Dara O'Briain, Melanie C, Jack Dee, Chelsee Healey, Phillips Idowu and Greg James have started the biggest challenge of their lives, The BT Red Nose Challenge: Hell and High Water – a five day ordeal which sees them attempt to travel under their own steam down Africa’s mighty Zambezi river and raise as much cash as possible for Red Nose Day.

The challenge is sponsored by BT, a long term supporter of Comic Relief challenges since 2009.

The challenge started promptly at 8am on Monday and all was going swimmingly until Melanie C accidentally whacked Greg James in the head with her oar as the paddling-pair tackled their first set of rapids! It was a rare accident for the Spice Girls' nimble Sporty Spice who has spent most of her time looking after Chelsee Healey since she forgot to pack her pyjamas after only a day away from home. Comedian Jack Dee had no such trouble with his belongings as the group decided his bag was the best packed of the bunch.

It’s not all pyjamas and bag-packing though, after only a few hours in the team are already suffering with neuromuscular aches and pains in their arms due to paddling against the current. Phillips Idowu is feeling extra cautious as he revealed he can jump further than he can swim – something which won’t come in handy when he inevitably gets a soaking this week. Although fellow challenger Greg James will be sure to give him a hand hauling him back out of the water as the DJ revealed earlier today that he’s determined to have bigger biceps than Olympian Phillips by the end of the week.

Dara said: “We’ve done 22 kilometres and I can definitely say the second part of that has been just as painful as the first. Chelsee and I have been working as a team and in any usual circumstances our worlds wouldn’t collide but we’ve become like an old married couple today, bickering about rowing. The hardest thing so far is keeping the boat in a straight line. We’ve spent a surprising amount of today facing the wrong country and nearly ended up in Botswana a couple of times! But we’re all aware it’s likely to get worse and worse. This is only day one.”

The six strong team will push themselves to the limit as they travel 111km down the deadly Zambezi river, battling torrential downpours and negotiating rapids officially known as ‘Gnashing Jaws of Death’, ‘The Washing Machine’ and ‘Oblivion’ as they make their way beyond the world’s largest waterfall – Victoria Falls.

Along the way they’re likely to encounter some of the world’s most dangerous and frightening creatures, like crocodiles, lethal snakes and one of the most deadly – hippos! By night there will be none of the five star luxury they’re used to, as they’ll be camping on treacherous cliff tops and damp, soggy riverbanks. And as if that wasn’t enough, they’re also likely to suffer nasty blisters, intense aching limbs and sweltering 30-degree heat, as they spend each day covering up to 29km on the river.

The team are putting themselves through hell and high water in the hope of raising £1 million to help children in Zambia go to school. This could pay for life-changing education for thousands of vulnerable girls, for whom it means an escape from poverty and safety from child marriage and pregnancy. Any extra money raised will help those living unimaginably tough lives across the UK and the rest of Africa.

BT is giving £30,000 a day to support the Hell and High Water team as part of the £500,000 it has committed to raise in support of The BT Red Nose Challenges – a duo of celebrity challenges sponsored by BT for Red Nose Day 2013.

To help the stars raise stacks of cash, sponsor them now at rednoseday.com/zambezi.

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