Monday, October 4, 2010

so much for squash

It is not the first time I have felt that everything I have done before has merely been training for what lies ahead. But that does not make it less true. If you can see past a challenges, its not big enough. This is also the reason I have retired from Great White Exploring about 5 times. “That’s the last one. Surely. From now on I am getting serious about my future, perhaps start a relationship with a pot plant. Adventure education has taken me as far as it will”
Then I spend 4 months in one place and next thing you know, minding my own business, a idea arrives. This time, I had just come back from Thailand and settled into Jinja, Uganda, started up my own little business and began playing squash when I got a email from a Ben Stooksberry.

The last time and only time I had heard the name was 2009, I was neck deep in the Congo and he just wanted to touch base. In other words he had an itch for the Congo that needed scratching. I pretended I did not understand. It would be ludicrous to take a American, who you don’t know, and who has never been to the Africa, into Its very heart.

This time Ben was more direct. He and a few kayakers wanted a proper African expedition. For the few professional kayakers who have come to the continent for a expedition instead of surfing safari's, this normally means a week on the Zambezi, a week on the Nile and a few creeks along the way, finishing with a run down the Murchison falls section.

Since I am retired, I distractedly encouraged him and said I would paddle on the Nile with them for a bit. It’s a nice way to get my yearly Murch run in and to keep my sponsors happy while doing it. Its when he said he wanted to kayak the Rwenzories (Mountains of the Moon) that I started to really listen. Next he mentioned Rwanda, and soon afterward, the C word.

After hearing Congo I did the Google search and it turns out Ben is a National Geographic action hero. I have no idea what this means but if I was one, I would have it on my business card. Further checking indicated that he and the other members of the team, Jesse Coombs, Christopher Korbulic and  Darin McQuoid can all kayak in a straight line and amongst other things, have the record for the steepest mile in kayaking. This is a worrying fact since they might expect me to do some proper kayaking instead of just standing around and speaking bad Swahili. Any which way, I resignedly moved my retirement plans to next year and checked the outfitting in my Expedition Solo. The universe has spoken.

For those of you who have no idea where the following places are, don't feel left out, not many do... that's the point. I will be posting descriptions of the various sections over the next 2 weeks.
In short it is a circular route around the great lakes area of Central Africa.

We start in Jinja,Uganda, with a few days of big water kayaking in paradise, then down to Murchison park for a week in Africa's version of grade 5 whitewater. On to the Rwenzories, Africa’s highest mountain range,(no, its not Kili) where we will spend 10 days in the African alpine zone in the hope of finding some kayaking gems. After one full days rest, we go to Rwanda  and Lake Kivu to put on the Ruzizi river that forms the border between Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. Take out is in Lake Tanganyika at Bujimbura. From here we go by boat to Kalamie(Congo), paddle the Lukuga until it joins the Lualaba (later to become Congo river) at Kongolo. Have another days rest, hopefully avoid any local shenanigans and drop into La Porte de l'Enfer or Gates of Hell section (love the name), for a big water ride through one of the worlds most mysterious gorges.
We finish in Kindu, go by road(if it exist) to Bukavu, cross Lake Kivu by boat to Goma, hike up a active volcano, take a picture and come home the conquering hero’s, hoping to survive the NRE bar on our first night back.
To quote the great Jo Henry “what can possible go wrong”

As far as I am concerned (and since this is my blog, it all about me) this is not just the most comprehensive African river exploration of our generation but it is so by far. I want to thank Ben, Jessie, Chris, and Dan for making their first trip to Africa a proper one and for trusting me enough to dive in the deep end. When most people speak about fear of the unknown, I bet they have no idea what you must be going through right now.

Eddiebauer you surprise me. After watching I thought you might just have no idea of what you are allowing us to try but after checking up some more it seems you like it hard. Respect. If nothing else at least we can add the word expedition to this trip with a clean conscious.

Kick of on 19Oct and we hope to be back by Xmas. Watch this space for details.


  1. Hendri,each time that I thankfully think you have survived the danger and adventure of the wildest white waters and the most isolated wilderness you find a new challenge!May this expedition exceed your expectiations i.t.o.excitement and success and may you and your friends return safely with memories to cherish for the rest of your life.Pas jouself op! Ma-rie

  2. yes, please! this is the eye I want to see and believe in. the path is not straight forward. if it was, the stars would appear different, you would have more simple ideas. you are more, the stars guide us, point us into the right directions. the best day ever! gyda nor

  3. Hendri,
    Think of us doing the same things every day in our ordinary lives ...
    We think of you and can only dream ......
    With best wishes
    Elsje (Marie's friend)