It’s 7 am and it’s a beautiful morning in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. We are excited because today we are going White Water River Rafting on the Zimbezi River which is below Victoria Falls and runs between Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The hike down the mountain was steep and very intense. We got our instructions and our team set out for our adventure. The sun was beautiful, the rapids were amazing and our team was so thankful that we didn’t capsize once during the excursion. It was remarkable. We paddled and handled the waves like champions. We came to a point after the 8th or 9th rapid when our guide, Simon asked if we wanted to swim. Of course I do and I along with several others jumped in the water. I turned to Colin and said come in babe…… that was the last thing I remember.
I was surprised by a wave which then turned into a whirl pool. Down under the water I went – life vest and all. Upside down and swirling I had no idea what was happening. Then it turned out a wave hit on top of the whirl pool pushing me further down into the 130 -160 foot river. Did I panic – of course. I had little breath as everything caught me off guard so I wasn’t able to draw air in before the plummet. I swam frantically but because I was tossed head over heels multiple times I couldn’t tell if I was swimming up or swimming further down. The life vest was useless. I kept pulling on the shoulders hoping it would pop me above water – still nothing. Wasn’t anyone looking for me? Is anyone going to jump in and save me? I knew I was out of breath. I thought of Kymani and Mekhi and realized my kids were going to be motherless.. This is how I’m going to die? Seriously?
I realized I’d no longer be able to hold my breath and I oddly accepted the inevitable. It was almost peaceful. I no longer was struggling. I was preparing to breath the river into my lungs and I said “God, get me out of here.” I out stretched my hands way above my head and suddenly my hands broke through the top of the river where a yellow rescue canoe was a short distance away. The rescue guy who was following our raft had seen me disappear under the wave and knew a whirl pool had sucked me down. He had been looking and looking for me to pop up but I didn’t. All of this took place unbeknownst to Colin or my fellow rafters… I grabbed the canoe, he tried to clam me down and then rowed me to safety.
Although, dry heaving I seemingly was ok. Although calm on the outside I was completely hysterical on the inside. My head pounded as I refrained from crying and tried to just get air into my lungs. We had about 3 more rapids to go. I sat in the raft and held on tight.
The rafting was over and it was time for us to climb about a mile up and out of the gorge. I kept stopping, couldn’t catch my breath, my body as revolting. My mind transported me back under water, twirling unable to breath and I began to sob and shake uncontrollably. I believe I was in shock. As the crew secured my body on the stretcher, I wondered how they were going to get me to the top of the mountain. But the skilled Zimbabweans hoisted me high above their heads and transported me ultra quick to the top. At one point I opened my eyes and I was almost at a 90 degree angle on the very edge of a cliff over looking the gorge. I thought how unfortunate it would be at this point to just roll off the stretcher and down the mountain. But I thank God that he said not yet, no not today!