Steve Endacott and pals rafted down the crocodile-infested Zambezi river for the Institute of Travel and Tourism to raise money for the Alder Hey Children’s Charity, camping on the riverbank by night. Here he reflects on what he learnt from the experience.
Is my recently gained taste for adventure travel just a further symptom of a mid-life crisis, or a reflection of a rapidly expanding market place, which is attracting the affluent over 30s looking for new and more interesting holidays?
I would like to think the latter, and in my case a motivation to raise money for Alder Hey Children’s hospital. Having been blessed with three healthy boys of my own and two further children via my new partner Ruth, I know how traumatising even trivial child illnesses can be for both the kids and the parents.
So when something very serious happens, you have to admire the quality of care that Alder Hey’s dedicated and purpose-built children’s hospital provides. However, this comes at a cost and its just feels right to try to raise as much money as I can for such a great home-grown
Having successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro last year and stripping £38k from industry pockets, I tried to find an adventure that would attract more industry participants this year to spread the fundraising load.
After discussions over beers with my Brighton lawyer pal Lee Hills, we decided to raft 100km of the Zambezi river, through 48 rapids featuring many maximum Grade 5 rapids and plenty of crocs for company.
Initially, this sounded a much easier challenge with much less pre-training and fitness work required compared to climbing Kilimanjaro, but talk about under-estimating the arse-clenching danger!
Our 10 hardy volunteers from ITT’s Tel Aviv conference quickly whittled down to only three of us, once people did background research and sought permission.
The Zambezi rafting expedition, organised superbly by Global Adventure Travel and ground operator Water by Nature, was just as big a challenge and a much bigger thrill ride than even climbing Kilimanjaro for me.
After flying out overnight on a Kenyan Airways Dreamliner via Nairobi to Victoria Falls in Livingston, Zambia, we spent our last night in a proper bed before heading out on the river.
The first big decision we faced was to take tents to sleep in or a beer allocation to enjoy in the evenings. Not surprisingly, we soon found ourselves sleeping on sandy riverbanks under the stars!
Nothing however can prepare you for your first trip out of the boat, as you raft one of the massive Grade 5 rapids.
Take a quick breath and back under you go, until eventually you crash into riverside rocks or get dragged out by safety boats or your comrades if they are lucky to have stayed onboard the raft.
Having said this, the sheer elation of survival and the sense of invincibility having been out once gives you for the rest of the trip, makes it an early bath a worthwhile experience.
Unfortunately, this invincibility shield could not protect 70% of our party, whom went down with a severe sickness and diarrhoea bug on the fourth night of the trip. Rarely have I heard so many “barfing night calls” from humans on a riverbank and I for one went nowhere near the one chemical loo shared by out 22 strong party the next day.
Hence, by our last day we were down from three to one boat of hardy survivors, while our colleagues pulled the “I’m a travel lawyer, get me out of here” line and had to be helicoptered out immediately to more accessible toilet options.
Personally, for me the highlight of these adventure trips is the meeting of new friends and the bonding that rapidly occurs from sharing a campfire under the stars.
Take away the TV, the laptop, a mobile phone and all modern day distractions and it’s amazing how communicative we all become.
What might take years in terms of getting to know people, seemingly can be achieved in days on a expedition of this nature. I still regard Stephen Bath and Wayne Perks, my colleagues from Kilimanjaro, as close friends even through I hardly knew either before last year’s trip, and fully expect this year’s adventures to retain the same status in years to come.
Many people ask me if I found either trip life-changing. The answer realistically has to be no, but I have certainly found them life-focusing, giving me much more clarity on what in life is important to me personally.
So if you have not yet tried hard-core adventure travel and think you can raise some money, look out for the announcement of our next trip being organised in conjunction with my old mate, Brian Young of G Adventures. It’s set to be a goody!