Battling White Waters

Battling White Waters

I watched the raft in front of us do a spectacular flip in mid-air, the eyes of the occupants bulging before they were swept rapidly downstream. Our raft started to pick up speed and I said a silent prayer to whoever was listening, ‘please don’t let us tip!’

“Everyone paddle together!” yelled Chris, our guide. “Faster!”

So faster we went, giving it our all as we careened towards our first rapid. ‘I must be mad,’ I thought to myself as the raft was engulfed by white angry water that tossed us around like feathers
in a whirlwind.

“Get down! Get down!” came the shout.

We all hit the deck and clung to the ropes like our lives depended on it. And then there was nothing but water surrounding me. It seems like minutes but could only have been seconds before the raft was spat rudely out from the thundering water. Coughing, I look around at my fellow adventurers and we all start to laugh and whoop in delight. Okay so I may have swallowed what felt like half the river but that was so much fun! I just need to remember to keep my mouth closed underwater.

There is no time to rest as we have a lot more paddling to do to get us through this half day of white water rafting on the mighty Zambezi. Paddling at a more sedate pace, I look around at the high rock walls on both sides and marvel at the beauty of Mother Nature. Trees cling to the sheer faces and monkeys seem to flit easily from tree to tree, dangling above the water far below. Chris tells us to keep an eye open for fish eagles and leopards in the bush around us. Friendly fishermen wave from the banks and the occasional crocodile acknowledges our passing by lazily lifting a
heavy eyelid.

“Don’t worry, they only like white meat,” Chris jokes with us.

I am floating through this magnificent paradise known as the Batoka Gorge in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I am visiting my home country for a holiday with my family and unfortunately (although in hindsight I should change that to fortunately) my father and fiancé wanted to go white water rafting and somehow I got roped into the madness.

Now I am definitely no adrenaline addict, and was absolutely terrified about taking on these worldfamous rapids in a tiny inflatable boat; but it remains to this day, one of the best things I have everdone! It was so exhilarating and I strongly suggest this must-do, once in a lifetime activity. You won’t regret it.

My adventure is courtesy of Wild Horizons who offer a huge range of activities to keep your tripinteresting. Chris and Titanic (don’t worry, his ship didn’t sink) were our guides and have been
taking thrill seekers through the rapids for years. They were very professional and we received athorough safety briefing before descending into the gorge for the day. The Zambezi rapids are classed Grade 5 by the British Canoe Union and are of the highest quality to be found anywhere inthe world.

Chris is the captain of my raft and he teaches us about the gorge along the way. His knowledge and respect for the river is impressive. Each rapid has a name and he tells us these as we approach each one adding that extra touch of fun to the rise. He also tells us that the local people believe that the Nyaminyami guards the river. This river god has a snake-like body and the head of a fish. Chris points out a giant drawing of the legend on a rock which looks to be standing sentry over a bend in the river. The calm doesn’t last long as we round the bend and brace ourselves for the next round of rapids.

We raise our oars and high five them in the middle of the boat shouting words of teamencouragement to each other. The rapid swallows us up and we paddle furiously. Suddenly the left side of the raft is kicked up and the girl in front of me starts to fall into the churning water. I make a lunge for her but miss by a hair and she is plunged beneath the surface and swept away from the boat. I reach out with my oar and she grabs the end laughing, a big grin on her face.

Rapid number 9, the aptly named ‘Commercial Suicide’, is a Grade 6 rapid and thus, commercially un-run-able. We all get out onto the rocks and walk around it. The guides let our empty rafts brave this one on their own. One of the rafts flips and gets caught on a rock right in the middle of this angry rapid. Whilst we are standing on the banks wondering how we are going to free the trapped vessel, Chris puts his knife between his teeth and makes a mighty leap for the raft, luckily landing safely on his mark. We can only laugh and comment that we think Chris may be a little crazy. A short time later and minus some ropes, casualties of the situation, we all clamber back into the boat for the final rapids of our trip.

My shoulders and legs are burning but all too soon, we make it out of the last rapid. Chris suggests we take a short swim before making the steep climb out of the gorge and we happily oblige,
floating along in our lifejackets and helmets. Loading all my equipment onto my oar to make it easier to carry, I begin the walk up and out of the valley. Steep is an understatement for this climb. It is an almost vertical trek of approximately 750 feet to the top. I am pretty sure the most seasoned mountain goat would find this one a challenge!

The guides, being a lot fitter than us are already cooking up a feast when we arrive at the top and smiling, hand us bottles of cold water which we gulp gratefully down.
Sitting there eating lunch, looking out over the beautiful landscape before me, I grin and think, ‘I will definitely be back to do this again one day!’

Wild Horizons operate out of Victoria Falls and offer full day, half day and multi-day white water rafting experiences. Transfers, a light lunch, medical evacuation and all equipment are included in
the packages. Rafting is offered in both high and low water seasons. The best times of the year to go is during low water season which runs from the 10th August through to the 25th December.
These dates can vary slightly depending on the amount of recent rainfall so it is best to check with the company before you book.

There is a minimum age restriction of fifteen years and it is recommended that you have a moderate level of fitness to cope with this physical activity.

Daily rates for low water rafting are:
Per Person: US$150.00
Daily rates for high water rafting are:
Per Person: US$140.00
For further information or a brochure, contact:
Wild Horizons
PO Box 185, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Ph: +263 (13) 44 571

nithin T S
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