Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kayaking the Zambezi

If I haven’t mentioned it before this river is epic. Definitely the best I’ve ever paddled. It’s been a while since I last posted here so plenty has happened since then. I’ve got a good few runs from rapid one (the boiling point) normally getting off at rapid 7 ½. It’s a great section still very intimidating, but loads of fun. Rapid 7 ½ has one of the best play waves I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately my shoulders acting up (as is usual) so I’m keeping the playboating to a minimum.

A group of us also did a run all the way down to Lower Momemba one day last week. Normally this is run over two days on a multiday trip, but we did it in one, needless to say it was a long and tiring day, but it was great to see and paddle the rapids beyond 25 which a lot of kayakers never go down too. This section is not as good, but still contains some fun rapids (Upper Momemba being particularly fun)

Time has flew and it’s now into my last week here so I’ll be doing as much paddling as possible over the next week. Unfortunately the headcam is not working out too well. I’ve yet to obtain a stable mount that actually fits (and stays) on and gives good footage. I’ll keep working on it and hopefully get some good footage by the end of the week.

Droping into number 5 - photo Will Clark

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Swimming on the Zambezi

A few days ago I took a swim down rapid number 3 on the Zambezi, not much fun! Number 3 is a huge wave train, much bigger and longer than the Silverback rapid on the Nile which is the closest thing I can compare it too. Capsized on the second wave and couldn't manage my roll on such big water. I've looked at a video of my roll since and am shocked at how lazy I've got doing it! Definitely needs improvement, it generally works (only being let down the once!) but on big water like out here it is much harder than at home.

This river is truly massive. It's definitely a step up from the Nile and I'm definitely being challenged here. Rapids are longer, bigger and more consequential than anything I've ever done before. Number 3 is one of the easier ones!

Not to be deterred I took one day rest and went paddling again the day after. Rest days are important out here. My swim was after 5 days consecutive paddling and I should have taken a rest. No issues for me this time, however there was a bit of a epic when two paddlers decided to walk of at rapid 18 after one of them lost a paddle. 18 supposedly has a path, but the lads didn't find it and eventually ended up climbing up vertical rock face! We spent a few hours driving around the bush looking for them, luckily finding them (with the aid of a local farmer) just before dark. We arrived back in Livingstone after 7pm when the original plan was to get back in time to watch the New Zealand v South Africa game at 3.00!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Zambezi fun!

I'm Finally beginning to get plenty of paddling out here, still only getting from 10-25 though. It's a fun section with rapids 12/13 and 15/16 particularly good. Unfortunately the paddle from 19-25 is a long slog without much to say for it but it's the first take out after 14 so it must be done.

There are not that many people here paddling from one to ten, as of today only 4 people have done it this year and none of them have been doing it over the last few days. Sebastian and Jack did get a run in this morning but I had picked up a bit of a flu so gave it a miss and just paddled from 10 again. Possibly just as well as they discovered the body of a local who drowned a few days ago tyring to rescue a tourist who went swimming under the falls, which was not a pleasant experience (The tourist survived.)

However a few more paddlers have arrived in the past few days (all UK based) so the plan is to run it tomorrow! Hopefully it will be fun!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Don't stop paddling and stay away from rafts!

I finally got my gear two days ago so I've been able to get out on the river at last. Paddling here is very different to anything I've ever paddled before, even Uganda! There are massive boils and whirlpools everywhere! Added into that there are many floating undercuts (rafts) to avoid too. Got a bit of a beating on rapid 14 yesterday. I was paddling about 20m in front of the raft when I got stuck in a whirlpool, surfed it out and ended up right in front of the raft. Trying to avoid it I ended up in another whirlpool and had to roll a few times getting out. About 30 seconds later I was out of it but somehow still beside the raft! trying to avoid it again put me into a 3rd whirlpool which held me for ages and I couldn't get a roll. Eventually I felt myself being pulled under the raft so I put my hand out and was able to grab the rope by the side to prevent myself going under and managed to right myself! not a pleasant experience!

Other than 14 though this river is great! Logistically it's difficult here though, the river is a bit away and the choices are go with the rafts (which are not out every day and involves getting up at 6.30am) or pay plenty to get guides and porters and such, you cant really just go down and paddle like on the Nile due to the distance away. But the river is definitely worth it. Hopefully I'll get lots of runs over the next few weeks!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Still Kayakless and first day on the river.

The bad news is I still haven't got my kayak and equipment, the good news is I finally got on the river in some borrowed kit.

My gear seems to have got lost again. It arrived in Lusaka on Sunday and was sent by Fed Ex on Monday morning (i.e. it should have arrived Tuesday morning) but it is now Wednesday evening and there is no sign of it. Fed Ex don't know anything about it and Ethiopian cant seem to be able to give me a reference number so I can track it. Everything takes longer in Africa (I spent 2 hours in a bank withdrawing money yesterday) but this is getting ridiculous I'm here a week now and they have had it for 4 days. It cant be that hard to get it here.I'll continue to badger them, not allot of spare gear going around here so its not a case that I can just borrow some other stuff. Should be able to get a boat, but nobody has spare decks or paddles around.

Nevertheless I did get on the river today. I rafted rapids 10-14 and than swapped into Jack's Kayak and paddled the remaining rapids to No. 25. These rapids are not particularly difficult, the occasional large wave is the main obstacle. However this is a big volume river, and there are very substantial boils and Whirlpools! Swimming is pretty much out of the question on a few of these rapids. It doesn't look like I'll be able to get out again tomorrow, so I really hope my gear shows up soon.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


I've finally arrived in Livingstone. Got in late on Saturday night. The bus journey down from Lusaka was very long. we were 7 hours on the road and I was stuck in a seat with a mother who decided not to book a separate seat for her child (and not a small one mind, she was about 10!), so I had to share with two people instead of the Campsite/hostel here is nice, has a good pool/bar area and seems to be pretty busy with backpackers. There are not a whole load of paddlers here, 6 in all including Jono and Jack who I paddled with last year in Uganda.

It appears that Ethiopian have found my boat in London and sent it on to Lusaka, so hopefully I'll get it down here soon. They are trying to get it on a plane here, but apparently its small so they are not sure if it will fit. If it does I could have it by tonight, if not who knows when?

Hampered by gear, high water levels and other logistical issues, I still haven't managed to get paddling yet. Apparently the river is much higher than normal for this time of year. I need to get out on some of the lower sections and shake of the rust before I can start paddling the more well known rapids. Unfortunately that seems easier said than done. I should be able to hop in on a rafting trip, but there was none today. Hopefully I'll get out soon and have some pictures and videos to show for it!

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Kayakless in Lusaka

Yes, I'm on a kayaking trip and I no longer have a kayak. or a paddle. or my camping gear. It's Ethiopian airways fault for that, as after charging me €40 for my paddle they promptly lost it. Don't know what I'll do now. Will probably head to Livingstone in the morning as planed and try and wing it form there, Ethiopian reckon that it will come on tomorrows flight and that they will send it on to me. However I'm not sure if I believe them, either about the sending it on or it arriving tomorrow as they have no better idea on where it is than it probably never switched planes in Addis.

So I'm toren between staying here (in Lusaka) for another night and waiting for it myself, or going on to Livingstone and trying to wing it. They also have my first aid kit with my Malaria tablets, so knowing my luck I'll probably catch that now too!

Only (small bit) of luck I got today was getting the last bed, in the 3rd (of 3) hostels in Lusaka. It seems nice, opened today judging by the smell of the plaster and paint.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Zambezi bound

Tomorrow I leave for the Zambezi, similar to last year in Uganda I opted for the cheaper flights which were way more hassle. I said last year I wouldn't do that again, saw the price difference and changed my mind and am beginning to regret it already.

I'll be leaving tomorrow morning on the most charming Ryanair, facilitator of much stress in previous trips, to London Gatwick, making my way across London to Heathrow, and flying with Ethiopian Airlines to Lusaka. I'll be attempting to find accommodation there for the night, (Kuomboka Backpackers don't seem to respond to e-mail, so I'm not quite clear if I'm booked in there or not!) After that it'll be a six hour bus journey to Livingstone. It seems to be recommended that I go with the "Blue bus", hopefully Lusaka Bus Terminal is nothing like the one in Kampala, or else I'll be looking all day.

But once all the logistical stuff gets sorted It'll be some of this!

Zambezi - Gopro HD Hero from Peter Csonka on Vimeo.

I've purchased a similar camera, so watch out here for some (hopefully!)epic footage!