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Old 10-03-2007   #1
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 6
Zambezi Advice

Hey, I know there are plenty of people out there who have been down the Zambezi and I'm looking for some advice. I'm thinking about doing a bit of backpacking in Africa around Jan and Feb of this year and I'd like to work in a long raft, (self support?), trip. What outfitters should I consider? What should I pay? If I want to get in a kayak, (I'm an Eastern Class V boater, but Gore scares me), what sections do I want to hit and what do I want to avoid? Any advice on the Zambezi or backing Africa in general will be greatly appreciated. Thanks. JE

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Old 10-03-2007   #2
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I was on the Zambezi in Jan of last year. So fairly current, but things over there change very quickly. Here are my suggestions.

1st off, there is relatively no gear to be had there unless you can get into the local guide crowd and even then, it's gonna be crap. Again, things change very fast around there and it's possible that you could find a rafting outfit that might have gear, but it's gonna be tough.

Nico Chasing owns and operates a great rafting company just towards the river from downtown Livingstone... He was a great personal guide for the Jackson Team, and although he doesn't do "guided kayak trips" normally, you could ask if he knows of anyone that he would TRUST (very important) to guide you.

The Zam is something that you will never experience anywhere else (imo). The water is f'n HUGE, but as they say ultimately, it's very runnable. You can bet your ass that you are going to be horrified the first 5 or so times you head down.

1-12 (I think.. maybe 13?) is all we ever did. There are no hippos in that section. Hippos are the #2 killler of humans on earth... don't forget that. There are several smaller crocs in that section, but from what I saw you should be worried about them. They wash over Victoria and the ones that live are only very small. As they get bigger, the locals kill them.

#1 is basically a gnarly ass ferry across HUGE wavetrains. I only mention this rapid, cause I for some reason had several problems getting across it over the two weeks we were on it. I ended up getting hammered against the rear wall that is backed up by the rapid and broke my wrist. Bummer...

#2... perfect wave

#3... a good taste of what's below.

#4... not bad, but start in the middle, move rightish and then plug the bottom with speed towards the right side.

#5... As Nico told me as we approached it...just hold on and don't worry about whether you are going to roll, cuz you are going to. Entering #5 was and probably still is the scariest thing I have ever seen from a kayak. The key is, that it's about 40 feet deep of water and as long as you can hold your breath for a bit, and a strong roll, it goes just fine.

#6... Whirpool section. They are very strong whirlpools and I dislocated a shoulder in one that completely swallowed my boat. Not a difficult rapid, but just keep your eye on water starting to swirl and you can usually paddle in/around them as they start to swirl.

7... VERY DANGEROUS SPOT ON THE RIGHT. This in my opinion was the most technically difficult rapid in there. Bottom line, it went fine for me for the 3 times I ran it. But I walked it 7 or so times. There is a very VERY dangerous spot (notch type) on the far right as you complete the rapid. Bottom line, don't get in there. Beyond that it's also very swirly, aggressive eddy lines, and huge wave trains.

#8... Great waves for big boy surf'n, if you are up to them. Star Trek is the opener to this rapid and it looks terrible, but I saw many of our team member plug it and dissapear right under it. The sneak on the far left works good too!

#9... Walk it on the right.

#10... The biggest wave trains I have ever seen... even in kayak porn flicks. Just stay down the belly of them and you are good to go.

#11... Fantastic surfing and kinda sketchy curler wave/hole to be careful of depending on your levels.

The rest are foggy.

We were there and super high water. From what I can tell it doesn't get much easier at lower water. From the 1st day we were there, the water levels rose 20 feet from the day we headed to Uganda.

I would highly recommend staying at the "Jolly Boys" hostel. It's where most non African backpackers stay and is very pleasant. You can hook up with all kinds of folks from all over the world and get involved with their adventures as well.

Livingstone is fairly safe, but don't walk around at night, even in groups.

"Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body. But rather...To skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming... WOW !!!! What a ride!!!!!!"
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Old 10-03-2007   #3
Julesberg, Colorado
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"There are no hippos in that section. Hippos are the #2 killler of humans on earth... don't forget that"

What is the number one killer of Humans on earth?
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Old 10-03-2007   #4
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Old 10-03-2007   #5
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"The world would be a better place if everyone kayaked."-Brad Ludden (Valhalla)
"You only get one chance to run a drop blind."-DD
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Old 10-03-2007   #6
Fort Collins, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1998
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Originally Posted by Ryde164 View Post
What is the number one killer of Humans on earth?
My best guess is HUMANS, if that even counts...
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Old 10-03-2007   #7
Golden, Colorado
Join Date: Apr 2004
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I'd say watch the Zambezi segment on the Burning Time 2 DVD. Holy shit is all I can say. Some of it is the "minus" rapids that I would guess most normal people don't paddle but I would definitely watch that if you haven't seen it and you are headed that way.

We were talking about this part of the DVD in this old thread:

Rapid - 2 Swim
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Old 10-04-2007   #8
Join Date: Jul 2005
Posts: 6
negatives to be viewed from a safe distance

Hey, first post, thanks. Jolly Boys -- check. I've seen the video, worth the price of admission just for the swim. Looked at package trips: seems like they are for the Beaver Creek type. Got to improvise, for sure. I think my budget is going to be under 3.5K, including airfare. JE

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