Africa: Rafting Crew

Days 3 to 9 was the week long rafting trip.  An experience in itself!  Awesome, fun, hard work, good food, good company, many, many laughs and frienships formed and cemented.

On that first night in the hotel I slept like crap.  I still felt extremely unwell, and I didn’t think it was just the time zone differences that was making me feel so bad.  For a start the mattress in the room was one of those old one with the box springs in it, and I could feel every spring in the damn mattress!  Plus I was having horrible, weird dreams.  I was thirsty, but didn’t know if I could drink the water, then I was worried because I had drank some out of desperation..  Odd night, and I tried taking more cold and flu tablets to kill whatever was making me feel awful.  I got a few hours and woke at 7am.

I had to decide what to pack, and based on Cam’s advice it was ‘not much’.  So I tried to minimalise, however I also didn’t want to leave something out then wish I’d taken it when I’d lugged it all the way to the country in the first place.  In the end I was mid range in the amount of stuff I packed.  Some of the guys packed less than me, one in particular packed more than me.  Ian.  Which brings me to a point where I’d better introduce the rest of the crew.

Cam
Cam was our guide (just as well cause I’d have been annoyed if it was someone else!) and he’s been working on rivers around the world for the last seven years.  He’s an aussie, but has been living in NZ for the last few years.  He’s awesome.  He’s a bit taller than me, with a super cool tattoo on his back, has blue eyes and brown hair in dreads.  Hot, hot, hot!  He’s got the combination of hair and eyes that I’m a sucker for!

Aside from the physical, he’s calm, laid back, has patience galore, is diplomatic and is a very good instructor.  He knows his stuff on the river, is a very good cook, organiser, motivator, placitator and mediator.  He’s well respected by the rest of the crew and the customers and is fun to be around.  He also reads a lot, so is super smart and knows a lot about heaps of things.  I’d do whatever he asked when we were rafting and trusted him implicitly on the water.  Cool guy.

Dave
Dave was put in the front left of the raft (opposite me in the front right).  The two at the front set the paddling pace for the rest of the crew and we had to listen most intently to Cam’s instructions, so it was me and Dave to run the show (so to speak!)  Dave is a Welshman, who is working as a cop in London.  We instantly hit it off like two peas in a pod.  We have a very similar sense of humour and I could make him laugh until we couldn’t laugh any more.  He was easy to make laugh, and of course when I have an audience I’ll keep going until the cows come home!

He was physically fit, slightly taller than me, with dark hair and light coloured eyes – I have to admit I dont know what colour they are as we spent so much time laughing so hard we would cry and I couldn’t see anything!  He talked fast, so that on occasions I had to get him to repeat himself, though he gave it back to me saying I ‘drawled’.  I taught him some ‘Belinderism’s’, such as an ‘ouchie’ on his finger, a ‘corkie’ on his leg, ‘feral’, ‘rapt’, ‘ripper’, ‘knucklehead’ and a few others that this email wont send if I type out!  And he liked vegemite!  Awesome, I had a vegemite convert!  We have very similar trains of thought, and often I’d only have to look at him when Ian said something and we’d both burst out giggling like school kids – all without a word being exchanged.  Apparently I have immunity whenever I get to London, and considering he’s an Inspector I think I’ll take that immunity seriously!

John and Rhys
John and Rhys were the father and son combo.  John had bought the trip for Rhys’ 21st B’day present last December.  Rhys was a classic.  We laughed almost as much as Dave and I did.  He was into his music and was a DJ back home, and had the personality to match.  Outgoing, says what he wants, ready to have a laugh anytime!  Some of his comments were hilarious!  And of course, like most 21 year olds, he loved his alcohol – I think he drank more than all of us combined, each night!  He was quite fond of his dad, that was obvious, and it was nice to see.  For every birthday of his since he was 14 he and John had done something outdoorsy/ adventurous, and as a result, Rhys has travelled extensively and is fairly well educated and travelled, especially for a 21yo.

John on the other hand aws extremely reserved and quiet.  He was reasonably fit, though he appeared to have the physique of someone who’d lost a lot of weight at some stage.  He spoke up in conversations but I think he was a little bewildered by mine and Dave’s banter, especially when you added Rhys to the mix.  I found John to be polite and very well educated.  He was knowledgeable and very wealthy (not that it was stated, but an educated guess on my part would say so).  He appeared to be someone who was used to the finer things in life but was also very comfortable when roughing it.

Ian
Kill me, kill me now.  He nearly did.  Oh, how do I adequately explain Ian?  He was annoying to the point you wanted to strangle him.  He had a spare of EVERYTHING (he even took a bee hat on the river…???!!) and he had a story to beat anyone else’s.  If you mentioned a place you could be sure he’d already been there and would recommend somewhere you should have checked out on your trip or should go on a future visit.

I had a gut feeling about Ian on the first night but decided not to say anything just yet in case I was wrong.  Well I wasn’t.  He was so annoying the only way I could deal with him was to ignore him.  He would ask you every hour if you were ok, but it wasn’t as if he really cared, it was simply the only conversation he knew how to make.  Or he’d offer you something ‘I’ve got a spare if you want it..’  I got so sick of him asking me if I was ok – I mean what was he going to do if I wasn’t anyway? – that a few days into the trip when he asked me again if I was ok I said ‘Yes, I’m fine, but I dont need to be asked every ten minutes ok?’ to which he replied ‘Ok, ok’ and skulked off.  God, what a relief.

He was obviously book smart, he’d done some degree in half the time or something, but he was just a knob head.  No social skills what so ever!  He learnt everyone’s names quickly, but would over use them.  We had a few Irish guys kayaking with us for the first few days, and when one was in front of the raft he’d call out ‘Mike, we’re behind you’ – I mean, come on.  Like Mike didn’t know we were behind him on the river, we were in a massive raft for chrissake!

Trevor
Trev was our safety kayaker, he’s a huge – 6 foot 5 – Irish/Italian American.  Awesome guy, funny, good kayaker, and has the Montana drawl.  More so than I drawled, according to Dave!  Trev was tanned and had huge shoulders, another favourite body part for me, so I got some good pics of those shoulders and arms!  Trev was one to make friends with, cause when we fell out of the raft he was there to ‘save us’ – definately a good reason to keep him onside.  I liked Trev because he just said what he thought, and he agreed with me on Ian!

Anyway, more on the crew later.

When we’d all packed we were transported in a huge red truck to the starting point.  There were a whole lot of local African boys hanging around.  They were known as the porters for the rafting companies.  They helped to carry the stuff we needed to and from the river.  They were fit and carried all the heavy stuff which we were all grateful for because it was HOT!

I was still feeling crap and my legs were so shaky I couldn’t walk properly.  I fell twice when walking down the hill to the river.  Mind you, it wasn’t just an ordinary hill, it was rocky and wet and a big hill.  But excuses aside, I just didn’t feel like I had legs to tell the truth.  Cam asked to see my tattoo at one stage, and when I stuck my leg out to show him it was shaking like a bowl of jelly.  He gave it to me ‘I thought you were going to the gym and cycle classes’, and I had been, but that day my legs just didn’t want to be attached to my body.  I couldn’t control the shakes.  He attributed it to exhaustion and the heat, but I was still sick too.  So I arrived at the start of the river with bruises on each leg (from slipping on the way down) and I hadn’t even got on the water yet!  Embarrassing!

We got a safety talk from Cam and instructions on getting into the raft etc.  There was a fair bit of discussion among Cam and Trev and the Irish kayakers before we got on the water, and I was to learn that this would continue through the week as they sussed out the water and what lines (direction) we were to raft each rapid.  The rest of us sat in what shade we could find and contemplated the trip we were about to embark on, whilst sucking down what water we had with us.  I think everyone had finished their 1L water bottles by the time we got on the water!

When we did get in the raft, I was at the front right, behind me was Rhys, and behind him Ian.  On the left front was Dave, and behind him was John.  Their paddling power equalled the three of us on the right.  Not that I liked it that way, but Ian was a bit of a girly guy, and Rhys and I didn’t have the physique of Dave or John.  But we gave it our best mind you!  Into the raft and heading for rapid number 1, which Cam said he’d not stayed upright in on his last two trips.  Oh crap..

A bit of a paddling lesson before we reached the rapid and we were off.  Mind you, if we paddled all week like we did for the first five minutes, we were in for a long week!  We managed to get it together enough to satisfyCam and we headed for the white water. .

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