It was so strange this morning to wake up to a lush, jungly view after so many days of waking up to a desiccated flat one.
The birds were hooping and wheeping and monkeys were clattering again. There are signs warning us to watch out for them as they will steal any food they see. In fact we saw one of them popping out for bread this morning; running the length of the veranda to the breakfast bar, straight up to the covered bread basket by the toaster and onto the roof with a couple of slices.
Today was all about the river. We’d signed up for white-water rafting with the affable Florian, a young German guy all pearly teeth and rippling muscles. Inflatable rafts were loaded onto a trailer and we were loaded onto a bench in the back of a pickup. Off we jolted up the track by the river. That was pretty much the highlight of Tom’s holiday right there. Seat on an open flatbed, check. Bumpy road, check. Big smile, check.
Before we got into the boats Florian took us through some safety stuff. Yes there are crocodiles – not near the rapids but NO SWIMMING in the calm pools between them. T went in his boat and P and I shared one. We entered the water a couple of meters up a small cliff sitting in the boats which plunged nose-first into the water. Tom decided he wanted to just jump in, so he did and pulled himself into the boat afterwards. The rapids were mild at first – class two and then a bit more of a challenge with some class three rapids. So all straightforward then with no risk of getting dunked.
Tom and Florian fell out in the calm bit under the first rapid. I was unceremoniously thrown out on the next and Philippa suddenly yelped and disappeared halfway down the fourth, which gave us all a bit of a fright because we were scanning the water looking for her for several long seconds, not realising she had popped out on the other side of the boat behind us.
We drifted over to the side for lunch – egg and ham sandwiches, nicely complementing the bacon and eggs we had had for breakfast. Namibia likes to do a few foods well… Further back on the beach was a small memorial to a young man who had been eaten by a crocodile at that very spot.
The lunch break was timed to give us a breather before the most fearsome set of rapids – class four on a scale of six. Florian informed us that class six rapids were known in the business as “professional suicide”. Four looked daunting enough to be honest. P sensibly decided to take photos, and T went down with Florian, looking distinctly nervous at the start but then beaming as it became clear that no sudden death would be involved.
That left me in a boat by myself, somewhat wobbly of the knee. I can’t say I enjoyed the paddle up to the lip of the chute but once in it I focused on the steering and managed to get down without too much embarrassment (apart from the bit where I went backwards). But I didn’t get tipped and I would even do it again! Tomorrow could be tricky though, lots of appointments and things. I’m sure you understand.
From there it was a 2k paddle back to the lodge in blazing sunshine, looking for crocs. We saw deep grooves in the sand where they’d slid into the water at our approach. It wasn’t exactly comforting to think they were in the water with us, rather than on the bank watching us. We spent the rest of the afternoon drying out and feeling our necks, shoulders and knees stiffen up. Well everything really. But it was a righteous sort of wearyness, the kind which deserved a stiff gin later. Which we have just had. The sun is low and golden, lighting up the flickering clouds of yellow birds catching insects over the Angolan shore.