The Smoke that Thunders and Terminator 2

With a blog post like this, it would be assumed that there is an exciting story to go along with it. This assumption would be correct. Back home, Dana and I wouldn’t be considered “outdoorsy”, however Africa has given us the opportunity to do many things we wouldn’t normally do (i.e. Ostrich Riding). Our first real active sport thrill came when we arrived in Livingston, Zambia.  Despite no previous experience, we decided to sign up for a whitewater rafting trip down the Zambezi river, one of the four Great Rivers of Africa (the others being the Nile, the Niger, and the Congo). Oh yeah, did I forget to mention it’s a class 5 rapids? The site www.wikipaddle.com describes the section we were rafting as “extremely difficult, long and violent rapids, steep gradients, big drops and pressure areas… The river drops approximately 400 feet over the 25km distance often covered in a one-day trip”. Sounds good to me!

The Zambezi River Gorge

After a early morning class from the guides teaching us most of the rafting basics, we headed out to descend into the gorge. Our guide, Tembo, was a jovial fellow who started us out down the river easy enough, instructing us when to paddle forwards, backwards, one side forwards while the other backwards, etc. Approaching the first few rapids were intimidating, but we managed to get through the first five rapids without much of a problem. Then came rapids 16a and 16b, aka Terminator 1 and 2.

Our guide Tembo, showing us the finer points of whitewater rafting.

We cruised through Terminator 1 getting knocked around quite a bit but stayed upright, but the entry into Terminator 2 and the next 10 minutes were one of the craziest/scariest moments of my life. Thank goodness we have the photos to prove it! I remember a very steep dip and then something similar to driving a car into a white wall, if that make sense. I felt like I got hit by an all-pro NFL linebacker. After that, we started to tip over, and then the real fear began. I frantically tried to locate Dana to make sure she was ok and still holding onto the raft, but in doing so I lost my grip on the raft and got swept away by the current. I’ve never felt that powerless in my entire life. It was definitely one of those “hmmm..I might not make it out of this alive” moments. I was tossed around like a rag doll, trying to keep my head above water which was very tough despite having a life jacket on. Once I passed through the rapids into a calmer section one of the kayak guides was able to get over to me and I held on until the rest of our group made through while holding onto the raft. Here are the sequence of pictures breaking down how we got flipped over:

So far so good....

...the exact moment before the plunge...

Oh S#!%.....

...time to start panicking...

"Hasta la vista, baby"

A couple of the girls were pretty shaken up after that, but I have to give Dana a lot of credit for not being afraid the rest of the way down. She may be afraid of spiders, but she can handle getting flipped on a Class 5 rapids with no problem.

The next day we visited another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Victoria Falls. While not the tallest or widest waterfall in the world, it is known as the largest, covering 5600 feet in length and over 360 meters tall. It is called Mosi-oa-Tunya by locals, which means “Smoke that Thunders”. The reason they call it that is because of the spray that comes the falls is so strong that it actually “rains” mist around it and looks like smoke from above.

Victoria Falls

That is one massive waterfall!

We really enjoyed our time in Livingston, Zambia checking out the sites and experiencing some pretty intense thrills! Our drive continues north to the Luangwa National Park  over the next few days. We hope to see more African Wildlife once we get there.

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7 Responses to The Smoke that Thunders and Terminator 2

  1. Bruce says:

    WOW! I’m glad to know you’re okay. So were the sequence of pics taken for you by someone from your safari with your camera?

    No photos of your trip down river w/o the raft or the kayak pick-up? What were some of your thoughts during that time out of the raft, or were you too much in survival mode to recall anything more than your post describes? Did Dana hang onto the raft through the flip, etc.?

    Did you get any photos of your going over Victoria Falls? 🙂

  2. Katherine says:

    I’m so glad you both survived. What an adventure! Thank you for the phone call today, it made my day. Can’t believe you called from a beach in Zanzibar while I’m sitting an office with no windows in Chicago’s terrible August humidity. Your blog lets me vicarious travel this summer. The picture of the two of you at the waterfall is really great and reminds me just how much we miss you. Enjoy you travels and continue writing – I love to follow along. See you soon, much love.

  3. Susan Gregg says:

    Hi Adam and Dana,
    Katherine shared the blog address with me today. Amazing! Nat Geo doesn’t have anything on you two! I’ll hold good thoughts for you as you travel “for us”. Thanks for sharing! Go safe!

  4. John K. Carpenter says:

    Looks like you guys are having a very exciting time and I envy you both. Awesome job hanging on through the rapids. Be safe and continue living life and loving it!

  5. Lucy, your mother! says:

    All I can say is “OMG!”

  6. Matthew, Amiee, Caden, Chloe, and Lily Conner says:

    Oh S&*t is definitely right! that is awesome that you guys were able to get snap shots of that!!

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