Friday, 5 November 2010

River boarding and rafting on the Zambezi


After a difficult day trying to sort out flight tickets and getting money (always double-check your credit card code if you don't know it, always take the travelers cheque receipt with you), we booked ourselves a full day combo river activities day. We were picked up at 7.30 am not really knowing what to take with us and what to expect. We were brought to the Zambezi Waterfront, which was our last night's campsite with the previous safari tour. We were there for payment, giving away life form signing, getting explanation and equipment, and last but not least: breakfast.

In the rapids
Finally we hit the road again straight into Victoria Falls park (Zambia side) and walked down to the Boiling Pot with our equipment (a life vest, a paddle, fins and a helmet). Once down there we put on our fins (which only the two of us had) and took our boards. We went onto our team's rafting boat and went to a calm spot on the river to quickly train the commands (forward paddle, backward paddle, left turn, right turn, and so on). Then Steve, our rafting captain, told us to swim to Chongo's raft with our boards, which we did. Once over there he made us follow him to shore so he could explain the first rapid to us. We were to go to the middle of the river, turn against the current and board the wave (I still don't really understand what was expected of us there). The difficult part with the board was to go where you wanted to go. Even following Chongo could prove difficult if you went out of the current he was in.

Zambia's Mosi beer
I don't remember all the rapids of the morning, so I won't go into detailing each of them. Most rapids we went through with the boards, and some with the raft, because of the rocks that are in the stream. Rapid number 9, a level 6, we did walking over by the shore and sending the boats down empty. Only one of the accompanying kayaks went down there through the rapids. When you go into a raft you are a somewhat over the water level and you can see what's coming next. When you go on a board you are in the water and you only see that there are rapids. You don't see how they are. When you swim towards a level 3 or 5, you can see nothing but the foam until you are almost in the rapid. As soon as you see the water going down for a meter or two and back up again, you're in it. You think “OK, let's hold on to that board and go over it”, but that's not what happens. Most of the time my board was jerked from my hands and I tried to grab it back anyway I could to have a better float than with just the life vest.

After some time river boarding and rafting we stopped for lunch. We had sandwiches and apples and syrup. Some of the group stopped there and went up the steep path to the cars to go back to town. One guy walked down the steep path to begin from there.

Sunrise Restaurant in L/stone
After lunch we continued rafting but not river boarding. At one point I really missed my fins which I had to give back at lunch time. Two or three of us dropped off the boat into the river and I lost hold of the boat. So I just was going down the river faster than the boat. They told me to swim back, but the effort was useless. Turning around I saw the next rapids coming up fast. The guys in the boat paddled hard and got there just in time to catch me before the rapids. But they couldn't get me into the boat, we already were in the rapids. So Vincent held me fast and I held to paddles (mine and another one someone lost while dropping off the boat). That rapid was quite worthwhile because I just couldn't see anything except the white water rushing everywhere around. Then we got out without capsizing and they pulled me back into the boat. The rest of the afternoon's rapids were pretty easy. The morning rapids were a lot more fun.

To go out of the gorge, the people there built a cable car, so we didn't have to walk up. We were really tired by then anyway. Three days later I could still feel my arms and shoulder muscles ache from paddling.

We went back to the Zambezi Riverfront lodge and were served dinner (at around 5pm). At the same time we watched the movies and the pictures they took of us. We bought one pictures CD and two DVDs for 95 USD.

After getting back to the backpacker we were hungry again, so at around 8pm we went to the Sunrise Restaurant and ate a smoked goat stew with nshima.