Before we can paddle the Crocodile Tour, apparently us kayakers have to be able to perform an Eskimo Roll a.k.a. simulated drowning.
The slip of the girl on You Tube made it look easy. But because I am suspicious that her contributions are all photoshopped, including her take on replacing a mountain bike tyre in under 7 hours flat without getting the snot gunk over the dog, the lounge suit and the carpet, I undertook further research on the internet, and was horrified to find out the term Eskimo Roll has been banned. Apparently, the word Eskimo is not woke, and is considered offensive by the Inuit, the people that invented the manoeuvre to avoid capsizing in freezing waters.
Before George Floyd, I thought woke was what you failed to pull off whilst watching Downton Abbey with your wife. Now we all we get on the news 24/7 is woke, woke, woke. I am sick to death of woke.
Take Disney for instance, who are taking flack for their planned remake of the classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. Peter Dinklage applauded Disney for being progressive by casting a Latino actor in the lead role, but slammed them for being backward, because at the end of the day they were making a movie about seven dwarves in a cave. We are talking the same Peter Dinklage who played the dwarf in Game of Thrones, a movie about a dwarf and some dragons.
Disney responded to criticisms by saying they “would avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original film.” I’m not sure how you go about doing that, other than by casting tall dwarves in the other lead roles.
And then you have the US and UK Quidditch leagues who announced bold plans to change the name of their sport to distance themselves from author JK Rowling and her stance on transgender. NB For those who don’t know Quidditch, it is a game invented by JK in her Harry Potter books and involves players on flying broomsticks chasing flying balls. The game has been adapted in real life by players around the world who run around a field with broomsticks stuck between their legs playing a variation of netball. NB we are talking adults here.
Anyway, those same players of the formerly fictious game now want to change the name of their silly game after JK enraged the trans community by suggesting the toilet doors in the ladies’ loo should have locks, to prevent women being predated upon by men, or by women who used to be men.
The debate was further stirred by Eddie Izzard, who recently announced she is gender fluid, and identifies with she/her pronouns, who defended Rowling and said she thought the author wasn’t transphobic. I have no doubt the debate will rage on, but without me. I couldn’t give a shit, and yearn for the innocence of my youth, when a female actor was an actress, when a female writer was called an authoress, when Noddy and Big Ears were best friends and no one raise eyebrows, when nigger balls were yummy sweets and when every little girl loved her gollywog doll just as much as her Barbie.
I am betting Boris also yearns for those good old days before the hyena media took on the job of Britain’s woke police. With World War Three threatening on the Ukraine / Russia border, with the highest inflation in 30 years, with a pandemic that won’t go away (also because of the media) after yet another failed Ashes campaign, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, Boris’s biggest worry remains the cheese and wine party he attended two years ago, his impromptu ten-minute-long birthday party also from two years ago, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
However, I digress. Back to the Inuit Roll, formerly known as the Eskimo Roll. As mentioned, all us kayakers are expected to know how to roll, lest our boats capsize. Because our boats will be in crocodile infested waters, I am rather anxious to master the art, and practice every Tuesday and Thursday in Adam and Linda Selby’s swimming pool. Alas. Lessons are not going well.
Inuit Rolling, formerly known as Eskimo Rolling by the un-woke, is like sticking your head in a washing machine on spin, but less fun. To perfect the roll, you have capsize your boat, plunging your body and head under water, i.e. where you can’t breathe. After forever, to right your boat, you are required to swivel your hips while leaving your head under water, facing the wrong way, I think to keep eyes peeled for approaching Orcas and or crocodiles. And your poor head is supposed to remain under water, until all of the rest of your body is safely out.
That might sound simple, but do you remember the captain of the Concordia, he who sank his cruise ship off Tuscany and then gallantly changed the ship’s evacuation protocols from ‘women and children into the lifeboats first’, to ‘captain first, then the rest of the poor buggers’? Unfortunately, my head could belong to that captain. It flat out refuses to believe any propaganda about the need to bring up the rear whilst exiting the water. Which is seriously impeding my ability to roll, allowing me to take on board serious quantities of water through my flared nostrils. For reasons unknown, my nostrils flare when panicked. Alas. Bummer. Our Health and Safety officer Wayne Moss says we have to keep practicing the Inuit Roll every Tuesday and Thursday until we get it right.
And I’ve got other problems, with my boat, and with the boat’s primary propulsion system, a.k.a. my core muscles and my arms.
First my boat hassles. You might recall that my progress across Kariba in the HMS Inedible was impeded by her ability to bash into almost every dead tree headfirst, courtesy of a failed rudder system. To fix, we’ve ordered in a replacement rudder system from SA. And in the meantime, Andy Louw Evans ripped out the busted rudder system, replacing it with an improved temporary system, made out of broomstick handles. Move over, Bear Grylls. True story, the inside of my kayak looks like the aftermath of a violent Quidditch match.
My broom-stick rudder system worked a treat, until it stopped working, in the middle of a storm in the middle of Lake Chivero a.k.a. Lake Mac. Trying to paddle your boat home without a rudder, and against big wind and big waves, is the opposite of fun. In the end, Andy had to tow me in. Which is when we discovered that the keel on my boat is slightly curved, like a banana, resulting in this unrelenting urge to keep ducking off to the right, even though home was dead ahead. A tendency to the paddle to the right will be a huge snag when we paddle from Milibizi to Kariba, because the crocodiles and hippos will exactly be lurking to my right for the entire Tour. Alas.
But paddling Lake Mac before my rudder broke, allowed me to fall in love with kayaking. Andy and I paddled the length of the National Park shoreline, and it was beautiful. We enjoyed one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen, and we were able to sneak right up close to a flock of 10 ostriches just enjoying. We also saw knob billed ducks, Egyptian geese, cormorants, darters, jacanas and other water birds too numerous to mention, plus we didn’t know their names. I have purpose bought a waterproof monocular for the Crocodile Tour and will be on a mission to learn all the waders and waterbirds.
Our paddling experience was slightly marred by the amount of illegal fishing and netting in the National Park. It was shocking and in-your-face blatant, with zero signs of any policing whatsoever. The only National Parks ranger we saw was the guy lounging at the broken-down entrance boom collecting $5 entry fees. National Parks need a rocket up their bottoms. How hard can it be to police 20 kilometres of shoreline? And if your motorboat is broken because you haven’t serviced it since for ever, bummer dude, paddle a canoe. But get the job done.
On to my boat propulsion system problems, a.k.a. my core and arm muscles. They have been malfunctioning ever since I became a kayaker. And despite training hard for the last 2 months, there are still no signs of Popeye arms, or a six-pack.
To fix the problem, Jason Young suggested I flip tractor tyres, apparently like the Rock, and like Schwarzenegger before him. Fortunately, I found an old tractor tyre in the workshop, and got busy, flipping it over and over, up and down my driveway, for half an hour. Alas. My arms are now longer than they used to be, and the only way I can brush my teeth is by moving my head from side to side. And I’ve buggered up my lower back. and now walk around stooped, like I’m looking for dropped car keys on the ground. And true story, I don’t even have to bend, to sit in my kayak.
Two emergency visits later, my chiropractor says I should regain full mobility, but has suggested starting with thirteen-inch tyres and working up from there. But no one said epic would be easy.
The Crocodile Tour will having many layers of epic, like an onion. We’ll have three catamaran yachts in close support, and I am reliably informed that sailing the length of Lake Kariba is an epic sailing adventure and should be near the top of every sailor’s bucket list.
Previously, I was very sceptical about wind power. Having failed O Level physics, I can’t get my head around yachts how can go forwards into a head-on wind. I thought we needed three yachts as back up, in case some of them get blown into Mozambique, Zambia or worse.
To allay my fears, newly press ganged Old Legs sailor Dave Fortescue took me out on my maiden voyage in a 14-foot yacht. We set sail from Jacana Yacht Club in zero wind conditions. I fully expected us to sit on the beach all afternoon, but incredibly we started moving.
Everyone on a boat has a job. Despite my lack of experience, I was put in sole charge of two very important ropes, although I’m not sure what they did, and I also had to remember to duck beneath the swinging boom at the crucial moments, i.e. just before it smacked me on the head. It was all jolly exciting, and we were soon whizzing along at some knots, nautical speak for miles per hour, headed towards the spillway.
I was busy tugging ropes and ducking booms, when I suddenly noticed that the spillway had disappeared completely from our horizon. Having grown up on stories about the Marie Celeste, I quick alerted the skipper to the fact that our destination was missing. Rolling his eyes, Dave gently broke the news to me that the spillway was now behind us. Apparently, while I was busy ducking booms, etc, somehow, we turned 180 degrees and were now headed back to Jacana.
On top of worrying about tracking window direction, scurvy, and how to tie reef knots, Dave now has to also find time to worry about errant paddlers who clearly do not know their arses from their elbows.
But if there is anyone up for that job, it is Dave Fortescue. He writes “I was born in Chinhoyi 1967. Passed ‘O’ Levels and did an apprenticeship as an Electrician. Ran my own electrical business for 2 years and 10 months, sold up and went to Bible College in the States for 4 years. Cam home in 2004 and worked at an orphanage for 2 years before starting a Christian Ministry called ‘Redeem A Nation Ministries’ in Doma and Mhangura. I’m still doing that as we speak. I played rugby for Midlands U21 once and captained the Ellis Robins A cross-country team. I love sailing and the wild outdoors and once had a hippo spit all over my legs and survived!!! I love people, even errant kayakers!!!”
But Dave wrote that before Ryan Moss unveiled the Zimbabwe flag budgie-smugglers he’ll be wearing on Tour to scare crocodiles away. They certainly work as sailor deterrents. Poor Dave has worked out that his already very long Tour will be even longer.
Slightly perturbing is the fact that Dave now brings to four, the number of Ellis Robins boys on Tour. When we played Ellis Robins at rugby, we use to worry about the rumoured flick knives in the loose mauls, and about whether or not our school bus would be stolen or chopped for parts during the match. And now I’m going on a two- week adventure with them. Thankfully, we have two Allan Wilson old boys to provide the necessary balance.
We are paddling the Crocodile Tour to raise money and awareness for the pensioners of Zimbabwe. Because January alone saw 8 pensioners join our waiting list for new hips and knees, we are also riding 3000 kilometres to Namibia’s Skeleton Coast in July, via Gokwe and the Victoria Falls, the Caprivi strip and the aptly named Desolation Valley somewhere in the Namib desert.
One of the pensioners who wrote to us for help is a 73-year-old lady who needed a new right knee and a new left hip 3 years ago. I’ll call her Lucy. Ryan and I went to meet Lucy at her beyond-modest-home last week, to shoot a fundraising video interview.
Lucy has no family in Zimbabwe. And her left right combination of messed up knee and hip, means Lucy is effectively one hundred percent immobile, stranded in a chair next to a window, all day, every day. Somehow Lucy manages to survive on $100 per month.
She has been quoted $14000 for the operations, which mean she has to save every single cent she earns for the next 12 years. So far, Lucy has managed to save $3100. i left Lucy’s home so sad, and so determined to help.
The Old Legs Tour believes that joint replacement operations for the elderly are a human right, not something you have to save up for your entire life.
Please follow our adventures on www.oldlegstour.com, even though we ride and paddle slower than paint dries. Please also follow the donate prompts and help us help others less fortunate.
Until my next blog, enjoy and do epic if you can, but beware of tractor tyres.
Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.
Photos below – a Lake Mac sunset, Inuit Rolls a.k.a simulated drowning, Ryan Moss frightening off crocodiles and sailors, Dave Fortescue before he saw Ryan’s budgie smugglers.