July 30, 2006
Prior to coming to Africa, Lori and I exchanged several emails. Some were regarding what activities we were going to do when
we got to Zambia. She wanted to do whitewater rafting while I wanted to do something like hang-gliding. We were going to
have a problem reaching a compromise since she has a fear of heights and I am slightly uncomfortable with being in rough
waters. I talked to my sister when she was in Europe and told her that I had zero desire to whitewater raft while I was out
Along the way we met several people who had come from Zambia and couldn’t stop giving the rafting rave reviews. Since this
year is about doing things outside of my comfort zone, I was beginning to think that my mind could be swayed…
When we arrived, we checked out the activities. Sadly, there was no hang-gliding. But there was microlighting. As one of the
guys here puts it (in case you don’t have any idea what it is), it is basically a lawn mower attached to a kite. This was up my
alley and I knew I wanted to do this. I was also convinced at this point that I wanted to give whitewater rafting a try. Lori
would also deal with her fear head-on as she signed up for microlighting in addition to the rafting.
This morning we were given the briefing before we headed out. I needed to pay full attention as I had never done this before.
Lori had been several times so she was familiar with most of what they were going to say. After signing our life away, we were
told a bit about the Zambezi River. The first thing he said was that it was a ‘Class 5 river’. This meant nothing to me. I had no
idea what kind of scale we were talking about (1-5?, 1-10?). It wasn’t until Lori heard that and turned her face to me with her
eyes completely widened that I started to rethink my decision to do this. As she looked at me, I asked ‘Is that hard?’ She just
nodded her head. Not the reaction I wanted. At the tail end of the briefing, he described what would happen if any of us
sustained injuries that would take us to the hospital. They would cover the costs of the ambulance but once we got to the
hospital, all of the costs were our responsibility. What did I just sign up for??? Does my travel health insurance even cover
The walk down to the river proved to be an adventure sport almost on its own. Imagine walking the entire height of Victoria
Falls through big rocks and boulders. It took a while but we finally saw the river. Phew. I wasn’t sure how much longer I could
The seven of us – all girls – piled into our raft along with our guide who was nicknamed ‘Babyface’. The nice thing about having
a raft of girls was that we all knew there would be no funny business that guys are normally capable of. We were in no mood to
capsize. None at all. On the third rapid, I clutched on for dear life. All I could see was water in my face and I could even taste
the water from what had entered through my nose. When the boat finally made it through, I was still in the boat. Shocking. I
was sure there was no way I was going to stay in. But two of our girls fell out. They were rescued and brought back to us.
When they got in, they said that they truly thought they were going to die. They said just when they got to the surface, they
got sucked back in again by a current and that they were helpless with being able to bring themselves up. This was all I needed
to hear to know that I was not getting thrown into the river even if it took every muscle in my body to hang onto the raft.
As each rapid came, we were briefed on how to handle it and given instructions of how to get through it. We were doing great.
Our boat had not capsized and nobody else had been knocked out of the raft. We got to one of the rapids where we would get to
choose which level of rapid we would want to take on. On the left was a Class 5 rapid, in the middle was a Class 4 rapid and on
the right was a Class 3 rapid (appropriately named ‘Chicken Run’). We weren’t a raft of sissies nor were we stupid…so we
chose the middle one. As we were leading up to it, Babyface gave us the instructions and used this opportunity to tell us that
there was a 50/50 chance that we would capsize. What??? At this point every one of us said “We want to do the Chicken Run!”
Sadly, it was too late as we were already in the middle of the river. Crap. We did what we needed to do and came out on top.
At the end, our boat never capsized. Ahhh… We had spoken to many others who did go into the river and they all said it was
one of the worst experiences. Every one of these people said they thought they were going to die – even the men. One man got
caught underneath rocks on the side and was sure he was a goner.
Lori assured me that most whitewater rafting at home is not as difficult as what we had just done on the Zambezi. She told me
that they don’t inflict the same amount of fear that the rapids here did. Well, that was a bit reassuring.
Our climb up from the rapids was definitely the hardest part of the day. Keep in mind we now had to climb the height of
Victoria Falls. And there weren’t actual steps. There was a homemade ladder-of-sorts. With paddle in hand, we had to climb
up this ladder. And there were just as many periods when the ladders were horizontal as opposed to vertical. Considering there
was no solid ground beneath, we still had to use the ladder horizontally. We looked like monkeys. Wet, tired monkeys.
We finally made it.
After lunch, Lori and I would get picked up to go microlighting.We put on our puffy jump suits and waited to be called. I went
first. My pilot’s name was Bernie and I liked him right off the bat. He gave me my helmet with microphone so that we could
communicate. And then we were off…
We felt as light and weightless as could be. We were in the air and Bernie began pointing things out to me immediately. The
first thing we saw was a group of elephants overhead. Then we moved towards the mist of Victoria Falls. We saw the falls in
Zambia and then in Zimbabwe. He also showed me the crevice where the ‘new’ Victoria Falls is forming. Basically, Vic Falls is
now in its seventh location. They keep shifting. Now the eighth Vic Falls is starting…though it will be many, many years
(possibly a million) before it will actually constitute ‘Victoria Falls’.
After flying over the falls, we then flew over the Zambezi and he went closer. Call it an overhead safari, if you will. He showed
me the hippos and crocodiles. The ride was over shortly after and I could not stop telling Bernie how amazing that just was.
And that would wrap up my adventure-filled day in Zambia…
Microlighting over Victoria Falls.
Class 5 rapids? No problem! Okay...a bit of a problem.