By Joseph Mwenda
Sun 17 July 2011

A boy rowing during the Zambezi Expedition

THE Zambezi River which stretches 1,000 kilometres from the Angola border in Chavuma to the Victoria Falls has never been rowed in its entirety, at least until this August when a fearless team of Zambian and British adventurers do the unthinkable.

Boat racing has been done on the river only for short distances and what comes to mind is the Zambezi River International Regatta which is held in Livingstone. But this group of water enthusiasts will attempt to row down the Zambezi in three double sculling boats with the aim of raising about US$50,000 for Village Water, a charity organisation that seeks to provide access to clean drinking water to villages in North Western Province.

The Zambezi River, which has been recognised as one of the top 10 waterways in the world for boating and white-water rafting activities, flows through wild and dangerous terrains such as open stretches of rapids, some only passable by carrying the boats through the surrounding bushes.

In some areas like the Barotse flood plain, the fourth largest river in Africa can be 25 kilometres wide and the waters, though weedy, are normally calm. But it does not guarantee any safety given the hippo and crocodile population.

That however, will not discourage the rowers from conquering a million metres for a million litres hence they have nicknamed the expedition “Operation Hungry Hippo”.

This journey to Victoria Falls will demand discipline, determination and endurance. The team appears geared to row the Zambezi from the Angola border to the mighty Victoria Falls in under 15 days only.
“We expected to row up to 70 kilometres in eight hours during the day and camp on the banks of the Zambezi in the night before embarking again on the journey to Victoria Falls,” says expedition leader Tim Cook.

Cook, who is also the pioneer of the adventure, originally wanted to do a usual expedition by sailing down the Atlantic Ocean in celebrating his 50th birthday this year.

“One of my sons said why can’t you do something unusual, dad, say row down the Zambezi? so I said to him that was not possible because no one has done it before. Then later I tried to look up Google Earth and zoomed in, and then I realised that it was actually possible,” he says.

Tim explains that the expedition team comprises experienced men and women, including a potential 2012 Zambian Olympian, Antonia Van Deventer.

“Most of the members of the squad have not worked together before so an important element is to build a sense of unity and team work when they arrive in Zambia,” Cook says. “We will launch the expedition on July 25th at Southern Sun Hotel and then move to Chavuma where the adventure will take off.”

The Row Zambezi Expedition is a platform for raising awareness about the lack of water and sanitation in remote villages in this part of the country and fundraising for Village Water, a charity that has already demonstrated success in addressing such issues.

Village Water provides sustainable water wells, sanitation and hygiene education to rural communities in Zambia.

Since 2007 the charity has helped more than 65,000 people in over 240 villages.

“We hope to raise enough money to contribute to this cause, and also at the end of the expedition, all of the Row Zambezi rowing equipment will be donated to the Zambia Amateur Rowing and Canoeing Association and the another youth boat club in Livingstone,” says Tim.

Rowing 1,000 kilometers of the Zambezi River in less than 20 days is obviously a dangerous venture to undertake, but if it will help save lives in these villages, then the expedition is worth the attempt, hoping Tim and his crew know when to stop at the Victoria Falls.