November 1st: Those of you who know me well know that I LOVE White Water rafting, it’s the best buzz around. I have decided on this trip that I Raft of every continent and where possible the best and biggest rivers going. Now Steph has not rafted before and has nervously accepted the challenge.
So, where better to start, than on The Mighty Zambezi river in Zimbabwe. The Zambezi River in the gorges below Victoria Falls is classified as a grade 5 river. The official definition of a grade 5 river, as defined by the official book of then British canoe union, is as follows:
“Extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops, pressure areas”
Thankfully Steph read this after we survived. To further hype up the beast that this river is, People who train to be a Guide on this river, can Guide on any other river in the world. A grade 5 on the Colorado River in the USA is a 3 on the Zambezi…
So with that in mind Steph, the Swedes and I embarked on a day rafting in which we would start at the base of Victoria Falls and raft 19 rapids in 4 hours. The Rafts formation has myself and Johan at the Front with Sophia and Sophie in the middle and Steph and Josephine at the back, we were helmed by Simon, a member of the Zimbabwean National team, we were in good hands. And so the day starts with a beautiful backdrop and some gentle white water.
I am buzzing as we start and I can see a little nervousness in the raft and so can the Skipper so he takes it ‘gently’ through the forst few rapids which are 3’s and 4’s, but after those everyone is more relaxed and starting to enjoy it! There are 3 other boats with us this day and there is banter between the guides and the crew which is all good fun!
The expectation of the boat is that we will probably flip at some point but likely when we tackle the 6 grade 5 rapids that we will encounter today, so we approach rapid 5 with confidence and smiles in our faces as it’s a 3 and we don’t expect any problems, we drop down into the rapid a few metre’s and then boom! We hit the wave and we get flipped, the whole boat is over and so are we! Pre-departure they guides talk about getting flipped and being under water for no more than 3 seconds before your life vest floats you back up. So under the water I am and away from the boat and then up I come…but what I did not expect as a grasp a half breath is that I am sucked back under, this time it felt forever but again only for a few seconds, more dazed this time I emerge. I am unable to get back in the flow of the river and I am dragged to the side, the safty Kayaker comes to get me, picks me up an tows me back to the boat, I was still dazed but his conversation and chit chat brings me back round, I jump back in the raft with a smile and all is well again. This first swim shook up the boat including Steph but it them prepared them for the rest of the day, going for a swim is not too bad!
A few rapid later comes the ‘Option’, the boat can go ‘easy’, ’50:50’ or ‘5%’, which basically means this big rapid has a high 3 grade, medium 4 or a high 5, Simon gives us the option, understandably the majority of the boat votes for the 50:50… accept Johan and I we vote for the 5%. With that we pull up next to one of the others boats and we swap over for this rapid, I give Steph a Kiss and then we watch her boat tackle the 50:50. They row hard and battle the rapid and make it through which is awesome.
Johan and I are pumped and some what sick, Johan with his hangover after his 3am Booze fest and me with excitement, deep down we know we are going swimming but we hold onto that 5%. We start the paddle, we paddle hard, the two Safer’s, one Aussie and one Swede paddle with all our might. The boat reaches the tip of the rapid, f*ck me, we are staring at a sizable drop, down we go, seconds later the massive rapid/tsunami approaches the boat is humbled and so are we….we go swimming at rapid 8.
The rest of the day goes well and everyone is happy and loving it albeit tired, we approach the last 5 of the day, I have done 5 so far and flipped only the once and Steph has completed all the 5’s, so we were confident going into the rapid. One of the points from the start from the guides is that whenever you flip try and hold onto the boat and also the paddle where possible, so far no one had managed to do this and we had lost our spare paddle. The rapid is 3 in one, its starts with a 3 next and 4 then the 5, we make the first two (obviously the camera does capture those photographs) then we hit the 5, we are going to make it we are through and over the last of it, but them smack the Zambezi welcomes us into its waters for a swim…..But This time I am not letting go
We make the last rapid and survive The Mighty Zambezi and live to enjoy the vertical hike out of the gorge to a ice cold beer...Ice Cold Zambezi what else!