Oh, The Pain!
So, funny story! (Or cautionary tale)
If you are afraid of solo travel because you worry about getting hurt, I worry about that too, but really only a little. I guess it's because it had never happened, or I feel indestructible like my middle school students. I do always get trip insurance on the off chance I have to airlifted somewhere.
I was in Zimbabwe, my first stop on my Africa tour. I found myself with a day on my hands after a canoe trip was canceled at the last minute (oh, Africa!). I decided to walk into the town, about two miles away. Maybe I could find a cafe and sit and draw. I had a lovely walk, took some pictures, and generally fell in love with Africa. When I reached the town I was surrounded by young men trying to “sell” me Zimbabwe currency. The exchange rate for the Zimbabwe dollar was Z$35 quadrillion to $1.
As I’m wandering the town, I find an adventure tour company. Maybe I can get that canoe ride! They have a group getting ready to go white water rafting. Sounds so fun, and they have one spot left in the group. Perfect! I have always wanted to go white water rafting.
OH, not perfect! If you are ever told there will be a ‘short hike’ and you happen to be somewhere in Africa (maybe Zimbabwe?), ask a lot of questions! The hike down to the Zambezi River was a brutal, three miles of rocks and slippery gravel. The other people in the group were 20 somethings, and quick on their feet. I’m not in bad shape, but rocks make me very nervous. How would Africa have gotten me out of there if I slipped and broke a tibia? I am 52, not old, but not 20. I made it down, obviously. I didn't have much choice, there was no turning back as there was only one guide.
When I got back to the lodge, I tried to draw the experience. I used a picture from the website as a reference. I was so freaked out the whole time that I didn't take any pictures!
The rafting trip was great. I love white water rafting. But OH it gets better. I’m not sure what I was thinking, somehow the gorge just went away? The river flowed uphill? Alas, no. At the end of the trip, (you know what's coming here) a three-mile hike UP the gorge. There were rocks, slippery steep gravel, and steps chiseled into the side of the mountain. At several points, we had to pull ourselves up to the next ledge using ropes. Before I reached even a third of the way up my legs were shaking so bad I knew I was not going to make it!
My guide was clearly prepared for this. Given that they don’t tell the guests about the difficulty of the hike, he was accustomed to pulling, even carrying people up the gorge. I’m so so ashamed to say that he had to LITERALLY pull me up. I consider myself to be strong and independent. So putting my life in a stranger’s hands is something I hope to never repeat. By the next day, my legs hurt so bad that I could barely walk. It took three days or so before I wasn't taking stairs one by one and resting for three seconds between each.
Lesson Learned: It's GREAT to be spontaneous! But ALWAYS read the Yelp reviews before booking an excursion.