Once water, yachts, paddlers, kayaks and more bloody water have been eliminated, I Spy With My Little Eye becomes rather limited when played whilst paddling kayaks on Kariba. Billy Prentice won most games. I think he could be psychic. Mark Johnson on the other hand was continually asking for clues In his defence, he was feeling sick.
Mark paddled with some dreadful flu, which had him sweating even before he started paddling at 07.30. Because he is a generous giving person, he gave it to me. If only he would do the same with his jelly babies. Alas.
Even worse than paddling when you are sick is paddling with Mark when he is also sick, because he is a stubborn bastard ,and you know he is never ever going to climb onto the support boat, which means you can’t either.
I blame Kevin O’Connor. Kevin gave Mark some pills first up that had Mark paddling fast like Usain Bolt and that will have him failing his end of Tour urine test. The other thing that had Mark paddling fast was the sheer joy of it.
We paddled out of camp and on to vast expanse of water that is the Chete Sound at 08.00, half an hour late because both Andy Lowe Evans and Greg Hall had to effect emergency repairs after their rudders fell off. I am not for one second suggesting sabotage, but both of them are bloody annoying when they come whizzing past you like they’re paddling downhill.
Once we were under way and after just 4 quick rounds of I Spy With My Little Eye, we were into vicious side chop swells angling into us from our port side, a.k.a. our left side. The swells were big, maybe 2 to 3 meters, unless Mark is narrating, and but for my HMS Inedible, they would have been scary and unsettling. Instead, they were exciting and exhilarating. I now love my Tsunami 145 because I know it can take whatever Kariba throws at it, including hopefully the dreaded Sengwa basin.
For every kilometer we paddled, Billy paddled two. He zigzagged all morning, first ploughing uphill against the swells, so he could turn around and surf them back again . It looked like huge fun, but I was too busy just trying to stay afloat to even think about joining in.
Ryan joined us on his surfski, the HMS Penga. He’d been on the support boat looking for cellphone signal to get the blog out, but with no luck.
Ryan’s surfski is lighter and longer than our touring kayaks, way quicker and way more tippy, especially in the big swells, and Ryan almost capsized 4 times in the first 5 minutes . Climbing back onto his boat in water that rough would have been impossible. Ryan was panicked and about to call for the support yacht to uplift him when Billy came across and gave him surf lessons, teaching him how to use his paddles as stabilizers keep from capsizing.
Ryan has excess energy and he throws every last bit of it into everything that he does. He is also strong like a horse. Mark and I were able to laugh as Ryan whizzed past us time and again with paddles windmilling around his ears like he’d paddled into a swarm of bees, having the time of his life.
If we were rocking and rolling in the heavy swells on our kayaks, the support team on the yachts were doing it even harder. Dave Frank lost his radio overboard in a giant swell. Jenny said she never got off her hands and knees once all morning. I worry about Jenny. We are just 4 days into our incredible voyage and she is swearing like a sailor, especially when she bangs her head on one of the many poles on board the Halcyon. For the life of me I don’t understand why sailors don’t wear riding helmets.
We had a quick wee stop on a sandy beach before entering the Chete Gorge. Even though I’ve dropped my rental rates to just $4 a wee, I’ve had no takers for my portable urinal, Big Blue . I worry I might have to drop my rates further.
Paddling through the Chete Gorge was one of the most epic things I’ve done, up there with riding through Mana Pools, up there with riding to the Tjolotjo Cliffs in Gonarezhou. The Gorge is 150 meters wide, 87 meters deep, and even then walls of the Gorge tower high above on either side. The sheer volume of the water, and the power of it are immense. The sight of the Zambezi River rushing through the Gorge in full flood before Kariba was built must have been a sight to behold.
Greg Hall depressed me hugely while we paddled through the Gorge. I asked him why we haven’t seen any hippos yet and he thinks it is because of poaching pressure.
The thought of poor bloody hippos dying in snares so pisses me off. The government are supposed to be Zimbabwe’s custodians. They are supposed to protect the country, her people and all her resources, including poor bloody hippos for future generations to enjoy. I so hope Greg’s poaching theory is wrong and have all my fingers and toes crossed that we bump into hippos around every corner, even though I know I am going to be bloody terrified of them. Alas.
We will have to change crew rosters on the support yachts tomorrow. Because Dave Frank is man down with malaria, Les Hall will skipper the Biriwiri with John Stanton as First Mate. Likewise Cathy Stanton will be First Mate on board the Sanyati. Thankfully we have a doctor on board, so Dave Frank is in good hands.
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 from somewhere closer to the dreaded Sengwa Basin, enjoy – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong
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