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3 Days down the Zambezi

The 3 day trip down the Zambezi, starting from rapid number one below Victoria Falls to Upper Moemba is a classic.

Ferrying across the boiling pot below the Zim minus Rapids

Sven has been in Zambia for ten seasons and has been operating in Livingstone Zambia for 5 years and knows the river better than most, get in touch with him on this link

Arriving in Livingstone on Saturday afternoon we sorted out our dry bags for the next 3 days with kit that would be loaded onto the support raft , that done we headed out the the Taita Falcon lodge overlooking rapid 17 for a BBQ.

Sunday morning and after breakfast at Zig Zags we take the short drive to the falls and head down into the gorge, the porters disappear down the gorge ahead of us, carrying two boats each whilst we are left trailing in their wake, carrying our paddling kit, food and drink for the day.

The river is nearing its lowest flow and the ferry glide at number 1 is not as henious as previous trips, it still takes some doing though as your  first move of the day, we cross the river, portage to above number one and paddle across the boiling pot exiting our boats below the falls, the Zam side is not running due to the low water and the hydro scheme taking water to leaving over half the falls dry, we climb up above the minus rapids and look down to where only a few have paddled and its easy to see why only a limited number of people have ventured down there.

Once done we head down river to rapid number 2, Between Two Worlds, immediatley below the bridge linking Zambia and Zimbabwae to try and catch the huge surf wave that has formed

Rapid number 4, Morning Glory, is the first real test of the day, at these lower levels Sven advised that it was now harder with a couple of nasties to avoid, our entry line in at the top sees us sneak around a rock following a narrow tong of water between a crashing hole and the bank, negotiate this then brace off the diagonals before picking up speed and dropping through the last surging wave and eddying out.

Number 5, Stairway to Heaven, is a simple tuck and duck. Pick your line and deal with what comes your way.

Right of the catchers mit and left of the pourover

Smoosh down 6, the Devils Toilet Bowl arriving at 7, Gullivers Travels, make your decision early as the portage is on river left whilst paddling right commits you to paddling the rapid or a longer 750m portage in the midday sun.  The crux move is the crease at the rapid's entry, get this right and you will pretty much be on line for the rest of the rapid, even if it goes wrong afterwards you will more or less be in the right place to deal with the Land of the Giants, mess up your entry to the crease and a whole world of unpleasantness could ensue.

Eight, Midnight Diner is a tuck and duck like 5, bigger and gnarlier, but you won't be thinking about it as number 9, Comercial Suicide, will be on your mind by now, the rafts portage it, so do most boaters, us included, its shallow in places at these lower flows and deserves its reputation, even Sven has all but stopped paddling it as he is fed up hurting himslef in there.

The lead in to number 8

Number 10, Gnashing Jaws of Death, done, and you arrive at your first nights camp, Sven has arranged for the porters to carry your off river kit and supplies for the next three days down into the gorge and you will be greeted by with much needed snacks and cool drinks.

Camping in the gorge is something special, you can use one of Svens tents or just jam your blades into the soft sand, tie off you mosquito net to the top and sleep under the stars.

Day two see's an early start, breakfast, laod the raft, grab some river snacks and drinks and head off round the next bend to number 11, Overland Engine Eater, the boils at this level are henious, everyone takes a beating here at some point its just a case of taking your ticket.

Drop through 12, Three Sisters and you arrive at the famous 12b which works at this flow, eddy out on river left and take you place in the Q, its big, its trashy and takes some getting used to but it's easy to see why it has the reputation of being one of the best waves in the world when in condition.

The intensity of the rapids eases on day two but there is more than enough to keep you on your toes with the huge pourover in 15 two trashy hols in 17 and number 18, Oblivion, watch out for that third surging crashing wave.

We camp at 25 leaving us to start day three  with the named only rapids, the numbers finish here, Closed Season, Open Season, the Narrows, 1, 2 3 and 4, Chumemba Falls and Upper Moemba.

Open Season

Open Season is ballsy rapid, a crashing hole in the centre of the river with huge diagonal feeding down into the maw of white water, from the bank there is an obvious window on the right diagonal, although lining yourself up from river level needs some keen eyes and some powerful strokes, once through the window your work is done.

Your day finishes at Upper Moemba, you could finish at Moemba itself, a very serious 15m drop, fewer people have paddled this than number 9 and one look tells you all you need to know, its very, very messy and has claimed more than one life over the years.

The top and bottom of Upper Moemba

Upper Moemba is a fantastic way to finish your three days travelling downstream, you have paddled 10K, 15K and 20K on the respective days, pick your entry markers, angle to the left and make sure you batten the hatches down as this rapid will give your fair old rinse and spin on a good day.

We land on Mouse beach and take the short walk over to Moemba for a look, once done we ferry back to the Zam side and are met by the boys who deflate the raft, sort through kit and make up the loads before starting their multiple journeys up the 100m gorge.

We are met at the top by cold beers and Svens traditional last night BBQ, grab a Mosi or two, take in the view and chat about the last three days, perfect.

Sven would rather have paddled Upper Moemba than take the raft through

This little hole lies below 18 and can provide hours of entertainment – if you have the energy