Whitewater Rafting through ‘The Terminator’ along the Zambezi River

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Africa » Zimbabwe » Victoria Falls
June 15th 2019
Published: July 9th 2019
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Well, what a contrast of two successive mornings. After an overnighter in Joburg, we were due to take the short flight to Livingstone, Zambia (gateway to the Victoria Falls) leaving around 10.30 am. We duly arrived at the airport around 7.30am to be greeted by a mammoth ‘peasouper’ fog and a flight schedule board full of ‘delayed’ status on almost every flight, including ours. After an hour or so, the fog lifted and planes got away, but not ours. We were then designated ‘delayed indefinitely’ with no indication of when a plane and crew would become available. Eventually, the former landed but apparently the crew had worked their designated hours and they had to track down a new crew. To cut a long story short, they suddenly listed our gate number and time and scrambled us onto the plane within 10 minutes and we finally got away around 1.30pm after a 6 hour stay at Joburg Airport. Ironically, we also have a 6 hour planned transit time at Joburg at the end of our trip before our flight home, so maybe someone was trying to give us a trial run!

After the combined hassles of confirming my visa at the airport and entry to Zambia, then exit from Zambia and entry to Zimbabwe (where we were staying), we finally reached our hotel around 6.30pm, just in time to book myself on a whitewater rafting trip the following morning, our only full day at the Falls. I would have to admit to some trepidation as all the promotional videos for Zambezi rafting of course show the most dramatic of the individual rapids, along with a number of flipped rafts over the course of the 2 dozen or so different rapids. While I think I have a good spirit of adventure, I’m not sure a guy of my age needs to be doing several flips into a turbulent ‘washing machine’ of Zambezi water!

As it turns out, my fears were mainly misguided. I was joined for the trip the following morning by 13 twenty-somethings, all travelling together on a package bus trip, of whom I was accompanied on my particular raft by 3 Germans, 2 Americans and a Belgian for the 2 hour plus trip. It was certainly no picnic, and by far the most turbulent of the half dozen rafting trips I’ve done though the years, as it comprised a couple of difficulty category 5s, a number of 4s and the remainder 2-3s, through such reassuring rapids designations as The Terminator, The Washing Machine, Judgement Day and Oblivion. However I managed to come out of it relatively unscathed albeit pretty much soaked through for the entire trip and I'd have to say totally exhilarated at its completion. On a number of occasions I thought a flip was imminent, but due to either good luck or good management we managed to stay upright throughout. The most difficult part of the day for me was in fact the clamber up and down the rock face to get to the start and back after completing our trip. The end climb out, over 200 metres up an almost sheer rock face, took me over an hour while I’m advised the the slowest of all the ‘kids’ took only 40 minutes!

On my return to the hotel, there was to be no rest as I then needed to get myself down to check out the Falls, given that is essentially what we came for. So after a quick shower and a kilometre walk, I finally made it down to the viewing area. Sadly, I was a bit underwhelmed with the whole experience. Partially this was function of most of the falls being covered with a blanket of spray, making direct viewing difficult, but despite its obvious length and depth (the deepest of the majors but not the longest or greatest water capacity), it somehow lacked to me the variety or the atmosphere of either Iguazu or Niagara. Despite the spray, I suspect the water level was not anywhere near its peak. Does this mean I’m becoming a bit blasé in my old age? Who knows. On the walk back to the hotel, I think I got a glimpse of the future! By that stage, after the morning climb and the afternoon walk, my legs were like lead, and I think I know now what it must feel like to be 95 years old. I slept well that night.

There’s not a lot else to do in Victoria Falls township, but we did take in two interesting evening meals. The first was at a boutique beer cafe where we were able to sample a number of the local brews (and where we were the eldest patrons by around 40 years!), and the second was at a local restaurant serving typical Zimbabwean cuisine, which we certainly enjoyed as a change. From here, the caravan rolls on to Kenya, although unfortunately we have to fly back to Joburg before flying north to Nairobi. Let’s hope the transit time is less than 6 hours!

Additional photos below
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Victoria Falls HotelVictoria Falls Hotel
Victoria Falls Hotel

No, we didn't stay here!

9th July 2019

Whitewater Rafting: Exciting at any age!
Wow, I think whitewater rafting is exciting when you're young, but maybe even more so when you're of a certain age -- maybe because you've survived the experience or at least that's the way I feel! You deserve a lot of credit for getting through more than one 5-hole rapid unscathed! Even if the raft didn't flip, you might have, LOL!! We've rafted rivers in the US, Peru and Costa Rica but they were child's play compared to the Zambezi. Congratulations!
10th July 2019

Whitewater Rafting
Thanks for your kind comments. Like you, I've rafted rivers in many parts of the world over the years, but there's a danger when you have turned 70 of trying to pretend you are 30 years younger and that can get you into trouble. I won't deny that some of the rapids had me gripping everything available, but the exhilarating feeling at the end of it made that all worthwhile.
10th July 2019

Great holiday
Hi Neil well done. Loving your blog. The Madagascan part makes me remember what a great time we had. Well be home soon see you then..x
11th July 2019
... going ...

Never show fear
Looks like the water gods were playing with you.

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