoeing or paddling is not one of them. I was put in the back, not a problem. The problem was that the engine also wanted to be the driver. This coupled with a strong head wind saw us end up a little way behind the others and close to the shoreline…not a good place given the above safety warnings. It was at this point that the guides also sensed that this canoeing combination was not going to make it to the Olympics in a hurry despite the fact that I consider myself not a bad paddler (and having been with a previous paddling partner, I say this with a degree of confidence).
Now in two separate boats both of us as engines, we paddled along through small rapids noticing that the guides in the back were only paddling when a little steering needed to be done (like away from the many hippos in the water and I saw many!). This made for hard work but I guess karma is an interesting thing – they probably weren’t happy about switching boats to have to paddle with us.
After a few hours paddling along the Upper Zambezi for a distance of 20 kilometres, we made it to the meeting point. There waiting for us was a cooked BBQ lunch and some warmly received cold drinks.
We returned back to the office around 3pm where Blacksie, the ever reliable driver was waiting for us. Then back to Gorges for a shower, and a session updating the blog; all whilst sipping on cold drinks and looking out over the gorge, wondering how sore we were going to be tomorrow. It was a great day and a wonderful way to see the upper Zambezi River…with its many hippos!