Nov 042011

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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Sep 292011

So, having survived bungee, I was up for whitewater rafting. What they don’t tell you in advance is that the Zambezi is the most technical/difficult commercially-raftable river in the world. Oh well, go big or go home! No point in doing things halfway.

There were three rafts on our trip, and they sorted us out…and I’m pretty sure they did a quick “look and pick” thing, because we ended up in the raft of the most adventurous people on the trip by far. It’s all good – in retrospect we had an amazing adventure, and got…um…up close and personal with the river. The videographer even named our raft the “Zambezi Swim Team” Hah!

There were eight people to a raft (plus one guide) and we definitely had a great group in our raft. So what if every time we were given a choice we went for the more difficult side of the rapid, and more often than not ended up upside down and halfway down the river 😉

There were about 18 rapids in total, and the total trip was nearly four hours with a great BBQ at the end. Unfortunately, about 8-10 rapids in we went down hard and I was under for a good 20-30 seconds and ended up losing my shoes. This was fine, until the end of the trip when we had to walk up the side of the canyon to get out. A 25-30 minute walk straight uphill on rocks which had been baked by the sun. I think my poor foot is still a little burnt and sore!