All Aboard the Zambezi!
Here I was, in Zimbabwe, half way across the world, without a job, and celebrating my 40th country traveled. I was in Victoria Falls; one of the seven natural wonders of the world. And yet, as I stood glaring at the presence of this global wonder, I began to reflect on my 30 year old self. No… I wasn’t having my first life crisis but moreover appreciating the changes. Over the last year, I was feeling burnt out from what was looking like a dead end, unappreciated job; the only thing keeping me going was the determination to save as much as possible for travelling. I used up every vacation day I had accumulated, counting down the days, dreading going into work. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved my everyday co-workers but working in social services can lead to burn out and well…this is what I was feeling. Quitting was the most terrifying thing I ever did but it led to some amazing new adventures. Just five days after quitting, I found myself in Portugal, engaged to the best man-child that a girl could ask for…and well…just enjoying life.
Fast track a couple of weeks, I was standing on the edge of one of the wonders of the world. Holding up to its majestic views, loved by those who have been blessed to witness it in person. The sound of water forcefully falling over the cliff side into the Zambezi river below was spectacular. Visiting during the dry season allowed for a new perspective of how versatile this landscape is throughout the year. The rich, dry cliffs, barring all its greatness on one side, to the lush greenery and never-ending rush of water on the other. I felt that I was in two places at once.
To mark the celebration of the new chapters in my life, I decided to sign up for something a little adventurous. Signing my name on the dotted line for white water rafting on the Zambezi River, my friend signing up beside me, we sat at the hostel toasting with a Zambezi beer to commemorate tomorrows adventure.
Okay. Ill be honest. I was shit scared.
Although this was not the first time I had gone white water rafting, I had been forewarned that the Zambezi was one of the top places in the world to experience extreme level five rapids. I woke up with an adrenaline rush of nervousness as my friend showcased a calm exterior. However, I am pretty sure she was evaluating our decision making once we were geared up. We would laugh with a hint of hesitation and fear in our faces....
Nineteen rapids. Nine-teen. Now this seemed like a good idea on paper but on the water, in the African mid-day heat, I soon realized that I am very accustomed to Canadian weather. Our guide telling us to jump into the water from time to time to stay cool…in that calm water...where the crocodiles hang out! Hanging on the side of the raft trying not to think about what else was swimming in the water was the easy part. The difficulty for me was trying to get my sorry-ass back into the raft. You see...I have no upper body strength…so I heavily relied on the strength of my raft mates who ultimately would drag me by my life jacket back into the raft. It was not my most graceful moments in life.
Every rapid included some kind of swear word coming out of my mouth. And as water hit you straight in the face, you had no time to process that you might flip over. Suddenly! a solid paddle would hit my in the face. My friend on my legs as we try to grasp what the heck we were doing. Laughter in between breaths. Some tears and well more laughter. My body would hurt so badly in the morning but in that moment enduring the natural force of the Zambezi, I felt resilient.
Nineteen rapids. Success. And as we enjoyed the calmness of river to a close of our adventurous day...I suddenly remembered. I remembered that we needed to still hike. Yes, that is correct. We had to hike up the cliffs of the Zambezi river in Victoria Falls. Now, I am from Vancouver where hiking is popular. But I am no hiker...
My legs were jelly and with no shade in sight, I would take my time, feeling breathless. My friend determined to get to the top waiting for me along the way, I soon would tell her to keep going without me knowing that she could reach the top way ahead of me. Our raft guide would ultimately cheer me on... an out of shape westerner. I laughed to myself knowing that our guide does this hike on a daily basis. Locals, without shoes, paid to take the heavy rafting gear up the cliff side for one US dollar motivated me to appreciate the moment and take in the experience. Locals even were paid to piggyback people up the cliff side. Sparking outrage in my tired body, I watched tourists take the offer due to pure laziness. It was one of the hardest uphill treks I had done; especially after a full day experience of being rocked by level five rapids.
However, The best reward when I looked up to sky, so close to completing this challenge was seeing a blonde, blue eyed person starring down at me, cheering and smiling at me. My friend was holding a ice cold beer and once I reached the peak, she poured ice cold water over my head. I loved every moment.