The Final Push by Rhys Bartlett

Changing of the Guard by Shannon Mc Crae
November 29, 2017
Train Hard, Eat Quick and Sleep Deep by Matthew Slack of Fiennes Tent
January 25, 2018

The Final Push by Rhys Bartlett

The end of Quest has come, with our trip to Victoria Falls. It marks our final push. We boarded the trusted overlander and started our eight hour journey to the falls all with the usual discomforts that we know and love. Between Quest and the falls; a sea of green stretched out before us with only small breaks in the dense forest being the occasional town, railway or halfway house.

With all the excitement of a new environment, new areas of exploration and, for some, new bars to disrupt. We had forgotten that work experience was the main item on the agenda. We had a diverse range of work experience with;

·         Matt and Will at Ilala Lodge

·         Somerset and Chris at the Zambezi Sands Hotel participating in anti-poaching activities

·         Shannon and Dayna at the Sprayview Hotel

·         Kieran, Adam and Tim working as tour guides at Wild Horizons

·         Ross and Quinten working at the Wild Horizons workshop

·         Pat, Croc diving.

·         Myself, Steven, Ulrich, Angus and Pippa working at the Zambezi fish farm in Zambia.

With the bulk of us staying at Vic Falls including Mr.H and Mr. Randle my work experience had possibly a larger emphasis on experience as we were on our own. Our small team crossed the borders with relative ease the only thing slowing us down were our overly-laden packs and the bulky cooler boxes we had to walk across with. We peered cautiously over the edge of the bridge to watch the Zambezi but mainly to watch tourists fling themselves of the bridge to do the bungee and gorge swing, their screams permeating the air.

Once on the other side with only a vague idea of where we were going, we felt slightly overwhelmed. Luckily after months of being fed small amounts of information and constantly having unexpected thrust upon us we were better off than we thought. Most of our time was spent haggling over the prices of our taxis with our reluctant drivers who weren’t too pleased with a lengthy supply stop in Livingston as well as us not knowing the exact distance to the farm. They stopped twice on the side of the road to try and get us to pay more. We stood firm.

We were relieved to see the gate of our home for the next 3 days and it dawned on me that we   knew very little of our host(s). The farm was immaculate and once we unloaded from our taxis, who were very pleased to be rid of us, we soaked in the scenery. The atmosphere was laden with lethargy with plump slow moving clouds suspended above the tranquil waters of the fish ponds in front of us.

Our host, Mr. Reynolds, and his business partner, Anthony, took us through the inner workings of the fish farm as well as the plans for the future. The bulk of our work consisted of sampling; using throw nets to take averages of the pond as well as the harvesting and sorting into sizes. The harvesting was by far the most physically demanding as dragging a large net through shin high fish effluent and murky water all the while getting bumped and slapped by panicked fish. When pulling in the nets you don’t realise how many fish are caught. Sorting the fish from the ice slurry puts 2 tonnes of fish into perspective.

After a morning of work we spent the warmer hours of the day in the shade along the shores of the Zambezi. There was an emphasis on experience but most days it didn’t feel like work. Our host, Mr Reynolds, was kind enough to invite us over for meals where we could sample what his farm had to offer.

We were sad to leave the experiences, tranquillity and the late evening conversations with Mr. Reynolds. We won’t forget our time there. And we won’t forget pond 19. 

Back in Vic falls after an evening of rest and recovery. I began to prepare for the grand finale of our trip which consisted of arguably the best day experience of white water rafting. Many people prepared by hitting many of the drinking establishments which made for an interesting morning for some.

I had white water rafted before but nothing could prepare me for the carnage that followed. Rapid number 4 – ‘Stairway to heaven/Highway to hell’ was my wakeup call and set the tone of terror as fear gripped me at every rapid above a level 3. Pat and Will took great pride in teasing me about how quiet I had become after noticing my fear and iron clad grip on the safety ropes just before a rapid.  

My boat was known as the Zambezi swim team due to the amount of time we spent in the water.  Paddling frantically as great walls of water swallowed and spat out our little raft, we spent 6 hours being thrown overboard, pinned under the raft and being thoroughly tumbled. Ross had never been so clean.

Despite not enjoying the rafting in the moment, when we drifted lazily to our end I reflected and with the immense satisfaction of completing the rapids all I wanted to do was return and try again. I can see why our guides, still after thousands of tours, get a rush. Their love of the sport and adventure is evident. One last surprised waited for us when we got off our rafts. With aching bodies a 25-35 minute hike up one of the steep sides of the Zambezi valley. The only thing that kept us going was the promise of lunch and cold drinks at the top.

With only a short break after the rapids we were on our way to the falls. Even in the low season when not all of the valley wall is spewing large quantities of water. Spray from the bottom still shoots up and falls with the likeness of rain creating a bizarre contrast of tropical rainforest in comparison to the dry, arid surroundings. For those brave enough to sit on the edge of the valley wall and look down you get a feel for the immense destructive force of the Zambezi, a force which we experienced dialled down on the rapids. It truly is a wonder, sheer drops complimented by large quantities of water roaring over the edge and the spray reaching great heights.

A final night at Vic falls was not wasted and neither were the early hours of the next morning. We packed the overlander for the final time and headed back to Quest. It would be far too soon if I ever had to endure another overlander journey. I was glad to part with it.

We are now days away from graduation. The days fly by as people are still as busy as ever with people still rushing to finish projects, CVs and PDPs to be written up as well as final preparations for departure to be taken care of.  I have not wished away these days as for the majority of my time here I have wondered where all the time had gone. I will miss those that joined me and the many experiences that we’ve had during our time here at Quest. All we can do now is wait for graduation. It will be hard to say our goodbyes and part ways. Leaving Quest being more prepared than ever for our own journeys.