Would you go white water rafting?

What is it actually like? Melanie van Zyl headed to the Zambezi River to seek out out

My mom warned me about white water rafting. But I assume it’s honest to say she cautioned me on a number of issues.

Sitting on the Zambezi Waterfront in Livingstone, her phrases got here again to me as I overheard an Australian lady relaying her calamitous day to an ear throughout the continents. She’d had an terrible time on the Zambezi, very like my mom had years earlier than. For every of them, the raft had flipped and so they’d needed to wrestle by the shock of frothing cappuccino water. Mum had vowed by no means to return.

Above the Victoria Falls the Zambezi is a stark distinction to the churning river that gushes under the metal bridge that hyperlinks Zimbabwe with Zambia. At its highest, the falls stand 107 metres. At the foot of this monstrous drop, the Safari Par Excellence white water rafting expertise begins.

The Zambezi is a Class-V river—the very best business stage—and among the finest locations on the planet to raft. Class-V is outlined by the British canoe union as “Extremely difficult: long and very violent rapids with severe hazards. Continuous, powerful, confused water makes route-finding difficult. Precise maneuvering is critical.”

We are briefed on security procedures beforehand, however the directions do little to settle my nerves after eavesdropping on that cellphone name.

“When I say so, hang onto the ‘Oh, shit! line’ and don’t let go”, says information Boyd Mabole, referring to the skinny ropes that surrounded the raft.

Once within the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, strapped into a vibrant helmet and brilliant lifejacket, I cross the vacationer hordes, skip the Victoria Falls viewpoints and sort out the steep staircase all the way down to the river under.

Heart a-thump, I handle a strained smile when my information encourages me, saying, “Don’t worry, it’s going to be the best!”. My nervousness was clearly obvious. Luckily for me, the wiry however sturdy Boyd is a champion athlete paddler who has been navigating the Batoka Gorge for nearly twenty years.

At the outset

The Boiling Pot is the place our journey begins. Wearing sneakers, shorts and a peak cap under my helmet, I clamber over boulders and sit down on the yellow inflatable raft. We are three girls aboard. I’m joined by Leigh from Amsterdam and Amy from Lusaka, each at the moment working within the UK. (I later study that each are docs—I couldn’t have organized a greater crew if I’d tried).

Balancing on rocks, virtually perpendicular to the water, we slide down onto the river. Boyd helps us get the cling of our paddles, and we apply drills within the spray and swirling waters on the backside of the falls. An expertise in itself. The water is heat, foamy, drenching and swirling, however a reduction within the sizzling January sunshine.

I spot two small crocodiles eyeing us from their rocky sunloungers because the instructions come for our first fast. “Paddle, paddle, paddle!” Boyd shouts. Nobody argues. Our arms work in unison to scoop up the water (a brand new definition for ‘army’) after which my worst visions are realised. Water rushes over us. I sploosh within the Coca Cola-coloured water and it goes darkish. Probably just for a millisecond. Then we surge once more, like a pinball in some twisted arcade sport.

To my horror, I emerge grinning like a complete maniac.

The Zambezi is what’s known as a “pool drop river”. The massive crashing rapids generally empty out into placid swimming pools and we’ve got time to relaxation and rearrange ourselves within the slower streams after every dunking.

Each set (the rapids are named and numbered) bears a dreadful title. The Devil’s Toilet is so-called as a result of it can drag you beneath and spit you out. Then there’s Commercial Suicide, which no rafting firm is courageous sufficient to paddle over, Creamy White Buttocks etcetera.

I start to relish every introduction from Boyd, that’s till he describes quantity 5, Stairway to Heaven, “or the Highway to Hell”, he grins. As we strategy, he tightens my life vest once more. An indication of issues to come back. Rocks jut out in every single place, and we narrowly keep away from ‘The Gap’ which might have squeezed our boat, turning it right into a trampoline that would have sprung us out.

Through the fast!

I lose my paddle within the commotion, selecting to hold on to the rope as an alternative, however Leigh will get flung from the raft. Engulfed by the chocolate milkshake, she’s spat out under the rapids, rising with tendrils of hair wrapped round her shocked face. She is rescued gallantly by one other information on a help kayak. A continuing alongside the raft, the help guides check each set first and wait to save lots of any ejectees on the opposite facet.

Every TripAdvisor evaluate moans in regards to the climb out of the Batoka Gorge, however I didn’t discover it too extreme. Just don’t attempt to sustain with the guides, who dominate the staircase day by day. I take my time, stopping frequently to admire the view (totally having fun with gulps of much-needed air too) and recognise that I not solely survived the Zambezi River, however I had fallen for her.

I need to say this was a once-in-a-lifetime journey, however I may by no means mislead my mom.

Already been rafting? Consider a return to strive the multi-day rafting epic that takes travellers tenting alongside the river banks. Or maybe spherical up a crowd of associates for the merriment of the annual rafting competition.

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