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Pole to Pole

Day 116: Livingstone

Zambesi River, Zambia 
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The day I did a Very Silly Thing, white-water rafting on the Zambesi River.
Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe climb into the reassuringly solid, heavy-duty rubber rafts, made by Avon in England. Eight to a raft, with a driver mounted on a central cross-board. We pull out into the stream, dwarfed by sheer rock walls and pinnacles of basalt. The Zambesi, as it winds through the gorge, falls over a series of twenty-odd rapids, of which we shall be tackling the first ten.

My companions are local people, some of whom, thankfully, know what to do. Our driver, Alex, a rangy black Zambian, rehearses us in the technique known as high-siding, which seems to mean flinging ones body as far forward in the raft as possible to keep the nose down and stop us being turned over by the force of the water. Once rehearsed, we move across the deceptively tranquil, unruffled pool between falls and rapid number one and wait for the camera crew's raft to go over first. Heidi steadies them into position. Basil is tucked down at the back, almost on the floor of his raft, hanging on to everything it is possible to hang on to. Heidi guides them slowly to the lip of the rapid. Much depends on how she lines the raft up. Satisfied she's hit the right spot, she allows the raft to glide forward and into the rapid. For a split second it accelerates like a rocket, twists, turns, carves into a reverse wave and momentarily disappears in a spectacular eruption of spray before bobbing away into safe water.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 116
  • Country/sea: Zambia
  • Place: Zambesi River
  • Book page no: 258

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