Zambezi – Day 3, Rapids 11 to 25

Rain fell the entire night and in the morning it was overcast and cool, with no rain. The decrease in temperature was a welcome relief and it was enjoyable to walk into town and exchange some cash. We waited to be picked up at 09:45 but of course we waited for a very long time and eventually Scotch picked us up. Luke and I, the two Dutchman, Marten and Bart and the two Austrians, Mario and Georg would be paddling from below number ten down. It looked like it was going to be a superb day on the river, again!


The walk down to the river just below ten is rather unpleasant. It isn’t too long or very rocky but is short and steep with these horrible wooden ladders that you’re supposed to walk on. Luke raced down and some of the people enjoyed the walk down but I wouldn’t like to do that everyday. I prefer to walk on some normal ground over bouncing on a wooden ladder that is threatening to break at any time.


Rapid number 10 can be seen on the right. Photo by Luke Longridge.


The wooden ladders down to the put-in below rapid 10. Photo by Luke Longridge.


Down at water level there was a hive of activity as some commercial rafters got ready for the day ahead. We got into the water and drifted down the big pool towards number eleven. Without scouting again we bombed down and this time I had a magic upright run! I felt pretty good and we paddled down to 12b.


The levels weren’t ideal for 12b and could have been a lot lower, which would have made the wave far better. 2007 was a high water year and the water didn’t get to as low as it usually does. Some friends of mine went to the Zam between Christmas and New Years and the wave at eleven was almost barrelling as the level was so high already. Usually that only happens a few weeks later. Still, we managed to have some fun on 12b and enjoyed a few surfs before moving downstream.


Luke Longridge at 12b.


Adrian on 12b. Photos by Luke Longridge.


Mario Ploner ripping it up on 12b.


The view just downstream at 12b. Photo by Luke Longridge.


Adrian avoiding getting eaten by a raft. Photo by Luke Longridge.


The view upstream from 12b.


A look at 12b from a wider angle while Georg rips it up on the wave.


Bart Verkoeijen (left) and Marten Lagendijk (right) with Georg Tschojer in the background in his boat.


Georg on 12b.


Rapid thirteen was sweet this time and my line was a good one and because I had taken out below here the other two times the next rapids would be all new to me. Fourteen has three channels. Left, very easy, middle has a big hole and right has a sweet pourover that you can boof. We paddled down left and it actually was too easy. From here the pools get longer and there are some small rapids in between to make the journey feel a little less painful.


Fifteen is not a nice rapid. We paddled down the middle with a left to right angle and immediately one has to try and catch the eddy on the right. Why? Because there is a large, shallow hole at the bottom after the wave train waiting to just beat the hell out of you. I made my line as did everyone else but Marty flipped after the first wave and didn’t make his roll. He went straight into the hole and swam. He didn’t get beaten but made it through quite easily. Maybe luck was on his side that day. With the help of Mario and the others he got back into his boat and everything was hundreds.


I was feeling confident that day and paddling well for a change. The next set of rapids looked fun and I asked Luke if that was sixteen. He said it was and mentioned it was just a wave train. Hmmm, I wasn’t sure if that information was correct but paddled down anyway, just boat scouting. It was indeed a fun wave train and I floated down the middle. As I paddled through the last wave my vision was obscured from the water in my face and suddenly I could see a large hole in front of me. I took a hurried breath on the way in and immediately took a little beating. Luke was right behind me and joined me as well. At the time I didn’t know that but he said as he dropped in he saw me getting spanked as well and then took a thrashing himself. I rolled up and found Luke just behind me. We had a good laugh and I remarked, “Just a wave train hey?”


The next big rapid was seventeen and this too is not a nice rapid to run at low levels. We dropped down the tongue with a right to left angle and caught the eddy on the river left. There are two large and shallow holes in the middle and these should ideally be avoided to prevent possible injury. There is a small break next to them on the left and I paddled past and then right to avoid a large rock. Not a satisfying rapid to run at all. At high water it becomes a lot friendlier.


Then finally rapid number eighteen, Oblivion, was next. We had a look from the right and set up for photos and video. The main wave/hole that is the scene of many a beating was working but not very much. It needed to be lower to be of any concern. Still, the rapid was really fun to run. Marty and Bart ran first while Luke and I manned the video and still camera respectively. On our turn I bombed down and into the hole which flipped me over. With a quick roll I easily managed to get to the right eddy and join the others. Oblivion is a really good rapid and it alone is worth the paddle down this stretch.


The view upstream from Oblivion, number 18. Bart can be seen in the water if you look closely.


Bart disappearing into the big wave/hole.


Marty about halfway down number 18.


Adrian at the top of 18. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


Luke and his incredible right brace through the wave/hole on 18. Photos by Bart Verkoeijen.


Then another gem awaits anyone paddling the Zam at low levels. Just downstream from eighteen is a sweet little hole above a small rapid. It is plenty deep and loops are easy to bust here and you can rack up the ends in even a three metre long boat if you have enough skill. There is an eddy on the river left and usually one can make it but sometimes it is missed if your roll is too slow. We had a couple of runs here before moving down. The little rapid right below this hole has a nice surf wave in it.


Luke paddling towards the best little hole on the entire river just below 18! Awesome fun...


Luke finishing off a loop in the hole below 18.


The small rapid below the hole pictured above.


Bart surfing the above pictured rapid (blue boat) while Marty crosses over in front of him (green boat).


Downstream from here are many more rapids and it is hard to say which ones have numbers and which don’t. None require any scouting and hold few surprises. The scenery is pleasant and it is a very chilled paddle, with far longer pools and smaller rapids that the stretch from 1 to below 13. Still, it is worthwhile to run this stretch and many people run this a few times before venturing to the top rapids. This all depends on your skill and the way you tackle rapids. Some people prefer to jump in at the deep end, so to speak.


Yes, there are a couple of crocodiles on the Zambezi... But nothing to worry about even though this one is quite large compared to some of the others.


The crocodile is chilling on the rocks, right of centre of the photo.


The walk out at 25 was long but not very steep. There is a very large beach there and also a cable car thing to take rafting clients out. Quite lekker for anybody doing a commercial trip! When I finally arrived at the top we had some beers and sat next to the car talking and laughing. It had been a good day and we had all thoroughly enjoyed it. The drive back was a long one and took about an hour. It was good to just sit and relax and take in the scenery as the light got less and less. What a fantastic destination to visit. If you haven’t booked your trip then stop dreaming and do it. You only live once. And if you live it right, once is enough.


Looking down at the beach at 25. Photo by Luke Longridge.


What the hell is going on here?  


Georg (left), Marty (middle) and Mario (right) in the Land Rover on the way back to Livingstone.


Passing by a local village. Pity about the lack of light and the fact that the car was moving...


Another village in the fading light.


Back at Fawlty Towers we hit Hippos for a monster meal. I had already said that I was ordering another full rack of ribs early on and the other three guys joined me. The whole day I had been dreaming of them. What a disappointment when they told us they only had one more rack! I gave my rack to Marty and ordered myself a 350g rump with two eggs and some chips with some chicken wings as starters. It was still a delicious meal and I’m getting hungry now just thinking about it!!!



Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Day four, visit to Victoria Falls, a rest day and the infamous booze cruise…