The first rapid was a level 3 that could transform into a level 5 by taking the wrong trajectory. Our boat was the last to enter the rapid. We made the mistake of going into our first rapid without enough speed. It was not the best way to start this white water rafting adventure.
We missed the turn and the raft went straight into the wall, the level 5 zone. Already back to front, a wave lifts the right side of the boat, making us literally climb the wall.
Before I could react, I was already flying into the water. The 4 or 5 seconds that followed are hard to describe and felt like 10 minutes. Suddenly, I’m under water, everything is dark and I have a boat on top of me. I couldn’t breathe but remember swallowing a lot of water from a river that has crocodiles. I panicked for 2 seconds. When I recovered, I pushed myself back, away from the bottom of the boat. The next thing I remember is returning to the surface desperately looking for air and seeing daylight again. Someone pulled me back into the boat. Only after a few seconds, I realized I wasn’t on my boat. We gained such speed that we caught up to the raft in front of us.
When I recovered, it hit me that this had only been the first rapid. I had another 17 white water rapids to go through and I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it out of there alive.
That was when I decided to change strategy and the truth is, I was too naive entering the first rapid. That’s how we learn, making mistakes and fixing them. I changed my position by leaning forward towards the inside of the boat. When I looked at the security rope that goes around the whole boat, I knew it would be my best friend for the next 3 hours. My new attitude worked and got me safely through the next rapids.
After several rapids where the team got a little bit cocky, we chose to challenge a level 5 by doing it the tough way instead of the chicken way like others did. Of course, the raft flipped and we all went into the water. One of the guys in the front just flew a couple of meters away from the boat and got picked up by a safety kayak. This was my dive number 2.
A few rapids later, it was time to challenge another level 5. As soon as we entered the rapid, I fell into the water just before we hit the tough part. This time I was able to grab the safety line from the outside of the boat with both hands using all the strength I had left. I took a deep breath before getting hit by a wave. I breathe again, disappear, breathe, get hit by another wave, disappear, breath, another wave, disappear, without letting go of the safety line. I did a rapid level 5 on the outside of the boat and it was absolutely amazing!
I ended the adventure with mixed feelings. I was happy to have done it feeling the adrenaline pump and still finish it safely. At the same time, I decided never to do it again.
The guide congratulated us for conquering the Zambezi River. I was just happy to survive the mighty Zambezi River!