In a complete panic I was paddling forwards while my companion in the back was trying to reverse. We zig-zagged on the spot going nowhere while a huge hippopotamus burst through the water towards us with mouth agape, baring mammoth teeth and puffy pink gums.
'Oh no, we're going to die,' I whimpered. 'I'm not ready yet,' I mumbled. It seemed my partner was in accord with this, so together we mustered the kind effort that comes from sheer terror and paddled in unison for just long enough to speed out of the old bull's territory.
Our sighs of relief were ruined when we were told to make a better plan for the next time as there was sure to be one.
Grumpy Hippos & Huge Crocs
We were eight adventure seekers and two river guides paddling up a remote stretch of the Zambezi River between Mana Pools in northern Zimbabwe and Kanyemba on the Mozambique border. Teeming with grumpy territorial hippos and huge crocodiles imitating floating fallen trees, we felt very vulnerable in our little blue 2-man fibreglass canoes.
Moments after my close encounter with the man-eating hippo (herbivorous my foot!), the guide suggested we all have a swim. Like sheep to the slaughter we followed him to a shallow sandbank in the middle of the river and cautiously stepped out.
Creating the most bizarre of scenes we sat knee deep in swishing Zambezi water on little folding canvas stools, eating our lunch of ham and cheese rolls. A yellow billed kite with grasping claws cruised above us and dropped like a missile each time he spied a piece of meat thrown into the air, the wind off his wings whistling past your ear.
We got used to these little stops and became quite complacent about sloshing about in hippo and croc infested water.
Wind in the Willows
'It's very nice to see you paddling Madam,' shouted an old sun-dried Zambian fisherman who, for propriety sake, hurriedly put on his T-shirt, which consisted of only a collar and a few straggling pieces of cloth.