Raft guiding on big volume rivers like the Zambezi is hard work, and normally reserved for tough men who manhandle these big rafts through the monstrous rapids with brute strength combined with well polished skills. There are women who step up to the challenge though, and more often than not, display a certain kind of finesse in doing so. Nicola is one of that special breed of women who succeeded in earning the respect of their more muscular counterparts in this tough environment.
1992. Rafting season on the mighty Zambezi, Victoria Falls. First African Woman River Guide. Grade 5 rapids, big holes, steep gradients, diagonals that hold boats and surf. Big Surf. Terminator, Devil’s Toilet Bowl, Oblivion. Aching arms and back. Bleeding hands, cracked ribs. Open infected wounds from oars smacking into shins, bruised hip bones. Black eyes from surfing in rapids with flying paddles and oars. Swimming so deep below the surface that ears pop, nose bleeds. Dark, murky, quiet. No sympathy from anyone. “You want to be like us – show us you can – carry the boat, pump the tubes and thwarts, fix your own oar rig.” Some 23 km of rowing a day. A sizzling 40 degrees Celsius heat in the gorge. Walking out at the end of the day, against a two-in-one gradient. Cool refreshments at the top, the elation from clients whose expectations have been surpassed. And tomorrow I get to do this all over again. Bliss. (more…)