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I must admit, when I first looked at the activity list for weekend excursions while I was in Zambia, the whitewater raft trip was not high on the list. My thought process was that I have done that elsewhere and could spend my money on better more local things.

Boy am I glad I was convinced otherwise. The rafting trip was the best I have ever done, and the rapids were so much more intense than anything I had seen before.

The trip consisted of 25 rapids, technically 24 since one was a class VI (http://wildwater.com/rafting-lingo/) and thus we had to portage around it. We tackled 10 of them, including the portage one, before lunch, and the rest after.

Before we set out, we were fitted with safety gear and given an overview of what to expect and how to stay safe. While all of this was good information, it also served as a means to increase the anxiousness factor.

For more information on each of these rapids, you can check out http://www.zambezirafting.com/livingstone-zambia/zambezi-river-rapid-guide.html. However, not all of the rapids are in there, so you might have to look elsewhere as well. But, if for no other reason, take a look to see the names folks have given to these rapids, and imagine hearing those names as you are about to enter into one challenging it to let you stay afloat.

I don’t have a lot of photos, since I have them on a thumb drive and can’t load that onto my iPad, but I was able to have someone send the following to me.

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Of course I don’t know where each of these were taken, so I will just have to summarize the trip in words.

We started at the Boiling Pot, after hiking down to it, clothed in life vests and helmets, with paddles in tow. After getting into our rafts and balancing our weight we pushed off to get a briefing from our guide of what he would be telling us to do over the next few hours.

We went over paddling, both forwards and backwards ad how to throw our weight around the raft when needed. But most importantly, as you might be able to see from the photos above, we went over the “down” command, which meant to get into the raft and hold on to the attached rope as we were about to bit hit by a wave and possibly tossed upside down.

After that it was time to tackle rapid #1 – The Wall. Before this and every other rapid, our guide would brief us on what to expect, down to the specific commands he expected to give. So we, or at least I, put nervousness aside, and we took on the challenge. And it was good, we stayed upright and had a fun ride, getting a bit close to the edge of the canyon, but didn’t suffer any scrapes or scratches.

The story wasn’t quite the same for rapid #2 – The Bridge, aptly named as it is right under the famous bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe, that has sent many thrill seekers plummeting via bungee jumping and gorge swinging. Somehow, despite this being a class III rapid, well maybe III+, we flipped. In a way this was good, as it got it over with early in so I wasn’t nervous about it happening. And it really wasn’t that bad, I was able to hand onto the raft, and was not one of the folks who wound up in the air pocket under it, so all I had to do was hang on as we continued floating, fast, downstream, until the guide could help me back into the raft. This stunt, got us the name, Zambezi Rove Swimming Team, from one of the other guides,

After this, we did fairly well on the next few rapids, and never flipped again for the rest of the trip. That said, we did almost flip with the raft getting up online side and thus dumping most of us out once, and a few folks getting bounced out on a later rapid. However, if you look at the video of this, it almost looks as of they dove out on purpose. I can’t recall exactly which rapids these happened on, and just like I can’t get to the photos, I can’t see the video right now to check. Once I am home, I may remember to update this post with these details.

As for that class VI rapid, I recall it being a proper waterfall instead of a rapid, and am very glad we had to walk along side it. For that matter, one of the rafts that was sent over it empty, flipped of its own accord.

After the portage, only rapid #10 – The Gnashing Jaws Of Death remained before lunch. Well, there was also a chance to jump off of one off the rocks along the shore, but I opted not to do so given how much I really dislike heights.

Lunch was quick, but a good chance to get some food and reapply the sunblock before heading off to conquer 15 more rapids. While his may sound like quite the challenge, in reality most of the hard ones were behind us. There was a least one class IV left, but no more class V ones. And for part of the time e had a long stretch with no rapids where we tethered two rafts together and were able to drift along without helmets.

But that isn’t to say that it wasn’t fun. Some of the class III ones were fairly challenging and gave us a good soak. Plus, we were able to swim rapid #24, a class I rapid, and that was quite an experience. Thankfully nobody spotted the crocodile on shore until after we had done this.

All in all it was a great experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is ever I the area. And if you are, make sure to do it soon, as there is apparently quit a lot of activity around adding a dam to the river to generate electricity, and this would wipe out quite a number of the rapids (http://www.canoekayak.com/news/environment/proposed-zambezi-river-dam-puts-prime-stretch-whitewater-risk/). I really hope that a better solution can be found, as I would like to think that we have finally figured out that messing with Mother Nature does not pay off.

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Given that we had a day off, I ventured out with some new friends to explore the Zambian side of Victoria Falls (I had been to the Zimbabwean side last year).

The first step was to hire a taxi. Which involves a bit if negotiation as to the rate, but we were armed with information about what it should be, so we were happy with the rate we paid. We also had to negotiate a bit at the entrance sane had heard that we were eligible for a reduced rate since we were here as volunteers, so instead of paying 140 ZMW each, we only paid 70 ZMW each and were given a ticket indicating that we had paid the child rate.

Now it was time to explore, and explore we did. First we walked along the back side of the gorge getting some nice initial views and spotting the rainbow.

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We then headed along the edge of the gorge, towards Zimbabwe, getting many other spectacular views and a few shows from the baboons.

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On the return from this foray we spotted a very beautiful little bird.

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We then we grabbed some beverages before hiking to the bottom of the gorge. On the way down we spotted more wildlife.

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By the time we reached the bottom, the flora had changed from dessert cacti to tropical palms.

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And at the bottom we got a new perspective of the gorge itself.

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The hike back up was grueling, so we stopped for more beverages and snacks before heading out along another trail that provides views from father away.

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Finally, we walked to the bridge itself, along the way, as many times earlier in the day we were asked if we were planning on going bungee jumping. The answer from all three of us was an absolutely not, never, no way. Of course we were also shown many goods to purchase (and those of you who have traveled with me before may be shocked to find out that I didn’t buy any souvenirs this day).

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Today we will finally have orientation and tomorrow we will start out assignments.

Wendy

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