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Clare’s Travel Diary

Monday, 26 Nov 2007

Location: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

MapSo then, Victoria Falls. Well we started off quite quietly with a day of internetting, sitting, and booking stuff. We didn't go and see the falls and we tried not to think about what we had signed up for!

The next day Terry, John, Dietrich, Joenie, Maria and myself were picked up at 7.30am to go white water rafting on the Zambezi. Well, it appears that the actual name of the river is 'The Mighty Zambezi' as no-one seems to just call it by its simple name - I'm sure its all a ploy to freak out the tourists. Anyway, it worked and I was proper freaked out by the almost vertical and frankly incredibly rickety old metal ladder we had to climb down into the gorge on in order to get to the rather worryingly called 'boiling pot' - the pool at the bottom of the falls where you start. Its actually not as bad as it sounds and is a pretty calm bit of water with an amazing view of the falls where you can practice the various moves required over the course of the day. Basically these consist of: paddle, paddle really hard, hold on for dear life, and fall out of the boat. I really got into the spirit of the whole thing by then falling out almost instantly when we hit the first of the 21 rapids we were shooting that day... not a great builder of confidence you would think but it became worse when our guide fell out of the boat immediately after having pulled me in! So we are now doing the rest of the first rapid and heading towards rocks without a bleeping guide! It wasn't so bad actually we got through it fine (though Joenie got a bit of a working over) and I actually (stupidly) thought "oh, this falling out of the boat thing isn't that bad". That was a mere grade III rapid and we would be shooting about 6 or 7 grade Vs before the day would be out.

The next few rapids were pretty fun really, we all laughed hilairiously when the first boat got flipped and sat smugly in our boat while we got through up to number 8 without incident... when I saw without incident I don't mean the rapids weren't terrifying and I thought I would meet my maker a few times, but it was great to fly through them and we were definitely getting better. Good thing really cos there were a number of crocs on the rocks on the side of the river and we were told not to dangle our hands and feet over the side in the calm patches!

So, back to number 8 - Its called Midnight Diner because there are three courses on the menu, a nice easy grade II on the right hand side, a harder grade IV on the left and a boiling mass of grade V straight down the middle. Feeling quite confident and cool about the whole thing now, we decided "yeah, lets go right down the middle, how hard can it be?" famous last words! So we shoot straight down the middle through the boiling water and as we look forward what can only be described as a hole opened up before us and we dropped straight into it.... my memory is a bit hazy as I just remember thinking not to panic as I was underwater and feeling someone above me.... but when we later watched the video back our 18ft inflatable boat completely disappeared under the water for about 2 seconds before shooting vertically up out of the water completely empty, twice. The camera pans back and you just see little bobbing helmets floating like corks down the rest of the GRADE V RAPID! needless to say we got pretty worked over and emerged coughing and spluttering from the end of the rapid about 70 metres downstream! Our one consolation was that all the guides agreed we had the most spectacular flip of the entire day on the worst flipping rapid!

Lunch was a welcome break but afterwards we were right back in the proverbial! it was actually a gorgeous place to just drift along in between sections of rapids and there were a few bits where we could just jump in and swim...not to mention the nutters who did the afternoons rapids on boogie boards! The Zambezi, apart from having world class rapids is actually a really great river to raft because its high volume, which means you are much less likely to hit any rocks if you fall in, and its really nice and warm unlike glacier water rivers such as in Nepal or NZ. That admittedly was little consolation as I was half-drowning in it, but its a nice little set of facts to share now!

We were much better in the afternoon as we got more able to paddle through the rapids, the key to success and not flipping as you need to keep moving faster than the water to avoid being taken by the current and we laughed even more smugly as we watched boat after boat flipping around us. Apart from a few more scrapes we survived unscathed, made it through no.21 and clambered up the 300m vertical path out of the gorge before collapsing in triumph. One ordeal over with.

Next day was bungee day.... we all nervously trooped down to 'no-man's land'. The bridge we jump from is actually the border between Zim and Zambia so you need your passport - I guess it helps on possible identification needs if anything goes wrong as well ,-)

Over the course of the morning we all did the three bits of the Big Air package, the Slide (tame, tame, tame), the Swing & the Bungee. Luckily we did them in what we think was the right order as in hindsight I don't think any of us could have jumped off the bridge for the bungee without having done the swing first. The swing is actually slightly worse as its a longer freefall, but because we mostly did tandems we felt a bit better about jumping into thin air holding on to someone else first! I cannot say enough how terrifying the first few seconds of the swing were, but I also have to say how astoundingly proud I am of my Bungee! I had to go first each time because I had persuaded the others to do it, so I was pretty nervous by the time my bungee came round, but I stood up there, stared into the gorge, the guy began the countdown, and I jumped on 2... a perfect swan dive into the gorge, and not a girly scream to be heard! I have it on DVD, prepare to be bored senseless by my playing it when I get back!