MY PATH TO FIND CHI…

Manoj Agarwal

I stared across the length of the Zambezi River wearing my red helmet and a life jacket wrapped around my upper body. The nonchalant winds of an October morning brushed my face and the sun bright above my head. I looked across to my left and right and saw my fellow passengers who were going to take this fastidious journey down the Zambezi River in a raft. The river was roaring in itself and could see the high waves lashing against the stony shores. My wife who supported me throughout stood next to me holding my hands and said to me, “Manoj it is going to be the best adventure we have ever done and who knows this one might come out to be an A+.”

I heaved a sigh of relief and thought to myself proudly, “Everyone thinks I am scared since I am staring at the river for a long time but little do they know that I am staring at it because I am proud and happy as rafting down the Zambezi river was one of my long cherished dreams. “Come on buckle up rafters we have a long day ahead,” the guide of Zambian origin said to us. We were a group of 8 rafters from all over the world and we came near him and stood in a semicircle as he started our briefing about the endeavour ahead.

“Well there are many rules which you all have to follow as you all know that the Zambezi River rafting is one of the most perilous and exciting rafting in the world. How many of how have gone for a river rafting before?” the guide asked us. We remained silent and saw each other to see if they had gone, but none of them raised their hands. “So I have got a bunch of enthusiastic people who are ready to bargain their life for some fun and frolic. Well first of all safety is the most important thing and even above fun, so I strongly request everyone to be cautious and I want no hocus-pocus inside the raft. Everyone listen I will now state the rules of today’s task and hear me properly since this will help you to keep you alive.” These words sent a shiver down everyone’s spines and everyone was now nervous though they all tried to hide it. I too had become a little nervous but I was not scared. I gleefully looked at the instructor as he gave us the rules, “No one will jump out of the raft whatsoever till we give the signal. You will have a paddle in your hands so hold your paddle tightly and do not lose it unless you want to pay extra cash as fine. All of you will listen to the raft instructor for signals and all of you will follow him. The most important rule: Have fun and do not lose your shivers down the journey. Now you will all go to your respective raft as your instructor is waiting for you. Gracias and bon voyage.”

The guide was Spanish and the instructor in our raft was a Frenchman. We proceeded to our rafts and settled down in our files according to our weight and hopefully I was not in the last. The instructor whom we called “Baku” for short gave us information about the journey and the geographical info about the Zambezi: its length, width and many interesting facts. There were 9 rapids in our trip out of which the eighth is the biggest and the most perilous and we were pre-informed that we would have to fall in this rapid. Each rapid had its own name and they were quite interesting like the eight was known as #The Midnight Dinner…Our long awaited journey started and we reached the first rapid. The mighty waters of the Zambezi pushed us forcefully deeper and deeper inside and we went deeper and deeper inside to see WHAT NOW? As we crossed each rapid the rapids became tougher and tougher. I could feel the rough air on my face as I rowed down the river with my fingers sore. My whole body was covered in icy water and the only source, which kept us warm, was the Victorian sun that had majestically taken its place above us. Midway we were informed that a professional Kayak-er was taking our whole video and it was available to us after the trip though we had to buy it. We reached the fourth rapid and the water became even more ferocious. The water looked like as if it was waiting to catch something and just rushed down and the only thing that was stopping it was the stony hard rock in the middle that just divided the water. These rocks were so deadly that if anyone banged into those it would easily split the man’s skull in two equal halves. CREEEPY!!!!!

I counted as the rapids went by and the waters went high 5th, 6th, and 7th and now was the most awaited moment of my whole journey: The EIGHTH RAPID!!!!

The instructor now took his mark and told us to be cautious… As soon as the instructor finished these words everything went black and my head swirled and my whole body was numb, as the Mighty Zambezi had just engulfed me. After a few milliseconds I realized that our boat had been toppled and everyone was in the water and our raft upturned. I swam till I reached my raft and caught the rope as we were instructed and if not then Happy Journey down the Zambezi…

We were in the water for some time as we clinched our lifeline and soon after sometime the river calmed down. We upturned the boat and sat inside heaving a sigh of relief and I felt inner peace and a new sense of revitalization had awoken inside me as at last I had found my CHI. I had done it. YES I have passed the Zambezi, which is known as one of the most deadly rivers in the world in terms of sport.

The instructor allowed us to swim in the shallow side of the river near for some time as we relaxed and enjoyed the serene beauty of the mountains above us. I could hear the humming of the birds, whistling of crisp leaves during autumn and the roaring voice of the water.

I just lay bareback in the water and as I became one with nature. I woke up after sometime and saw that everyone was ready to leave. I quickly came out and dried myself up. Baku came to me and joked, “You laid in the water like a otter for a long time!” We both laughed and started our journey backwards to our starting point. The climb was even more exhausting as we had to climb up again and it was pretty high. There was rich breakfast for us and we all ate to our heart’s fill. I thanked the guide and the locals for helping us out and for giving us the best life could offer us and the cherish memories for years to come.

We drove back to the hotel in Zimbabwe and saw that my niece and son were sleeping like a log with monkeys on their bedpost!!! We woke them up and told them about our day since they were not allowed to come. They were jealous but they managed.

I know that this would not have been possible without some people and this blog would not be complete until I thanked them. So here it goes:

Well so here ends the entry because this writing is not enough to express my feelings and I quote “There are two types of people in this world the boring and the passionate. The boring takes the same path without obstacles and the passionate take the risky path that is filled with risks. Each risk is a new thing we learn in life that makes us tough while the easy path comforts us and does not teach us the hard ways of life. So now you decide which path you want to chose in life The Boring or The Passionate?”

I can proudly say:

It is my passion,

It is my religion and I don’t deny it,

It is the choices and I abide by it,

Cause’ adventure is my life!!!

Terms you have seen and their significance:

Manoj Agarwal

Manoj Agarwal is a mechanical engineer from IIT Delhi, lives in Bangalore and is into manufacturing gears. His passion for adventure started at the age of 35 when he had been to Australia and Newzealand on holidays,since then he has been involved in paragliding, river rafting, bungy jump, sky diving and mountaineering.

Rafting and white water rafting are recreational outdoor activities which use an inflatable raft to navigate a river or other body of water. This is often done on whitewater or different degrees of rough water, and generally represents a new and challenging environment for participants. Dealing with risk and the need for teamwork is often a part of the experience. The development of this activity as a leisure sport has become popular since the mid-1970s, evolving from individuals paddling 10 feet (3.0 m) rafts with double-bladed paddles to multi-person rafts propelled by single-bladed paddles and steered by a tour guide at the stern. It is considered an extreme sport, and can be fatal. The International Rafting Federation, often referred to as the IRF, is the worldwide body which oversees all aspects of the sport. 

The  International Scale of River Difficulty, below are the six grades of difficulty in white water rafting. They range from simple to very dangerous and potential death or serious injuries.

Class 1: Very small rough areas, might require slight manoeuvring. (Skill level: very basic) 

Class 2: Some rough water, maybe some rocks, might require some manoeuvring. (Skill level: basic paddling skill) 

Class 3: White-water, small waves, maybe a small drop, but no considerable danger. May require significant manoeuvring. 

Class 4: White-water, medium waves, maybe rocks, maybe a considerable drop, sharp manoeuvres may be needed. 

Class 5: White-water, large waves, large volume, possibility of large rocks and hazards, possibility of a large drop, requires precise manoeuvring. 

Class 6: Class 6 rapids are considered to be so dangerous that they are effectively un-navigable on a reliably safe basis. Rafters can expect to encounter substantial white-water, huge waves, huge rocks and hazards, and/or substantial drops that will impart severe impacts beyond the structural capacities and impact ratings of almost all rafting equipment. Traversing a Class 6 rapid has a dramatically increased likelihood of ending in serious injury or death compared to lesser classes.

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