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Oct
21

Zambezi 2003

ZAMBEZI 2003

It was with some trepidation that 6 of us arrived in Livingston Zambia with the intention of paddling on the Zambezi.The Zambezi has a reputation of being a play river with all the features washing through rather than holding boats or swimmers, but we were left in no doubt that we would experience some beatings over the 6 days paddling. We were not let down on that score.

Rapid 1 is described as a simple ferry glide,…..yeah right.I got a right kicking within 5 minutes of getting on the water, bearing in mind that 4 minutes of that had been sat in the eddy, not very confidence inspiring, break in and glide across to the other side, or break in get turned over, put in about 6 roles and end up in the don't go there's cushion wave before surfing and rolling out of harms way to the other side and ..relax

Rapid 2 was a wave train with a surf wave, although the levels were a little high so the wave wasn't working properly, the level dropped off during the week and the top surf wave came into play and everyone caught some nice surfs and a couple of spins, the local boys were ripping it up, huge ariel blunts and donkey flips(!) whatever one of those is

Number 3, left of centre and avoid the big hole river right, 3b, a surf wave which was quite friendly early in the week, the eddy line caused a few problems and as the week wore on and the levels dropped this turned into a difficult to surf kicking hole from hell, once washed off you had no choice but to drop downstream into the pool below.

Rapids 1 to 3 had to be negotiated with some caution at times due to the presence of the jetboat travelling upstream, a kayak is not the most visible of objects when surrounded by waves and holes on the Zambezi. A jet boat to the napper would not be welcome.

Number 4, Morning Glory, we inspected, a big tongue leading down to a bit of a messy stopper, paddle across the left shoulder of the tongue, keep, paddling left to avoid the big hole at the bottom, this was our first real taste of the Zambezi and we all breezed it, some upside down some not.

The pool below 4 holds a croc big enough to be wary of, encouragement for getting to 5, no inspection as you probably wouldn't paddle it if you had seen it.A big horizon line straight down the middle avoiding a waterfall to the left and a pour over to the right, drop down and tuck in, role up once you are through the worst and you have made it, hoorah.

Number 6 the Devils toilet bowl, drop in and watch out for the swirly things.PK got swirled big time on one occasion.

Number 7, big respect, the first rapid really with consequences, portage to the left or prepare to make some moves to avoid the bottom of the crease and the numerous holes, not forgetting the must avoid pin possibilities on river right.7b early on in the week proved to be an introduction to the huge waves we could expect, excellent fun, later on in the week we paddled down all expecting and easy ride through the wave train to discover a couple of enormous holes that had formed as the water level had dropped off, some frenzied paddle action saw varying lines through the mess and many comments of 'well it wasn't  like that last time'.Lesson …..don't expect features to be the same as a couple of days before.

Number 8…………………….ahhh number 8, Midnight Diner another one to paddle blind with some words of wisdom from our guide Sven. Its just like 5 only bigger, excuse me we chorused and exchanged glances. yikes follow me its just a big wave, stare at if for as long as you can, then tuck in, .its beautiful, I for one was not convinced, however in hindsight I have to say I can't argue with the description.

A bit of a messy entry into the main feature that is number 8, a wave of enormous proportions 'and it is beautiful'..although that's not the first word that springs to mind as it comes into view over the horizon line, I blew it a kiss on the way in, tucked in to protect the deck and my shoulders and to my amazement was spat out the other side the right way up,.roll free, fan*&^%$£tastic.

Number 9 follows number 8, 9 is commercial suicide which for mere mortals is considered to be unpaddleable, a must portage, a couple of days before I left I had read that 8 flushes into 9, oh dear, however this report proved to be inaccurate

We inspected 9 river left, awesome, I cannot even contemplate ever paddling into something like that intentionally, Sven paddle it for the first time this season and made is look easy, however inspecting the video footage I took later revealed just how much work he was putting in to make the moves, very impressive.

Ten follows, avoid the heinous hole river right and pile down a huge wave train, ask Ian and Lyndon what its like in here if you get the line wrong, both receiving quality beatings.

We camped just after 10, everyone eager to tell their tale of the rapids we had done so far and their version of "bigging it up on the Zambezi massive"

Up bright and early for number 11, smell the coffee forget that, all you need to wake up in the morning is number 11, keep left avoiding a huge messy hole on the right and stay upright across the eddy lines and boils, at least at these levels, at certain levels 11 forms a tube wave, on a river, the only one of its kind by all accounts

12 is round the corner and incorporates 12B the famous surf wave, however the river was too high for this baby to be working properly, washing down through 13, a massive wave train, with crashing waves and stoppers to keep you on your toes until its time to recover in a big pool, looking back up river to see what you have done and allowing time to fish people and kit out of the river.

Number 14, take your choice of a couple of routes, the gnarly drop on the right if you want some downtime or the easy option on the left.

Number 15 a simple drop and break out on the right, or drop into a not very nice stopper, we made it down and viewed the hole with nervous glances, all of us paddling by on the boily eddy line to safety below, later in the week Ian P managed to paddle straight through the middle to everyone's amusement only for PK to break out from the eddy, promptly getting tail squirted and dropping into the hole, snigger snigger.

16 more wave train with an easier option to the left of the island

17 described as one of only two gnarly rapids on the river (the other being 15) a huge surfable wave train, break out river left and ferry glide into the first of the surf waves enjoy, or later in the week glide over, drop in and get the beating of the week in my case, the once friendly wave had turned into a steep retaining wave come hole that took no prisoners, It held me and recirculated me 4 times before spitting me out dazed and confused.

18 Oblivion – a massive wave train proved to be an entertaining way of loosing height on a river, three big waves starting off big, then bigger then biggest, pick a line and hang on, upside down the right way up, it doesn't really matter just enjoy the ride.

The river continues in a mess of holes, stoppers and wave trains, slightly easier by this stage with the odd surprise or two lurking for the unwary.Crocs are more frequent now and we have to ensure we paddle close and act strong and powerful as Sven enjoys telling us, although none of the boaters has ever been attacked by a croc its not uncommon for the crocs to follow boats weighing them up for size. It's going to happen one day though, as the boats get smaller and the crocs get bigger.

One of the gnarliest section of the whole river is the narrows, there are 4 sections but number 1 provides the most interesting entertainment, the river is pushed through a canal wide gap, there are a couple of wave trains to contend with however it's the boils and swirly things that cause the trouble, we were instructed to paddle some distance apart and to be powerful I think everyone had a bit of an epic on this section, I struggled to paddle in a straight line, the boat was being pushed and pulled all over the place by the constantly changing water, surging and whatever the opposite of surging is.As we entered the narrows 2, a little too close to the raft, 3 boats were caught up in a whirlpool directly in front of me, all 3 were tail squirted, capsized and taken down for some quality time, trying to role up whilst under a raft is not a good idea, although I was only a few feet away from the carnage I was unaffected, 5 stars for entertainment value tho.

We continued down to Moemba the last rapid we would paddle, lines were varied but successful, we had a look at Moemba Falls and all agreed it was a lets not go there kind of drop.All we had to do then was walk out of the gorge, kick back with a well earned cold beer or two, reflect on the last three days paddling and decide which sections we wanted to paddle for the remaining three days.

Want more information, get in touch with Sven at  http://www.thezambezi.com/