Published: April 14th 2012April 12th 2012
I saw Victoria Falls From the ledge, from the air, from the bridge, and now it was time to see it from below... What better way to celebrate Easter 2012, than to whitewater raft down the Zambezi River?
When I was doing the research for this adventure, I noticed that they offered a full day trip down the river where you go through 18 sets of rapids. They also offer a half day adventure where you start further down the river and endure 9 sets of rapids. I decided that, since I had never done this before, I should only do the half day... If I hate it,or can't physically do it, then I would only make a fool of myself for 4 hours instead of 8.
The water in the river at this time of year is very high. Rainy season has hit Zimbabwe so the water at the falls is plentiful. The river below the falls is faster and rougher than other times of year. As a result, the tour compnaies only offer the half day tours.... so far so good... everything was going to plan!
I was up at 6AM for breakfast. I wanted to make sure I had the energy that would be needed for this adventure (some of you may call it a mid-life crisis, but let's stick with "adventure"). I had a fresh fruit, an omelet, some bacon and freshly squeezed juice. I was ready for whatever the river could throw at me.
As I was waiting to be picked up for the trip to the river, I befriended a couple of guys who were also going from the hotel. They got talking about not eating breaskfast because they were told that if they ate, the chances of throwing up on the river were greater if you had a full stomach. No one told me that! Here I was with a sufficiently full stomach of energy and the chances of me feeding the crocodiles apparently were increasing with every wave we would encounter.
After our orientation, we headed to the gorge where we were outfitted with life jackets, helmets, and paddles. With all this gear we were then told to walk down 250 metres along a "rustic" path to the river where the boats and guides were waiting for us. While the descent was iffy at times, we all made it with enough energy and enthusiasm to tackle the mighty Zambezi.
Our teams were chosen. I had the two guys from the hotel with me; Simba, an accountant, and Marc, who owns a brick business. Both are from Johannesburg.
Marc and I were placed at the front of the boat. Since we were the biggest of the seven passengers, they needed the weight at the front of the boat so we would fly through the air like a piece of styrofoam in the breeze. It was also our job to set the pace for rowing so that everyone on the team was rowing in unison... Really? Me? I had never done this before. I didn't think I was the best choice for such responsibilities. How would I explain to the the families of these six strangers that it was my rowing and guidance that resulted in their disappearance in the rapids and whirlpools?
No one would listen to me and before I knew it, we were challenging the Zambezi River after a few quick lessons.
What a blast! The first rapids we encountered were called, "The Washing Machine"
and it was true to its name. I felt like a sock being tossed in the waves of an agitating drum. Apparently this was rated as a Class 5.
We made it through The Washing Machine
relatively unscathed but invigorated to take on the next one, "The Terminators I & II"
. These ones are described as a massive wave train and trough at higher levels. All I will say is that the Terminators terminated our sense of indestructability. The waves hit us and before I knew it we were capsized and in the water, trying to maintain some sort of composure without hitting eachother with our paddles. We were also trying to grab a hold of the rope to make sure we didn't float down the river and intio the next set of rapids all on our own. The water was surprisingly warm.
Other rapids that we encountered were "Double Trouble
" (Class 5),"Oblivion"
(Class 5) and "The Three Sisters"
I am so glad I did this whitewater adventure. My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner, when I was much younger. Whether it was fear or uncertainty that kept me from trying it, I am proud to say that I have accomplished it. I have never had so much fun doing something I knew nothing about.
Apparently there are plenty of crocodiles in the Zambezi. No one has ever been eaten on these excursions and I came out of this fully intact.
As the trip down the Zambezi River came to an end, we climbed out of the raft and started the incredibly steep climb out of the gorge. It was a flashback to the Table Mountain climb in Cape Town. Once again, I thought I was going to die. The only good thing about that ascent were the coolers of cold beer, water and sodas waiting for us as a reward for our half day's work. The lunch they served looked familiar... chicken, rice, salad, etc... The very food I eat in Tanzania regularly. I passed on lunch and ordered pizza when I got back to the hotel.
Just for the record, in all the excitement, my breakfast stayed down.
I have great pictures of my adventure, but the photos they took are to large to upload into this blog. My apologies, I will have to show them to you personally when I come home, mom.