Dara O'Briain, Melanie C, Jack Dee, Chelsee Healey, Phillips Idowu and Greg James have completed the biggest challenge of their lives, The BT Red Nose Challenge: Hell and High Water – a five day ordeal which saw them travel under their own steam down Africa’s mighty Zambezi river to raise as much cash as possible for Red Nose Day.
The challenge was sponsored by BT, a long term supporter of Comic Relief challenges since 2009.
The triumphant team finished at exactly 3.18pm this afternoon – but it wasn’t easy. After clambering down a 200ft gorge using a ladder locally known as ‘The Steps of Doom’, the six intrepid amateurs spent the morning clinging on for dear life as they battled the most fierce rapids of the week – even the support crew’s raft flipped over and chucked them into the deep!
Greg James said: “The rapids are really frightening, especially if you’re a novice! You can’t just sit back, you have to keep paddling otherwise you’ll just float off and go miles away. We’re in a big raft today and it keeps bouncing around, people are popping out of it like popcorn! I bounced into the air earlier and was only saved by Phillips grabbing me with his massive athletic claw! We’re going through rapids called ‘The Terminator’ and ‘The Gnashing Jaws of Death’; they’re just horrible names. I wish we could so through something called ‘small mound’ or ‘babbling brook’ instead.”
Exhausted, aching, blistered and bruised after travelling over 111km under their own steam, battling raging rapids, manic mosquitos and sweltering sun, the team are now celebrating and reflecting on their success.
Greg said: “Let me sum up how I’m feeling in one phrase – I’m over it. Big time. I’m over the water, the rapids, the hippos, the boats, the tents, the camping, the sand, the itchy bits, the mosquitos, the blisters, the sunburn, the smell – it’s been really tough. But we’re here, we’ve been doing this challenge and we all look like idiots, but the point is to raise a lot of money for the people we’ve been meeting out here. And I know it sounds really cheesy, but I totally get it – I get Comic Relief properly now. I’ve always watched it on telly, but I’ve seen it now first-hand. It’s really touching, really lovely.”
Over the past five days, the celebrity challengers have pushed themselves to the limit, taking on rapids officially known as ‘Gnashing Jaws of Death’, ‘The Washing Machine’ and ‘Oblivion’.
Along the way they encountered some of the world’s most dangerous and frightening creatures, like crocodiles, lethal snakes and one of the most deadly – hippos! By night there was none of the five star luxury they’re used to, as they camped on treacherous cliff tops and damp, soggy riverbanks. And as if that wasn’t enough, they had to suffer nasty blisters, intense aching limbs and sweltering 30-degree heat, as they spent each day covering up to 29km on the river.
The team put 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.
Find out more here.