Published: July 17th 2011July 5th 2011
In the beginning...
We were Team Fearless
"Back Right, Forward Left, Duck, Duck" are the last words echoing through your mind as the raft flips sideways, catapulting you into the category five rapids below. You barely have time to see your life flash before your eyes as you are dragged under for a third time leaving you wondering which way is up! Holding your breath when the wind has been knocked out of you is difficult enough, but being thrown around in a washing machine is a scary experience, even for the most hardcore adrenaline junkie.
On parting with $130USD, my friend Lee assured me it couldn't be as hardcore as the media portrays. Besides if it was so dangerous, they wouldn't let inexperienced rafters attempt such a dangerous river - right? With names of rapids like Stairway to Heaven, The Terminator, The Washing Machine, Judgment Day, Devils Toilet and Oblivion, I should have known better, after all - This Is Africa!
Knowing the first 9 of 25 rapids were impassible due to safety concerns the operator still guaranteed "this will be one of those days that you will remember for the rest of your life" On hindsight, they were right, but not for the reasons
The Washing Machine Rapid
I had imagined!
Climbing down the stairway of the gorge was an extreme sport of its own. Balancing on rotten tree branches tied together with vines and no hand rail while carrying helmet, paddle and life jacket was not advertised as part of the adrenaline fuelled day! but neither was the fact that you would pass Zambezi Crocodiles basking in the sun while hurtling down rapids at lightening speed and dodging back breaking rocks!
As you raft head on towards the towering waves, Whirl Pools encircle the raft spinning it 360 degrees throwing everyone sideways. You cling on to the safety line wondering what the hell is happening as another giant wave submerges the entire raft underwater. A couple of seconds later the raft surfaces again only to be thrown five feet into the air as it spectacularly flips sideways into the most feared of all rapids - The Terminator!
As you surface you see the raft upside down. Suddenly you are pulled under the water and thrown around in a washing machine for 10 seconds before emerging again. As you desperately gasp for air, another wave hits you in the face before you are dragged a
Consumed by the Terminator!
few meters down by yet another whirl pool.
As you feel the strength of the current pull you deeper under water, you look up to see the sunlight breaking the surface of the water. As you exhale the last of your air, you briefly see bubbles before your lungs feel like they are going to explode. For 15 seconds you feel completely helpless and can do nothing except hope that you surface once again!
Realizing you are hurtling down the most extreme rapid on the river, you desperately try to swim towards the upside down raft. As you think you are almost there, you are sucked under the raft and trapped underneath with no way up to the surface. Trying not to panic you stop swimming and let the currents drag you from under the raft, down stream and towards the end of the Terminator.
Eventually the guide manages to flip the raft back over and you climb on board. Everyone is wide eyed and shocked. You are left exhausted after fighting for your life. Everyone is speechless. The adrenaline begins to slow, you begin to shiver, relax and finally feel the buzz.
Then you set
Me drowning behind the raft!
sight on the Oblivion...
There are more photos below