I went to Africa and I LOVED it. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and one I encourage everyone to have at least once in their lives. But it wasn’t without it’s challenges. Keep reading to find out my least glamorous moments on the road – and what I affectionately call my ‘Africa Outtakes’.
My Africa Outtakes
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I LOVE Africa. But it wasn’t all sunsets and animals. (Well, a lot of it was and it was awesome! Check out Etosha National Park for a taster of that!) but there were challenges. The type that everyone had to face – And then there were MY ‘challenges’ which were the different ways I managed embarrass, hurt, burn, fall.. well you get the picture. Lucky for you, I’ve got them all on camera. So without further a-do – here are my Africa Outtakes.
WHERE WOULD I SLEEP?
First, there was the whole camping thing. I’m not a camper, and I figured this would be one of my biggest challenges, but I did I OK (once I got into the swing of things.. and with the help of wine: see below).
WHAT WOULD I EAT?
Then there is the cooking and eating only what was available. Turns out food was pretty plentiful – so plentiful that I put on weight! So everyone take note – a safari can be a detox plan but it doesn’t have to be..
…AND WOULD THERE BE WINE?
I had absolutely no need to worry about lack of wine – there was wine, and it’s was pretty good. Most nights I was able to have a mildly chilled white with my campfire meal. (Which probably didn’t help the weight either – but certainly helped with the sleeping in a tent thing!)
Curious about other day to day aspects of life on a Safari in Africa? Have a read of my post helpfully titled What to Expect on an Overland Safari – it’s got everything covered!
My Africa Outtakes
So with the basics out of the way, let me elaborate on those special ‘challenges’ which just seemed to affect me. Grab and drink, take a seat and be prepared to have a giggle at my expense!
THE TIME I WENT WHITE WATER RAFTING
What could be more fun than White Water Rafting? The fun part, it turns out, wasn’t the problem. The physically demanding, 8+ hour day paddling, interspersed with an hour walk barefoot over slippery rocks, being thrown out of the boat, getting back in the boat, not to mention the 100m climb down steps into the canyon – it was exhausting. My arms hurt from the paddling, my legs were like jelly from the pressure needed to keep myself wedged in the raft. And I’m pretty sure our boat had been nominated to take the starring role in the company made video of the day.
But the kicker, and the thing that finally broke my spirit, was getting to the end of the grueling 21 rapid run to be told we had to climb up a practically vertical dirt path to get back out of the gorge – carrying our helmets and paddles – to get to our waiting lunch (we had been picked up at 7am and it was past 3pm at this point..)
I was spent. Physically, mentally.. And even after 45 mins of walking, I was nowhere near the top. Our guide had to trudge back down into the gorge, take my by the hand and drag me out of the canyon. Like 5-6 steps at a time, before I had to stop for a break, drag me up. It was not my finest moment.
The aftermath wasn’t so great either. The immense and prolonged workout rendered my legs practically useless for 4+ days. I hobbled around Victoria Falls for the rest of our time there – steps were hard, inclines were even harder, sitting down was painful, standing up was painful.. but I’m still glad I did it. I’m not sure what my answer would be if you asked me to do it again though!
THE TIME I CLIMBED A WALL SIDEWAYS
Well, according to the guides on the Victoria Falls Gorge Swing I did. But let me start from the beginning. The Gorge Swing (and one of my Top Adventure Activities in Victoria Falls) is a 120m high pendulum swing that drops you 70m into the gorge and propels you in a 95 degree arc across the mighty Zambezi River.
It’s one of the biggest Adrenalin rushes I have ever had and was probably heightened by the sheer terror of standing on the platform and almost chickening out before I did it! But once you have swung, you have to get back to the platform to get back on solid ground.
The ropes are mechanically lifted back to the height of the platform and I was reaching the top I was asked to ‘walk up the wall’. It wasn’t that simple. I was twisted on the rope – I couldn’t get my feet round the meet the rock and before I knew it I was flailing my legs trying manically to get a grip on the cliff-face whilst being dragged against the wall – but I thought I was doing ok. The guides yelled at me” walk up the wall” – I replied that I was. Their response was that they had never seen anyone walk up a wall sideways before. Guess I wasn’t doing as good a job as I thought!
THE TIME I WORE DUST SOCKS FOR 3 DAYS
The Okavango Delta in Botswana is an incredible place, and we were lucky to be able to take a Mokoro Safari to a makeshift bushcamp on one of the larger landmasses within the Delta. Our bush camp was just that – a spot on a relatively flat landmass where our guides dug a pit toilet and brought enough fire wood and water to last our 2 night, 3 day trip. There was no power, no bathrooms – and no other people; we slept under the stars and in the early mornings listened to the hippos on the banks of the Delta around us. The system for the toilet – in case you were wondering – was that a shovel, toilet roll and a spray bottle of dettol were hung on the branches of a tree next to the path leading to the pit. If the shovel and toilet roll were missing, the toilet was occupied. The shovel was to add dirt to the pit to cover your business and the dettol was there to wash your hands on returning the shovel and toilet roll. This pit was shared with 25 other people. Super glamorous, right?!
Before embarking on this little adventure within an adventure, we were told to wear long pants, long sleeved shirts, closed toe shoes and take lots of sun screen. On our first day we walked around our little landmass to see if we could find some animals and the second day we went on a 4 hour walking safari further into the Delta. Being so close to the animals on foot was incredible – and getting back to the tents I realized they probably thought I was an animal due to how dirty my feet were!
THE TIME I BURNT MY NOSE WHILST ATTEMPTING TO DRIVE A MOKORO
…and it stayed burnt for the rest of the trip! Despite my religiously applying sun screen throughout the trip, one of the side effects of the anti-malaria drug doxycycline are that you become more sensitive to the sun. My factor 50, 3 times a day was no match for the blazing ball of fire in the sky. Oh my poor nose!
My attempting to drive a mokoro whilst in the delta was a fun experience – and I managed to go a fair way without ending up in the drink – but I did not look comfortable at all!
THE TIME I WENT SAND BOARDING AND GOT CRASH OF THE DAY….
Sand boarding was of the things I wanted to try whilst we were in Namibia. Throwing yourself head first down a sand dune on a waxed bit of ply-board – that was something I could totally do. What I could not do, apparently, was steer or manage to stop myself without flipping off the board and taking more sand onto my person than is present in the whole of the Namib Desert. (At least that’s what it felt like! Seriously – I had three showers and was still finding sand!)
+ NEARLY TOOK OUT A CAMERA MAN!
Oh, and my standout crash of the day came as I was hurtling towards the camera-man at around 60km per hour. Fearing an imminent collision I dug a toe into the sand, flipped off the board and narrowly avoided the man and his $3000+ camera equipment!
THE TIME I BROKE MY CAMERA IN THE NAMIB DESERT
You’d have thought that I’d have just avoided sand dunes after my first altercation, but no. You can’t keep me and my camera away from something that could potentially be epic. And I thought capturing the sunrise from the top of the famous Dune 45 would be the sort of epic I couldn’t afford to miss. As it turns out, the sunrise was better from the ground, climbing the dune was hard work, and then the wind picked up. The super-fine sand swirled through the air and lodged itself in every crevice of my camera. For a time it wouldn’t turn on. I cleaned, brushed and tapped sand out of the camera for three weeks. I got it to a point that the body of the camera would work, but the x60 optical zoom was a goner. I was devastated. Luckily for me, some great friends we made on the tour who were leaving in Cape Town offered me their camera for the rest of the trip (which was an absolute lifesaver). And the constant cleaning and tapping (aided by the bumpy African roads) saw the zoom come back to life on our last day in Africa so I could grab a shot of a Cheetah – the last of the big 5 I needed to see – who was lounging on a tree around 40m away.
THE TIME I SLAMMED (ALMOST) FACE FIRST INTO THE GROUND WHILST RIDING A SHOPPING TROLLEY
OK, so I saved my absolute stupidity until last. But I’m sure you’ve done it. You know, when you run in the supermarket and jump so you glide on the back of a shopping trolley.. it’s fun, right?! Well, only when the shopping trolley can hold your weight. If you’re from the UK, USA or Australia, you know that trolleys are made of metal and are pretty sturdy. In South Africa, they are not. This was not something I had considered as I was returning the trolley to the store. I set off at a run, and jumped, launching my body weight forward and onto the bars of the trolley. The trolley – not made for riding – couldn’t handle my weight. It flew out from under me, stopping about 5 meters away as I slammed, ungraciously, into the ground.
I skinned my hand, busted my knee and wrist and jarred my shoulder. My hurt pride was probably the most painful thing – but luckily (and I know it sounds vain) – I didn’t land on my face. It was the first thing I checked and breathed a sigh of relief as a tentatively ran my non-busted hand across my chin and neck and found no trace of gravel rash. I was heading to Mauritius after Africa and did not want to have to hide my face from photographs or explain to everyone why my face had come out second best in a fight with the bitumen in the car park!
So, How am I continuing to function as part of society in the midst of this embarrassment?!
I’ve always been prim and proper and I’ve never been one to be silly. I was once told that I could even fall with grace on the odd previous occasion when I almost took a tumble. Over the years, travel has changed me. Had any of these things happened to my before I was traveling, I’d have cracked it. Like serious, stamping of the foot, don’t you dare laugh at me, cracked it. Whilst I’m not denying I didn’t have my “stretched to the limit” moments in Africa (when my camera broke I definitely had a little cry), I still maintain it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life.
Things don’t always go as planned – and not everything we do as travelers should be in pursuit of that perfect Instagram shot. But keep doing it. Search out those less than glamorous adventure opportunities and grab them with both hands.
And Africa – you pushed me to my physical and mental limits, taught me that I was capable of so much more than I thought, showed me beauty beyond anything I have seen anywhere in the world and gave me the best memories I could have hoped for. Even if they are some of the most embarrassing things that have ever happened to me…
I highly doubt this article is pin-worthy (unless you have a travel comedy capers board!) but here’s a pin if you want to share my misfortune with the rest of the world!