Africa: Rafting Day 2

Morning.  Well my annoyance at Ian did not die overnight, in fact it seemed to intensify along with the heat of the day!  Let me give you a visual.  Ian was about my height, but had scrawny arms and legs, topped off with a pot belly.  Yes, I know its a weird combination, but I’m just telling you how it was.  He was pastey white and would slather himself in thick gooey sun block (not sun screen, sun block.  He was determined not to get any colour whatsoever, probably to keep in line with his personality!) every day.  And I mean head to toe.  He would put it on his face, and the fact that it would get caught in his whiskers and he wouldn’t (or couldn’t, I’m not sure) rub it in properly annoyed me.  He wore a hat, long sleeve rash vest, and these awful oversize hawaiian shorts.  Bright blue with bright yellow flowers on them, and they hung to his mid calf.  This whole outfit was complimented by cheap river sandals that broke on about day three, andCamdid his best to re-attach the straps with plastic zip ties and when those failed, he simply ran some of his precious gaffa tape around the whole of Ian’s foot and shoe to hold them together.  Now in my books a guy could get away with that outfit if he had the personality to balance it out.  But Ian had none, so he simply made it worse for himself.

And the fact that he was white as a ghost just made me want to make him one!  Disappear forever man, get swallowed up by one of those rapids.  I would have gladly helped him depart but for the fact it would have madeCam’s job even worse, with all the additional paperwork and such 🙂  And the whiteness bothers me.  I know you’re from theUKman, but at least try.  It looked as though he’d been kept in a plastic bubble in a science lab all his life.  I dont mind pale skin on people, when you have an excuse for it.  Ie, you raft all day and are covered in all the safety gear, so only your arms and legs are tanned, that’s fine.  Or if you have the muscle tone underlying the skin, that also works for me.  I really did try to find something I liked about Ian, but was poorly unsuccessful.  The ONLY good thing I can say about him is that he had a spare torch I used for the trip, as I’d left mine behind.  And he gaveCama spare camera battery.  See what I mean about spares?  Who takes two torches on a week long trip, along with a bee-keeper hat and ten tonne of sunblock??

Ok, so day two on the water was our first day with all the gear.  It had been bought down to our first campsite by the porters, and we now had to take it the rest of the way down the river.  And there was aLOTof gear.  We had a gear boat, specifically to take all the stuff with us.  An African guy, Iliam, rowed that boat the whole way, and I think it weighed a tonne.  Literally.  It had 6 days of food, remember I said we ate really well?  Well we had to carry it all with us, plus all the cooking and washing up stuff, along with ice coolers with meat and veggies, cheese, cream, milk, juice etc, etc.  And we had to carry all our waste out with us.  All of it.  Which brings me to another topic – the toilet.

We had a portaloo with us, which would be carefully placed in a location close to, but not too close, to our campsite.  It was a proper portaloo, one that you can sit on and it just has a bag instead of a bowl.  Then you treat it with some chemical in another recepticle and you’re ready for the next day.  Well those of you who know me well will know that I get queasy at stuff like toilets and vomit, so I steered clear of the thing for the first day.  The system to use the toilet was unique in itself.  One of our helmets was placed in a visible spot and if you could see the helmet, the toilet was free, if you couldn’t, then the toilet was in use.  Camsaid we were meant to wear the helmet during a visit to the toilet, but I’m not sure that ever occured.  I certainly didn’t put it on my head. Its bad enough having to use a toilet knowing that just around the corner are ten or so people who know what you’re doing because the helmet has disappeared, let alone wear the damn thing!  Then at some campsites where the toilet was on a really sandy patch, if you lean the wrong way or more to one side than the other, one of the three toilet legs was likely to sink further into the sand and put you off balance.

There is just something very intimidating going to the toilet in a wide open space, especially in a foreign country where you’re never quite sure just who is watching and where from.  The river ran betweenZambiaandZimbabwe, and you would see huts and the like along the banks or high up on the hills, and people lived there.  Boys seem to have less of an issue with the whole toilet idea, so I think my issues were compounded by the fact that I was the only girl.  Or maybe it was made easier in that case, because the boys cared less than girls would have.  I dont know.  Either way, I was going to have to deal with it because I couldn’t hold off on using the it for a whole week.  Mind you, I carefully guarded my helmet each time the toilet was set up, I didn’t want mine to be the chosen victim for that night.  I just couldn’t fathom the thought of everyone touching it then having to wear it all day the next day.  Plus my helmet was called ‘Miss Grubby’ (named after a person I was told), however I didn’t feel the need to bring any more life to the thing than it already had!And while I’m on the topic of the toilet, I had another very real issue to deal with.  WhenCamgave the toilet instructions to everyone, I got a special mention.  Remember I said we had to take ALL our waste out with us?  Well whenCamlaid down the rules for the toilet, we were told we could only use the toilet for a poo.  If we needed to wee, it was to be done elsewhere.  Now that is easy for the boys, they just stand up anywhere and turn around and go.  Not so easy for me.  He reminded everyone of this, to what gain I’m not sure.  Sympathise with me?  Laugh at me?  Hmm, maybe it was meant just to remind them we didn’t need to be carrying any extra waste with us, but it was a real consideration for me.

Think about this.  How many times do you go to the toilet, sit down, relax, and start your business, not caring which one it is?  All the time I would say.  Well I had to consider which it was, and if it was a wee I had to wander off somewhere, as discrete as I could find but not too far away from the toilet, because often when you do one you might as well do the other too – espeically when you have to squat in the first place.  Girls will know what I’m talking about.  Then I had to think about location, not only for my peace of mind, but it had to be somewhere that wouldn’t cause an inconvenience to everyone else – ie, it had to be somewhere that they wouldn’t walk later on.  Then I had to consider the type of ground I chose.  If it was too hard, or I didn’t dig a deep enough hole in the sand, the splashback would get me or my clothes, and there were physical limits to how far I could spread my feet, squat down and still keep my balance!  All things considered, I think I did quite well.  Although there were a few times that I’d sit down, then realise I needed to wee first, so I’d have to perform a crouched-over-duck-waddle with my pants still around my ankles, holding my business in until I found a suitable spot, then if I’d managed to grab the toilet paper in my urgent state I’d use it before repeating the duck waddle back to the toilet to finish the rest of my relaxing, open air, ‘alone time’.  If I forgot the toilet paper it was a matter of shaking enough to stop the dribbles and get back to the toilet without my pants getting covered in droplets.  Ahh, talk about feeling vulnerable!

We got on the river after the rafts had been fully rigged up and everything was secure in case we flipped the raft.  Which we managed to do, just after lunch.  The morning went splendidly, and it was a hot day so we stopped for lunch and had a little siesta afterwards.  I think we were all enjoying the sun and serenity ofAfricaso we weren’t fully switched on when we got back in the raft.  It was rapid #17 – I can’t tell you more than that, and I had to ask Cam for that info – and we were out of the raft so fast I don’d think anyone had time to prepare for the icy dip.  It woke us up for sure, and along with Ian trying to drown me again, I swallowed my fair share of river water.  Yum.  We all managed to get swept away from the raft a bit, and the only coloured floating device I could see to grab was one of the kayaks.  Tony, the Irish guy in that particular kayak, was swamped with three of us grabbing hold of his kayak.  You should have seen the poor guy trying to paddle and keep us afloat.  As soon as I saw Trevor get close enough I let go of Tony’s kayak and swam over to Trevor’s.  It was also in an effort to distance myself from Ian, who was still flailing around like a sheep on its back (for the non-country folk you can imagine a fly on the ground on its back, it’ll give you almost the same visual).  Poor Tony was trying to cope with Ian and his wildly churning limbs and I was happy to have my own kayak to float behind.

We managed to all end up back in the raft – damn, someone had hauled Ian back in too – and headed for our campsite.  That night we ate very nice steak and sausages, cabbages cooked with butter and chutney, and little baby squash, all cooked over thecampbbq, andCammade the best dessert of the week – some peach and banana dish, with sugar and wine and a dash of cream.  Awesome.  I was soooo full, I was going to have to roll away from the fire to get into my sleeping bag.  Rhys was making rum and cokes all night, with the occasional dash of sand for added texture, and kept us all well topped up – so much so in fact that all the jokes started to come out.  The Irish boys were slow to start but when they warmed up there was no stopping them.  Dave and I were the cripples that night, we were both suffering from our ‘corkies’ from the day before, and found it difficult to move our legs – or bend them to lower ourselves onto the ground.  I devised a never fail system of getting from standing to sitting in about three seconds – it consisted of basically falling forward onto the sand with your hands outstretched to hit the sand a milli-second before your face did.  It worked provided you didn’t chicken out mid fall.  And the more rum and coke that was consumed, the easier the task became.  The fire was so warm I nearly slept next to it, but I knew from the night before that it got extremely cold at about 3 or 4am, and I would be grateful for my sleeping bag if I could manage to hobble back to it.

I got into bed and the coughing started.  I coughed non stop for what felt like five hours.  I couldn’t seem to stop it.  I tried having a drink of water from my camelback (hydration system in a backpack) but that didn’t ease it.  I tried smothering my coughs so I didn’t wake anyone up, but that only made me want to cough more, and longer.  In the end I gave up and just coughed and coughed, until I fell asleep from exhaustion.  I have no idea what time it was but I was concerned that everyone was going to want to kill me in the morning for keeping them awake all night.  And that thought didn’t help me sleep any, believe me.  No one had yelled at me to shut up, so maybe they didn’t hear me, but who knows.  I’d just have to find out in the morning…

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