June 27 and June 28 2023 – The final blog- from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, the holy grail of epic.

Day 32 stats
Distance – 35,284 meters.
Total time elapsed- 8 hours 7 minutes.
Total ascent – 0 meters.
Total descent-0 meters.
Av heart rate – 87 bpm
Max heart rate – 122 bpm.
NB kayak distances are recorded in meters not kilometers, because that sounds bigger.

Day 33 stats
Distance – 114 kilometers
Total time elapsed- 7 hours 3 minutes
Total ascent – 361 m
Av heart rate – 128 bpm
Max heart rate – 175 bpm.

I saw a flying fish on Day 32 of the Zanzibar Tour. I thought I was hallucinating, but then I realized it was a flying fish. I also almost saw a pod of dolphins, but didn’t. We paddled from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar on day 32, which is the holy grail of epic.

We paddled out of the Dar es Salam Yacht Club before sunrise, a pod of 8 kayakers including instructors, Ryan and Julie, and 3 safety boats, skippered by James, Sean and Becker. Because the Old Legs can make a herd of cats seem like a flock of sheep by comparison, we decided to go big on safety boats.

There were 4 of us who were going to paddle the entire distance, plus 2 boats doing a relay. Apart from absolutely zero training, I was well prepared. I wore my paddle shirt from the Crocodile Tour with a built-in buff and hoodie for when it got hot out. My sunglasses and my cap were tethered to my head, plus I had jelly babies for sustenance. Bring on the ocean, I was ready and raring to go.

Ryan reminded the paddlers of the importance of being in the moment. The moment is huge. We are a bunch of middle-aged verging on bloody ancient social mountain bike riders attempting to paddle the open ocean from Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar.

As we paddled out of the bay and into the open ocean, at very respectable 7 k.p.h. according to my watch, the surreality of the moment smacked me in the face like a shovel. I looked up and suddenly I couldn’t see land in any direction. And my horizon was full of huge oil tankers and massive container ships.

Nothing makes you feel more inconsequential in the greater scheme of things than sharing the horizon with container ships and oil tankers whilst bobbing in a low slung kayak, especially when your best swim stroke is doggy paddle.

But it does you the power of good to feel inconsequential every now and then. It presses the reset button and helps get rid of any notions of puffed-up self-importance.

Corrugations on a bicycle are a 4-letter word, and also on a kayak. Quickly the waves got up and the sea got lumpy, as in very lumpy. Alas. I’d based my fantasy paddle entirely on flat like a millpond conditions. Being in the moment is less cool when you’re reduced to flotsam and jetsam, almost in danger of losing your breakfast. I quickly lost any and all point of reference in the swell and the chop, including my fellow paddlers, and even the support boats from time to time. I also quickly lost my sunglasses overboard, which was a bugger because the sun was suddenly big and right in my face. To ward off the sun, I pulled up my built-in-buff, but pulled it back down very quickly spluttering. I think the interrogation technique of waterboarding was invented on a kayak. Jelly babies are comfort food, so I gobbled a handful quickly. Alas. My jelly babies were slimy and salty like I’d peed on them. I dug deep and paddled on manfully. Clearly I wasn’t digging deep enough because my average speed dropped to below 5 kph. I’d been paddling all day only had 18 kilometers behind me. I worried that Zanzibar would be closed by the time I got there.

I quickly developed another snag. According to the safety boat in front, Zanzibar was to my starboard side at 2 o’clock, but my kayak was insisting we go to 11 o’clock, most probably because it was on Malawi time. I fought hard but for the life of me, couldn’t drag the nose of my boat around. The waves got bigger, ditto the chop, but from a different direction. The word flounder started coming to mind. Then Sean in the support boat shouted Zanzibar dead ahead. When you’re floundering, dead ahead is an unfortunate analogy.

I badly also wanted to see Zanzibar ahead, but could see diddly squat from the bridge on my kayak, other than the next wave briefly, before it came crashing down on top of me. I exited my kayak stage left. I tried hard to stand on the bottom, but couldn’t. Crap, I was properly in the deep end. I struggled to remount, but not before swallowing half the ocean.Sean dived off the support boat and held my kayak steady, while I crawled back on eventually. It took what little strength I had left in my arms.

As per our training the previous day, I steadied myself with legs straddled either side of the boat while I caught my breath. I thanked Sean and told him I was good to go again. As soon as he let go of my boat, I fell out again.
Long story short, I was able to fall out of my boat 6 times in the next 6 minutes. And the last time, I just couldn’t climb back on. I didn’t have the strength. I was absolutely done. They pulled me into the safety boat like a beached whale, just more seasick.

Incredibly, the waves were no less big on the safety boat. Apart from a slight twinge of FOMO, I felt sorry for the surviving paddlers. They looked like frogs in blenders, just having less fun. Apart from Clem who somehow still able to smile and laugh. So Sean swamped him with his bow wave and Clem disappeared. I think it was partial payback for Clem pushing Sean under the Dick of the Day bus previously. And all the while, Ryan was having the best time of his life, surfing the waves. Which was bloody annoying. So Sean also swamped him.

The swell and the chop was wreaking havoc on the paddle peloton. Rafe suffered a viscous cramp in both hips and spasmed, again like the frog in the blender. I badly wanted to film him, but alas, didn’t have my phone. Rafe the Oshkosh was also done. Zack was the next to go under, and eventually bobbed up, but sans his life vest. He was also done. Besides Ryan and Julie, only Angus and Clem remained afloat, plus Debbie in the remaining relay boat.

But after 6 kilometers in the safety boat, my F.O.M.O. reached epidemic proportions and I put my hand up to renter the fray. I couldn’t put up both hands because my left arm refused to work.

I reentered the fray in Zack’s white Epic kayak. The rudder worked, and it was slightly more stable than my grey Epic, slightly being the operative word. Zack is shorter than me, so I had to readjust the rudder controls. Unfortunately, I readjusted them too long, and the only way I could reach them was by lying down. By then my tummy was done with sit-ups, so I paddled essentially lying down. Ryan said he has never seen a less efficient paddling technique, which was born out by my average speed which quickly bled off to under 4 k.p.h. The last 18 kilometers took me 4 and a half hours.

Just as I starting to feel officially miserable, I looked down into the well of my kayak and saw a tiny beautifully blue fish. He was swimming around happily, and lifted my spirits. When you are miserable and feeling sorry for yourself, having a boon companion to lift your spirits makes all the difference. So I decided to adopt him. Because he seemed such a happy soul, I named him George. Oh how George and I laughed together. But then tragically I needed a pee. Paddling lying down is hard enough to paddle. Paddling with legs crossed is beyond impossible. So I let rip in my boat. Too late, I remembered poor George in the well of the boat. I tried to pop the cork back in the bottle, but couldn’t. George abandoned ship and I went back to being alone and miserable.

But not for long. Thankfully Rafe also reentered the fray and we were able to be miserable together.

The last 2 kilometers especially took for ever, with the people on the distant beach flat out refusing to get bigger. I have never felt so exhausted. To prove it, I fell over as soon as I could stand.

I can now confirm that the outboard motor was invented by a man paddling to Zanzibar. I can also confirm that 2700 kilometers on a bicycle is no way to train for a 40 kilometer paddle, especially if you have arms like a typist.

I’ve done a bunch of epic in the last few years, but paddling to Zanzibar is head and shoulders above the rest. I hugely regret missing the 6 kilometers in the middle. Angus and Clem are now officially allowed to wear their underpants on the outside for paddling the entire distance.

We landed at Kizimkazi on the most southerly point of Zanzibar and stayed at the aptly named Promised Land Lodge. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.

The Promised Land Lodge is the coolest hotel since my life. The barman played Bob Marley only and even the hotel dog wore his hair in dreadlocks. And even more cool, we saw a Red Colobus monkey, a.k.a. Kirk’s Colobus, a rare and endangered species, endemic to Zanzibar only.

After the paddle, our last ride 114 kilometers up the length of Zanzibar was a doddle. It felt like the last day of school, with another bonus Red Colobus the cherry on top. The forest was lush in places and way more intact than I expected. We rode up the East Coast road but only saw the sea briefly from time to time, but the island interior was also cool to ride through.

I’ve loved every kilometer of this Tour, even the kilometers I’ve hated. But the finish line on the white sands of Kendwa is easily the most beautiful thing I have seen since my life. We’ve been on Tour for 33 days and 2800 kilometers, plus 40 kilometers of ocean, and we are absolutely exhausted, verging on broken.

We’ve ridden from Harare to Zanzibar to raise money and awareness for Zimbabwe’s pensioners who have been left with nothing by a government who couldn’t give a shit. Your donations will change lives and save lives. Please follow the donate prompts on www.oldlegstour.com.

In closing, I would like to thank would also like to thank Ryan and Lise Weinand and their beautiful daughters, Mila, Zoey and Abigail. Mila sang a song for us at our final tribunal and gave me goosebumps on my heart. They are outstanding people and without their help and guidance, we would not have made it to Zanzibar.

I would also like to thank and acknowledge my fellow Old Legs adventurers. Each and everyone of them are heroes, even though they conspired against me in Dick of the Day. There is no one I would rather have shared my adventure with.

Until the next Old Legs adventure, have fun, do good, and do epic if you can – Eric Chicken Legs de Jong.

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