Africa: Rafting Day 5-7

After the excitement of Ghostrider we had another portage to complete, Deep Throat portage.  This time we didn’t have to carry much across the rocks, andCamrafted our raft over the drop and secured it further down the river.  Ropes guides weren’t hooked up at this site, which was more interesting because once the gear raft was sent over the drop Trev had to chase it in his kayak, unhook the skirt, put his paddle up onto the gear boat, then lift himself onto the raft and pull his kayak up after him.  Then he had to guide the raft over to the side of the river while we all caught up to him.  What an effort.  I got it all on video on my camera, and it’s pretty impressive to watch.  Trev had to get it right and paddle hard enough to catch up to the gear boat or we’d have lost it and all associated contents and gone hungry for the last two days!

The rest of the rafting for day five was fairly flat, a few little waves here and there, but we were over the majority of the excitement.  We were now on the lookout for crocs and hippos, as we were entering their territory.  We saw a few little crocs, but nothing big and exciting yet.

I got sunburnt that day, and ended up with a strip of horizontal redness across my lower back – the line between my shorts and life jacket that I hadn’t thought to put sunscreen on!  Ouch!

At our campsite that night we saw leopard prints in the sand, which was really impressive.  We didn’t make them up, andCamtook a really cool photo of them to prove it, with the sun setting in the background.  They were genuine as confirmed by Iliam, and for a guy who has spent the majority of his life on the river and surrounds I was inclined to believe him!  We watched an amazing sunset and were served up yet another scrumptious dinner; however I was feeling a little under the weather at that stage so I didn’t eat much.  I didn’t even feel like eating the chocolates that we had for dessert. Camasked me if I was feeling ok as he’d noticed I didn’t devour the box of chocolates…  I wasn’t feeling well at all, but there was no point complaining as there was nothing that anyone could do.  I went to bed after a while, and I was right in not eating much for dinner as I had to get up during the night to spew.  Damn it, I hate throwing up.  Eww, and worse was the fact I had to wander around whilst feeling crook, trying to find a suitable place to spew (recall the toilet stories, all the same splash back principles apply here!)

The next morningCammade me cover up and wear a long sleeve thermal top so I didn’t get sunburnt again, and I had the same re-hydrate drink that Rhys had had the pleasure of drinking a few days earlier.  I actually liked it, and it tasted better than the water so was quite happy to drink it.  We were all a little melancholy on day six, as we were nearing the end of our shared adventure and beginning to contemplate the dreaded ‘return to reality’ we were all bound to face, sooner or later.

Day six saw Trev rafting our boat, andCamand Illiam alternating on the gear boat.  It was interesting swapping guides, as Trev had spent most of the trip in the kayak so we didn’t really know his instructing style nor his temperament.  Although the way he gave instructions was different toCam, they both had the same even disposition and were both equally as good at putting up with Ian and his highly annoying commentary!  It’s a skill that I’m obviously going to have to learn if I get into this tour guiding stuff – that along with not letting my face show so much about what I’m thinking and feeling.  Dave and John made an attempt at rowing, seeing as we were past all the rapids it was deemed safe to let us try our hands at this new skill.  Rhys and I made an attempt on day seven, and discovered it was MUCH harder than it looked.  I did ok when I was facing backwards and essentially pulling the oars towards me, but when I had to row forwards it was so much more difficult!  Those guys have muscles I never even knew existed, and not only had the strength, but directional ability. Camsat at the front of the raft, facing me as I tried to steer where he wanted us to go.  Talk about all over the shop!  I think it’s kinda like reversing a trailer (something I still haven’t learnt to do…) because I’d want to go one way, push on the wrong oar and suddenly we’d be going in circles, or not moving at all…  I’ll give it to Trev andCamthough, they never lost patience with any of us, even when they had to constantly tell us which side to row on.  I have photographic evidence that I gave it a go, but as Rhys said, “Cam, I have so much more respect for you now man!”

You could see the vegetation along the river change at this stage, there were a lot more tussock type bushes, and much more greenery.  Previously it had been mostly rocks and sand, but now there were trees and grass as well.  It was pointed out to us the likely spots that the hippos entered and exited the water, and we saw a few croc drag marks in some sandy spots too.  Just as we sighted our campsite for the night, we saw the first big croc of the trip.  He/she (how do you tell??) was perched on a rock in the centre of the river, not 100 meters from our campsite.  It blended so well with the rock that we had to get quite close before it was obvious.  Awesome.  I took a few photos, but wasn’t too worried about the proximity to where we’d be sleeping.  Rhys, on the other hand, wasn’t too impressed.  Poor kid.  I don’t know if I have some unusual sense of personal safety, but neither the crocs or the though of the hippos bothered me, I was more intrigued to see how close I could get for a good photo opportunity.  That night Illiam scared Rhys by telling him that the crocs came up onto the sand at midnight to collect their eggs, and that Rhys had inadvertently placed his sleeping bag right on top of the supposed egg nest.  Boy did Rhys move, and believed Illiam without question.  I don’t blame him, for Illiam didn’t speak much, but when he did you tended to listen, as it was mostly about the river and surrounds and possible animals nearby.  Poor Rhys was not looking like he’d sleep at all, until I burst out laughing at his worry.  If Illiam hadn’t have been so specific about the ‘midnight’ part, I may not have been so sure he was joking.  Rhys took it all in his good nature, and once we assured him that no crocs were going to extract him from his sleeping bag during the night he seemed ok.

By the time we set up camp that night we were all exhausted, and John and I fell asleep before dinner was ready.  The boys apparently recorded me snoring on a mobile phone, but I’ve yet to hear this evidence.  I don’t recall snoring, but as I fell asleep on my back and I was so tired it’s more than likely I did!  John apparently beat me in the noise department that night, so my snoring glory only lasted a short while.  John and Trev were both under the weather that night, and John coined the phrase “A touch of the Trevors” to describe the mad middle of the night rush to the toilet.  Ah, to be remembered for an event such as that!

In the morning of day seven I discovered the Vegemite I’d bought along for the guys.  Dave was keen to try it, so I gave him the tiniest bit on a knife – he actually liked it!  Said it tasted like some kind of meat flavouring paste he used to have when he was a kid…  Interesting!  I was made to promise I’d send him some across when I got home, which I did.  With postage that’d be the most expensive tube of Vegemite I’ve ever had my hands on!

The rest of day seven was all flat water rafting, which is harder because you don’t have such a force in the river pushing you along.  We were also into serious hippo territory, and were told byCamto bang the side of the raft every sixty seconds to make vibrations in the water to let the hippos know we were there.  Apparently that way we were less likely to come upon them by surprise and therefore less likely to have to deal with an angry daddy hippo!  Again, I was more excited about getting a good photo of the hippos than I was worried about them attacking the raft and eating me.  Rhys on the other hand (what is it with these boys from theUKbeing so worried about wildlife I wonder??) was keeping a keen eye on his watch – so much so that he would yell for his dad to bang the side of the raft every sixty seconds on the dot, and if John forgot or was a few seconds late, look out.  I was in hysterics and nearly fell over the side from laughing so much.  I probably didn’t help the situation, but I found it funny that he was so stressed about it.  I figured that if we did happen to be attacked by a hippo and all ended up in the water all I had to do was swim faster than Ian and I’d be right.  No worries!  We did end up seeing some hippos, but I got only the usual shots of them – just the top of their heads and little round ears poking up out of the water.  You really didn’t get an indication of their size until you saw them out of the water, which I’d not yet had the privilege of coming across.

We made it safely through the flat water, and suddenly around a bend in the river was our pick up point; a flat, pebbled area, large enough for the helicopter to land.  This was the final segment of our trip, and I had a swirl of emotions running though me.  We’d just spent the last week together, literally almost in each others pockets, a bunch of strangers sharing an amazing experience, inAfrica.  How could I say goodbye to my new friends without getting emotional?  Well, one goodbye would be easy, joyful in fact!  However the other few would be quite difficult.  We were all happy, but tired, and apprehensive at the return to the lives we’d left at home.  We had one more night to share and I was determined to make it a good one, continuing to laugh until I couldn’t stand up any more!  We sat under the welcome shade of a large tree, all lost in our own thoughts, while we waited for the helicopter to arrive.

I’ll take you through the helicopter flight and our last night together in the next email.

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