This blog is coming to you from Binga. It is 04.00 as I type and the night sky above me is glorious. The Milky Way is still strung out from left to right but the Southern Cross is about to fall off the horizon, off to bed.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day. It was also a very tough day. It ticked the epic box big time, but the
fun box not so much.
Our day started at 02.35 a.m. when it started to rain. I wished Jenny Happy Mother’s Day and she told me something very rude.
No chance of rain is one of the reasons we chose May as the month of the Crocodile Tour. Unseasonal rain becomes even more of a bugger when you are sleeping out on an open deck. Jenny and I started gathering up blankets and belongings to drag them below deck, when we remembered the Halcyon doesn’t do below decks. We were just resigning ourselves to having an early shower when Skipper Andy Chadwick saved the day and threw a tarpaulin over us, and job done, we went back to sleep, dry and snug like sacks of potatoes.
We were on the water paddling by 07.30. The water was like a glass and we fairly flew along at 7 k.p.h., which is way more impressive than it sounds, until Mark Johnson stopped for coffee and a rusk. Coffee breaks bobbing in your boat on the open lake are way cool, but maybe not such a good idea when you’re chasing down a 35 km target. Rear Admiral of the paddling fleet Andy Lowe Evans was soon chomping at the bit, so we set off again, direction Binga.
Until Greg Hall saw an old Batonka fisherman that he knew, setting up his office for day, a dugout canoe tied up in the tree line.
The fisherman’s name was Mr Peter Ndhlovu and he was old like the hills. He told us he fished the same spot for bream, 7 days a week, and averaged 25 to 30 kgs of fish per day, which he sold for a $1,50 per kilo. Mr Ndhlovu had 4 rods in the water, and for rods, read 30 cm wooden sticks with no reels.
I was very glad we took time out we couldn’t afford to hang out with Mr Ndhlovu and chew the fat. Happy people content with their lot in life are few and far between. I want to be like Peter Ndhlovu when I grow up. And no, I didn’t mark his fishing spot on my GPS, and even if I did, I wouldn’t rat fink him out.
The onshore wind started blowing just after we left Mr Peter Ndhlovu’s fishing spot. One minute we were paddling flat water, and the next minute we were rocking and rolling in four foot swells, although Mark Johnson said he measured one six-footer but he is prone to over-exaggeration. We’re not talking waves like in the sea, it was more like a chop, vicious and unrelenting, and coming from all angles, like you might find in a washing machine. It was horrible. Straight away our speed dropped off to just 3 k.p.h., which is slower than my granny used to walk. Mark Johnson and I took cover behind one of the catamarans and enjoyed some brief respite from the waves, but not much, as the yachts were also taking a hammering.
Because he is a knob, Mark Johnson came up alongside me and flicked my rudder out of the water and into the up position, and then shouted at me to hold my line, damn it. I was stomping on my foot pedals with all my might but to no avail, and got thrown around in the swell like flotsam, confused and panicked. Until I heard Mark busting his gut, laughing. Knob.
Billy was almost as annoying. Every time I looked, Billy came past me the wrong way, surfing the waves, having the time of his life. Billy is from San Diego, California and paddles the surf for fun.
We lunched on a delicious potato salad in the shelter of the Binga Gorge, with fish eagles soaring overhead. It was the best lunch spot ever We were hoping the wind had dropped off, but not such luck. So it was back into the washing machine.
Greg Hall enjoyed his day in the waves somewhat less. His surf ski Psalms 91 took a hammering too many in the heavy swells and started taking water on board, rendering it impossible to paddle, and Greg has to swap it out for one of the spare Tsunami’s.
We were late paddling into our overnight mooring spot, arriving just before sunset with 35 kilometers under our belts, a massive achievement given the conditions. But it was also pretty dumb given the crocodiles. Greg was on tenterhooks, shepherding us into shore. Knackered, we were all over the place. For him it must have been like herding cats.
And as I type this last sentence, the sun is rising, fish eagles are calling, and a big bastard croc has just spotted right next to Doc O’Connor’s yacht. Here comes another day in paradise.
We are paddling 380 kilometers the length of Kariba to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners. Please follow us on Facebook and enjoy our adventure with us.
Until my next blog most probably from somewhere wet – enjoy – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong
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