The Enticing River

Zambezi TrekThese days people call it their “Bucket List” however this is a relatively new term and in the days before the movie the items that now make up a bucket list were simply things you wanted to accomplish; whether that involved doing or seeing the ultimate goal was to have the experience.

Today I started a journey; canoeing down the Zambezi River. I had been thinking of doing this ever since first deciding to circle the globe. I kept a journal as I traveled from place to place, country to country, in order to record everything in detail. The kind of detail only words convey. The following is an excerpt;

“Pack the canoes and off, down the river that separates Zambia from Zimbabwe. We will be traveling on both sides but camping on the river beaches only in Zimbabwe.

We canoe for five hours past crocodiles and hippos and make camp at 5:00 PM on a secluded island with absolutely no shade. It is boiling hot so we all huddle alongside the canoe to seek relief from the heat until the sun goes down in a glorious red and orange descent.

A crocodile gives us the eye but only in passing.

I set up my mosquito net, ate dinner and in bed by 8:00 PM. I am not used to such early to bed hours but when the sun goes down here it only makes sense to go down with it. The day had been a long one and the sand beneath quickly reshuffled the spine making sleep the equivalent of a ten baht Thai massage; it beats you up but feels good.

Up at 6:00 AM but when you go to bed as early as we had then getting up at this hour is not a problem. We packed and wiped the sand from our bodies; had a cup of tea and rowed until 8:00 AM.

We stopped at a small inlet hidden behind a clump of low hanging trees, almost like willows, to eat breakfast under the watchful eye of a mid-sized crocodile who did not appreciate our presence or the bread that was thrown around for the fish to eat.

This afternoon did prove to be quite exciting as my canoe edged its way just a little too close to a female hippo with calves. She made it clear that she did not like me or my canoe anywhere near her and began a calculated effort to scare the crap out of me. She would submerge and reappear; closer each time. The final time she was within a few feet and believe me when I tell you they tend to look a lot bigger up close, in the wild, and pissed off, than when they are in a zoo or on TV.

Slowly the canoe inched away and glided past her while hugging the riverbank. It is another strange feeling to know that this huge herbivore with massive teeth can attack and do serious damage but more than that it is the fact that if your canoe is attacked then you are now in the river with carnivorous crocodiles that will have no qualms about attacking for any reason; they are everywhere.

Obviously she didn’t attack and we set up camp not far from that encounter on an island far from secluded but very tranquil, peaceful, and beautiful.

The picture below is what I sketched in my journal at the time.

Zambezi Island

My tent was set up; well it’s just a mosquito net really on a sandy bank next to the river. Directly in front was a huge herd of hippo; to the left the sun was setting. On the far side of the river are the mountains of Zambia. We had heard that other trips had been ambushed by marauding Zambian thugs.

The hippos are big and playful. There is a sandbank directly in front and the hippos are enjoying themselves; many were jumping around until the sun began to melt into the horizon.

The sunset was gorgeous once again.

13 thoughts on “The Enticing River

  1. This would not be a journey for me. I don’t like being in a canoe on any kind of water. Add crocodiles and hippos and I would be pretty freaked. However, you make it sound pretty enticing. You are seeing and experiencing some amazing things. Enjoy the adventure/

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  2. I can’t imagine riding on a river with actual crocodiles in it! I think it would have kept me from enjoying the experience. I love how you posted what you wrote, I appreciate the honest feeling of your actual experience. The drawing was a nice touch!

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  3. What an experience. We’re so lucky that we can still see animals like this in the wild. Who knows how much longer we’ll be able to do that? And I love the inclusion of your handwritten notes and sketches in this post too 🙂

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  4. One doesn’t hear of too many travel bloggers jotting down notes just like old school travel writers. And looking at yours, oh there’s definitely a beautiful romance to it. Especially given the kind of experience you were on. Man’s interaction with nature and the wild is a timeless experience, isn’t it?

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    1. I love that notebook and even though I am definitely no artist, there is a real sense of capturing the moment when a sketch replaces a photo in your mind.


  5. Zimbabwe looks absolutely beautiful!
    The sunset is breathtaking.

    I have always wanted to sit on one of those water rafters/logs but trying to bear up the courage. Not a fan of water as in lakes, the sea, deep swimming pools.

    You are brave, rowing side by side with crocodiles!

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  6. Loved reading this accounting Tim. That was some close call with the hippo. Man – o – man, your sense of adventure never ceases to amaze me! And delight me as well:) Looking forward to the next journal entry!

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