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The man in back wants to see you; at border posts, visa offices, consulates, these are never words you want to hear, especially when at first it seems that you’ll walk away from the receptionist with visas in hand, grinning, and the sun shining on your face. It was all going swimmingly, and it seemed that Ben and Pete would walk away from the Angolan consulate in such a way, then, from the receptionists hesitant lips, the cryptic phrase. Behind closed doors, anything can happen, and there is little humor. Not possible; another phrase you’d like to avoid, and while we can pass seemingly impossible scenarios on river and road, no set of skills will pull a visa from the stone hands of an unwilling consular official. Angola visa: denied.

We’d acquired another truck at this point though, so left Pete’s Leyland DAF truck waiting for a replacement fuel pump in Livingston, and drove the substitute late into the night toward the beginning of Plan B, the Kafue River. The dry river channel at our first sighting of the river was concerning, but explainable by a diversion, funded, built, and managed by Sino Hydro Corp., China’s largest hydro developer. The river reemerged from its diversion rather blithely, but invitingly reentering its proper home, a channel formed by millenia of unhindered flow. There are crocs just here, in this eddy, the hydro official tells us. Just here in this first eddy, and the invitation expired.

We heard it was to be raining at the Kafue, but that weatherman got something wrong. At the put-in, it was clear and blue as far as we could see, but little light penetrated the water. I looked hard at the pool, scanning for foreign movement in the pulsing current, but nothing. The river was under no obligation to give up its secrets. The river is but water, you can’t even hold it in your hand; it owes us nothing.

Over four days, we paddled and filmed all but three rapids/falls on the river, with one torrential-rain break, and no sign of crocs. It’s slow, filming enough to fill all the planned episodes of “Kaiak”, but vaguely satisfying knowing this amazing place will be shown on a major network in Brazil. We were met by a couple employees, Calvin and Blessings, excited to see our huge truck bounce down the road they recently helped construct. Greeting us warmly, and curious as to just what we wanted to do with the boats, they innocently asked if they could actually “Join the Adrenaline”, as a sticker on our truck brightly recommends.

As the Kafue slides away with the need for power and industry in Zambia, there is little time for more people to enjoy this great river descent. It’s likely it will just fade away, obscure as ever, but so it goes. The world is changing, and people will continue expanding into once virgin lands. We had just made a successful descent, enjoyed the company of curious locals in camp, watched swinging baboons from our kayaks, and left for more paddling in Northern Zambia, so there’s little to complain about.

Chris Korbulic