Zambezi – Day 2, Let the Photos Roll!

I made my way gingerly down the wooden ladder attached to my bed and kept my movements slow as my joints creaked and moaned in protest to being used again so soon. Sleeping on the top bunk is really getting the short end of an even shorter stick for me. I managed a meagre breakfast consisting of some peanuts and raisins (my staple diet) and got ready to be picked up eight o’clock. Well, it goes without saying that we were only picked up after nine.


By the time we got to the river there were loads of rafts at the bottom. Clients were either milling around or perched on the rocks in eager anticipation on their upcoming rafting adventure. Everyday tourists are pumped through here at an alarming rate and surprisingly there are very few injuries each year considering the amount of people that swim in these warm but wild waters. If you’re in the area and want to spend some cash on a worthy activity then I highly recommend the one day rafting trip with one of the many commercial operations. You’ll get your monies worth. My dad still raves about the trip and would be the first person to get down there again. Perhaps I should take him down in a Topo Duo…


My medium Fluid Nemesis and Luke's large Fluid Flirt sleeping at the bottom.


Marty (left) about to eat a sandwich, Bart (middle) and Luke (right) sitting in the car about to head down for another day of paddling.


Leaving the street where Fawlty Towers is. The Funky Munky is just on the top of the photo, one of the last shops.


A curio shop on the way down. Hit the market near the end of town rather, on the left. You can get some good deals there.


YEAH!!! MOOOOSSSSSSIIIII.... Our trip motto nice and clear at the bottom!


A brand new shopping centre proving that things are looking up in Zambia.


Our mission this time was to take photographs as often as we could on as many rapids as possible. It was just the four of us and we used our so called tag teams system which worked wonders. Luke and I would climb out and I would take photos while he would video with my camcorder. Then once Marten and Bart were through we would wait until they were walking up through the maze of rocks and then we would head back to our boats. Then Marty would operate the video and Bart would take the stills. This worked very well and in this way we managed to capture everyone’s runs and the results are well worth the effort, as you will see if you scroll down further!


The walk down to rapid number one is not too bad and sports some nice scenery.


After making the ferry at one we headed down to two. This time I managed a far better surf than the previous day’s attempt. After that we hit number three, taking photos and what not from the right hand side. As I dropped down the green and into the wave I double pumped into a bow stall and was going to perform a wave wheel but ended up just going back into normal paddling mode once at the top of the wave without flipping. It was fun and the one photo looks pretty good, I think. Although it served almost no purpose. But then again, what does paddling serve apart from entertaining oneself?


Rapid number 3 showing the wave next to the wall that gets much better at higher levels. No eddy service though.


Marty cruising up the wave.


Adrian starting a wave wheel and then not finishing it. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


Once we reached four we scouted from the left. Marty opted to still portage this one as the beating he had received here must have still been very fresh in his mind. It would have been better for him to jump back into it but I guess each to his own. We all know our own limits and what’s best for us and that must be respected. Luke and I were walking through the massive rocks with Luke up front. Suddenly he came walking back quite hurriedly. I asked what the matter was and he said he had just bumped into a massive leguaan (monitor lizard). Well, at least it seemed to have gone the other way so we proceeded with caution. Even though it would runaway from us, I wasn’t keen, and neither was Luke by the looks of things, to suddenly corner a lizard roughly the same length as me between the big rocks. We had a good look at the rapid from the other side and I opted to run a different line. I wasn’t so confident of running the dragon’s back line this time as it was not possible to see it from the left side. So I opted to take an easier line that would take me just to the left corner of the large hole and hopefully I would make it through. After that I would be able to join the main current again and finish off the rapid.


Looking back up at number 4, Morning Glory.


Bart went first and he took the dragon’s back line. He flipped at the diagonal after riding between the two holes and managed to go through it, which is not what you want to do. This brought him to the wall and things weren’t looking good for him. Bart rolled and managed to swing his boat into position as he dropped into the big hole at the bottom. It flipped him and took him against the wall. Luckily not right up against it but it still looked ugly and he had to roll a third time in the viscous wave train before managing to make the large eddy on river left.


Bart taking a bit of a beating on number 4.


Adrian Tregoning finishing off number 4. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


Luke Longridge about to enter the large wave/hole at the bottom of 4. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


With that over with Luke and I walked back up to our boats to have a go on Morning Glory. I had a quick look at my line again and was reasonably satisfied that I’d make it through the window on the left of the big hole at the top. I took some powerful strokes towards it and saw only a thick, green horizon line. My line was good but somehow the hole flipped me over. I guess it is far more powerful than what it looks. In an instant I rolled and even Luke was surprised as to how fast I had managed to right myself. It was one of those lucky flips where you’re just in position and go over and up again in one fluid motion. Once upright I took a couple of strokes to join the main current coming from my right and I dropped down into the big hole. No problems with the ending of the rapid and I was quite stoked to have made it through reasonably well. Luke came next running the dragon’s back line and absolutely styled it. Zero problems for him as he came down making it look easy.


Stairway to Heaven was next and Marten and Bart came through. Both of them flipped over and it was a complete difference to their sweet runs the day before! I went after them and this time had a really sweet run. This time the tables had turned as the day before I had gone over on both times. I managed to run it without flipping over and I was super stoked after that run. It was an incredible feeling to have ‘conquered’ this one. You never really conquer anything on a river and to the river you are nothing but the feeling one gets after a blistering run is one which makes you feel fantastic, if only for a little while at least.


Marty coming down into number 5.


Bart surviving number 5.


Luke came up behind me and ran the pourover. He had a great boof and then it just went downhill from there. He flipped over on a wave/hole afterwards and then missed several rolls. Very uncharacteristic of Luke and probably the only time during the entire trip where he looked to be paddling very off. The rest of the trip he almost always seemed on fire.


Adrian running number 5 nicely for a change. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


Luke running the pourover smartly and then going downhill from there. Rare for this big water demon. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


We spent a little bit of time at the whirlpools just above rapid number six and then headed down to run it. I hadn’t scouted the last time and went to have a look at how it actually looked. Rather different to what I had imagined from running it a little unsuccessfully the day before. Marty came through and got flipped in the second wave. Bart came through and the first wave turned green at that moment and he just flew over and then he just floated through the second wave easily. A really sweet line. Luke’s run was a good one and almost made up for the last rapid and mine wasn’t too good. I got back stopped in the first wave and then moved down to the second wave in a stern stall where I got flushed down through the bottom in one violent movement. Oh well, I guess you can’t run them all nicely. I should have gone for the right shoulder as you can see in the photo that it is a lot greener and smoother. Next time!


Rapid number 6, the Devil's Toilet Bowl. It seems so small here. Scroll down to see the size once a paddler is thrown in.


Bart with a beautiful run of number 6. And in case you didn't know, all the Zambezi photos as well as the Scandinavian series was shot with a Nikon D80 with an 18 to 135mm lens.


Luke on number 6. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


Adrian with either a bad or really unlucky run, you decide...  ;-)  Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


The infamous Gulliver’s Travels was next and this time Marty decided to portage on the left. The plan was that he’d go down onto the island at the bottom and once there we would be able to see him and then he’d film us coming down. He paddled far left while we took a middle channel and eddied out behind a huge rock in the river. It was an intimidating place to be. From this eddy there was only one option, and that was down the rapid. The water coming around the left of rock was a large flume of water that went down the middle of the rapid. The water on the right joined up with the water from the left and the ferry across this jet of water would be incredibly difficult should any of us have felt the need not to run the rapid anymore.


We bobbed around in the choppy eddy, nervously talking every now and then. Even though Luke has paddled the river many times and also paddled this rapid when The Gap is working we all were beginning to feel a little unsettled. We waited and waited and there was no Marty. I began to wonder if he had made the last eddy on the left at all. Thoughts ran through my mind of him not making it and then these were quickly replaced with visualisations of him walking on the side. I tried to calculate how long it should take him. It was tough to tell. I looked at the bank and again realised that I didn’t have a choice and sooner or later I’d have to go down. We all agreed that either he must be down there somewhere or we’d just run it as it was taking too long and we were just getting a little too nervous.


Luke took the lead and eddied out. I followed after a few seconds with Bart behind me. Luke had problems with where the currents met, as did I. But I flipped over, not making it through and made a very hasty roll. I could feel how nervous I was now and didn’t like the feeling at this early stage of the rapid. The small diagonal came and went and I made my way around the right side of the crease. This time I made it upright once past the crease but somehow got flipped over beyond the crease and had another lucky super fast roll. Down and left past The Gap and into the Land of the Giants. Again, the size of these waves impressed me and I concentrated on keeping a blade in the water. The first gave me a big impact but I survived and then the second one got me. Damn, would I ever be able to tackle number seven and not flip? I rolled again, still in the Land of the Giants. At least my rolls were reasonably bomb proof. As I came up I started back paddling to clear the Particle Accelerator. At least we had all made it down in one piece. At the bottom we found Marty. He had been filming but he wasn’t on the island and was standing on the river left hand side. That’s why we didn’t see him. A real shame but at least we got some footage. We vowed to get some footage the following time. 


After that slightly harrowing run we found ourselves back at number eight, probably my favourite rapid on the Zambezi. What a pleasure to drop into such a big hole and get away with it. My first time going in here had resulted in being thrown violently around but this time I would make sure to tuck nice and low. Marty went first and took a line to the left of the big hole, skirting it. It’s a tricky line actually and one which brings one very close to an exposed rock, something which is unusual on this river. Next up was Bart and he managed to find the window just to the right of the hole.


Rapid number 8. Surely a highlight on the Zambezi!!!


Bart finding the window on number 8. You can see it on the right hand side on the last photo.


Luke with a massive grin after getting a little thrashed in number 8. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


Adrian with a fantastic meltdown on number 8 and then the last photo is finishing off the rapid. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


I decided to let Luke go first and watch him as I knew he’d do something funny and indeed he did. He went for a meltdown but from the photos it doesn’t look like he tucked enough. From my vantage point it looked like he was surfing the hole but he was actually high up on the foam pile, still upright. With his eyes tightly closed he wasn’t even aware that he was upright and surfing a little. After a few brief seconds he got flushed, still upright! Another entertaining run from Mr Longridge.


My run was less entertaining. I decided to hit the meat again and tucked super flat to melt the hole. I did that and it went quite quiet for a second or so, then I felt the current move me around a little and resurfaced and rolled up. Yeah, I melted it beautifully this time! And it felt fantastic!


From here on we stopped taking photos and video for the day as we were running out of time. We all portaged nine, and ran ten quite easily again. Then it was back at the infamous number eleven. I ended up on the edge of the boils right at the end. I didn’t flip but lost all speed and dropped my right edge and braced heavily on the right, keeping my centre of gravity low but my shoulders still safe. I’m not sure anyone had great lines that day and it goes to show that eleven is still a force to be reckoned with. I decided that the next time I would actually scout this rapid to see what is going on considering that both times I’d just run it blind and the first time was maybe just a lucky run.


12a was fine. We hooked a few surfs at 12b but had run out of time and knew the porters would be waiting for us already. Thirteen went down a little worse than the first time I went for it. I entered the first huge wave and decided to hit it with a right to left momentum. This shot me right out of the current so I aggressively paddled back into the main stream so that I could still enjoy the rapid. This proved to be a mistake and I stupidly overshot the current and ended up next to the wall in some boils, which flipped me over. After a missed roll I came up and survived the rest of the way down. My arms were burning after that little encounter and perhaps lucky number thirteen was trying to make me respect it as much as Marty does. I was hearing it loud and clear on this occasion!


The porters had been waiting for a while already and grabbed our boats are we ambled up the rocky path. A cold Mosi was waiting for us which was always most welcome.


The porters carrying the boats up the steep and rocky path just above rapid 14. Photo by Luke Longridge.


Some of us struggling up the path, like usual. Photo by Luke Longridge.


The view from near the top of the path. Rapid number 14 can be seen on the left. Photo by Luke Longridge.


Bart (left with paddle) and Marty (right with the Mosi beer - of course!) Photo by Luke Longridge.


A village on the way back. Taken from a moving car...


Bart (left) with our driver, Scotch making slow but steady progress.


We got back to Fawlty Towers and hit town at 17:00. Most of the places were closed. I had not had the opportunity to exchange any money so I was looking for a place. The banks had closed at 14:30 and the bureaus were closed. It was easy to find someone to exchange money with on the streets and I got what Marty says was a good deal. 400 000 Kwacha for 100 US Dollars. I had the trade with this dude and then another guy said it was a bad rate and that I must give back 30 000. I tried to walk off but these guys were persistent. Eventually after almost getting into a fight we exchanged back our money.


Just near to Fawlty Towers is another bureau and I was still looking to exchange so I could settle my debts with Marty as we only had Rands and US Dollars. The bureau was closed but the owner of it owned the general dealer next door. They said they’d exchange but without a receipt of course and I handed over the 100 Dollars. Immediately the woman threw back the note in disgust and said it was fake. I told her that was impossible as we had gotten them from the bank. We examined my other hundred dollar bills and they were all fine. On the streets, during that attempted exchange, they had switched the notes. Ah, lovely. Just what I always wanted. Oh well, let this be a warning to anyone reading this. Don’t exchange in Livingstone on the streets. Bad news. I was about the fifth or sixth person that week to already to be overhauled that some other kayakers had heard of. These people rip off innocent (and ignorant) people everyday. I was a little annoyed but it’s only money in any case and those guys will get what is coming to them, sooner or later.


The notes look very real, I must warn you. They even have a genuine water mark! But there is a simple test. Look at the part in the bottom right hand side where it says ‘100’. It is green in colour. On a real note the green turns black when the note is changed to a different angle to your eye. On a fake note, it stays green. You’ve been warned. The guy at the shop could feel the difference in paper with the notes but I still can’t. I guess he’s an expert with these sort of things. So even if I had given back the 30 000 that they wanted they probably would have wanted more back until I cancelled the deal and the money was exchanged back. By then they’ve swapped the notes and another sucker is born. Hahaha, this time me!


We hit Hippo’s again and I had a full rack of very tasty ribs and a Mosi. Great beer, great food! After dinner a tall, heavily built dude walked in to the restaurant with blonde hair down to his shoulders. I laughed and said to the other guys that he looked like a proper Norwegian. What a joke, that was the infamous Sven. His real name is Andrew Bolton and he is from the UK but damn he looks Scandinavian. Quite amusing. Sven owns and is the man to organise your kayaking adventure. With a full tummy it was time to hit the sack. Tomorrow another day on the river lay ahead. Ah, it’s tough being a kayaker…



Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Day three, rapids eleven to twenty five for the first time.