Having managed to brave the bungee jump over the Victoria Falls Bridge, you’d think it would be easy to whitewater raft the river. However, upon getting there, two things conspired against me. First, I’d seen the river from above, and knew how sheer the cliffs were. We were going to have to walk down the side of those to get in the river? Uhhh….on top of that, we learned the Zambezi is considered to be the most difficult commercially-raftable river in the world, and that there were world championship events held here. Not exactly what you want to hear when you’re already nervous about rafting for the first time. At least I’m a strong swimmer, so that much is good!
After the mandatory safety briefing, we were divided up into groups. There were enough people for three rafts, and thankfully the guides were excellent at sizing us up, and got things right. The “easy” raft would just hang on while the guide did the rowing. BORING! The medium raft would be able to row, but the guide would help out….again, BORING! Thankfully, we got sized up as strong or adventurous, and got put in the “advanced” raft. There were eight of us plus the guide…and it was a fascinating mix:
The two of us, two absolutely fearless and insane Zimbabwe boys, and equally crazy expat Zimbabwean lady, a slightly less fit South African couple, and an adventurous French intern who was saving the rhinos in Zim. This was bound to be fun!
The climb down into the gorge was a nonevent…there were some railings, it wasn’t too deep, and we were off. We paddled around a bit, and went straight into it. The first few Category 3 and 4 rapids were a good test…and we were confident. We even managed to stay upright in the first Category 5. Was awesome! However, that’s where things began to go tits up when we flipped in one Cat 5, and then again two rapids later. The south african lady was freaking out at this point, but we managed to keep it together.
We had a choice about 2/3 of the way through. The rapid had three choices: go left, and certainly flip and likely die in a Category 5++ rapid. Go centre to a category 5, and 95% flip. Go right, and hit it as a Category 3, and almost certainly stay upright. We voted, and we went middle…made it almost to the end and…yup, third flip. I think the river pushed us a good 500+ metres downriver, but it was an absolute blast. I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun…and really want to go back!
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