December 14th, 2007 – by: tmartin2005
Pretending to be rich with Zim money
We finally made it to Zimbabwe...never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would spend time in Zimbabwe. Culture shock started out with our tour leader having to bribe border control because they were trying to scam the Canadian on our bus to make him pay again because his visa costs the most. Then it continued once we arrived and certain companies were illegally exchanging US dollars into Zim dollars for those on tour because the current exchange rate is 1 $US is worth 1.1mil zwd (zim dollars) and the banks exchange at $1 for 30,000zwd. Wimpy, a fast food place, was out of milk, one of the restaurants we went to had about 12 main dishes but didn't have food for 9 of them, the prices fluctuate each day or even from morning to afternoon, and I've never been heckled before like I was in Zim.
After repeatedly saying no to buying crafts I finally asked a man how he could have the strength to keep pestering people once they said no ten times. He told me that this was his only way to earn money, had a family to feed, and explained how he was poor, he then asked me for my shirt (that I was wearing) to exchange for the wooden elephant. People are constantly trying to get you to exchange money on the streets, mind you there are signs all over that say "do not exchange money or you will go to jail," as I walked out of the Vic Falls park a security guard followed me for a minute until we were away from the crowd and asked if I would exchange my US cash for Zim dollars for the other security guard. One of the grocery stores my friend went into only had biscuits and milk, everything else was empty. They literally have nothing--you can exchange pens or socks at the market.
I knew of all the turmoil going into Zim but it really didn't hit me until it was in my face.
When I was walking around Vic Falls national park there was a school group who became my friends for the next three hours. I met them on the first look out and they wanted to take a picture with me and kept touching my hair and asking me all these questions. It was adorable- the girls were asking me if they could have some of my hair and we were laughing and chatting. Other times I found myself sitting with a couple of younger kids on the rocks while waiting for my friends and more and more kids would gather around to listen and join in on the conversation.
Some of the girls were telling my German guy friend that they always wanted a white boyfriend. Interacting with them topped seeing the waterfalls by far.
WHITE WATER RAFTING!!! Saturday morning rolled around and we were out the door before 7 to get ready for the 'Mighty Zambezi.' This was the best/ most exciting part of my holiday. He hiked down the mountain, loaded our boats into an eddy, and practiced a few maneuvers. There were 7 of us from the tour on a raft with our guide Colgate. The first time we flipped we are pretty sure our guide purposely steered us in the direction to flip to help people get over their nerves in the beginning. It definitely gave me a rush...I was under water thinking 'which way is up,' cause it is so dark and you are being tossed around you just lose all orientation but once you remember to hold your chest and quit moving you pop up.
I am sure it seemed longer than it really was. There were 21 rapids on the all day trip that we did, only we walked around one because it was class 6. Class 5 is the highest that legally can be done commercially and most people don't do class 6 cause it is just too dangerous, after that they don’t rate the rapids. Most of the rapids we did were between 4 and 5....there were some that were class 4 but with a class 5 swim. Meaning if you fall out there is a whirlpool or something extremely difficult to handle. Or class 5 with class 5 swims....It was absolutely incredible. The second time we flipped our guide no doubt did it on purpose...Before we got to the rapid (a class 5) he told us to all jump to the back and lean forward on the first wave and then if we were still on to lean back on the second wave. So we hit the first he yells "LEAN FORWARD," second one "LEAN BACK," so we all lean back and the next thing I know I am seeing my knees and above my knees is the sky and then bam water.
Vitoria Falls, Zimbabwe
I completely flipped upside down, got air, and then plunged into the rapid. It was such a fast rapid that I popped up pretty quickly and it is a good thing because I was laughing so hard...that was the best part of the rafting trip. We hit some pretty wild rapids one especially because it was a 10 ft drop, another called 'The Mother Load' the most difficult rapid where you can paddle to the left you have a 60% chance of flipping or down the middle where you have at least an 85% chance of flipping. We, of course, opted for the middle- we paddle as hard as we possibly could and this was after watching all the other rafts flip and throw their people out. We were the only raft that didn't flip or lose people...we ended up gaining a girl who had fallen out of her boat. We were yelling with so much excitement we nearly flipped after the rapid. haha.
This isn't a photo of our boat.The chicken boat the guide sits in the back and does all the work...we did the normal where we actually paddle and the guide just tells us which way to go.
Another American and I had a little trouble getting out of Zimbabwe.
..had to tell a few white lies at the border and then pray we didn't get caught at the airport in Zambia...it all worked out well and I am back safe and sound in South Africa!
Again not us, but just to give you a better idea of the rapids