What’s that Smell?

Crocodile on the Zambezi

Festering away at the put-in; a crocodile was ill-equipped to tackle the minus rapids after a descent of Victoria falls. For nearly a week he remained there – a stinking tourist attraction for the rafters.

Ian Odell on No. 5 boof Zambezi
Ian Odel running the pour-over on rapid number 5 (from the left bank)

After 2 months, I am getting to know the river pretty well – looking for new and exiting new ways to run the rapids. One in particular is the boof on number 5, viewed from the left (above) and the right (below).

Max Bilbow boofing number 5 on the zambezi river
Max Bilbow running the pour-over on rapid number 5 (from the right bank)

However after my exceptionally clean line, as seen in fourth-coming mini-video ‘Increase the Funk’, I was most disappointed to find that the kids from the World Class Kayaking Academy were free-wheeling off the drop by their third day!

The World Class Kayaking Academy is basically a school, based in The States, where the students, 16 and 17 year olds, travel round the world with their kayaks and generally going pretty hard. At the moment they are sitting in one of the local back-packers lodges having a history lesson but come 1:30 they shall be back on the river for the bulk of their study programme.

The World Class guys, far from being loud-mouthed cocky American wonder-kids, have been a tremendous pleasure to paddle with. Hats off to them and their staff! They’re keen to get a British student on board in the near future so checkout their website and tell your children!

Rafting on the Zambezi. Photo by Ian Odel

Whenever I’m not kayaking (or organising other kayakers) I try to jump on with the rafts and have a go. After learning to guide in Norway this summer, I was pleased to know that I had not forgotten my training. The Zambezi may be, for the most part, fairly deep and devoid of rocks but a long swim here can be pretty swirly and terrifying. Hopefully, when the kayaking quietens down towards Christmas, I’ll get the chance to spend more time in the rafts.

Max's hand after 2 weeks on the Zambezi
After a week and a half in Zambia, a mishap on an ore raft leaves Max in stitches.

It’s not all fun and frolics however: As Sam Ward said, before he left for Thailand and I took over as Sven’s man about town, no-one spends a long time on the Zambezi without their fair share of mishaps, epics and humbling misadventures.

In the last two weeks I’ve been mugged, robbed, dealt with a dislocated shoulder (not mine), and had the worst swim of my life!

Two weeks ago I lost my boat and paddles after missing the centre line on rapid number 9 (Commercial Suicide). A couple of feet two the right and not enough speed left me struggling to stay in my kayak as I was worked upside-down in a small cauldron in the middle of the pour-over. Conflicting voices in my head told me that a swim, whilst being the very last thing I wanted to do, was possibly a necessary course of action. But no need to fret: a few seconds (or was it minutes) later the decision was made for me as both my boat and paddles were ripped from me simultaneously and down I went. As the water around me grew dark and calm, I decided it was time to swim up. A few metres before the bottom hole and I have time to take a tactical breath before holding onto my shoes and curling up into a ball. Down again into the calm dark waters, then swim back up. And then it was over. My paddles gone forever and my boat was not to show up for another 3 days with an amazingly small amount of damage.

Two weeks later I am back on top form and ready for a little retribution: a hearty breakfast and a clean run down to number 9 had me back in the mood. A perfect boof followed by an unchallenged ducking under the bottom hole had me whooping and punching the air like the first time I ran it.

Money’s tight at the moment so I may not get up to the Uganda for the Nile River Festival. But a short excursion for the new year might well be on the cards.

Till next time!

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