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Peterhouse Boys

Zambezi White Water Rafting – December 2017

In the last week of the Michaelmas term 2017, seventeen adrenalin-seeking Peterhouse pupils set off for Victoria Falls accompanied by eight intrepid adults. Our mission was to paddle the length of the Batoka Gorge on rafts. It would take us five days. Armed with our Peterhouse Exploration Flag, we had a memorable adventure, ending off with nearly everyone diving off (head-first) a small platform to complete our challenge…the terrifying Gorge Swing.

We started our mission swirling in the Boiling Pot right beneath the wall of basalt rock and cascading waters of the Victoria Falls. The level of the Zambezi River is usually really low at this time of year, and it was a lovely tepid temperature.

The taste of adrenalin was palpable in all of us as we approached the first of approximately 50 rapids that we would face on our long trip. Many of these rapids were literally breathtaking. Well, with names like ‘Highway to Heaven, the Washing Machine, Morning Glory, The Muncher, Devil’s Toilet Bowl and Oblivion’ – what could you expect? After Day 1 (with five Grade 5 Rapids) we had the joy of cascading down two mighty, Grade 5 rapids called Ghost-rider and Upper Mawemba. These are long, chaotic, exciting drops with surging diagonals and lots of white frothy waves crashing onto the boats – two rapids that hardly anybody ever sees, let alone negotiate.
While on the Zambezi River, deep in the Gorge, we were either holding on really tight as we went through exciting rapids or we were paddling hard against the hot, upstream winds on flat water. We were awestruck by the stark contrasts of dark black basalt rocks lining the river against the green vegetation clinging to the sides of the Gorge which contained many beautiful strangler figs, majestic baobabs and tall leadwood trees. We saw loads of riverine birds, including the Rock Pratincols, Hammerkops, Fisheagles and flocks of bossy wagtails.

Clive Moore-Gordon demonstrated how exciting it can be to catch athletic Tiger Fish using a Fly Fishing Rod! We watched a pair of Klipspringers dancing on the edge of a steep cliff face and bypassed pods of grumpy hippos and sly crocodiles on the lower stretches of the river. One big Croc thought it would be interesting to intimidate Andrew Shoesmith, who was one of our safety kayakers! We endured an incredible tropical thunderstorm and two very necessary portages around two magnificent waterfalls at the Dam Site (Chibango Falls) and at the Lower Mawemba Falls. All hands were required to carry all our kit around these.
You can imagine how wonderful it was watching the adventurers making their beds on the squeaky clean sands at each of our different night spots. Accompanied by a fire made of all the drift wood around, we had many opportunities to catch up and reminisce with each other after each day. I have an image in my mind of everyone huddled around a small torch playing card games as the full moon shone on us all, hearing shrieks of laughter and good banter going on. Clear, balmy nights meant we were able to sleep soundly, albeit rather achy from our day of paddling, under the beautiful stars and the moon. Everyone had a day of cooking, clearing and washing up for the group, which just added to the teasing and chatter.

There were three rafts, one full of B Block boys, another with A Block and 5 Form and a third with the adults. We had two kit rafts, carrying all our food, cooking and sleeping equipment for five days. We were guided by some of the most experienced and fun-loving guides that Wild Horizons has, the amazing Elium (aka ‘Terminator’), Wise Wilson and Steve (aka ‘Punisher’), who managed the B Block boy boat with great flare and a wicked twinkle in his eye. Part of our team included Sam and Ben Bradford, who were unbelievable, talented and charming safety kayakers, Mhandla the cook, and Bruce’s ‘he-man’ team who rowed the kit rafts.
Wild Horizons run the most incredibly slick operation. We had two resupplies that were impeccably orchestrated, with porters carrying kit coming out of the middle of nowhere to fill our boats with fresh food, and we were picked up at the Matetsi River Mouth on time at the end of our five day adventure. I can highly recommend using this company for adventures such as these, they are brilliant at it. Clive Bradford and his team are very experienced in what they do and we felt safe and well looked after, in spite of what the Zambezi river may have had in stall for us.

What an adventure – we travelled 129 Km down the mighty Zambezi, in one of the most beautiful World Heritage sites, creating life long memories with lots and lots of water, sun, action, adrenaline and laughter swirling in the mix.

Andrew and Sarah Shoesmith - December 2017