It was the case of the nine cases. Stage one heros had been fantasizing furiously about that first frosty for seven dry days. Arriving at 9:30 am as we did, by the time lunch arrived many of us were bullet and advice proof. Trees are not urinals but when you are a man the whole world is a toilet and we got kicked out of the 'Drum due to one person answering the call of nature in a manner which offended the owner. '
I apologise for the food on stage two. It was organized (by me 'n Bron 'n Rich) while I was trying to sleep off a barby during the afternoon of that same day. I remove my toupeé in the general direction of Paul and Co who managed to transform the three whitewater boats into motor boats by the next morning. My lasting impression of Deka was provided by the two Paradise Fly- Catcher chicks who were just at the learningfto-fly stage. They perched precariously above our campsite churping "feed me" to their frantically calling parents. One little chappie was eventually fed a flying ant and flew higher into the canopy immediately afterwards - high drama deep in the heart of Africa.
Due to a few final rapids just downstream of Deka, life jackets were worn on day one. Motors initially behaved themselves fairly well (the seagull roared!), and reports that there were big waves in Devils Gorge were found to have had a rather high embellishment factor. And then we were into the lake proper and pointed our triple-bowed raft (we were tied together due to motor problems towards Mlibizi. The Lodge Types referred us to a place 500 m around the headland, while our trusty back up Crew in Graham's Cruiser said they would meet us there. They went for a beer or something and the trusty Seagull (which roared!) powered all three boats along the shore as the sun set over Zambia. we headed for isolated lights which looked like a campsite but turned out to be a swamp affectionately known to the locals as "mozzie alley". No sign of Graham and the cuddly Kraut so Etienne and I walked back to Mlibizi, found a pub but had no money. Early next morning Ingrid (freshly warm-showered and bacon and egged) made feeble excuses for not finding us but at least we had supper for breakfast. By the way, motors gave trouble during the whole trip (except the mighty Seagull which roared!) and I will prevent repetition and boredom by mentioning the subject no more.
Seven km’s were conquered during day two before a storm drove us to a very rocky shoreline for the rest of the day and the following night. This was to become the pattern for the entire trip, and those (two) of us who stuck it out to Kariba town (others stuck it out as well, but in a different context) became accustomed to beaching and "hoesing" up the shelter in thutty seconds. Up till now the weather had been sunny with isolated wind-squalls, but a little rain during nuit deuxiemme caused some scuttling about, and Ed didn't quite manage to get his fair share of the survival blanket- Belinda ! Beers ran out by breakfast time of day three, and so my memory from this point on will probably produce endless streams of trivial detail. All Paul did was fiddle with the Johnson outboard anchor.
Calm weather allowed swift progress except for) Pete who was sailing the Laser and lagged far behind. Aiming for Binga we managed to get to a long beach about 7 km from the town. Binoculars picked out the sail in the far distance, and as there was no wind, Paul fired up the Seagull to go out an fetch him. Instead of roaring the motor burned and then the boat burst effectively preventing the rest of the 100 litres of fuel aboard from exploding. Steve and Paul both jumped through th flames into the water to avoid this. Louise, fresh from the Kuwaiti oil-fields yawned on seeing this puny blaze and thus didn't quite manage to capture this drama on film so we won’t see it feature prominently in Scope. This little setback has now become affectionately know as the Brilliantly Bright Binga Bay Best Beach Bash Boat Burnout Braai with extra Beer. (Thanks Etienne).
Gloom set in, especially as we didn't find our support crew (again) so there were no beers. The Landy had in- fact been parked where we had arranged, but as we arrived in Binga on foot we missed it. Steve took the Yacht first thing following morning and soon we were happily re-supplied, except for outboard oil which was in short supply. Boat patched and Johnson dumped as well as the grey raft, we set out once more, luckily minus a few folk who decided Chizarira was a better bet.
Finding a very scenic little island just before the beginning of the Chete Safari area, we settled for the night but still no sign of Steve (who had managed to becalm himself just after Binga). A fire was kept burning the entire night, and a morning wind which postponed our departure time, allowed him to catch up. Naturally he received no sympathy at all and we were reluctant to share our precious Pro~Nutro (there was only 100 kg's left at this early stage). We left the island with the Laser strapped to the side of one boat. Bruce had managed to tune the Mariner at Binga and so we were able to progress without having the two boats constantly tied together - less noise and not quite so claustrophobic.
Night five and Kudu island - part of the Safari area so no fires or Rhino braais. we had passed through the gap between Chete Island and the mainland into a part of the lake which was very exposed and susceptible to sudden violent storms. We beached in a beautiful sheltered bay which resembled Clifton without the Cabins (and G-strings - we wore nothing). Despite the tiny size of this island. we noticed a few water-buck diving into the bush as we arrived. Fish bought at Binga were fried with bony results and then it started raining. Shelters collapsed and people got wet, and the following morning Steve's boat was gone. Both Paul and I had mentioned to him that his knot had looked decidedly dodgy but being a Sea Scout of note he laughed us off, Next began an epic 5 hour rescue mission in the raging waters, and we only just made it back with the precious yacht firmly strapped to the side. The wind being too strong for us to depart, we stayed another day on Kudu and Steve carried his boat right out of the water.
As we were about to leave on day seven, a water-spout (tornado over water) appeared on the horizon and we decided to batten everything down in anticipation of its arrival. It soon dissipated and we left our little refuge. My boat was filling due to a hole in the floor caused by rocks and the rubbing motion of the waves while moored over rocks, and we pulled up onto another nice beach for patching and lunch. A huge drowned forest then provided the entertainment as we weaved between the sad phantasmagorical trees, wondering when a boat would be ripped open by a submerged log. A large fire attracted our attention as dusk fell, and we found that some kind soul had left us a ready- made campsite. The weather on the following day was rain and mist, but almost no wind and so we turned the rafts into floating ox-wagons and weaved our way along until Paul suddenly decided a 180˚turn would bring us back on the right track. Fortunately we didn't follow his instincts and then the weather cleared and we rounded an "island" which turned out to be a dead-end and so we had to back-track. This diversion was in fact stunning - water like glass and trees murmuring their memories of how it used to be before the dam.
Finally we rounded "Photo corner" and turned into the lagoon through the gap at Weather Island. Here we saw the first substantial numbers of game and drank back a bottle of Chivas as the sun set. lt being Christmas Eve, Carols were in order as well as pots and pans and other implements of noise and mayhem. Our support heard us as we approached in the moonless dark, and weaved into Chalala lagoon for our rendezvous with the stage three folk. Well done Nick for organizing the bonus Chalets.