Zambezi – Day 7, Final Day – Rapid 26 to Lower Moemba

It was our final day on this magical river. The past six days spent here had been absolutely phenomenal, both from a paddling perspective and from a social one in terms of being around some good people and just clutching out and enjoying life. It was exactly what I needed at that stage in my life. I felt a certain sadness that morning as I knew that the very next morning Luke and I would make the trek back to South Africa, back to reality... (don't miss the VIDEO at the bottom!!!!)


To finish off the trip nicely we were joined by our three Austrian friends, Georg Tschojer, Mario Ploner and Florian Zauner (aka Flo).  They hadn’t either paddled this section and would therefore also spend the final night out with us. It was set to be another cracker of a day. We dried out our sodden sleeping bags from the storm during the night and allowed the sopping tent to dry. With the temperatures soaring quickly everything dried out really fast and soon all of our worldly possessions were tucked away into dry bags and loaded aboard the raft. Just as the three Austrians arrived from the long walk down into the gorge, we left the beach to also avoid the unpleasantness of being around when the sand would scorch ones feet. This would be new ground to all of us except Marten and Bart who had already paddled this section.


I almost walked into this beast! Luckily I saw him/her in the nick of time... eish!  :-)


Flo Zauner posing for the camera. Yes, that helmet has been airbrushed and he has done it himself. Awesome isn't it? If you want your helmet to look like this, then contact him NOW!!!! He does a truly awesome job and will create anything you want:

Flo Zauner
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I keep a rough diary that I fill in covering the days’ activities in order to remember what happened during the trip for two simple reasons; to one day read when I’ve almost forgotten the trip and to write a more accurate description of the trip when it comes to writing articles for the website. But because we had been on this multiday trip I had been very slack and exactly how things happened is a bit of a blur. I also cannot find the notepad right now as I’ve just moved down to Cape Town and am set to move again to Somerset West once my flat is complete so most of my stuff is still in boxes. Luckily I can remember roughly how things went and will try my best. You may have noticed how short the last article was. It wasn’t the best of days so I couldn’t be dishonest and make it sound better than what it was.


One of the first (if not the first) rapid(s) was quite a large one and it has a name but I cannot for the life of me remember it right now. In fact I’m sure I had forgotten once we set up camp that night already. Anyway, it was a sweet rapid and I remember that the line was coming down the middle and moving a bit left. How irritating, I cannot even remember if we scouted or not but I know we didn’t get any photos which is even more irritating! It was Luke and I, the two Dutchman, the three Austrians, the two Germans, our raft with guide and two female passengers, one guide in a kayak and three other dudes also in kayaks, one of which had only joined us that morning. So it was a pretty large group that day and seeing as though the porters would take a while to bring everything up to the top of the gorge later that day we had to make sure we arrived as early as possible at the take-out. Being pressed for time and not being able to take photographs or video wasn’t my idea of fun and I was beginning to wonder if we shouldn’t just have run this last section as a day trip as Marty and Bart had already done. In fact, perhaps we shouldn’t have done the multiday trip at all as all of the sections (3 of them) can easily be done as day trips anyway, so the only advantage was that we got was to spend two nights sleeping next to the river, on a beach and one night on the rim of the gorge and part with a lot of money for that privilege which I guess wasn’t a bad thing anyway.


After that rapid it became apparent that the pools were very long and flat and that most of the rapids were quite small. We had been warned from other people that it wasn’t really worthwhile but we wanted to see it anyway. After a while we reached a large rapid known as Open Season. The entry is quite easy and one has to punch a small diagonal wave running left to right through it and then down towards a very large V-shaped hole at the bottom. Should one run left a solid beating would result and possibly worse. It is also quite shallow on the left side of the rapid.


Open Season, a really fun rapid to run!


Marten Lagendijk making a clean line on Open Season.


Adrian Tregoning heading for the meat on Open Season. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen. Good sequence there Bart, thanks! (not all photos shown)


Marty and Bart ran first and their runs were fairly decent. Bart got some serious downtime while Marty didn’t even get his head wet! They swopped over with us and manned the video and still camera while Luke and I ran. I decided to go first and was feeling a little nervous. I moved across the river and ferried to the right hand side, watching the diagonal carefully and making sure I’d make my line. Our guide had missed the line, hit a rock (we could hear the impact from where we stood!) and clearly demonstrated how not to do it. Naturally I didn’t want to rein act that line. With a left to right angle I hit the diagonal and once past I only needed to throw in a few more strokes as I wanted to hit the hole exactly at the point of the ‘V’ to get maximum downtime like Bart had gotten. The hole loomed in front of me and I just fixed my eyes on where I wanted to go and then my body went there. The hole itself is nothing to be really concerned about but it is still a bit intimidating and of course one wants to be online above the hole and NOT end up left. It’s so weird the feeling one gets as one drops down a rapid like that. The mind thinks about so many things at once but one thing is for certain, there cannot be any doubt about making it and in the times that I’ve had doubt, are the times when I’ve come short. The commitment once in a rapid is a reassuring feeling to me as I then know that I’ve just got to do it. I always feel far more nervous scouting a rapid and also just before I climb into my boat. Well, enough rambling on. I dropped into the hole, went down a touch and emerged, almost upright. Unfortunately I didn’t make it all the way up and had to roll but still it felt great to have run that rapid. If we had had more time I would have trudged back to run it again.


Luke Longridge with another fine display of the invincible right brace on Open Season. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen. Another good show Bart!


Luke Longridge (left in a large Fluid Flirt) and Adrian Tregoning (right in a medium Fluid Nemesis). Both excellent weapons of choice to tackle the Zambezi in. Photo by Bart Verkoeijen.


Marten Lagendijk very satisfied with life after a schweet run! Photo by Bart Verkoeijen.


The river narrowed up here and this is the section is known as Narrows One. There are three other Narrows sections known as Narrows Two etc. This first one was quite intense and long but really good fun. The boils and whirlpools are much more powerful that the section between rapids 11 to 13 at these low levels and the river far more narrow. One definitely wants to remain upright as rolling is far more difficult in those conditions and Norbert had a bit of a rough time trying to roll up at one stage. There was no warning from our guide as to what we were about to enter and I don’t know why he did that. Should someone have swum, the rest of the group was far beyond our line of sight and they just left most of us behind. Swimming in the Narrows would not be recommended, to say the least!


There were more long flat pools and also a couple of rapids. My memory is a bit hazy but I know it was a long paddle and I really enjoyed it. The flat water was aggravating my shoulder and for the first time during the trip it began to really begin to hurt a lot. I had been aware of it during the trip but a few pain killers was usually enough to ignore it. Now it was flaring up and I was not a happy camper. We passed through the other Narrows sections and I remember that at one stage we were about to enter one when our guide dropped down a rapid and eddied out on the right. The rest of the group was getting swept into the entry and seeing as though I was next I followed him. But before I could join him and without any warning, he left the eddy. With a wild ferry across the current he narrowly missed a big cushion wave against some ugly rocks as it divided the current into two distinct channels and he disappeared around the corner into the river left channel. Everyone else followed him and I was left in the eddy alone. Damn it, I couldn’t believe it! The ferry looked reasonably challenging and the rocks looked really bad. Luckily the raft went down the right channel and I followed it down. When I joined the group there were looks of excitement on their faces. Luke couldn’t believe that the guide had done that and this cowboy style of ‘guiding’ was not on. We’re not beginner paddlers and are quite capable but just a few comments above a section would have been appreciated. For 100 US Dollars a day we were expecting at least some form of communication and not a display of reckless paddling from someone who didn’t seem like they could paddle better than what we could even. This theme continued down another rapid where the guide took a left line down a rapid where the main line was clearly in the centre. There was no doubt that the left channel was more challenging. Luke and I decided to give it horns and follow him down. It was a good boof over a meaty hole and an excellent rapid. We made it down fine but I pitied this one other guy who had joined us that morning as he was clearly scared out of his wits. Bombing down without warning was not working for this poor dude, shame.


We stopped for lunch and because of the additional people that had joined our trip, rations were limited. This didn’t go down too well with the rest of us that had to pay a lot of money for this trip only to be ‘short changed’ again and again. It was good to sit in the shade and chat with the guys and we enjoyed each other’s company. After lunch we carried on and on. I cannot remember how the day exactly went but it wasn’t too bad.


A random beach along the way.


Flo Zauner walking back to the boats after lunch. I've never seen anyone who can stern stall as well as him. Easily balancing without a paddle for ages, and in complete control. Bart Verkoeijen also impressed me with his flat water stern stalls. Good to mess around on the long pools!  :-)


Eventually we got to a place where the guide explained that this rapid was called Chimamba and that we’d run down the far left side. He said it wasn’t worth taking photos and that we wouldn’t either scout or take any photos. The first little entry drop was incredibly narrow and had a very mean whirlpool and some hectic boils. Almost everyone flipped or went down a little and I wondered what was happening as they gathered into the eddy on the left. I paddled down and if memory serves me correctly I got flipped over and churned around but managed a fast roll. We then dropped down a bit of a slide drop and just past a very wide hole. The water flows into an undercut cliff and now I understood why we had taken the far left line. The guide had also warned us to stay upright as once against the wall life would be unpleasant. It wasn’t too hard but a few powerful strokes were required to stay away from the wall. The rapid would have made some super photos and it’s such a pity we didn’t just stop and do our own thing. I try to show as much of a river as I can to give the reader as clear a picture as possible and usually I do. Next time I’ll get some photos here, promise! So many people post only two or three photos of a river and what does that tell you, nothing. One can easily make a river appear far better than what it actually is. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the rapids that I’ve shown in this series. Rapids one doesn’t usually see like number two, six, and ten. Perhaps next time I go to the Zambezi I’ll photograph every single rapid. That was our plan but we only had a limited amount of time on the river.


Georg Tschojer getting ready to capture the action at Upper Moemba.


The next rapid was Upper Moemba and we got out on the right bank to scout this one. It drops down on the right channel through some easy water, right into some very large, crashing holes. The first wave at the bottom has a curler that feeds onto some shallow rocks. They are not really visible from the top but once downstream of the rapid one can catch a glimpse of them on the occasional surge of the river. A truly horrible place to end up. It’s a big rapid and one with some severe consequences although should be manageable by most people. Make no mistake though that once past the crux the water is incredibly powerful and I don’t think I saw anyone run it upright. Marten has run this rapid on his second day on the river and damaged his ear because of it. I wasn’t feeling overly confident about running it and had this nagging feeling to portage. I decided to listen to whatever it was that was saying something and ended up portaging it. Oh well, I can always drive up and go to the Zambezi again. Maybe something would have happened, who knows. Probably not and it was just a case of me being chicken!


Upper Moemba. DO NOT go right. Severe injury could result and the rocks are not visible from upstream.


Another kayaker about to get back looped at Upper Moemba.


Luke Longridge running Upper Moemba.


Our guide ran first, got spanked and then another one of the guys ran it with a less experienced guy following close behind. His run was ok but the guy behind him didn’t stand a chance. Luke ran perfectly but as he got to the eddy on the left, it grabbed him, flipping him over and pulling him back into the current. What a shame. Bart went down too and as he hit the first big wave he was just swallowed in the seething mass of water. A couple of the other guys also ran it but I didn’t carry on watching as Marty and I still had to portage. After that, one just has to paddle around an outcrop of rocks and then Lower Moemba is right there. It is a monstrous rapid and one which has claimed the lives of several kayakers. Just have a look at the many potholes in the surrounding rock and that should be enough to cure anyone of running it.


Bart Verkoeijen getting swallowed in the highly aerated water of Upper Moemba.


With our inspection of the crazy rapid over, we paddled back upstream and began the long walk back up, and boy was this one long! Not as steep as some routes but perhaps more than three times as long as some of the other exits from the river. Somewhere near the top, Georg and I got lost. Yep, we sort of missed the ‘main’ path and ended up bushwhacking after a while in the direction I thought to go. I called out but no one replied. We climbed to the top of a hill and called out, again. This time I heard the familiar voices of Luke, Bart and Marten. Heroically we stumbled into camp and made a bee line for the cool box. Nothing beats an ice cold beer after a good paddle! In fact, nothing beats an ice cold beer after any long, hard day. We had covered a lot of flat water, paddled some decent rapids and generally I’d say the day wasn’t too bad at all. I was glad that we weren’t paddling again as my shoulder was beginning to shout loudly and I knew it would have been downhill from there.


Lower Moemba. Several kayakers have lost their lives here...


....looking at the nature of the rock surrounding this rapid I'm not surprised. Nasty stuff! Look at those potholes.


The perfect beach between Upper and Lower Moemba.


Upper Moemba as seen from high above. Photo by Luke Longridge.


Whilst the porters doggedly ferried all of the gear to and fro, we helped ourselves to more beers. It was hard work for them and they came out of the gorge sweating profusely each time but they did so with smiles on their faces. I guess there isn’t that much work available so if they can earn a few bucks, even if it is hard labour, then they are probably quite grateful. A huge thumbs up to them for their efforts. I would imagine that without them the walk out could take a lot longer and the trips down far less popular.


Bart (in front) with Marty just behind him after the long walk up. Photo by Luke Longridge.


Georg Tschojer smiling as he cruises around the camp.


Ladies and Gentlemen. THIS is what Africa is about... AHHHHH, evenings like that!!!!!!!!!


As the sun dropped below the horizon we sat around chatting and reliving moments down the river. It had been a good few days. The only problem was that the beers were quickly finished! Ah, these guys don’t know the thirst of kayakers... After a decent supper we sat around a little more and felt quite relaxed. Luke hit the sack early while I stayed up a little longer. Eventually I went to face round three but luckily the few beers combined with a bunch of pain killers helped to ease the night’s sleep a touch.


Flo in the foreground with Luke (left) and Bart (right) starting the evening off to a good start. Hot weather, cold beers, doesn't get better.


The following morning we packed up, bought some curious from the porters (always support the porters, they make some great stuff!) and headed off. On one of the climbs our driver lost forward momentum and we stopped. When he tried to go forward he somehow lost control and the vehicle, complete with trailer and a whole bunch of passengers, and we went backwards at a frightening speed, almost jack knifing the trailer. Needless to say, we quickly climbed out afterwards. After some pushing and careful driving, we got up and that was that.


A closer view of Lower Moemba.


Upper Moemba (right) and Lower Moemba on the left side of the pool.


Our camp as we were packing up again.


The porters sell some beautiful items. Check out the bag. What a classic photo.


Packed up and almost ready to hit the road.


Luke with one of the porters. I forget his name now but he can paddle too. Great guy.


A young boy holding his prize of a balloon. Norbert brought a few with and they were a hit with the kids.


From here we parted with the three Austrians and bid them farewell. It was sad to see them go but I reckon I’ll be heading to Austria within the next three to four years for either some skiing or a bit of paddling. There are always loose plans floating around for the odd mission. I’ve got to be careful though, they tend to quickly turn into reality! But of course one only lives once, and if you live it right, once is enough!


Because it was still early, we headed to the pool and idled around the backpackers during the middle of the day. Norbert organised a vehicle and we went on a game drive in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park in the late afternoon. It was very relaxing and the perfect way to end the trip. We saw several animals including elephant and their only remaining rhino, the others were poached! The park stipulates that one has to leave by a certain time, but the driver allowed us to watch the sun go down. We just sat around, doing nothing. It was great. The sun that set was truly spectacular and I took a whole bunch of photos trying to capture it as best I could. It was an evening I won’t easily forget. Back at the gate our driver sweet talked the guards at the gate and some additional money was produced to ease the way.


Rules and regulations at the entry.


A couple of warthog.




An elephant. (just in case you didn't know!)


Two guards that are apointed to look after the park's rhino, 24 hours a day.


The rhino they look after. He is injured at the moment so cannot move very fast. Poor thing.


We stopped here for a chill out session and just waited for the sun to set.


A couple of hippos lazing about in the river.


The Zambezi showing some small rapids. This is only a channel though and the vegetation on the background is an island.


Our hired vehicle within the park.


A portion of a Zambian number plate. "One Zambia, One Nation" it says.


Luke was tired after paddling everyday and took a nap on the benches. He had paddled when we had taken a rest day.


Sunset over the Zambezi. Awesome isn't it?


An elephant on the way out.


We dropped off Norbert and Sebastian at the Waterfront, had a drink there with the two Germans and the driver and got him to drop us off at Fawlty Towers. Bart, Marten, Luke and I hit Hippos one last time and enjoyed the final meal together and also a couple of beers. After packing all our gear and getting the car ready, we went to bed.


As you walk into Hippos, they have these lovely characters on the right side.


Wait Luke, stop the room from spinning! We only had 2 or 3 beers that night but damn that booze cruise...!


The following morning, Luke and I left very early to get back to the Kazungula Ferry border post as early as possible. The queues were class 4+, maybe 5-. It wasn’t much fun and once they opened up the immigration it was a lot of pushing and shoving, lovely stuff! Luke almost lost his temper and was not enjoying it at all. For a change, it didn’t bother me and I just forced my way around and laughed. Once out Luke had forgotten to do something and had to go back into the busy office. The drive through Botswana was quite pleasant. It wasn’t as hot as on the way up and we were making good progress. Of course all the irritating slow speed zones and various donkeys, cattle and what not made the going a little slow but otherwise it was fine.


Luke was SUPER STOKED to have made it back onto the ferry and we were on our way back home!!!


When we were about 50km from the Martin’s Drift border post (between Botswana and South Africa) we stopped for a leak. Once back in the car the ignition was totally dead!!! DAMN! I couldn’t believe this. The radio didn’t even work. All of a sudden, the trusty car was not going to go any further. We tried a push start and luckily we got it right. Luke wasn’t too sure on how to do it (he clearly hasn’t driven enough crap cars) and then he got it pretty fast. No problems then, we were on our way. As we approached a foot and mouth disease control point, we slowed and as we did so, the car died. The man on guard waved us through and couldn’t understand why we weren’t going. I jumped out and pushed with all my might while Luke sat inside. The car fired up and off we went.


Somewhere in Botswana.


In the northern part of Botswana one can see game right next to the road!!!! Lekker ey?  :-)


I took a few more photos before he turned to us and became agitated. So we naturally drove off!  ;-)


The Botswana border post was very easy until Luke lost his car keys. I couldn’t believe it. We were really screwed now and only a stone’s throw from our own country. After a few frantic minutes he found he had left them on the counter at immigration! After a tricky push start we were on our way. On the South African side we had no problems. The only problem was starting the car and after two failed attempts we got some other guy to help us. We proceeded through and then were told we hadn’t done something, so had to go back. I ran back to get this one stupid form stamped and then finally we could leave.


The car went well but every time we slowed for a toll gate, it would die. These were really horrible as I had to jump out and with a massive effort, give it all I had and hope that Luke would clutch correctly the first time. At one petrol station we had some problems again starting and by then this pushing was really getting to me. The toll gates were a real pain as then people would be behind us which is quite annoying.


Back in the Limpopo Province of South Africa and another huge thunderstorm was brewing. It was good to be HOME!



A video of our trip to the Zambezi River in November 2007. This video was made by Luke Longridge. ENJOY!


Luke drove on and on and eventually we reached Johannesburg. He doesn’t like anybody driving his car so I was left to provide entertainment for roughly 18 hours. If memory serves me correctly, that is how long it took to drive back. In 18 hours we had driven roughly 1300km. Nearing home I was drifting in and out of consciousness quite badly and couldn’t provide much company to Luke. I felt bad but couldn’t help it and he soldiered on. Thanks for getting me there and back safely! It was a really super trip and I can’t wait to go again. I don’t think it’s possible to get sick of that river. If you haven’t been, you’re missing out. Book your ticket today!


Contact NOW! This company will organise all your kayaking needs and are the way to go! To visit their site, click HERE.



During this trip I used the Fluid Nemesis in the medium size. Although I had paddled some reasonably big volume in Scandinavia this type of boating was new to me. The boat handled perfectly and I have no complaints. For a review on the boat, click HERE.


Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Thanks to Luke for driving me there and back safely and also the photos you took. Also thanks for all the video footage that you took Marty and the photos that you got Bart. Much appreciated. I hope that you enjoyed the trip as much as we did! Thanks also to Mario, Flo and Georg of Austria, and Norbert and Sebastian of Germany. You guys are awesome. Thanks for ‘Sven’ from the for everything! It was a great trip and we will be back for sure, SOON!


It was my intention to capture as much of the river as possible and also to show a few other things in and around the river. I hope I have achieved this and you’ve enjoyed reading the articles or even just browsing the photos. The articles have been hit on many times so I guess they went down pretty well. Until my next adventure, cheers!!!