Good news. Hippos aren’t extinct. One of them has just popped up right in front of Mark Johnson in his shower and laughed at him.
We bumped into our first hippos of the Tour as we paddled into our night stop at the Chibuyu Fishing Village. We tap tapped our way into the harbour cautiously and an inquisitive pod popped up to watch us in. They were very chilled but we gave them the widest of berths anyway. I think most hippos are chilled, until you piss them off. Hippos are much larger when seen from a kayak.
I am typing this blog after lunch on Day 6 in a pretty cool place. I have fish eagles and White-faced whistling ducks overhead and another two pods of hippo in front, plus a giant croc cruising past, complete with bow waves.
Apparently the croc is one of many man-eaters resident in the bay. That they are man-eaters doesn’t surprise me. I’m also watching some fishermen paddle a tin boat across the bay towards us using their hands and no paddles.
There is also a herd of cattle and goats grazing across the bay. Cows and goats look out of place on the Kariba shoreline.
We are overnighting in the Sengwa Sound, unexpectedly. The Sound is home to two massive tree lines, forests of petrified mopane, both kilometers long. They are every sunset photographer’s dream. They are every sailor’s nightmare. We were paddling through the first tree lines with the yachts motoring behind us, when one of the skippers punched two massive holes into his hull with nautical precision. The catamaran started taking on water alarmingly.
We are taking epic to ridiculous extremes on this Tour.
I think I must have been an Italian sea captain in a previous life, because my first instinct was to sound the abandon ship alarm. Clearly Greg Hall wasn’t previously an Italian seafarer.
With a croc watch perimeter in place, he pulled on a diving mask and dived under that yacht to explore the damage. The holes were well below the water line. We pulled the plug on paddling for the day and headed shore to look for shelter so we could winch the yacht out enough to expose the holes and patch them with glass fiber.
We’d had more drama earlier. We were on the Sinamwenda Sound when the weather blew up in our faces, like a bomb. We went from paddling on water like glass to battling 6 foot waves inside of 10 minutes. Kariba weather is fickle. It is all about onshore winds that build as the day gets hotter. And with the winds, you get waves.
The waves we got caught up in were huge, four foot or more, and coming at us side on. Five paddlers took cover behind the yachts headed for the shelter of a large island. The sixth paddler broke the rules though, and raced ahead, full of youthful exuberance even though he is the oldest kayaker on Tour. We soon lost sight of him amongst the waves and had to send a yacht after him to chase him down. Thankfully all is well that ends well.
And hats off to the people at Wilderness Systems who made my Tsunami. Never once did I worry in the waves. It truly is the Swiss Army knife of kayaks.
That sixth paddler has asked that he remain nameless, because Billy’s wife will kill him if she finds out was him. At his subsequent Dick of the Day trial, Billy put up an eloquent defence pleading temporary insanity brought on by the hot African sun, but to no avail. Billy looks good in the D.O.D. tutu and hat.
On to matters more serious, I worry about my Big Blue urinal buisness plan. We have been on Kariba for 6 days, and I’ve had not one taker.
Rather than make the killing I was looking to make, I’m now just trying to break even. I’ve even launched a special Piss Now, Pay Later deal, and still no customers. I blame Vladimir Putin and Coronavirus and wish they would stop messing with the world economy.
Our plans for tomorrow have changed drastically . We still have 10 kilometers of tree line in front of us which the kayakers will paddle unsupported, while the yachts sail around. Hopefully we will rendezvous at McKenzie Camp before tackling a big stretch of open water to get us to our planned night stop at Paradise Island. We have all fingers and toes crossed that the winds and waves aren’t too cheeky. And if they are, we’ll have to enjoy another half day and look to make up on our rest day.
I am very excited about paddling through the tree lines tomorrow. In the half-light of an early morning heat haze, they are eerie. Hopefully the water will be like glass. We’ll paddle no talking, no music, with every sense heightened, listening for hippos, watching for crocs, with hearts in mouths and on the edge of our seats. Apparently and according to one of my books, you never feel as alive as when you are almost not alive.
We are paddling to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please help us help them by following the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.com
Until my next blog, enjoy and paddle a Tsunami if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong