I'm now at Livingstone, Zambia next to Victoria Falls. I'm still having a great time and have been here for an adrenaline fuelled few days. It is the dry season, so the Falls are not as spectatular as usual and the water in the Zambesi is low. However, this has made the perfect climate for white water rafting and I survived getting through the 25 rapids. They are given reassuringly nice names like the Devils Toilet Bowl, Oblivion, the Washing Machine and Creamy White Buttocks (on account of how many tourists lose their shorts in it!).
It was great fun rafting with three of my fellow truck girls. Despite our small number we kicked ass on the rapids and spent the day acting like extreme sports dudes with loads of 'AWESOME', 'EXTREME' and X's with our arms or paddles.
It's hard to convey just how scary it is being in a rubber raft and being shouted at to 'paddle hard' as you have to cross a rapid and avoid falling into a hole that might just pull you and the raft under and circulate you under water for a few minutes. They call it the Mighty Zambesi and you can see why as the water is so powerful. We were going off the edge of a rapid into a seven foot drop, only to be met by a wave like a wall that just flips the raft into the air and on top of you. At this point you get pulled down into the water and can feel the raft pass above you, paddles and people flying and the water churning you around in all directions.
It's hard not to panic, but you have to try and tell yourself to hold your breath and wait to see where it allows you to surface. On one occasion it brought me up underneath the flipped raft and I tried to hang on to the side, but unfortunately I was in the direction of the water and it just poured into my face and prevented me from breathing. I had to let go and was pulled back underneath the raft and eventually came up further downstream. At this point you have one chance to gulp air before another wave dumps on top of you and pulls you back under until you come up again. At this point the river is speeding you along and you spin around trying to gulp air and not hit the rocks on the side.
If you are lucky you may have some time to recover before the next rapid, but this is not always the case. You are either dragged back into the raft by the guides or you are saved by a kayacker or the safety raft.
I went with my 'EXTREME' buddy's Marylis, Gemma and Annie and we really had loads of fun in between these hair raising moments. I think most spectacular falls would go to Gemma for her somersaults, bombing and holding on whilst the raft was about five foot in the air and upside down. I have a fantastic and hilarious DVD to show you when I get back and the owner of the RAFT EXTREME company wants to use our footage in his promo video, so we may be future Zambian stars if we are talent spotted.
As if that was not enough, I also felt the need to bungee off the bridge over the falls and do a 111 meter jump. The guide kindly announced when I arrived that they had shut down due to an accident with a man breaking his legs. He kept this up for quite some time before disolving into laughter at his hilarious joke!
I then had to watch 2 men jump ahead of me and feel my heart nearly bursting out of my chest. My friend Pamela also brought my attention to how frayed the rope was. SOmething I had not noticed before then.
You then get kitted up with your legs tied together and told to shuffle to the edge of a metal frame. By this time I had sweat pouring off me and was trying to breath deeply to compose myself. They also tell you to hold your arms out and jump far out so you don't hit the metal frame on the way down.
I jumped and then let out a blood curdling scream as I fell head downwards into the deep gorge below. You feel your arms and legs try and move as if this will somehow help you slow down, but obviously does not. You see the ground speeding towards you and just when you think you are going to die there is a reassuring tension on the rope. However, in my case this sent me flying back upwards until I was standing upright in the air and heading back towards the metal on the bridge. You then have a second or two frozen in the air, before falling back down again and screaming again. This went on for at least four bounces until I was just swinging from side to side across the gorge. At this point I just began to laugh hysterically whilst my whole body shook.
The guy who came over to collect me and take me back up said I was shaking like a leaf and the rest of the guys collectively felt I had the best scream of the day.
Again I have some great footage and will bore you all with it when I get home.
Am now off to Botwana and will update whenever I get anther internet stop.